Wednesday, 29 October 2014


Many teachers, parents and students can see no educational value in wordsearch puzzles.

As a teacher of languages I often find that they can be quite useful.

I use them:
  • as a bell activity to remind students of the key words from last lesson. 
  • for translation purposes (find the French for the following words).
  • to engage students who struggle to read.
  • for competitions.
  • to improve spelling.
  • to help students to learn to cooperate with each other.
I was recently made aware of this site, teachers-direct which has a great wordsearch creator tool.

It's ideal for languages as it allows you to include characters with accents.

The word list is always given in alphabetical order but I sometimes don't give the students the words to find.

I'll say for example 9 of the 10 words we learned last lesson can be found in the grid, which one is missing? 

The site is full of ready made puzzles but I usually prefer to make my own.

They can be printed or made into interactive whiteboard versions.

Personally, I'm not that keen on the interactive whiteboard wordsearch. It means that many of the students can't see, some won't be watching or working at all and the poor kid trying to do the interactive version is prevented from doing so by his or her own shadow.

You can make wordsearch grids of different sizes from 5 x 5 to 25 x 25 (ideal for differentiation) and you can make a traditional basic puzzle or a puzzle with a cloze passage. 

The cloze passages can be copied and pasted from an existing text of up to 100 words. This could then be the basis of some follow up comprehension questions.

Here is one I made earlier:


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

audio-lingua - authentic listening resources

I came across this site a while ago via Steve Smith's pages.

It has authentic listening resources in 10 different European languages at different levels from A1-C2.

You can search for files by length, level of difficulty, by male or female voice, and by target audience ie. children, young people, adults and seniors.

Files can be downloaded too, this is especially good if you have problems connecting to the internet in school.

I've started to use these clips with my A level class to try to get them to practise listening to the target language at native speaker speed.

I, and they, have been amazed at how much they actually did understand.

You can even embed them into your blog, or website. This is the clip about the i-phone 6 I used last week:

I'm also going to start to use the clips with my GCSE groups next half term.

Friday, 17 October 2014

WTF: A game for the 6th form.

Here's an idea for a fun starter or bell activity for the 6th form (or able KS4):

I want to call it: WTF (as in "What's the French?" or "Weirdly translated French" or even "Wow, that's funny") but it seems that that acronym is already taken.

So it has no name.


If you follow me on twitter, you'll have seen me posting strange translations form my younger students who "didn't use google translate, honest".

So this is the game: give a strange translation to the 6th formers (advanced level students),

get them to work out what it should have said,

and then get them to correct it.

Today they quickly managed to work out that "je voudrais un pi├Ęce gare quatre" was actually "I would like a play station 4".

They also uinderstood that "noir piscine" was "Blackpool", too.

It's a lot of fun and a great way to get them to think.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

What grade is it? A game for GCSE students.

Today, with my Year11 GCSE German class, I played "What grade is it?"

Sometimes, my lessons are a little bit like a terrible game show but with no prizes.

Me, as a gameshow host

I digress.

Most of the students I've taught over the years think that because a piece of writing contains no errors, then it must be good.

Sadly, this is rarely the case at GCSE.

Too many of my students take the safe option.

So, "What grade is it?" is a great 5 minute group task which helps students realise that a piece of work with no mistakes doesn't necessarily mean it's "good".

Here's the format:

I show the students a paragraph or so in the target language on the screen.

I give them 2 minutes to read it and ask them what grade they would give it based on the GCSE CA writing criteria.

Then they have to explain why.

Then, the next question is "What would you have to add to it to get your target grade?"

Again 2 minutes is enough for this.

Usually the students come up with some excellent answers.

I know that it is impossible to give a GCSE grade to one paragraph but it helps the students to think and to focus on what it is that they need to do to improve their own work.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Cheat codes.

If you liked my post from a few days ago about making lists, you'll probably like this idea.

My GCSE German class has renamed the lists, "Cheat codes".

This is the secret information needed whilst playing a computer game in order to access the next level with the minimum of effort.

Or, to put it another way, by cheating.

The lists contain the "codes" needed for the students to achieve one level higher in German.

The more they use and vary the different phrases, the better they will become at German and the higher their grades will be.

All they have to do is learn them.

If they can learn and use this in GTA5:

RB Right Left Right RT Left Right X Right LT LB LB

then surely a few well-placed German phrases shouldn't be a problem.

Should they?  

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Dealing with listless students...

Do you ever get frustrated that the work you are grading just isn't quite...erm...good enough?

That students are using the same old pedestrian phrases, which, while perfectly correct, are just not going to get them the grades they need?

It's just me, then?

On the other hand, I'm totally against spoon feeding students.

So, what can I do? I don't want to do the work for them but I don't want them to underachieve.

I've started to use the list system.

I'm sure thousands of teachers do this.

This is how it works.

Before starting a piece of written work students write a list of all the different types of words they will need to impress the examiner.

Then they tick them off the list when they have been used.

This could be: connectives, intensifiers, opinion phrases, certain adjectives, verbs with different auxiliaries, etc.

This shouldn't be a printed list or a learning mat.

It has to be one they've made for themselves.

Not you.

When they've completed a draft, they can check it against their list.

If they've not used a word or used a word twice, they can change it.

It will improve their writing and stop them from using words which I have banned, like the German word "sehr".