Wednesday, 30 May 2007

ICT and Modern Languages: Using the Practical Support Pack

The Practical Support Pack is an online collection of high quality lesson content, lesson plans, multimedia resources and ICT support materials designed to help teachers develop their teaching practice using ICT. It gives teaching professionals the opportunity to try out new ideas and new ways of teaching familiar topics in their subject. It also shows the role that ICT can play in achieving learning and teaching objectives. Teachers can reflect back on the lesson and see how the ICT element has affected their teaching and the pupils' learning.

· Each teaching topic has a ready-made lesson plan and teaching materials including multimedia resources: If you're new to teaching with ICT, using the resources should help develop your expertise and build your confidence in using ICT more effectively. Even if you are a more experienced ICT user, the materials can show you how to use ICT more strategically as a teaching tool.

· The modules can be used independently or with colleagues to share best practice. I would see that they could be used with Faculty with the outcomes of a specific activity being reviewed as a group.

· The modules are supported by the Primary and Secondary National Strategies, Becta, NCSL and TDA. There are also some direct references to the MFL Framework, National Curriculum and QCA schemes of work.

· The evaluation and reflection materials should help teachers assess how the learning and teaching objectives have been met, and how the lesson can be improved.

· The materials reinforce the potential of packages commonly used by schools, focusing on: presentation software to enhance pupils' creativity; email to aid communication with people in other languages and the Internet to improve and extend knowledge of language and culture in other countries.

· Materials include lesson plans, classroom resources and practical advice written by experts in teaching modern foreign languages using ICT, developed in association with CILT (the National Centre for Languages).

Click on the module to find out more:

Developing independent writing skills
Year 7
Enhancing learning strategies for memorising everyday vocabulary
Year 7
Nouns and adjectives
Year 7
Presenting likes and dislikes to the class
Year 7
Reading strategies
Year 7
Spoken and written forms of words
Year 7

Creating sentences from new vocabulary
Year 8
Improving listening skills
Year 8
Listening and speaking - practising extended dialogues
Year 8
Practising the perfect tense
Year 8
Vocabulary in context
Year 8
Writing to penpals
Year 8
Comparatives and the wider target language community
Year 9
Famous people
Year 9
Internet conferencing
Year 9
Practising written language on email discussion groups
Year 9
Researching and planning a trip
Year 9
Verb conjugation
Year 9

You can also watch video case studies of modern foreign languages teachers using ICT in the classroom. These should hopefully provide inspiration and ideas for you to enrich your own teaching.

Some Modern foreign languages information links are also available to access further material and sources of information about mfl teaching.
The Practical Support Pack is changing its name soon to become "Reach" which will include even more resources and include resources for Primary MFL. An email alert is available on this page to let you know when it will be live.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

More resources for Primary MFL
ideas and tips for games and other activities

additional resources available in French


and Spanish

Further ideas for games and activities

French nursery rhyme site (without sound)

Children site in French and colouring templates and stories

Nursery rhymes in Spanish (with music)

Children site in French with cinema, books and music news, penpals, stories, songs, toys, cards, recipes, games…

Interactive exercices for Primary French on the Zut! Site (no subscription needed for this part of the website)

Monday, 28 May 2007

The IGCSE: A Lost Opportunity for State School Students

An article about the International GCSE (IGCSE) on the BBC education website has drawn my attention to some differences in qualification opportunities between the private and the state sector.

Designed as a secondary school qualification for pupils overseas, it is now being adopted by an increasing number of independent schools in the United Kingdom, in preference to the standard GCSE. For some subjects like Maths, the main attraction of the IGCSE is that it is a more rigorous preparation for A-level than its standard version. As GCSEs are less likely to be school leaving qualifications, their importance as stepping stones toward A-levels increases.

There have already been some recent high-profile adopters of various forms of International GCSEs. St Paul's School in south-west London, which is at the top of the independent schools league for GCSEs, announced it was going to drop GCSE science and switch to the International GCSE. Manchester Grammar School also announced a switch to International GCSEs, as "some GCSEs do not appear to be appropriate for the most able".
The director of international education at the University of Cambridge International Examinations, Tom Eason, says the particular appeal of the international qualification is its flexibility. This reflects its design for an international audience - so that it can be customised to fit local needs. But this also appeals to independent schools in the UK, who want the flexibility to provide a more stretching course leading towards A-level. With International GCSEs, if schools want to reject coursework, they can have a completely exam-based assessment.

At present there are about 100 schools in the UK where pupils are taking the Cambridge International GCSE - out of a global total of 2,000 exam centres that use the qualification.
The biggest concentration of students taking the exam is in the Middle East, says Mr Eason.
In 2004-05, about 100,000 students sat Cambridge's International GCSE exam papers, with maths the most popular subject worldwide.
For independent schools, the difficulty in introducing new qualifications can be the resistance from fee-paying parents, who might be suspicious of less mainstream qualifications.
But the barrier to state schools taking up international qualifications is more likely to be the impact on exam league tables. Indeed, pupils taking International GCSEs do not appear in them - and state schools are likely to be deterred from opting for qualifications which could lower their standing. This is detrimental to foreign students who could sit examinations in their languages not always available from the main GCSE boards such as Korean. With the increased popularity of these qualifications in the private sector, the situation is likely to change in the future.

London Examinations IGCSEs are graded in the same way as our GCSEs. Foundation tier papers are targeted at grades C-G and Higher tier papers are targeted at grades A*-D. This allows students of all abilities the opportunity to gain good results.
IGCSEs are examined at the same standard as O levels and GCSEs, and provide the same progression to GCE AS and A level qualifications.

Cambridge IGCSEs

Cambridge was the first exam board to develop the International GCSE 20 years ago and it is now the world’s most popular international qualification for 14-16 year olds. More than 2,000 schools across the world, including more than 200 UK schools, teach Cambridge IGCSE.

The IGCSE is taken in 125 countries (there are 400,000 entries a year worldwide) including countries in Europe, South Asia, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, South America, the Far East and the USA.

Internationally recognised and suitable for schools worldwide, the Cambridge IGCSE is designed to be taught as a two year course for students aged 14 – 17 years. In some countries IGCSE courses last just one year and there are no formal age regulations. In most subjects there is a choice between core and extended curricula, making IGCSE suitable for a wide range of abilities.

The IGCSE is internationally recognised as being equivalent to the GCSE in the United Kingdom but offers far more choice – Cambridge offers over 65 subjects.
Although there is a huge overlap on content with the UK National Curriculum, there are some differences with an international flavour:
• History is not British-centric
• Geography has more about coral reefs than the English Midlands
• There are separate English Language and English Literature syllabuses
• Maths has one paper that has longer and more complex questions
• Languages – over 30, including some like Korean not offered by GCSE

Cambridge offers the following languages for IGCSE :

Afrikaans (First Language), Afrikaans (Second Language), Arabic (First Language), Arabic (Foreign Language), Chinese (First Language), Czech (First Language), Dutch (First Language), Dutch (Foreign Language), English (First Language), English (Second Language), English Literature, French (First Language), French (Foreign Language), German (First Language), German (Foreign Language), Greek, Hindi (Second Language), Indonesian (Foreign Language), Italian (Foreign Language), Japanese (First Language), Japanese (Foreign Language), Korean (First Language), Latin, Malay (Foreign Language), Mandarin Chinese (Foreign Language), Portuguese (First Language), Portuguese (Foreign Language), Russian (First Language), Spanish (First Language), Spanish (Foreign Language), Spanish Literature, Thai (First Language), Turkish (First Language).

Follow this link to find out more about specifications and past papers.

For more information see

Sunday, 27 May 2007

National Curriculum Review: An Opportunity to Develop Creativity in Language Teaching?

A major review of the secondary curriculum for 11-14 year olds published in February in its draft form by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has been positively received so far.

Education and Skills Secretary Alan Johnson said: “The new draft Curriculum is designed to create greater flexibility for schools so they can ensure pupils master the basics as well as offer more stretching opportunities for those who excel.

“The curriculum should evolve to meet a rapidly changing world, and enable teachers to teach in a way that will continue to interest and enthuse their pupils. These proposals move us away from a ‘one size fits all’ curriculum to one that offers more flexibility to tailor teaching to pupils’ needs and aspirations. More flexibility for teachers, more interesting for pupils.

“More emphasis has been placed on developing in-depth understanding of the key ideas and practice of particular subjects. But crucially, it is balanced with the retention of tried and tested parts of the curriculum as well as giving young people better personal skills greatly valued by employers.”

This is the first major review of the curriculum in six years by the QCA, prior to final Ministerial decision in early June and implementation from September 2008. The consultation on the review began on 5 February 2007 and runs until 30 April 2007. The revised programmes of study and level descriptions are available on the dedicated secondary curriculum review website. Here you can also view the supporting materials and take part in the consultation.

The dedicated page for languages can be found at

Schools will receive the final statutory programmes of study in autumn 2007 for planning purposes. Roll-out will take place over a three-year period, beginning with Year 7 pupils in September 2008.

The review is part of a broader vision to develop a modern world-class curriculum that will inspire and challenge learners and prepare them for the future.

QCA has revised the programmes of study to provide schools with increased flexibility in the way they can develop and implement their curriculum. This will give teachers more time and space to personalise their teaching, offering catch-up lessons in the basics and creating opportunities for pupils to deepen and extend their learning in areas where they have particular interests and aptitudes. There will also be opportunities for pupils to develop their creativity and adaptability and to see how their studies relate to the world beyond the classroom.
The revisions will encourage schools to:
  • Improve coherence across the curriculum
  • Make connections between subjects

Ensure clear progression throughout Key Stage 3 and into Key Stage 4

The revisions provide opportunities for schools to refresh their curriculum provision to meet the needs of all pupils more effectively. They demonstrate how schools can incorporate newer priorities such as:

  • The Every Child Matters agenda
  • Personal, learning and thinking skills
  • The opportunities offered by new technologies

They take account of post-14 developments, such as functional skills, and give schools opportunities to include dimensions such as sustainability, cultural diversity and enterprise within their curriculum provision.

The programme of study for each subject starts with a statement about the aims of the national curriculum, which are to develop:

  • Successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve
  • Confident individuals who lead safe and healthy lives
  • Responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.

  • All programmes of study take the same format, and identify:
  • Key concepts that are at the heart of each subject discipline
  • Key skills and processes that pupils learn to make progress in the subject
  • Range and content that outline the breadth of the subject from which the areas to be studied should be drawn
  • Curriculum opportunities that pupils should be given to enhance their engagement with the subject
Most have common elements. For example, all pupils will need to develop a critical understanding of communications, the environment and themselves.
Key changes for languages include greater freedoms given to schools to offer languages such as Mandarin and Urdu as main curriculum foreign languages instead of the previously mandatory European Union tongues;

The Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) has welcomed the new 11-14 curriculum review. General Secretary Philip Parkin said: “We are concerned that the curriculum may be too prescriptive and not give enough scope for teachers to use their own professional judgment. We do not want to see an overcrowded curriculum that does not allow sufficient time for subjects to be studied in depth.
"It is essential that teachers receive the training and resources they need to implement these changes.

"It will also be a challenge to recruit and train enough teachers so schools can offer languages such as Chinese and Arabic. Not all schools will have the appropriate language specialists so schools may have to pool their resources, so they can offer a wider variety of languages to those pupils who opt to study them."

All 11-14 year old pupils will continue to study all 12 subjects of the National Curriculum covering, in addition to English and mathematics, science, design and technology; ICT, the humanities; a foreign language; art, music, PE and Citizenship. These will remain the backbone of a broad and balanced curriculum for this age group.

The new curriculum will put more emphasis on using the curriculum as a whole to develop general skills such as initiative, enterprise, and the capacity to learn independently, better preparing pupils for GCSEs and the new diplomas. There is growing evidence of the importance of these skills in all walks of life, and they are particularly valued by employers.

As a way to widen the debate on what the curriculum should look like, the teacher union ATL released a publication at the beginning of the month arguing that he current national curriculum is locked into a subject-based mould that is not fit for the 21st century and that it leads to disengagement for many students.

This publication addresses the issues linked with developing a curriculum that will engage the interests and aspirations of current and future generations. It argues for a skills-based curriculum, with content designed by teachers, working in their local communities, who are best placed to develop the abilities of their students. Interestingly, such an approach would require that national assessment be delayed until the end of compulsory education at age 16.
More teaching and less assessment? The debate is still on…

More details on the timescales and philosophy behind the changes can be found in
Word version of the draft PoS and documents about the main changes can be downoaded from my “box” (right-hand side)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

More resources for GCSE Revision
Free website with lots of games to practise numbers, verbs, transport and Travel topic (more to come): Half a minute, Penalty shootout (good for the competitive boys: 10 questions, % score and number of goals given at the end-start your own class league table), Grade or No Grade (excellent as it includes thinking skills), Hoopshoot (1 or 2 players, time challenge, 10 questions), virtual characters (listening comprehensions).
Y7-11 , oral work and topic-based resources to be developed .
Subscription site with quite a few activities available for free: grammar exercises, printable resources, vocabulary flashcards, vocabulary tests, virtual characters, games including penalty shootout, grade or no grade, half a minute, hoopshoot, mini quiz, noughts and crosses, hangman, magnet spell, find the pair, tile tap spelling, word attack, millionaire quiz (cultural awareness and language, questions in English), wheel of fortune (up to 3 players), interview a celebrity (sample but could be used as a model for younger classes), free evaluation unit on numbers, free podcasts.
Asi se hace is fantastic free resource organised and maintained by Jose Picardo, a secondary mfl teacher in Nottingham. The GCSE section has lots of interactive games ideal to practise specific topics in class with an Interactive Whiteboard or independently. There is also a well-resourced A-Level section
For French, German, Urdu and Panjabi. There is a good section describing grade requirements and good on-line activities.
Spanish revision site-Wycombe High School
Spanish revision by skills-Wycombe High School
Video to practise the speaking test but could also be used for listening revision

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Local Grids for Learning are a Mine of Educational Resources

Launched by Labour in 1997 and central to the technology boost in school, the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) was scrapped in July 2006, together with its web portal to educational resources.

However, the local authorities or regional consortiums that have developed high-speed links between their schools as a result of the NGfL are still flourishing.

This comes from Birmingham and it is a good example of quality resources/ links provided for teachers by local Grids for Learning. A lot more to come!,index&res=&kw=&el=&sc=12&start=1&zs=n

The podcasting page recommended on Miss Simmonds’ blog is interesting

I also like the link to Polar FLE: Learn French and solve a murder mystery!

Les clés de l’actualité junior can also be used as a stimulus for interesting discussions or introducing more “grown-up” topics.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Revision sites for French and Spanish GCSE

It is that time of the year again!

Here are a few sites with a focus on GCSE topics with useful vocabulary and grammar games and exercises.
Asi se hace is a fantastic Spanish site designed and maintained by Jose Picardo, a secondary mfl teacher from Nottingham. The GCSE section contains lots of useful interactive exercises that can be used with classes on an Interactive Whiteboard or independently by students.
French: grammar, topics and vocabulary practice
Spanish: vocabulary, topics and grammar practice
French: GCSE practice with verbs, exam rubrics and topics, dictionary and information from the different exam boards is also available from the site.
French GCSE practice by topics: crosswords, multiple choices …
French revision site by topics: self-assessed revision exercises including some reading comprehension items.
French GCSE revision practice available after 4pm for free
Spanish GCSE revision practice available after 4pm for free
Site about French “false friends”-good to revise before the reading/ listening exams
French revision site by skill and topic (including listening)
French vocabulary revision through word games
Spanish GCSE vocabulary practice games
Games and exercises to practice GCSE French topics
Spanish grammar revision exercises
French revision site for grammar and topics
French GCSE general revision site with revision advice
Basic vocabulary builder including many games in French and Spanish
French GCSE site with links and GCSE vocabulary practice games

Saturday, 19 May 2007

The Cannes Festival

The Cannes Festival will take place 16-27 May and it is an opportunity to discuss Cannes, the French Riviera, the cinema industry and much more…

Recommended by Helen Myers on the mflresource forum, this site lends itself to a few activities about “Le festival de Cannes”

These are just a few ideas …

Personal information : “Quand les stars montent sur les marches”: personal description (e.g. Chloe Sevigny est blonde avec les yeux bleus), surveys including opinions and reasons (e.g. Je préfère Sophie Marceau parce que c’est une très bonne actrice) , superlative (eg. c’est le plus beau, le meilleur acteur …)

Film selection : What are these films about? (may need screening and doing off-line)
Could be used as a way to revise types of films?

Le look Festival de Canne: describe and give your opinion, best looks and fashion faux-pas.
Use as an example

You might even be able to include a reading comprehensive on luxury hotels on La Croisette making all the typical GCSE-type revision tasks about hotels that little bit more different for Y11 who have already seen it all at that time of the year, but who still need to revise hotel vocab, how to make a booking by telephone, reservation email etc…

Friday, 18 May 2007

Wales Watching

This the title of an article by Diane Hofkins from The Guardian, published on 1st May 2007, presenting Wales as “a part of the UK where languages aren't in freefall and bilingualism is the norm”,,2068987,00.html

"People want to learn their language," says 11-year-old Laura. Notices around the Cardiff school are in English and Welsh, and crib sheets remind teachers to use Welsh phrases such as "bo bol bach!" (literally, it means "little people") instead of English ones such as "goodness gracious!".
Lord Dearing's report, published in March, aims to strengthen the government's commitment to the teaching of foreign languages in English primary schools by including languages in the statutory curriculum from age seven by 2010. The report comments on children's enjoyment of language learning and notes that some 70% of primaries already teach a foreign language in some form or have plans to do so. Although this surely sounds impressive, issues surrounding primary-secondary transition and who should actually teach languages in primary school are far from settled.
The article states that … “In most European countries, children start learning foreign languages at seven”. This is certainly true, but they also carry on with languages post-14 and the choice of a vocational path includes languages at an appropriate level too.
"The British Council warned earlier this year: 'monoglot English graduates face a bleak economic future, as qualified youngsters from other countries are proving to have a competitive edge over their British counterparts in global companies and organisations'."
Welsh as a first or second language became compulsory from age five with the introduction of the national curriculum in 1989, so Wales has more than 15 years' experience of systematic language teaching to national standards. The desire to develop a truly bilingual country is still at the heart of education policy. However, there is mounting evidence to point towards the fact that the “growth” of other languages, such as French and Spanish, was adversely affected by Welsh being compulsory. In some way, this can be compared to the situation of English in continental Europe-it is widespread as it is mostly compulsory, but it also has indirectly threatened the study of other languages.
“In its 2006 annual report, the Welsh schools inspectorate, Estyn, found that around two-thirds of primaries developed children's bilingual skills well. Experts agree it is important to "embed" language into daily activities, through games, songs and incidental use, such as answering the register and giving praise and simple instructions”.

"John Bald, primary languages consultant to the Hackney Learning Trust in east London, believes it is feasible to give every child a baseline in a language by 2010, even without a prescribed curriculum. This will, he says, make their acquisition of language in secondary school smoother, as the earliest stages of a language are the hardest to learn".

The set-up is more formal in Wales, “teaching is topic-based, with vocabulary and sentence structure increasing in complexity. The emphasis is on oracy, but a Welsh text is studied every half-term. For children who have English as a second language, it can be difficult at first, but because of their ear for languages, they pick up Welsh quickly.”
Differences between the English and Welsh set-up can be found at
ICT is presented as a key factor. “Support from secondary schools is also easing the introduction of primary languages in England, with increasing numbers of modern foreign language teachers doing outreach work.”

“Welsh local authorities such as Cardiff are now developing ways to improve links between primaries and secondaries in Welsh language teaching, because pupils' enthusiasm for the subject wanes when they are teenagers, hitting its lowest ebb at GCSE level - at key stage 4, only 19 out of 45 lessons visited by Estyn in 2006 gained the top two ratings”.
So is the move to teach in Primaries really going to affect students’ motivation post 14?

Thursday, 17 May 2007

International Baccalaureate (IB) and Languages

The International Baccalaureate (IB) offers programmes of international education to schools around the world. It comprises three programmes for students aged 3 to 19 help develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in an international world. There are more than 539,000 IB students at 2,051 schools in 125 countries. Its main web page includes a search facility to find out if a school near you teaches it.

The 3 programmes are: Primary Years (3-12) , Middle Years (11-16) and Diploma (16-19).
Last summer, after the usual debate about the drop in standards at A Levels, the IB received favourable reviews as an alternative post-16 course for able students to be appropriately prepared for University. In addition, the programme includes the compulsory study of a foreign language as a way to develop students communication skills, which raised issues with students moving on to the programme post-16 in the light of the decline of language-teaching in secondary schools.

The IB Learning profile describes the attributes of the type of learner the IB hopes to develop through its programmes. I felt some of those could certainly be presented as qualities and attributes naturally developed through the study of a foreign language.

The IB programmes promote the education of the whole person, with a special emphasis on intellectual, personal, emotional and social development through a wide range of areas of knowledge. The IB combines knowledge, skills, independent critical and creative thought and international awareness in order to put into practice the principle of educating the whole person to make them active and responsible citizens as well as lifelong learners.
Key qualities and attributes to developed by IB learners are:
  • An inquiring mind: They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy
    learning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.
  • Knowledge: They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance.In so doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.
  • Thinking skills: They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.
  • Communication skills: They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.
  • Moral principles: They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice andrespect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take
    responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.
  • An open mind: They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and
    communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points
    of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.
  • Caring: They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of
    others. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive
    difference to the lives of others and to the environment.
  • Willing to take risks: They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.
  • Balanced: They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.
  • Reflective: They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to
    support their learning and personal development.

    A full description of the middle year programme can be viewed at

    IB world magazine showcases how is the programme implemented around the world

    Powerpoint presentations to present the different programmes and the philosophy of the IB can be downloaded at

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Using ICT to enhance Language Lessons

ICT was mentioned in Ron Dearing’s Language Review as a way to motivate and inspire students learning languages.

A number of sites provide ideas and support to develop ICT/ MFL projects.

This website from CILT and ALL provides a gateway to information and guidance for teachers of languages on using Information and Communications Technology in the classroom. Whether you are teaching French or Urdu, German or Japanese, at KS2, KS3 or 14-19, there is something here for most of us.

ICT news with links to research and MFL projects using ICT

There is also a useful search facility to find specific projects targeting a given age range and language.

This link provides support to find partners for ICT project,s thus giving students a real audience for their project

You can find here some support to choose appropriate software and hardware for your MFL Faculty

This excellent link by Ewan McIntosh (Scottish MFLE) provides up-to-date information on blogging, podcasting and ICT (click on the left-hand link).

Useful links on MFLE, one of my favourite language links, include articles about the use of mp3 players, mobile phones, podcasting, bloging and interactive voting to enhance students’ motivation in lessons.

Using cartoons to develop writing:

Lee Summit’s School District in Missouri not only has an excellent MFL link page, but also has a host of ICT-related links including: digital media, excel, game resources, graphics, powerpoint templates, sounds, student projects and site, software tutorials, virtual activities and webquests.

I would also recommend "Sound in Powerpoint" from Joe Dale's blog, another one of my favourites.

as well as this article, inspired by Joe's practice, on using photos.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Practise your languages online with native speakers

With My Language exchange, you can find a partner and practice your second language with a native speaker who is learning your language. The site hosts your online practice with lesson plans and text chat rooms. Video chat and pen-pal (keypal) search facilities are also available. The site is well set up and aims at developing colloquial rather than only formal language. There is also a facility to share the new expressions members have learnt and to set up class languages exchanges for teachers. It is free to register.

Friends Abroad is another site to practise your language skills. It is also free to join and it has a community of millions of users in over 200 countries speaking over 80 languages.
With Friends Abroad, you can find a partner to do a language exchange, make contact and grow your international network and learn about new people, their language, culture and way of life.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

More Primary Sites

As recommended by Beth on the A la francaise forum,

These BBC Languages for Primary sites have excellent interactive content:
The sites include video demonstration of role-plays, online games, songs with karaoke version as well as "things to print and do"

As too has this wonderful site, Mi Mundo en Palabras, from the CVC (Cervantes):

Friday, 11 May 2007

Preparing for Languages in the Primary School

Some time ago, the delivery of foreign languages in the primary school was ensured in France by an army of non-qualified teachers, most of them students, with an "agrement" certificate.

Now the teachers in the state sector are expected to teach languages on their own, with the only exception being in the private sector that still use staff with the "agrement" certificate.

A website has been set up to support teachers
with a sound and image bank at

software and tutorials

Authentic and other teaching materials

An equivalent website was launched here to support the anoucement that languages are to be compulsory at KS2 from 2010.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Specialised Diplomas and Languages

The introduction of specialised Diplomas is key to the 14-19 reform. According to the DFES, Diplomas will give young people a real alternative to traditional learning by offering an imaginative, high quality, innovative blend of general education and applied learning. Diplomas will take a young person wherever they want to go, whether that is to further or higher education or to the world of work.
More details at:

The DfES wants to develop a coherent 14-19 phase of education where young people are committed to continuing learning whether in school, college or the workplace. There will be general and specialist courses and qualifications, covering a wide range of subjects and skills that meet individuals' needs and aspirations. Providers will work collaboratively to supply programmes and guidance that support all young people to enter further and higher education or employment with training.

The 14-19 strategy will:
Encourage more people to stay in education beyond the age of 16 and reduce the perception that the end of compulsory education is an appropriate point at which to stop learning
Address the weaknesses in the current system which mean that many young people are already disengaged from learning by Key Stage 4, either because they are insufficiently stretched by their studies, because they lack confidence in their own abilities, or because they are not attracted by what is currently on offer
Address the narrowness of programme studied by many learners in the 16 to 19 age group who are pursuing traditional Level 3 courses
Address the weaknesses of the vocational offer that has been available to young people in the past

The wider pictureThe DfES's aim for our education system is to give every young person the opportunity to maximise their opportunities in life — personal and professional. It believes that this aim will be achieved by 'personalising learning', especially by increasing the curriculum flexibility and choice at 14-19, thus enabling teaching to be tailored to individuals' learning styles and needs, and improving community and employer involvement in education.

No institution acting alone will be able to provide the full 14-19 offer to their learners. Schools, colleges, training providers, employers and other stakeholders will necessarily have to collaborate, focusing on what they do best to deliver the new curriculum.

A detailed guide to the new diplomas can be found at :

A Diploma will be available at three levels (Level 2 being equivalent to GCSE A* -C) made up of three components:

Principal learning: the knowledge, skills, understanding, attributes relevant to an industrial/commercial sector. (approx. 60 -65% of course at Level 2)
Additional/specialist learning: specialised or complementary learning students choose to add to their programme. (approx. 12 -15% of course at Level 2)
Generic learning: problem solving and thinking skills, teamwork etc. and the new Functional skills in Maths, English and ICT. (approx. 25% of course at Level 2).

In broad terms, diplomas will be delivered in 90 minutes per day at Level 1, two hours a day at Level 2 and three hours a day at Level 3. It will be for schools to work out their own specific curriculum patterns, but there will quite possibly be overlap between the contents of diplomas and other KS4/5 courses: and so it will not necessarily be a case of 5 or more GCSEs plus a diploma, which is, in itself a level 2 qualification and therefore nominally worth 5 GCSE’ at A*-C. All must study the core (English, Maths and Science; about half of available curriculum time) and the foundation subjects (ICT, PE, citizenship plus religious and work related learning and sex education).
Every student will eventually be offered each Diploma line and a choice from the areas of design and technology; the arts; the humanities and modern foreign languages; so competition will be as tough as it is now unless some kind of positive discrimination is applied to Languages. the diploma.
For 2008 it is planned to introduce diplomas in 5 areas or ‘lines of learning’. The exact structure and content of diplomas is, at this point in time, still undecided. The main concerns expressed about the diploma development process have been with its timescale. For a qualification system this complex a 2008 development deadline looks perilously close. There will not be time for extensive piloting; the diplomas will be with schools by September 2007 in order for them to be taught from the following year.
The teacher union ATL points out that, in this time, the necessary CPD will need to have taken place. Not all will be able to begin offering the Diplomas from 2008 though: schools will need to have passed through what DfES term the ‘Gateway’, an examination of their readiness to offer the diploma. The first tranche of schools will be those well placed to make a success of it all. A second set of five diplomas will follow in 2009, with a final four completing the picture in 2010. Already, there are whispers that the final offer will be less than the 14 currently proposed; but we shall have to wait and see.
Other key documents about the diploma can be found at :

Motivate Spanish Learners with Latin American Resources

Introducing Latin American countries will help focus on Spanish as a World language in contrast with a language that may or may not be used on holiday. Here are a few resources to refresh your basic knowledge about these countries and share with your students.
BBC presents the BBC news world headlines in Spanish. Could be used effectively as a starter activity. A video linked with some aspect of the news is also available from this page
Links about Latin American cinema, literature and music put together by the Amauta Spanish School in Cusco, Peru.
This Primary & Secondary Education page is designed to provide resources for parents, teachers, and students. You will find resources for language, history and geography classes that could be used for cross-curricular projects. The Site Map contains an alphabetical list of the countries and subject pages, and the Countries page lists countries by region: Caribbean, Central America, South America and North America
Latin American newspapers and magazines

Latin American Radio Stations

Differences between Spanish and American Spanish
Check out the “world flag section” as an introduction to Latin American countries (Is it on the American continent? Could develop into 4 in a row or noughts and crosses game, a quiz could be devised based on the fact provided for each country as a follow-up the lesson after.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Opening Minds: A Threat or an Opportunity for Languages?

Created by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), Opening Mind is a radical approach in curriculum design aiming to concentrate on core competences, breaking down the subject barriers.
The report Opening Minds: education for the 21st Century (Bayliss/RSA, 1999) recommended a complete reworking of the curriculum. The RSA competences should become the outcomes of the curriculum, with the national curriculum subjects being the means to achieve these outcomes, changing the emphasis of the curriculum from content to process. The teachers’ and students’ roles would also change.
The RSA states that as a result of the programme:
  • pupils are more self-confident – in all situations and learning environments
  • classroom behaviour is better
  • cooperation between students has improved
  • relationships between teachers and pupils are much improved
  • students are more independent, in control of their own learning, and more able and willing to take responsibility for their own learning.

As might be expected, improved student motivation has had a positive impact on their achievement. A school in its second year of using the competences with Year 7 noted that there had been an improvement in spelling and reading ages that had not occurred through teaching the traditional curriculum. At this school there was a significant drop in the number of current Year 8 pupils on the special needs register – the pupils who had experienced the school’s Opening Minds curriculum in Year 7.

Although I can see that the study of a language would have a lot to contribute to the programme in terms of transferable skills: literacy, oracy, communication skills, cultural awareness..., it feels like trying to fit a circle in a square hole... I would also question the suitability of a competence-based curriculum for some students-Who is it aimed at?

From the description of the process at, the overall impression is that it is aimed at lower and lower middle ability students, the same students who are often being discouraged to study languages for statistics reason-league tables and school targets. How would such programme fit in with the statistics? This point could be essential in determining whether the programme can provide a "safe haven" for lower and lower middle ability students to develop foreign languages skills or not.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Links and Learning Opportunities Within Europe

Whether North-South, inter-faith or inner-city-rural areas, linking is definitely the new buzz word in the Education circles here. An article in The Times even stated today that "Twinning could heal racial divide".

What fascinates me is that despite the strong political emphasis on the need to develop links, the role of developing foreign languages skills to strengthen those links is often sadly overlooked. Is this another case of "English is enough"?

However, there is growing evidence, to be found on the global gateway website, for instance, that more and more schools are taking part in international projects with more being granted the International School Award.
An award event held at the NCSL Conference Centre in Nottingham from 1-3rd June will also reward schools which have recently taken part in the e-twinning scheme.
To keep updated about the scheme, which supports European collaborative school projects using ICT, check the website and blog at

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Resources to download and on-line student resources

The following websites include resources to download and on-line activites for students you may want to use as part of an ICT-based lesson.
Teacher Resources Exchange:
This is a very comprehensive site with languages resources to download and recommended links for all languages from Primary to Post-16. A search facility is available.
Resources to download for all levels and online resources for students-could also be used for homework, extension work, revision etc...
A lot of serious grammar and exam revision for GCSE.
Site ran by Rachel Hawkes (AST): Research, KS2 and KS4 Spanish, KS3 French and games to download.
Jon Meier's Language Sandwich:
Site ran by Jon Meier (AST) including French and German resources (online and to download) with some interesting teaching tips.
Geoffs School:
Online resources and links for French, Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese and EAL (ESOL)
Language online from Australia:
The site includes a downloadable 'game maker' templates enable teachers and students to build their own multimedia language games and activities and online activities for students learning French, German, Indonesian or Italian. The site also includes printable worksheets with a variety of guided speaking, reading, writing and research tasks to complement the online activities.
Downloadable resources in French, German and Spanish by teachers for teachers.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Subscribe to Spanish Podcasts

Listening to Podcasts in Spanish is a good way to keep in touch with the culture of Spanish-speaking countries. In addition, a lot of the materials can be used for classes as a way to bring Spanish alive.

First two ports of call should be the following "agregadores", with a few podcasts highlighted here and corresponding blogs/ websites:

Spanishpodcast: This podcast is for anybody who wants to practise their Spanishñol, widen their vocabulary, improve fluency and update their knowledge of the Spanish-Speaking world.

Notes in Spanish Intermediate : Ben and Marina bring you real conversations to help you speak like the Spanish do. Some worksheets are also available to help you get even more out of the podcasts.

ChilePodcast.. The First Educational Podcast in Chile

La Casa de los Niños : Acompaña a Ester su amiguito Tito en una aventura en donde te reiras, aprenderas cosas interesantes y bailaras con las canciones que te traen en cada programa! (could be used for primary)

ssl4you castellano para extranjeros
Podcast to improve Spanisg skills (intermediate level). Podcasts are produced every 10 days on the 10, 20 and 30th of each month.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Watch foreign-language TV on the internet

After watching live the political debate between Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal last night, I found a very interesting website with links to French and Spanish-speaking TV. Some programmes are recorded and abridged but it is also possible to watch some programmes live like I did last night. This is the ultimate language de-rusting session!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Using free podcasts from itunes

Podcasting is developing fast amongst the MFL teachers. There are some free podcasts available that could be used for revision by students or by teachers to update their language skills and cultural knowledge.

Itune is a popular podcast receiver and it can be downloaded for free on

Then go to the itunes store and a simple search on language-learning will bring up a host of podcast that can be subscribed to. Some even include videocasts like the headlines of the news on TF1, which is a quick and efficient way to bring up-to-date issues in the classroom.

Extracts from these clips could also be used as starters/ post plenary activities or to reflect on a "Thought For The Day". The current debate around the French general elections could also be used as a citizenship activity considering the advantages and inconvenients of the proportional representation system.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Trendy foreign music and radio stations

Keep up with it all and watch the lastest video clips in Spanish and French with your students. There are a lot of free downloads too. Invaluable for that target-language street cred?