Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2017

My ResearchEd session in Oxford on April 1st.

I was honoured to be invited by Tom Bennett to talk at the ResearchEd event on English and MFL in Oxford on April 1st.

If you'd like to attend, other MFL folk there will be Gianfranco Conti, Joe Dale, Jess Lund, David Shanks and Crista Hazell, to name a few.

Here is the link for booking:

And here is the summary of the session I'll be delivering:

MFL teaching; it’s not what you do. it’s the way that you do it.

This session begins by looking at what is meant by “principled eclecticism” in this so-called post-methods era of language teaching. The history of second language teaching methods is briefly discussed with a focus on the dichotomy of conscious and sub-conscious acquisition. Is learning a second language the same as learning a first language or is it the same as acquiring any skill? Scholars such as Krashen, VanPatten, Long, Lightbown, Spader and Nick Ellis will be referred to. Is there a “third way” which can combi…

TES GCSE bundle now published

You may already be aware that Gianfranco and I have been working on French GCSE translation units for some time. We had previously uploaded to TES a number of these at £3 each. We have now created a full bundle of eight units and are selling it at £15. Look out for special sale prices too.

So what's in this bundle?

The eight units, which are pitched at GCSE Higher Tier, cover these topics:

1.  Health
2.  Volunteering
3.  Holidays
4.  Marriage
5.  Television
6.  Ambitions
7.  School
8.  Environment

Each unit consists of six to eight A4 pages of densely packed text and exercises with no pictures. An answer key is provided for self-marking by pupils. The pattern is very similar for each unit:

1.  Pre-reading

A set of tasks featuring the vocabulary items which will appear in the reading texts to follow. Exercise types include matching vocab lists Fr-Eng, finding synonyms and antonyms, gap-filling and short translations both ways.

2. …

Vocabulaire idiot

Robert De Niro made a memorable video during the US presidential election in which he found a large number of nouns to describe Donald Trump. Here it is:

So in honour of the US president here is a French vocab list for you.

faible d'esprit
roi des cons
dépassé par sa situation

That'll do for now. You may have others.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Review: Ilini videos

Update August 2017: since this post was written this site now offers two levels - a free section and a monthly, fully-featured subscription.


This is a promising new site, currently in Beta, which features regularly updated, advanced level French videos, complete with sub-titles, downloadable, translated transcripts and optional English translations.

The content so far would suit adult learners and advanced level students. Each authentic video lasts under two minutes and topics available so far include:
A glass wall to protect the Eiffel TowerA French woman crowned Miss Universe (oh dear!)A record year for French car-maker RenaultEmmanuel Macron's supportersWomen in cinemaA farmer gettinga suspended sentence for helping migrantsThe François Fillon scandalThe presidential electionThe 2015 Paris climate conference
The videos are sourced from the likes of France 24, BFM and Euronews (copyright?). For each video you can download a pdf with the transcript a…

Buckingham University PGCE and IPGCE presentations

I used these presentations as a basis for discussion with the PGCE and IPGCE students based at the University of Buckingham. Buckingham Uni PGCE Feb 2017 Teaching culture from Steve Smith Buckingham Uni PGCE Feb 2017 Assessment from Steve Smith Buckingham Uni PGCE Feb15 Listening from Steve Smith Buckingham Uni PGCE Feb 2017 Purposeful games from Steve Smith

New book update

Just to let you know that the typescript of my new book Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher is at Routledge and I'm hoping it will be available very soon. It's one of a series of books covering different subject areas. Maths and English are already published.

There will be around 200 pages and this is what what the Contents page looks like:


1. Running a room
2. Dissecting a lesson: visuals
3. Dissecting a lesson: using written texts
4. Dissecting a lesson: task-based lessons
5. Enjoying sounds
6. Great games
7. Getting grammatical
8. Words and chunks
9. Dissecting a lesson: speaking
10. Dissecting a lesson: writing
11. Teaching all abilities
12. Pace, questioning and other interactions
13. Moving them forwards
14. What makes an outstanding language teacher?


What is a bit different about this book, I think, is the focus on detailed analyses of classroom interactions - notably typical question-answer sequences and the subtleties of running them. I hop…

Five ways to help your students prepare for the new GCSE Speaking Tests

So Controlled Assessments are on the way out and we essentially.return to the form of oral assessment which preceded them. From May 2018 pupils will do a role play, discuss a photo and have a conversation based on the prescribed topics or "sub-themes". This applies to both Foundation and Higher Tier.

What can teachers do to help pupils score well? I may have some useful ideas for you after many years of preparing pupils and a few years of marking oral exams for AQA during the previous regime.

1. Rote learning is still important

While it's true that CAs encouraged learning whole talks by heart (though it was never meant that way - unintended consequences), don't think for a moment that the learning by heart won't play a role in the new format. I recall very clearly, when I marked for AQA at least 15 years ago, listening to the candidates of one school who all produced very similar answers. For example, when asked to describe a recent meal every candidate had coinc…

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

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…