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What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

"Even with over 30 years of experience it gave me some good ideas and food for thought." (Sian Haynes-Ryterski, UK Teacher)

I'm a secondary French teacher, and I've just finished reading this excellent book. It's jam-packed with creative ideas for the classroom, and it's really inspired me. The suggestions are very practical and require little preparation. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on speaking and listening activities, and on helpful technology/websites for language learning. I thoroughly recommend this book! (UK teacher, Amazon review)

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a treasure chest for every language teacher, whether new to the profession or not. The comprehensive 350-page volume is divided in 25 well-structured chapters where invaluable tips ans tricks are backed up by the latest research on all subjects and the extensive teaching experience of both authors Steve Smith and Dr. Gianfranco Conti. This self-published book is a must not only for trainee language teacher students but also a fantastic reference for inspiration, practical applications and implications in the classroom, exploring all types of learners and situations in an encouraging and clearly expressed language. Every teaching question and context seems to be covered with such depth of thought, detail, logic, attention to detail, empathy and clarity that I will dwell in this book's wisdom for many years to come." (UK teacher, Nadine, Amazon)

"Strongly recommend the book: a must-have." (UK teacher)

"Chapeau! Already on our trainee reading list." (UK teacher)

"Absolutely loving this! Inspirational, practical, so sensible and backed up by research. Well done, gentlemen, and thank you." (UK teacher)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon)

"Especially appreciate the overviews of the different methods and their strengths 
- this is a well-rounded book  packed with valuable info." (USA teacher, Amazon)

"Love this book! Not a quick read. Take in one section then figure out how to use it in my class. Can't wait to watch student engagement and success increase. Merci beaucoup!! " (Sue O'Hagen, Amazon Canada review)

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a book that addresses all of the challenges we 
must face and overcome in the classroom, in order to ensure that students are 
receiving quality world language instruction." (USA teacher, Amazon)

"Excellent, very accessible resource for teachers and trainees in the languages 
classroom. Practical and sensible, yet takes on board new methodology and 
ideas that can work. Backed up by research, teachers can have confidence in 
and refer to the Languages Teacher Toolkit to improve practice. A must-have 
for MFL-ers!"  (UK teacher, Amazon)

"For me, it contains just about everything I think I need to know. One big 
thing I've taken from it that sticks out is that I can now explain how I teach 
the way I teach, why I don't use the Grammar/Translation method too 
much, the book has given me an introduction to the theories of my pedagogical 
choices which I was none the wiser of beforehand." (UK teacher, Amazon)

"An excellent toolkit for all language teachers, whether new to the profession 
or very experienced." (UK teacher, Amazon)

"Clear explanations, sound rationale, packed with practical, effective ideas and 
written by two experienced teachers who know their stuff. Highly recommend it!" (UK teacher, Amazon)

"Insightful and practical. An excellent resource from two reflective and 
thought-provoking writers. Recommend." (UK teacher, Amazon)

"What makes The Language Teacher Toolkit so appealing is that by combining 
the findings of research with a wide variety of practical ideas which involve 
minimal preparation for the teacher and maximal effectiveness for pupils." 
(UK teacher, ISMLA newsletter review)

"I intend to keep my Language Teacher Toolkit in my classroom and refer to 
it for inspiration when planning lessons, writing schemes of work or assessments 
or planning trips in the future." (UK teacher, ISMLA newsletter review)

"...take time to read Smith and Conti’s book. It’s packed with lots 
of interesting and not too ‘wacky’ ideas." (Ernesto Macaro)

"Excellent, very accessible resource for teachers and trainees in the languages classroom. Practical and sensible, yet takes on board new methodology and ideas that can work. Backed up by research, teachers can have confidence in and refer to the Languages Teacher Toolkit to improve practice. A must-have for MFL-ers!" (Amazon UK purchaser)

"Recommended for all our PGCE trainees" (Nicola McEwan, University of Buckingham, England)


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The latest research on teaching vocabulary

I've been dipping into The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition (2017) edited by Loewen and Sato. This blog is a succinct summary of Chapter 16 by Beatriz González-Fernández and Norbert Schmitt on the topic of teaching vocabulary. I hope you find it useful.

1.  Background

The authors begin by outlining the clear importance of vocabulary knowledge in language acquisition, stating that it's a key predictor of overall language proficiency (e.g. Alderson, 2007). Students often say that their lack of vocabulary is the main reason for their difficulty understanding and using the language (e.g. Nation, 2012). Historically vocabulary has been neglected when compared to grammar, notably in the grammar-translation and audio-lingual traditions as well as  communicative language teaching.

(My note: this is also true, to an extent, of the oral-situational approach which I was trained in where most vocabulary is learned incidentally as part of question-answer sequence…

Delayed dictation

What is “delayed dictation”?

Instead of getting students to transcribe immediately what you say, or what a partner says, you can enforce a 10 second delay so that students have to keep running over in their heads what they have heard. Some teachers have even used the delay time to try to distract students with music.

It’s an added challenge for students but has significant value, I think. It reminds me of a phenomenon in music called audiation. I use it frequently as a singer and I bet you do too.

Audiation is thought to be the foundation of musicianship. It takes place when we hear and comprehend music for which the sound is no longer or may never have been present. You can audiate when listening to music, performing from notation, playing “by ear,” improvising, composing, or notating music. When we have a song going round in our mind we are audiating. When we are deliberately learning a song we are audiating.

In our language teaching case, though, the earworm is a word, chunk of l…

Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

I was prompted to write this just having produced for three separate PowerPoint presentations using the same set of 20 pictures (sports). A very good way for you to save time is to reuse the same resource in a number of different ways.

I chose 20 clear, simple, clear and copyright-free images from to produce three presentations on present tense (beginners), near future (post beginner) and perfect tense (post-beginner/low intermediate). Here is one of them:

Below is how I would have taught using this presentation - it won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially of you are not big on choral repetition and PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production), but I'll justify my choice in the plan at each stage. For some readers this will be standard practice.

1. Explain in English that you are going to teach the class how to talk about and understand people talking about sport. By the end of the lesson they will be able to say and understand 20 different sport…

Designing a plan to improve listening skills

Read many books and articles about listening and you’ll see it described as the forgotten skill. It certainly seems to be the one which causes anxiety for both teachers and students. The reasons are clear: you only get a very few chances to hear the material, exercises feel like tests and listening is, well, hard. Just think of the complex processes involved: segmenting the sound stream, knowing lots of words and phrases, using grammatical knowledge to make meaning, coping with a new sound system and more. Add to this the fact that in England they have recently decided to make listening tests harder (too hard) and many teachers are wondering what else they can do to help their classes.

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Responsive teaching

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Wiliam wrote on Twitter in 2013:

“Example of really big mistake: calling formative assessment formative assessment rather than something like "responsive teaching".”

For the record he subsequently added:

“The point I was making—years ago now—is that it would have been much easier if we had called formative assessment "responsive teaching". However, I now realize that this wouldn't have helped since it would have given many people the idea that it was all about the teacher's role.”

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