Top 5 tips to encourage Spontaneous Talk in the MFL classroom

It seems like the ultimate challenge for the MFL teacher is to plan and create opportunities for spontaneous talk to occur in the target language.

Greg Horton has developed Group Talk – ‘an award winning project to encourage students of MFL to use target language in an authentic and spontaneous way’. See video.

We are experimenting with this at the moment and it is proving successful, particularly with younger students. We show images of a generic topic that everyone can relate to like ‘TV programmes or celebrities’ and give students cards/vocab sheets to help them discuss in the target language. They are aiming to give their opinions and explain them and have a mini debate. Here are a few ideas we have used…

Top 5 Tips for encouraging more spontaneous language in the MFL classroom

  1. Have key phrases on the wall so they can use them when they want – e.g. ‘I would like…’
  2. Take all opportunities to encourage students – ‘I need a pen’
  3. Give as much support as possible – literacy mats/vocab sheets/peer help
  4. Reward bravery!
  5. Build it into routines like entering the classroom (hold up a MWB of a key phrase at the door like ‘opinion in French’ and they have to give an example as they come in. That way each child has said something in TL before you’ve even done the register!)

Any more ideas/useful links, please do share…

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How to make the most of your time in the classroom

Flipping The Classroom

I first came across the idea of ‘Flipping the classroom’ after watching a TED talk by Salman Khan who presented how you could use videos to flip maths classes.

Flipping the classroom means the students do (what would traditionally be) classwork at home and homework in the classroom.

So the students would learn the theory at home, in the case of MFL – they would learn the words/grammar needed for next lesson and then come to class and practice, create and explore what they have learned.  As the teacher you have more time to support, explain monitor and work with the students.

How are they going to learn the material without you? I hear you ask. Simple how they learn everything else these days, via Youtube clips you have chosen (or made if you somehow have the time). Lots of teachers have already done the work for you. Just type into Youtube – ‘Por Para’ and you will find hundreds if not thousands of videos explaining the grammar point.


I have experimented this year with some of my groups and found it to work really well.

I am looking at it from an MFL perspective but here are a few things for any teacher to consider…

  • You can make this as simple or complicated as you like – just vocab to learn? Or do you want them to understand a complex grammar point?
  • How will you suggest they learn the new material? Linguascope? Quizlet? using a powerpoint you have made? In which case they will need a way to access it – either using the school VLE or your own website? Will they use the internet – Youtube for explanations or specific websites recommended by you?
  • How will you know they have done what you asked? Test at the start of the lesson? What will you do with the students who did not learn it?
  • How will you differentiate the consolidation activities in the class to allow for all levels?
  • What will your role be in the class? To go through in more depth? Clarify anything they didn’t understand? Support them in using the new knowledge?
  • How will you know they have understood? – Test? Presentation to the class? Write about it, mindmap… let them choose?!

The extent to which you prepare the material depends on how much time you have but for MFL teachers… this idea works really well with Quizlet. I gave one class some vocabulary to learn (the specific vocabulary for the next lesson). They walked in the next lesson confident and able to recognise and use the vocabulary in context, even pronounce the words due to listening to the audio in the website. In addition because of the time saved learning the new vocabulary, they were able to practice in all four skills in more depth during the lesson.

This idea is just to get you thinking. It’s not meant for every lesson and certainly preparing endless videos on each grammar point for each language is not something I envisage ever having the time for… but I will continue to experiment with the concept when I can, with the resources I have and just see what happens.

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Google Docs in the Classroom Top 10 tips

Google Docs

You have probably heard of Google Docs but have you ever used one in your class, made one yourself or embedded one on your school VLE?!

If the answer is no, here are a few reasons how you can use them in your classroom and some tips to get you started.


  1. Create, upload and store powerpoints, spreadsheets, forms and documents in your Google Drive (the ‘cloud’ – sort of like Dropbox.) They look and work just like with Microsoft Word – except you access them all from your email.
  2. Real time synchronous collaboration! Now there’s a concept. You can invite colleagues to work on a document at the same time you are working on it. So you can see what each other is editing, great for schemes of work and resources.
  3. Students can all work together on one project. Say for example you set a homework for groups of 3 students to make a powerpoint presentation; they can all work from their own homes but on the one document at the same time! Crazy I know.
  4. Have you seen powerpoints full of suggestions from different people. This is where someone has tweeted a question using a live blank powerpoint and lots of people have added their ideas – this is like of ‘crowd sourcing‘. Here’s an example: 36 ways to get to know your class – this is closed now but you can see the idea.
  5. I really like Google Forms – they collate results of your questions and automatically generate graphs, pie charts and percentages. Great for an overall picture of how your class has done in a test or survey. See examples below. Instantly you can see how well your class has done in a test.
  6. If you’re interested in collating and grading assessment results from your class look into Flubaroo – free and saves time marking papers – in fact it saves paper if you do it all on a Google Doc!
  7. Powerpoint too big to attach? Send a link to your colleagues via email or embed your form as above in your school VLE for students to access.
  8. You decide your document settings to view only, private, link only or public.
  9. Create your documents from scratch or you can upload them from your computer to be saved and worked on in the ‘Google Drive’. There’s no save button, everything is constantly and automatically saved.
  10. Very user friendly and free . To get started get a gmail account and look for the Google Drive at the top of the screen.


Here’s one I made earlier – 3 questions – have a go…

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How to Blog your School Trip – 5 easy steps

Otherwise known as a moblog, mobile blogging has two meanings –to update your blog on a mobile device and/or to update your blog on the move.

In April 2013 I ran my first trip abroad with 40 students and 4 staff. I was given permission from school to experiment with mobile blogging. We were to take the coach to Picardy in Northern France and spend 3 nights there before returning again. I knew I would have 3G while in the UK and some connection at the activity centre as well as any random coffee shops with free wifi. These things are always a risk especially when you are relying on an internet signal but I thought well worth giving it a go. I practised with the blog before giving the details to parents and was happy I could update it regularly.

Before I explain, I have to say that updating the blog from my phone while I was away was almost as easy as sending a text message. Uploading videos slightly trickier but still in the relatively easy category for most non ICT folk.

Here’s our blog🙂 BLS in Picardy


How to make your own moblog…

  1. Ask permission from school and then from parents so you can put students photos on the blog
  2. Decide your blog name and make an account with wordpress
  3. Decide a Theme – ie what you want it to look like – there are lots of free ones to choose from
  4. On your mobile device (I used my iphone) download the app ‘poster for wordpress‘ £1.99 and sync it with your account (ie type in your new account details). The official free WordPress app is poor and unreliable in my experience.
  5. From your app click the plus sign + and then ‘blank’ option and start writing your post. To give your new post a title click the cog symbol. To add a picture click the photo symbol. Click Publish and hey presto, it’s all done.

How to get videos in your blog. A little trickier but easy once you know how. This option is easier to do on a computer rather than a mobile device.

  1. Make a Youtube account. Think carefully about your username as it can’t be changed. 
  2. Take a video on your mobile device – preferably 20-30 seconds in landscape mode and see if there is an option to ‘Upload to Youtube’ (you will need to log in) Otherwise upload it manually from your camera to your computer.
  3. Once your video has been uploaded, there are 4 things to look for under the video.        Click the share button then the embed button, check the size you want and I would advise unchecking the suggested video option.
  4. Copy the highlighted code
  5. Log into your wordpress account and make a new post. Then you must click the TEXT option at the top right corner of the post. Then paste your code here. Click the visual or the preview button to check it’s worked.
  6. And Publish.

Happy Mobloging



The feedback from parents both during the trip was fantastic, they loved being able to follow our journey and see all the activities their children got up to and comment on the blog. The effort to update the blog was more than worth it. Here are some of the comments we received…

“…The blog was fab and it was lovely that both his Grandma and Auntie could also follow his experience.”

“I enjoyed reading the blog very much!”

“Thank you also for the blog it was great to watch their adventures from a distance and I am now the proud owner of a gravatar-never had one of those before!”

“The blog was a great idea and kept us all amused and informed. The students will be talking about this for years to come. A truly memorable experience.”

“Looks like you’ve had fantastic weather too and having been able to follow your adventures on the blog has been brilliant, what a fantastic idea.”

” It’s been great to follow all your fun and games this weekend on the blog. Many thanks to the Blogging Teacher Team for taking the time to do this.”

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Textivate your text

Textivate is a website that allows teachers or students to make interactive games from chunks of text. Great for MFL controlled assessment practise where they can use examples of paragraphs to practise key phrases.

Students can cut and paste paragraphs up to 500 words and use from home to test themselves or in a computer lesson. There are a number of options such as:

  • Reconstructing the paragraph where students have to remember the correct order.
  • There is an option to take out all the spaces so students have to identify where the words start and end.
  • Gap fill
  • Space invaders – always a winner.

From what I can see there doesn’t seem to be a way to download a game in a printable format – this is where you have to buy the Taskmagic software. So, print screen it is to make a starter for your lesson

Also if you have a website/VLE then the games can be embedded into that or you could give students a link to a specific game. See some examples below:textivate


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Droplr – sharing files via a web link

Firstly a huge thank you to Joe Dale who suggested this idea via twitter after I asked for a way to share audio files on my blog. Muchas gracias🙂

A new place to drop it. Droplr is a website where you upload a file and get a link. Similar to Dropbox but much quicker and easier to share.

One thing that I have been wanting to do with my student website is embed audio without paying. Now I’m not quite there yet but this is the next best thing.

All you do is ‘drop’ the file you want into the Droplr box. (drop = hold file & drag into) and as if by magic it instantly stores the file and gives you a short web link that you can give to  anyone, colleagues, students etc. Yes this includes audio files.

For the first time ever I have been able to set listening homework. The students simply follow the link which takes them directly to the file where they have the option to download or play.

Another great way of using this is with QR codes, for example I ‘dropped’ a GCSE listening audio file into the website, got the web link which I used to make a QR code. I then printed the code & stuck it to the exam paper and gave it out for homework. The students simply scanned in the code & listened to the audio from their phone/mobile device. Exciting I know. Sounds complex? have a look at the example, if you have a code scanner, have a go…


When you try this, if you’re thinking it can’t be this easy then you’ve got it!

What’s the difference between this and Dropbox? In a nutshell Dropbox for storing & sharing lots of files or sharing folders of large files eg of lots of pictures, audio or documents, Droplr for sharing individual files easily.

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Ofsted course notes

Hi all, I went on an Ofsted course Tue 20.11.12 which was run by Andrew Langdon.

Aimed at Middle managers – Observing staff under the new September 2012 criteria

Here are the Key points:

  • Think about the impact rather than the teaching
  • Firstly: Understand what is good so that you have a base line to work from & it will give you confidence to grade
  • NB. Subject specific criteria is under old spec (e.g. there is criteria for satisfactory which doesn’t exist now)
  • No grades given for lessons rather a grade for each area eg achievement / teaching / behaviour
  • Display to highlight SMSC
  • SMSC = group work would be an outstanding example
  • Feedback two way process, you to students & students to you
Points when observing staff
  • Has your lesson observation moved the member of staff on?
  • Analysis is the key, no description
  • Be clear on areas to develop and strengths
  • If there are no significant areas for development then it must be outstanding
  • Evaluative
  • Must have evidence to back up each point
  • Above all impact on progress
  • Marking and assessment are strongly linked
  • Try to give a min of 4 strengths
  • Not necessary to feed back all areas for development
  • Always start with positive
  • Aim to have an agreed focus before observation
  • Be very clear about why its good, but also why it’s not outstanding
  • Descriptors are not checklist – best fit based on professional judgement
  • No best fit if any of the inadequate criteria are apparent
  • Depersonalise by referring to the evidence
  • Make clear why you are looking in books eg “as evidence for…”
What is progress? Gains in knowledge understanding skills & attitudes
  • Outstanding = almost all pupils are making rapid and sustained progress. Not necessaily every child in the room
  • Good = most pupils are making good progress over time
  • Focus on progress right from the beginning so you are clear how much they have made and look at teaching at the end.
  • Recognised by questioning, variety of activities as mini plenaries, doesn’t have to be obvious ‘mini – plenaries’ througout
  • Marking/peer assessment
  • Recap of previous learning to establish context
  • Talk to the students
  • During feedback specify in which ways did they make progress? Eg as a result of the ……(teaching) progress is good/outstanding
  • Ofsted do not have a preferred style of teaching, they measure impact of teaching on progress
Giving feedback
  • Agree dates & times of feedback
  • Be clear about purpose and focus of observation
  • Pre-observation meeting is important
  • Be there on time
  • 2 sheets criteria & obs
  • No tick list
  • Go away & think about overall judgement
  • Strengths first
  • Difficult feedback: stick to script, be specific eg improve seating plan instead of classroom management
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