5 Things to try tomorrow

5 Things to Try Tomorrow

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I’m snowed under with marking, reports and grades at the moment.  So here’s 5 ideas which helped me procrastinate, which you may like to try tomorrow…

Target Language Answers

How do your pupils respond at the end of starters, reading activities, listening activities?  I’ve started getting my classes to use the following:

  • creo que es …A,B,C etc
  • pienso que es
  • podría ser …
  • Estoy seguro que es …

It’s a simple way of drilling in key phrases and it keeps the lesson in the target language. I thought it might slow things down but it hasn’t.  Even better is that students are using them and they are appearing in their work.


Such a simple thing but so versatile.  Get a set of 6 sided or 10/12 sided dice.  Try any of the following:

1    me gustaría trabajar                                 con animales

2   mi amigo le gustaría trabajar                 en una oficina

3   mi profesor debería trabajar                   como domador de leones

4   no me gustaría trabajar                            al aire libre

5    mi mama debería trabajar                      con la gente

6   mi papa debería trabajar                          como profesor estresado


1    Give an opinion about … using ich denke, dass

2   Give an opinion about .. using gefallen

3    Give an opinion about … and add a weil clause

4   Give an opinion about … using gern

5   Give an opinion about …. that adds a sentence in another tense

6   Give an opinion about  … using meiner Meinung nach

Or vocabulary revision

1/2  Partner names 5 words on topic of …

3/4 Partner gives 5 adjectives on topic of …

5/6 Partner gives 5 verb phrases on topic of…

or create your own…

“Hide your whiteboards.”

The credit for this one goes entirely to a trainee teacher who gets better and better with every lesson.  She insists that students keep mini-whiteboards under their chins once they have written and then they raise them on her instruction.    Copying other people is one of my pet hates and this eliminates it and also forces the “less motivated” (bone idle) to work harder and produce something or it’s really obvious.

 DIRT mats.


Our school has introduced DIRT time.  One pupil suggested it be called “time for improvement, reflection and development” but then realised that “TIRD” had a slightly unappealing ring to it.  During that time, my focus needs to be on the students with genuine questions about how to improve their work.  The rest need to get on.  These mats are editable and really easy to adapt.  Despite the fact they are aimed at KS1 and KS2 they can be adapted and used with all years.  My experience so far is that the younger years like the Pixar one and my 10s & 11s feel that the force is strong with the Star Wars versions.


Hands up listening

This came courtesy of Nick Mair on a course.  It is incredibly versatile and quite effective in terms of assessing the skill of listening.  It also shows you who your best listeners are.

The teacher talks in the target language.  Students have 3 options: left hand , right hand, both hands.  You assign something to each hand.  Maybe it is “opinion”, “reason”, “two tenses used”.  Or “sensible”, “idiotic”, “mixed”.

Here are two examples using Mira 1, which would lead to students putting both hands up.

  • “En mi casa hay un salón, un comedor y una cocina.  Había un baño en el jardín.”
  • “En mi casa hay un salón, un comedor, una cocina y un baño.  Arriba hay un dormitorio, el dormitorio de mis padres y el dormitorio de mi tortuga.”


Credit to www.cooltext.com for the cool text effects.



Getting ready for the new GCSE: the sequel

“There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.”  Phil Knight

I’m not actually sure who Phil Knight is, but I like the quote and it has relevance to this situation with the new GCSE.  We will not master the new system in its first few years but we can influence the outcome by preparing our students well.  The last post on this topic looked primarily at preparing pupils for the new speaking tasks and a previous one examined the return of the roleplay.  This one will focus on the writing element of the new GCSE.  I have previously blogged before on writing but this is specifically aiming at the new GCSE.  Whilst I aim to be unbiased, three exam boards are submitting 3rd and 4th drafts. This post therefore will be written with the AQA specs in mind.  Today’s post is an amalgamation of my own thoughts and ALL South West’s conference in Bristol yesterday.

Here is a summary of what candidates have to do based on the AQA spec.

Foundation Writing Marks Available Higher Writing Marks Available
4 Sentences in TL based on picture 8 90 word task in TL
Instructions in TL
40 word paragraph in TL.
Instructions in TL
16 150 word task based on 2 bullet points
Instructions and bullet points in TL
Translation of sentences into TL 10 Translation of paragraph into TL 12
90 word task in TL
Instructions in TL

The question inevitably is: how do we prepare our pupils for this?  A quick look at the mark scheme provides us with two themes to be aware of:

Foundation students will need to focus on content and quality of language. 

Higher students will need to focus on content and range of language.  

From what I can see, it appears the higher students will need to do more, with more.  We are looking at breadth and depth, which is great. Teachers of foundation students might this allows more time for reinforcement and repetition of material, once you have worked out how to teach all the topics in 2 years but that is another blog post.  Given that we now have 6-7 lessons per CA back then we have to maximise the time on language learning.

Whatever you choose to do the focus will be on preparing students to use the language in a situation where they have no help other than some TL prompts, a picture and what they remember.  Some of the ideas below were gleaned from yesterday’s conference and credit has been given below where appropriate.

Folded tests (thanks to Greg Horton)

Greg suggested this idea yesterday.  I might have modified it as I couldn’t remember it all. Students have an A4 sheet of absolutely key phrases that they should know (creo que, es, son, pensaba que, pienso que, voy a, espero, me gustaría etc).  English is down one side and Spanish down the other.  You hold the sheet portrait and fold it in half.  The students then test each other:  Sherice says the English and Chardonnay aims to recall the Spanish working down the list.  They then swap but Chardonnay starts at the bottom of the list and works up.  They then check their scores and see who wins.  The test reinforces and tests spontaneous production of key phrases.  Greg then suggested a penalty shootout between the two highest scorers at the front of the class.  This would ensure that the students know quality language and it places value on knowing these phrases.  You could also develop the range and breadth of language with higher sets by changing the test papers after a term.  A homework task could be to make sentences involving the words.

TL Instructions for all written work

Photo Credit: mgjosefsen via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mgjosefsen via Compfight cc

The new exam is going to be largely in TL.  Some exam boards may supply “probable rubrics” but why not start now?  The more students are used to it; the less scary the exam will be. As MFL teachers we are used to acting and a lot of gesture and mime can probably help to ingrain the key phrases in the minds of our learners.  Failing that then you can teach it to them or have your most frequent utterances displayed on walls or learning mats.

Learning walls

Displays of posters might need to become a thing of the past (perhaps save them for the corridors).  What can students learn from your wall?  At the moment, I will be honest, they cannot learn enough from my walls.   A fantastic idea I saw at Bradley Stoke Community School was a teacher who had pouches on the walls of short summaries of how to do each tense or how to form negatives in French.  What do your walls contain that improve written work?  Foundation students will need this kind of support. Otherwise they will become too dependent on dictionaries they are no longer allowed to use  If I had my way the walls in my room would act like the ones in Minority Report, but we’re not there, yet!

Photo Credit: youflavio via Compfight cc

Equipment checks

One of the curses of controlled assessments is that students memorise entire paragraphs about their work experience but cannot form sentences in a foreign language or hold a basic conversation.  Eva Lamb spoke yesterday about engineering situations such as an equipment check and repeating TL that can be used in other situations:

Photo Credit: Nene La Beet via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Nene La Beet via Compfight cc

Eva:Hast du ein Heft?

Boris: Ja ich habe ein Heft?

Eva: Hast du dein Heft?

Vladmir: Ich habe kein Heft

Eva: Hast du dein Heft verloren

Vladmir: Ja Ich habe mein Heft verloren

Eva: detention!

Ok…so she didn’t say the last line…but it is a very simple way to recycle language and one I am itching to try.  She suggested doing it with year 7 from the very first lesson.  It forces every student to speak and the haben verb paradigm is instantly being absorbed.  From then, change it to homework, who won the Manchester United Arsenal match (sorry Arsenal fans) etc.  It is also not much of a stretch from knowing “ich habe, some personal pronouns and some past participles to being able to use them in written work.

More Grammar practice; less nouns.

Students can find the nouns for homework on Wordreference.  Textbooks are massively guilty of presenting nouns, nouns and more nouns.  Students need verbs.  Every sentence on this blog contains a verb, some might even have more than one.  Verbs are going to be key.  Foundation students will need a stock of them that they can deploy at any point. Higher students will likely need a greater range of them but know what they can do with them.  For example: knowing that adding é ía to a Spanish infinitive will change the meaning and equally removing the last two letters and replacing with o or é will also change the meaning.  Irregular verbs will likely need to be learnt.  This could be done for homework.

Core language

Two of my colleagues from English recently tried testing their bottom set 3 times on the same vocabulary.  They took in the marks from the third time.  They also made the students then write some sentences using the vocabulary.  Unsurprisingly the scores increased each time, even for the weakest.

MFL departments need to nail down a core of language that students should know at the end of years 7,8 and 9.  If you work with primary schools then you can do even more of this.  Every student should be able to produce certain structures.  Why is it that last year’s year 11 bottom set could also remember juego al fútbol (pronounced “joo way go al fut-ball”)?  Yet a simple pienso que, debería, tengo que or other verbs was beyond them.  They need a core and they need testing on it regularly to give it value.  They also need testing on their ability to apply it.

Some phrases need to be procedural in the same way that students are taught a procedure to approaching a simultaneous equation, expanding brackets or a quadratic formula.  We do this with ,weil clauses but do we do it with other structures?

Transferable structure plenaries

Most of our lessons contain some nouns but it is the grammatical structure that is important.  Take for example the Expo 1 lesson on “dans ma ville”.  The structure that the book is teaching is a very simple “il y a” and “il n’y a pas de”.  Quite often students will remember this in the context of “dans ma ville il y a” but the question is can they apply the il y a elsewhere?

Photo Credit: eldeeem via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: eldeeem via Compfight cc

This photo could be shown at the end of the lesson.  Qu’est-ce qu’il y a dans le photo?  Suddenly the students have to apply their knowledge of the structure along with the previous topic of house and home.  Get them to produce the sentences on mini-whiteboards. This way you can measure their spontaneous production of the TL (thus managing the first task of the foundation paper) and also check their understanding of the structure.  Then try it with another photo (maybe the one below).  Qu’est-ce qu’il y a dans le photo?

Say more

Photo Credit: zenobia_joy via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: zenobia_joy via Compfight cc

Greg Horton had a slide which simply had question words on it.  One of his class would sit at the front and be given a simple sentence to read or you could give them a picture.  The students ask questions to elicit more detail from the person sat at the front. Continuing on from the previous idea, the starting sentence could be: “Hay un perro”  Pupil could then ask:

¿Cuántos? ¿Dónde? ¿De qué color es?

More advanced students could ask:

¿Por qué?  ¿Qué hace?  ¿qué opinas tú de los perros?

Again it is about spontaneous production.  Students could note down the answers on whiteboards to test their listening.  They could change the verb forms to practice grammar.  They could even do a tabloid version on mini-whiteboards where they exaggerate every claim that is made or completely misrepresent what the student says:

Student: en la foto hay un perrito tierno.

Students: en la foto hay un perro agresivo y violente.

Getting ready for the new GCSE

It’s almost here.  Regardless of the fact that 3 out of 4 exam boards are yet to have their specifications approved by OFQUAL, we have to begin teaching towards it in September. I’ve been thinking about how to prepare my year 9 learners for what is coming, in terms of topics and skills.  Here are some things I have tried out:

Modalverben – regular drilling.

German teachers will be familiar with modal verbs.  They are 6 most common verbs and are combined with an infinitive  The same can be done in Spanish but there will just be more of them and they take different forms.  I want my students to be completely proficient with these most common verbs so that they can use them spontaneously with infinitives.  If you had 10 minutes to prepare for an exam, having a mental arsenal that contains

I have to / I like / I should / I want to / I can etc along with some infinitives, should be useful to them.  We have been having regular sentence making drills on mini-whiteboards.  Over time I have added in some opinion and reason phrases.  If you are in doubt about whether drilling is effective then the video below is



I found the old roleplay cards and we will be using them in the coming weeks.  If you don’t have them then there are some specimen papers on the exam-board websites. Those can be used and adapted.  Rather than writing a section, I will refer you to a previous blog.  A recent post on Frenchteacher also is worth a read.  Do your students know enough multi-purpose transactional vocabulary?

Spontaneous Speech

Students are going to have to be a lot better at generating language spontaneously.  Yes they can be drilled in rubric, roleplays and discussion but there is a greater emphasis on producing the language unaided.  With TL rubrics in the speaking elements, this could be even harder.  Rachel Hawkes has some worthwhile suggestions here.  She also has a Phd so I will leave it in her capable hands.

Speaking from pictures.

Rachel Hawkes illustrated this brilliantly on a recent course I went on.  It is about encouraging learners to use what they have learnt.  It does not matter if they cannot say what they want to say.  The question is what can they say?

What might a year 7/8/9 be able to do with the following picture?

  • Es una fiesta.   Hay un elefante.  Me gustan las fiestas.
  • Creo que es una celebración porque hay mucha gente.
Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/25802865@N08/12471761553/">chooyutshing</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Photo Credit: chooyutshing via Compfight cc

Equally with this you can get the students to predict the questions that might be asked.

New Topics

I’m borrowing from AQA here.

  • Marriage/partnerships
  • Social media
  • Mobile technology
  • Customs and festivals in TL speaking countries
  • Charity/voluntary work
  • Poverty/homelessness

This looks more interesting than “self, family and friends”.  The hard bit is working out how these might be examined.  How can we teach them and make them accessible? See the table below:

Topic from AQA How it could be examined Implications for teaching practice
Marriage/partnerships Speaking – discussion or picture
Writing – essay or translation question
Students need to be able to give
their opinions on this topic.
Discuss with RE department to 
ascertain prior knowledge, stumbling blocks and
Social Media Speaking – do you think it is a good thing?
Listening – text about someone who uses
Reading – text about social media
Writing – essay or translation question
Need to teach a variety of multipurpose
vocabulary as the range is so wide.  Students
need to be able to give opinions on it, use
frequency adverbs and explain why it is a good
or bad thing.
Customs and Festivals Speaking – is celebrating things important?
Listening – report about an event
Reading – text about an event
Writing – less likely, possible translation
Teach major festivals at various points of the year.
Day of the dead, san fermin, la tomatina, las fallas.
Students will need a cursory knowledge of the well-
-known festivals
Charity/volunteer work Speaking – should young people do it?
Listening – account of someone’s job
Reading – account of someone’s job, charity
Writing – should young people do it?
Teach students phrases to structure arguments and
create extended responses.
Poverty/homelessness Listening
Reading – text on developing world
Echo 3 and Mira 3 do a bit of this.  Discuss with
geography, is there a case-study or unit of work that
you can link this too.





5 things to try tomorrow

5 things I’ve tried this week.  You could try them tomorrow…

Picture Starters


Photo Credit: Macro-roni via Compfight cc

Mira 1 gets students describing their teachers.  I wanted to see how much my year 7s  could remember so I demanded between 3 and 5 sentences based on a picture I showed them.  Initially I typed in angry teacher into google and used one of them before using an image of Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society.  I was pleasantly surprised what they were able to generate.

Me gusta el inglés porque el profesor es interesante

En mi clase hay un profesor interesante

Odio el inglés pero el profesor es interesante 

This one came from Greg Horton.  You can learn more about the work he does here, the big O seem keen on him.

Hands up listening

In an era of no hands up being in vogue this one goes against the grain.  The teacher can prepare the listening phrases and it is really good in seeing who in your class has the best auditory processing skills and is an effective listener.  It may well surprise you.

Mano derecha Opinión positiva
Mano izquierda Opinión negativa
Dos manos no hay opinión

You read out a sentence and depending on the content, the students put a right hand, left hand or both hands up.  This idea came from Nick Mair and I’ve tried it a few times since.  It also can be massively adapted with tenses, negatives, comparisons, conditionals etc

Forms and Functions

An idea from the effervescent Rachel Hawkes.

1) Past A) Future plans
2) Present B) Uniform
3) Future C) School rules
4) Negative D) description of school
5) Comparison E) Teachers
6) Conditional F) Other students
7) Sentence with two tenses G) Homework
8) Sentence linked with subordinating conjunction h) Stress

The students could do this with mini0whiteboards or a series of exercises could be set on the board and students work quietly through them.  The teacher demands a 1A sentence from the students.  This might mean that the student has to write about future plans whilst incorporating a past tense in there somewhere.  5E might be easier as students would simply compare two teachers.  It is great getting them to think about content, meaning and including the right things in their work.

Literary texts

My year 8s are reading Peter Pan together.  I picked it up for 75 centavos.  I’ve taught them about reading around both sides of an unfamiliar word (deducing meaning from context).

Deducing meaning from what has gone before

Bob entered the kitchen and saw his son doing the dishes.  His son threw a ______ at him.

The most obvious suggestions the students generate are dishcloth and sponge, along with some other, rather imaginative ones…

Deducing meaning from what has gone after.

Bob entered the kitchen and saw his son doing the dishes.  His son threw a ______ at him, which hit Bob and shattered into pieces.

Why do it?  It is mainly to stop them getting hung up on the one word they do not know.

We have also done a fair bit of work on infinitives and knowing the little words such as “de” “el/la/los/las”  “un/una”  etc.  Someone reads out loud before we look at what is going on.

Authentic Texts

The hotel boca juniors powerpoint on the TES was good for getting students working with some authentic material.  Here are some I am looking to try out:

Quinoa – bit of reading for healthy living and food topics

Farting cows – animal/environment topic maybe?  Might need simplifying…


Photo Credit: blackcatcara via Compfight cc




The Return of the Roleplay

When i was in year 8 (a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away) we looked at how to order from an Eisdiele. It proved to be a useful lesson as two years later in Germany i was ordering ice creams and surprising my classmates with my ability to make sprinkles, cream and flakes appear. Their 99s looked pitiful in comparison. It made the language come alive. I’m happy that it would appear that roleplays are making a return. I remember doing them at GCSEs.  I remember the school coach had broken down and I had to explain where I was on the autobahn and get help (in the the role play -my school trips have been largely incident free).

I have recently been forced to attempt some typical roleplay situations in my third and weakest language such as visiting the chemists after being a mosquito banquet, hiring a car and buying stamps in a tabac. My experiences of this lead me to think that as teachers we are faced with two questions.

  1. What do students need in order to perform well?
  2. What activities might help them?

Transferable language.

Pour students need to be in e habit of transferring language between situations. I often remind students that unlike science, languages require recycling knowledge. Science lessons seem to cover space one half term before moving to plants the next, languages requires a constant revisiting of key structures and vocabulary.  My plan would be that students at he end of each half term have a bank of words they can apply to a variety of topics. Rachel Hawkes’ saco mágico is a good idea here – a page in students’ books where they note down phrases they need to reuse. It should probably b tested regularly to give it value in the eyes of the students.


Students need to feel they can talk and they can get out of situations. This needs to be without using je ne sais pas for every situation encountered! Below are some activities that might help in developing confidence.

Schwindler/Trampa – students write cards with key phrases and some cards with just the word trampa. They play the cards face down reading the phrase but if they play a trampa card then they have to improvise a phrase. This developed he abilities of my bottom set yr 11s and saved me from some silent oral exams.

Dialogue chop up – Exactly as the name suggests. Give students a dialogue to rearrange either in terms of words or sentence.

KS3 drama – I have always done dramas when we have covered buying food and drink, buying clothes or going to the doctors. Make it more challenging by giving groups certain challenges to complete eg broken leg – explain how it happened. Sometimes i have included curveballs at the last minute in the restaurant drama such as “lo siento señor pero no tenemos pizza”, it forces thinking and improvisation. Students also feel a greater sense of achievement if they can do something real life. They may not get to talk about their school subjects on holiday but they will likely order food.

Face/shoulder/diagonal partner – Make students practice with everyone. The more practice the do and feedback they receive; the likelier a successful outcome. Face partner is the person opposite and shoulder partner are the people next to them. I never use the terms but it is a helpful distinction for the blog.

If this is the answer what is the question – Borrowed from Mock the Week, students need to know what they are asking if they have to pose a question and equally they need an understanding of what they are being asked. Take the breakdown situation earlier, we do not want students answering blau when the question was “wo ist dein Auto jetzt?”

What do you do? Share what works as it is coming and we’re all in this together. Be the first to leave a comment!

Teaching School Subjects

Before I start, thank you to the handful of regular readers and the ones who shared me on twitter (something I have never used) , it precipitated a massive spike in viewings in the UK and further afield so thank you!  I hope the material and ideas are useful.  Enjoy half-term.

School is a topic we cover a number of times.  If you’re following Mira then it comes up in years 7 and 9.  I find in year 9 it is a lot harder to make it engaging.  The students are going through that stage where school means hard work, drudgery and the novelty value the topic had in year 7 is all but lost.  We then often revisit it on GCSE syllabuses so I guess it is worth having some good ideas.

Here is a selection of things I’ve tried with both years.

Options discussion.

Great way to revise school subjects, opinions and reasons without it seeming like repeating year 7 material.  ¿Qué vas a estudiar el año que viene? or ¿Vas a estudiar …? This lends itself to a nice discussion in fours where the students have to see which group can keep discussing options the longest in Spanish.  If you have done various activities to revise the subjects, opinion phrases and reasons, they should be able to keep this going.  A speaking frame is also helpful.

Options discussion in pairs with flowchart.

Give students a flowchart on powerpoint.  They can then work through the various stages

I’m (not) going to study… because…

it is … (positives)                               it is … (negatives)


the teacher is ….  (positives)               the teacher is … (negatives)

Hopefully the flowchart makes sense although wordpress does not permit the use of lines and arrows, just imagine they are there.

Good student/bad student

A lot of textbooks take the opportunity to teach verbs with this topic.  Why not have a diary of a good student or a bad student and simply get your students (presumably good and bad) to create the opposite one?

Describing your school

Students in year 9 seemed very happy to do this once I said you can talk about Waterloo Road or your primary.  They spend every day at your school, the difference made it more fun for them somehow

Rate your teacher/favourite subject

Very simple activity probably for year 9 although for year 7s following Mira it could work.  Who is your favourite teacher and why.  Conduct a class survey and note the responses.  For those of you facing OFSTED and having to evidence numeracy, get some graph paper from your maths or science department and get them to produce a graph.  You could equally do this with school subjects.

Harry Potter Extension

Very simply give any year 7 a timetable that looks like it came from Hogwarts and tell them you want to know what subjects are when.

aritmancia, estudios muggles, adivinación, estudio de runas antiguas y cuidado de criaturas mágicas, transformaciones, encantamientos, pociones, historia de la magia, defensa contra las Artes oscuras, astronomía y herbología.

Then they can also pretend to be the characters and explain their like or dislike for various subjects.

Say something else

Ban the following words if students are relatively able: “good”, “nice”, “interesting”, “boring” and “fun”.  Your English department probably already operates on this policy but it is a good opportunity to use dictionaries and make their language more interesting.

Stretching your best students

Whatever your view of G+T, it is clear that the brightest students in your class need pushing to achieve.  In a climate where languages takeup at GCSE is rising as a result of performance 8 or EBACC measures, A-level and university courses are experiencing decline.  A simple google search shows that in 2012,2013 and 2014 a major newspaper reported on the decline in A-level languages. Our best students should be the ones going on to study it yet most are not. There are blogs which explore and consider why.  Rather than do that, I thought I would share some of the things that I have tried, with varying successes.

Before looking at some ideas there are three questions you need to consider with extension work:

  1. Is the work I am giving them going to deepen their understanding?
  2. Is the work I am giving them going to consolidate their understanding?
  3. Is the work I am giving them suitably challenging and is there a suitable time frame in which to complete it?

Ideas for the classroom or outside of the classroom


  • Encourage regular independent reading in TL – encourage use of sites such as http://www.cuentosinfantiles.net
  • Authentic materials – what is there that they can go and get and work on if they finish early?  Can they spot the grammar point in a real-life context?
  • For boys encourage them to read www.juanmata8.com , the lethal mediocampista (midfielder) has a bilingual blog.


  • Picture response activities really allow for creativity. Show students a picture, they could then…
    • write the conversation that is taking place
    • write the events that are taking place  (present tense)
    • write what they think will happen next (future tense)
    • write what would happen if … (conditionals and hypothetical statements)
    • write what happened before (past tense)
    • do a mixture of the above (combining tenses)
    • write what the people should do (modal verbs)
  • Never settle for anything less than their best.  Insist on expanded answers in any plenaries/activities involving mini-whiteboards
  • Dictionary usage – encourage use of dictionary to improve and develop all written work.  Do you have a TL thesaurus?
  • French/Spanish penfriend scheme – get them involved if you can.


  • What else can they listen for?  Could they do a dictee from the listening recording if they get the answers first time around?
  • www.rtve.es/noticias/directo/canal-24h/    – Spanish news
  • www.france24.com/fr/  – French news     (opportunity to watch live on right hand side of page – pop up window opens
  • www.ard.de – same as the two above  Tagesschau is good short snappy news burst
  • Encourage listening to musicians: Manu Chao (FR/SP), Juanes (SP), Amaral (SP), El Tri (SP), MC SOLAR (FR), WISE GUYS (GER).
  • Encourage them to try a foreign film with subtitles in the TL and the audio in the TL.


  • Interviews with TL speaking person are always good.
  • Insist on TL in the corridor, in class and if they have to use it then they will.  It will also develop habits and confidence.
  • Run a twilight session with a focus on improvisation and spontaneity.  They really do benefit from this.
  • Insist on elongated answers comparisons, contrasts, subordinate clauses, do not accept them lowering their standards to fit in.  If you have to then do the speaking test with them in the class but have everyone else working.
  • If playing the trampa game mentioned on this blog,  quietly challenge one to cheat on every go, or alternatively stack the deck.  I tried the former with one student and the intellectual challenge was something that they thrived on.  The morals are debateable but then the game is called cheat.

2 final salient points

1)  Encourage use of previously learnt language in all written and spoken assessments.  G&T students always want to do something new but the challenge should also be to include EVERYTHING they already know as a means of consolidation and a showcase of their abilities.

2) Check they are not sprinting before they can walk.  It goes against everything I have said above but they if they are playing around with subjunctives and still struggling with present tense forms, then you might want to sort the foundations out before building any more of the house.