Saturday, 27 May 2017

Practising spelling and structure


I've written before about ways of supporting children as they start to write words, phrases and sentences.  We can give them letter cards to try out spelling and also arrange the parts of the sentences into writing frames or dice grids.

Sometimes, to assist children in collecting together a series of correct sentences to act as a model, I give them an activity like this one:
For the first four sentences, the letters are in the right order, but there are no capital letters, finger spaces or punctuation.  The children have to rewrite the sentences, adding those aspects.  The second group of sentences have the finger spaces, but no capital letters or punctuation.  Oh, and the letters in each word are not in the right order.  The children have to unmix the letters so that each sentence makes sense.  All 8 sentences have the same structure, though, and at the end of the activity (which they usually self- or peer-assess) they will have 8 model sentences to help them when they come to do their own writing.

I've recently rediscovered a website that will allow you to create a variation on this kind of activity - the Reverse Text Generator from Text Mechanic.

If I take the basic sentence il fait chaud aujourd'hui, I can:
  • reverse it: iuh'druojua duahc tiaf li
  • reverse the wording: hui'aujourd chaud fait il
  • reverse each word's lettering: li tiaf duahc druojua'iuh
  • write the sentence upside down!: ınɥ,pɹnoɾnɐ pnɐɥɔ ʇıɐɟ ןı
Making sentences using some of these methods would again require children to transliterate the sentences to make them correct, and again provide them with an accurate model which they can then adapt.


Friday, 26 May 2017

Le Tour de France

Yesterday I blogged my list of resources for 14 juillet.  Today, here are some useful links and resources for another important French event which will be taking place at the end of this term: the Tour de France.  Please feel free to add in the comments any links that you think other people would like!  you can find a list of French festivals and celebrations here.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

14 juillet


After this week there is only half a term left of this academic year.  We are starting to think about our lessons for that last half term, and starting to look for resources that will help us to include 14 juillet (la Fête Nationale / Bastille Day) and the Tour de France in our French lessons.

I've been looking around for some resources for 14 juillet, and thought I'd share my findings here.  Please feel free to add in a comment any resources that you've found that you think people would like!




Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Radio Labo

It's tricky to find suitable and good-quality listening materials for Key Stage 2 French.  Radio Labo from BBC School Radio is a series of 10 fifteen-minute programmes. They are intended for upper Key Stage 2, but the earlier programmes would be just as useful for Years 3 and 4.

The programmes cover vocabulary, grammar and phonics, and each programme also has a song.  The language is presented but also practised via games.

There are some very comprehensive teacher's notes to go with each programme, and I think it would be wise to study these before listening to the programme with the children in order to gain the maximum benefit from the programme.

Have a listen and see what you think!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Word puzzles: valuable or a waste of precious time?

all puzzles from this resource
If, like me, you used to spend a lot of time on the TES Modern Languages forum in the good old days, you'll remember the pretty frequent mention of "TWALT", where the T, W and A stood for Time Wasting Activities.  These activities were things like Making a Poster, and Colouring In.  Anything easy for the teacher to plan and that students would get on with without fuss while still looking busy to the casual observer.

Do wordsearches, crosswords and other word puzzles fit into this category?  Are they time-wasting activities or do they serve a valuable educational purpose within the lesson?

Here are my thoughts, and along with some ideas for how to use them.  Admittedly I am coming at this from a primary point of view.  If your learners are older you may have a different opinion.

  • Puzzles can be used to reinforce vocabulary and structures.
  • Puzzles are a useful addition to the repertoire of Repetition activities.
  • It is easy to customise puzzles to the class or to individual children.
  • You can't use them too often or the novelty will wear off.
  • You need to have a meaningful reason within your sequence of planned activities for using the puzzles.
  • Puzzles help to develop visual acuity for recognising words in the new language.
  • Wordsearches encourage children to think about and notice aspects of the written words that will help them, such as written accents and unusual letters.
  • Learners feel a sense of achievement when they complete a puzzle.
  • The ability to complete a crossword is a useful lifelong skill.
  • Completing a puzzle is good exercise for the brain.
  • Puzzles like this are associated with recreation and so are perceived by children as a less threatening activity.
  • Crosswords need exact spelling and so children are obliged to write accurately.
  • Puzzles are useful as a five-minute activity.
  • With crosswords, clues can be given in sentence form with a word or words missing.  The missing word or words are the answer.
  • With wordsearches, the word list can be given in English and the children have to find the words in the second language, or vice versa.
  • When matching up new vocabulary, children can use a crossword puzzle to test their hypotheses, like in this activity.
  • Crosswords can be completed in teams in the style of the quiz game Crosswits.
  • Crossword grids can also be used as "grid fills", where a word list is given and the children needs to fit the words in the right place on the grid.  They need to look at the letters they already have and count the number of letters in each word.  Like this one.
  • Word spirals and waves using Festisite can be used as an alternative to a traditional wordsearch.


I make my puzzles with a program called Crossword Compiler, which I have had for years.  You have to pay for it, but it produces professional-looking results quickly and easily.  There are online, free puzzle makers available, such as Armored Penguin.