At #nalasat, an MFL Show and Tell event held in Manchester on 9th November, I shared an idea for helping improve listening skills through reading, making a link between the sound and the look of a word.

In brief, this is the idea:

  • At the start of the lesson, give pupils the text you want them to listen to later on, but don’t tell them that is what is going to happen.
  • Give them a few seconds to look through the text.
  • Tell pupils that you are going to read the text aloud, and they should join in with you when they know what you are doing. Repeat this several times, changing the pattern each time. Suggestions are:
    • Read every other word
    • Read every third/fourth word
    • Start reading from the end of the text
    • Read the first word of each line, then the last word of each line
    • Read the first word of the text, then the last word of the text, then the second word of the text, then the penultimate word of the text etc
  • You can make it as complicated or as simple as your own brain can manage!
  • After a few minutes of fun, put the text away.
  • Later in the lesson, conduct the listening activity, without saying that pupils have already had access to the text.

If you would like a comprehensive overview of everything that happened on the day, you could do worse than read this post by Dominic McGladdery.



I posted a link to this site on Facebook earlier this week, and said it was a bit addictive.  It really is!

Geoguessr is a website which uses Google Maps.  You get ‘placed’ somewhere in the world, and you have to work out where you are.  You can pick up clues from things such as buildings, vegetation, landscape, weather, and even the side of the road cars are driving on.  Occasionally you can find a word, signpost or flag which helps.  Once you’ve decided roughly where you think you are, you drop a pin into a world map, and see how close you were.  You get five ‘goes’ in each round.  It’s amazing how much two places thousands of miles apart can look like each other!


I’ve kept coming back to the site over the last few days, wondering if it could be used for language teaching at all.  I don’t think it’s perfect, because as a teacher you don’t really have enough control over what appears, but it does have some possibilities, such as:

  • describing what pupils see in front of them
  • giving opinions on what they see
  • justifying those opinions (I think it could be …. because ….)
  • comparing what they see to places they have been or seen before

It could also be a good tutor-time filler.   Or it can just take up your own free time – as I said, it’s addictive!

I heard it through the (grape)Vine

Since I first came across Vine just over a week ago, I’ve been mulling over the possibilities for use in language teaching.

Vine is brought to you by Twitter, and is an app (currently only available for iPhone and iPod touch – sorry Android users) which invites you to create a video of no more than 6 seconds, which then plays on loop after it’s been created.

Here’s my first attempt (created with my not-yet-fully-formed MFL idea in my head) to see how it could work (there is sound, so you may need to click the sound icon to activate it).

The ‘Vines’ are easy enough to create, and the fact that it runs on a loop means that you get a quick snatch of vocabulary which get repeated and repeated … until you hit stop.

There’s definitely something in there for vocabulary and language learning, and I’m thinking that pupils could listen to or create their own for revision etc.

Watch this space as I try to find more things to do with Vine.

Speaking and Listening – rising to the challenge

Since leaving the classroom just under a year ago, I find that when I am in contact with teachers now, it’s generally from the front of the room, with the teachers as my audience.

So I was delighted and privileged a few days ago to be at a presentation given by Rachel Hawkes – and anyone who has ever been in one of her sessions will know what an inspiration she is!

Her theme was “Creative speaking and listening ideas for the languages classroom”, and as someone who has always found it the most difficult thing to develop my pupils’ listening skills, I was keen to hear what she had to say.

Even from the second slide in, I knew I was going to learn something.


Rachel’s notes say:

Listening is vital for language learning.  It is a source of language input, the decoding of which is believed by most to account to a large extent for language acquisition.  But for learners it is often the activity that causes most anxiety.  You can often detect a powerful change in the atmosphere in a languages classroom when a listening activity is announced and then in progress.  So often students ask ‘is it a test?’ when you start a listening activity, presumably because this is how it feels to them.  I’ve never been asked that about a reading activity.

Rachel shared some wonderful ideas and links, which you can access from this page on her website (the June 2012 entry).  Definitely worth a peep!

Back to Basics

This all started because I was compiling some simple classroom activities from my own archives for a project for work.  Then I realised that it would be even better if I crowd-sourced some ideas and as ever, the #mfltwitterati were magnificent in sharing.

The main aim was to collect those basic, no props required, vocabulary drilling activities.  In collecting them, other simple ideas snuck in, but I decided that was absolutely fine – who’s going to complain!

I’ve separated them into four different categories to make it a little bit more manageable.  There will be errors, I’m sure, and you’ll have your own versions.  In fact, @langwitch has a Lingo Bingo all of her own and she has explained it far better than I can, so hop over to her blog and have a look yourself.

Then there’s always the issue of what to call these activities – I call it one thing in German, another in French, and that’s without regional variations!

But call them what ever you like, you’re more than welcome to them!

No props required list

Board activities list

Flash card activities list

Little prep required list

You show me yours …

I had heard about Show and Tell gatherings in the context of teacher CPD, and had followed a number of events from afar, generally via Twitter, but today I had the privilege of attending one in person for the very first time.  What an excellent day it was!

I’m not exaggerating when I say people travelled the length of the country to attend this event in Oldham.  A good number of those there shared resources or experiences on a wide range of topics, and I learned so much from every one of them.  I came away totally re-enthused and ready for next week!

My own small contribution was a few quick ideas on getting pupils to engage more in speaking, and I mentioned 3 different activities, which I learned during training on Kagan co-operative learning structures.

1.  Rally Robin

  • Ask the question which you want responses on (eg what did you do at the weekend?)
  • Allow 30 seconds silent thinking time (this is important – gives pupils time to formulate their thoughts)
  • In pairs, pupils take it in turns to say a sentence until the teacher stops the activity

2.  Stand Up, Hands Up, Pair Up – Same idea as before, but allows pupils to interact with more of their classmates

  • Ask the question and allow thinking time
  • Play some music – when the music stops, pupils raise their arm to indicate they are looking for a partner
  • They move to a partner and ‘high five’ (this is crucial!!!)
  • Pupils take it in turns to say a sentence until the teacher starts the music again
  • Pupils then move onto a different partner

The advantage of this one is that they repeat (ie practise) the phrases they know, and pick up phrases from other pupils, in particular from those which whom they would not ordinarily choose to work.

3.  Quiz Quiz Trade – as above, but this time, pupils ask their partner a question

  • If you want to control the questions, you need to provide each pupil with their own question card, and the prompt for the answer.  If you’d like to use one of my versions, you are welcome to do so – click for QuizQuizTrade.
  • Pupils move around the room.  They each ask and answer a question, then trade their card with their partner, so they move on to the next person with a different question.
  • You can adapt this by asking pupils to prepare their own card for homework, or by giving pupils a post-it note and asking them to write the question and answer as the starter activity.

An event such as this could not have happened without excellent hosts, and I would like to thank again Isabelle Jones and the staff in the MFL department at The Radclyffe School in Oldham for their warm welcome, and excellent organisation.  Thanks also to sponsors ALL , Mary Glasgow and Links into Languages.

Sharing is good – and logical:  “The miracle is this — the more we share, the more we have.”  Leonard Nimoy