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Can Pokémon Go really teach us anything in MFL?

My son has a degree in physics and is soon to start his PhD on solar energy. He has also taken to Pokémon Go, which is essentially a collector's game which gets you out and about. I slightly get it, having been (full disclosure) a collector of train numbers when I was 12. It does have a strongly social aspect - we were amused when he gravitated towards and starting chatting to a couple of young French players while wandering around La Rochelle. You can tell Pokémon collectors by the way they walk around with the mobile phone in a particular position and gather in clusters.

I've been wondering whether the collector's instinct can be called upon a bit more in language lessons. Schools are already aware of the powerful effect collecting can have - think of those keen youngsters collecting merit stamps and stickers from teachers. Some collect detentions, of course.

In a language lesson here is a simple idea which goes some small way to satisfying those who enjoy collecting. It's a simple variation on the task type where you tick off words you hear during a listening comprehension exercise. Instead of that, why not, every now and then, provide students with a list of TL words they might hear during the lesson. This could be a simple and quick add-on to your normal lesson plan.

Let's say you know that your lesson is about healthy living. You give each student a list on a strip of paper of about twenty words or phrases broadly on that topic (body, food, exercise, football, vegetarian, smoking etc - you can also include general words) and they have to tick off any they hear you say. You tell students they can only tick off words on their list which they hear you saying, not words they read. You could make the activity competitive, praising or rewarding the students who find the most words.

How do you know for sure if you used the words? Well, you wouldn't want to make this too accurate or time-consuming, so you could use your memory or make an educated guess which words you uttered. The checking-off of the words would be an excellent and natural plenary activity. There may even be disagreement about which words were used - another excuse for recycling the language.

If you did this activity several times over a term you could even keep a league table of who did the best if you or the class were that way inclined. Students could keep their lists and stick them in books.



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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)

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
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. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’( The point i…

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When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…