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Nifty ideas from the Buckingham University PGCE trainees

Today I had the pleasure of spending a day training twenty young teaching trainees (nearly all already in post). In one session they and I shared successful lesson ideas. Here is what we described, as curated by Rebekah Thomas (thanks!).

Ideas that work in the language classroom

• Plickers (free) – print out bar codes and stick in exercise books, create quiz, pupils use bar code to answer, poll app, good for assessment for learning, students do not need to have a device, multiple choice, true or false, bar chart can be displayed on the board to show results
• Mini-whiteboards – assessment for learning
• Mexican wave/chain – within a certain time frame, pupils have to say a word from a sequence: numbers, days of the week, months
• Entry routine – pupils count down with you when they come into the classroom e.g. count down from 20 or chant the alphabet song – by the end of it they have to be ready
• Role plays/information gap dialogue (communicative, student-led) – role play cards with corresponding statements that form a longer conversation; statements in MT and TL
• Question–answer cards (communicative) – students ask each other questions to find out information about each other e.g. what they did at the weekend; ask students to answer in full questions to challenge them more
• Mute customer – in pairs, one student writes down a shopping list and then mimes objects so that the other student can guess what they have written down (fun and therefore memorable)
• Chinese whispers/telephone – split into groups so that students in the middle of the chain do not get bored; teacher prepares sentences which are passed down the line, last student writes down sentence *speed, *accuracy, *have different messages starting at different points
• Paired gapped dictation – one student has the full text and the other has an incomplete version; the second student has to fill in the gaps
• Running dictation – text on the wall (sentences or a passage), work in pairs, student A goes to wall to memorise text, student B writes down the sentence, student A can go back to the wall to check
• Traditional dictation – teacher led, give pupils vocabulary or short sentences to revise before you give the dictation (flipped learning – students prepare at home what they will then cover in class)
• Songs – summary of vocabulary from a particular topic, memorable e.g. ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ in TL (French teachers see: Alain Le Lait)
• Word sorting task – organise vocab in writing or orally into different categories e.g. verbs, fatty products, time phrases (teacher determines categories and then says words); can also ask pupils to write a synonym or the opposite of what you say
• Collocations – start the sentence and pupils have to finish e.g. Sit…/Close the…/Fish and…
• Large dice game – numbers on dice correspond to subject pronouns, dice is then passed around the classroom and pupils conjugate the verb in a particular tense, when pupils are confident, put conjugated verb into sentence
• Verb songs – conjugate ‘aller’ to the Mission Impossible theme tune
• Using culture to motivate – using recipes to teach the imperative; then make the recipe; do a tasting session in class
• Tell stories to engage pupils with TL and TC *use gestures *personalise stories by using their names or names of staff, local places
• Cross-curricular links – teach another topic/subject in French
• AIM language methodoly (accelerated, integrated methodology – gestures, play acting, short plays)
• Categories game – find words for different categories (a theme, aspect of grammar, beginning with a certain letter) *marking can be messy *can use a dictionary
• Personalise the lesson – get pupils to describe you or each other, maybe using a picture of you in the past
• Names in French – translate staff names into French and use it as a reading comprehension exercise e.g. Mr Greenwood = M. Vert du Bois
• Active reading comprehension – assign actions to elements of language e.g. stand up when you don’t understand the word, hand up when there is a question
• Physical listening – make up a story which pupils have to respond to physically e.g. you are walking through the woods (pupils mime walking)
• Colour coding to develop grammatical awareness – break up chunks of a sentence, write on flashcards, create sentences with a deeper understanding of their grammatical function; colours helpful for dyslexic pupils
• Modelling exercises – complete translations, cloze exercises, etc. from the front and scaffold as necessary; crucial so that they start to think like you – repetitive but necessary to develop mastery of exam exercises > fossilising good learning habits
• Noughts and crosses – drilling vocabulary such as days of the week, months, etc.
• Video making – daily routine/describe your house; describe snapshots; teachers can describe their own houses then show this to pupils

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