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Showing posts from March, 2013

Languages Online - visite guidée

Languages Online has long been my favourite interactive website for modern language practice. It's excellent and free, authored by teachers at Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, England.

Andrew Balaam, its creator, writes:
"Languages Online is inspired by our love of producing interactive resources to use with our own pupils. Their positive response has led the whole project. All resources provided on the site were thus initially designed for use by our own classes.
Our aim is to provide an interactive format through which pupils can practise the language we are teaching them in a variety of exercise styles. Many units come with explanations, but it is assumed that pupils should have been taught the material covered prior to attempting a unit. We use our work as reinforcement and consolidation to our teaching. In addition, units are available for pupils to use in their own time."

The site makes extensive use of Hot Potato software and focuses primarily on bui…

My favourite zero prep lesson starters

We once called them oral warm-ups. Now they are called, in the UK at least, starters. For me they were a way of grabbing the attention of a class and setting the tone for the lesson. The tone was: we are going to work fast and if you're lucky with a bit of fun. Sometimes they would be simple vocab reminders to make a link with a previous lesson: "Comment dit-on X en français?" or "How many words to do with .... can you remember". I also had a few no-fail fall-back starters. Nothing revolutionary, but they work. For example...

Fizz-buzz: the whole class game where you go round the class counting from 1 upwards replacing numbers with 5 in (or a multiple of 5) with FIZZ and numbers with 7 in (or a multiple of 7) with BUZZ. Where both 5 and 7 are involved, they must say FIZZ-BUZZ. The class has to concentrate hard to keep up and, of course, you get your little cross-curricular mental maths bonus.

Word association: either done as a whole class (better for control) or …

Frenchteacher exam revision resources

Regular users of the site will know that there are plenty of useful resources for GCSE, AS and A2 exam revision. In case you are not familiar with the site contents, here is a summary. If you haven't signed up yet, don't forget it's only £20 a year, not much more than a single text book. Instant online sign-up with Paypal or card.


Reading booklet with a range of comprehension and translation into English tasksA set of higher tier reading comprehension passages with questions in English400 French signs in Word or Powerpoint (foundation/higher tier)A large range of reading texts with various exercises for vocabulary building (foundation/higher)A higher tier vocabulary list with translations based on the AQA boardA set of listening tasks based on the Encore Tricolore course for use in classA set of gap fill reading tasks for higher tierAS levelA total of 500 cloze test sentences (50 per sheet) written in the AQA style (verbs and adjectives)A large range of texts and exerci…

MFL Sunderland - visite guidée

One of the very best free sites for modern language teachers is MFL Sunderland, soon celebrating its ninth birthday and which offers over 4000 practical and accurate resources for French, German, Spanish and Italian. It is curated by Clare Seccombe who worked in the secondary sector, then more recently in the primary languages field, although the resources are written by a wide range of contributors.

The sitemap is a good place to navigate from, although there are also separate contents pages for each language.

The French section is divided into pages by the English and Welsh Key Stage system, from beginners up to advanced level.There are also separate pages for games and puzzles, Christmas, starters and plenaries, thinking skills and sound files. The bulk of the resources are aimed at younger and intermediate learners, the A-level resources being relatively limited in scope.

In the primary section the usual areas are well covered, including colours, greetings, family, en ville and f…


Here's an interesting and ambitious crowd-sourcing venture. It's called Duolingo and it's from a team of computer scientists, designers and linguists based at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA . You sign up for free - no ads, no later subscriptions, and you learn a language by translating it into your own at a level that suits you. Languages available include French, Spanish, Portuguese and German. In so doing you also help translate the web for the good of everyone in the world.

They say:

"The Service allows users to learn or practise a language while they translate content from the Web. Users are presented with different types of educational activities; while they perform these activities, they also generate valuable data such as translations of Web content."

Here is their short video which explains how it works.

There is an iPhone app so you can use the method on the go. They have had an independent eight week study done by two academics in Dece…

TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling)

 If any practitioners using TPRS read this, I would be grateful for any feedback if I have got anything wrong!

I must confess when I came across this, I first confused it with TPR (Total Physical Response), the second language teaching method promoted by James Asher in the 1970s. Indeed, the confusion is compounded by the fact that both TPRS and TPR both draw their inspiration from "natural" language learning, namely the idea that second language learning works essentially like child language acquisition.

Both methods posit that second language acquisition occurs when the focus is on comprehension and can therefore compared with Stephen Krashen's comprehension hypothesis.

Whereas the stress in TPR is on students carrying out instructions given by the teacher, with the imperative form of the verb plus vocabulary being the key, TPRS depends strongly on presenting vocabulary first and giving students comprehensible input through storytelling. It is an approach popular with …

AS Level French revision links 2013

GCSE (intermediate) interactive revision links 2013

In England and Wales, when those blessed controlled assessments are over, you can focus totally on comprehension and vocabulary building for the remaining exams. Here is a handy list of some good interactive revision links for this level. These links are also good for intermediate exams in Scotland, Ireland and other English-speaking countries. You could copy and paste this to print off for students.

I do recommend the free print-off from (see Reading link below). I designed it for pupils working at the grade A-C level at GCSE. Good for individual work and students like the booklet format.

The URL for the BBC learning Zone is very long, so I have posted that as a link.

By the way, a decent app for students to download would be the Cramit one which is pretty good for vocabulary, but frankly, the mobile offerings are generally not up to much. For listening, you could suggest Coffee Break French from Radio Lingua Network.


Neal Morse Band, Electric Ballroom, Camden Town

We don't want outstanding schools.

Just as I dislike British Rail's use of "standard class" rather than SNCF's more honest "seconde classe",I have always been reluctant to buy into the DfE's misuse of the word outstanding. Teachers and schools now commonly mistakenly employ the word when talking about "outstanding" lessons, "outstanding" teachers and "outstanding" schools.

Just in case anyone has forgotten, here are some definitions of the word outstanding:

Standing out among others of its kind; prominent (American Heritage Dictionary). Superior to others of its kind; distinguished (American Heritage Dictionary) Superior; excellent; distinguished (Collins) Prominent, remarkable, or striking (Collins) Exceptionally good (Oxford) 
You will note that the word not only denotes excellence, but almost always superiority and difference. Logically, only a minority of schools can be "outstanding" and I am sure this is not want the DfE or anyone wants.

You mi…

frenchteacher updates

I've been focusing in recent weeks on beefing up the resources in the beginner to intermediate sections of the site.

In particular I've produced a set of texts with questions in English for intermediate level. Now, I have to say that this exercise format is by no means my favourite, since it focus uniquely on comprehension and does not therefore exploit all the possibilities a text offers for effective acquisition. If you use true/false/not mentioned, or multi-choice in the target language, or matching tasks, or questions in the target language, you can raise the level of challenge, incorporate more target language input and, ultimately, improve acquisition.

In this case, however, I am reacting to the prevalence of this type of assessment in examinations. If you look at English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish intermediate level reading exams you will find questions in English to be the most common form of assessment. It even crops up at advanced level.

I came across the new French …