The trouble with the world wide web is the way it gobbles up time. Even when your search is going well, there is always the temptation to click on just one more link, and before you know it another hour has gone by. Pupils too will waste time on aimless surfing unless they are given a structure and a clear focus. Used well, however, it is a wonderful resource and can be very motivating. Here are some suggestions for exploiting its potential with minimum pain.
The web pages of schools or individuals can provide a useful template for pupils to write similar material themselves and it need not take long to track down suitable sites. Using the Google search engine, click on preferences, tick the relevant language and type in key expressions such as "Je m'appelle". It took me five minutes to find www.ac-Rouen.frecoleshenouvillehome.htm - the attractive site of a primary school in Normandy containing information on a variety of topics as well as individual profiles. As the text is written by nine to 11-year-olds, the language is readily accessible to pupils at key stage 3, but watch out for a few spelling mistakes.
Another delightful site for practising personal identity and family relationships belongs to Bozo the cat at www.chez.combozolechat At a simple level, pupils could draw up a carte d'identite but there is also scope for language manipulation. There are good examples of tense usage and the vocabulary is quite rich without being too sophisticated.
Planning a "virtual" excursion gives pupils a meaningful context for internet research. For example, using one or two pre-selected tourist sites, they could plan a trip to a foreign destination incorporating
* the anticipated date of travel and length of stay
* the location of the proposed destination and how they would get there
* a profile of the group - the number of people, their average age, their interests
* their budget
* bearing the budget in mind, suggestions for accommodation and eating out * an overview of the "must-see" sights
* Proposals for other activities that would appeal to the group.
Today's weather is much more interesting than a sample forecast printed in a textbook. It can also be used to consolidate numbers, tenses and geography or incorporated into a virtual trip.
www.tf1.frservicesmeteo and http:tiempo.weather.com
Clothing catalogues are a particularly good springboard for a range of activities. Pupils can choose outfits for various occasions such as a picnic or a wedding or supplement the wardrobe of different people - a film star, a businesswoman or an ageing teacher perhaps! They can compare prices with those at home, work out the cost of their virtual shopping spree, practise comparatives and superlatives - the possibilities go on.
www.bonweb.comp_12_320.html37728 provides links to several French online fashion outlets, and www.shoppingspainonline.com links to Spanish shopping sites of all kinds. See www.quelle.de for a range of German goods.
Sport and teen culture
Catch up on all the showbiz gossip in German at www.filmstar.de or in French at www.actustar.com There are also lots of sites on individual stars - read about Britney Spears in German and English at http:britneyweb.de or Westlife in Spanish at http:habitantes.elsitio.comwestlife
For the latest news from the world of sport take a look at www.SoccerAge.com which has versions in French, German, Spanish, Italian and several other languages. www.sport.de is another good site for pupils studying German, while those studying French will not fail to appreciate www.fabienbarthez.ntfr which contains pictures of the footballer as a baby, stories of his family life and a profile of his career.
AS and A-level students will find a wealth of material at www.phosphore.com which takes in everything from pop culture to education and work, from sport to multimedia and holidays. Under the heading of "Vie quotidienne et bons plans" a section called "Initiatives - Ils se bougent" contains more than 20 articles on people who have done something worthwhile or out of the ordinary.
German youth and drugs
"Just say no! Ein fAcherverbindendes Projekt zur SuchtprAvention" can be found at http:home.arcor-online.demarion.lutz As the authors are Klasse 7d from Wilhelm-Hauff-Realschule in Bad Rappenau, the language is not too complicated, making this a useful site for the early months of AS study. Content covers how to say no, several summaries of a novel about a 17-year-old alcoholic and general information on addiction and common drugs including alcohol and tobacco.
Sites that do all the work
http:babelnet.sbg.ac.atprojet.htm is the outcome of a Lingua D2 project co-ordinated by Strasbourg University. Designed for students of French and Spanish from beginners upwards, it contains resources on a variety of themes with interactive activities. The French section is more developed than the Spanish and links in to 1,2,3 Bravo - a series of grammar and vocabulary exercises. Overall the quality is patchy and it targets too many audiences while catering for none in depth.
Suitable for higher level candidates of GCSE French or students making the transition to AS level, http:bravo.heinle.com covers topics such as travel, restaurants, music and current affairs and offers structured tasks based on websites from France, Quebec, Guadeloupe, Senegal. For example, the theme of accommodation takes students to Guadeloupe, where they are required to describe and compare hotels, help a friend to select accommodation and write to the chosen hotel to make a booking. The ideas developed here could easily be adapted for use with other web-sites or languages.
www.inter-nationes.dedschulen-e.html is an excellent resource for advanced students, compiled by the Goethe Institut Inter Nationes. Click on Landeskunde online for texts on current events and social issues together with carefully structured exercises designed to exploit the material and develop the theme. For example, under the heading "JugendZeitgeist", the topic of "Tattoos and Piercing" starts by asking students for their spontaneous views on the practice. This leads into a text with vocabulary support in German and a series of exercises, which lead from study of the text to more open-ended creative activities and conclude with several links to facilitate further research.
Other headings include leisure, sport, politics, society, environment and the media.
Put together by the university of New York www.cortland.eduflteachciv is another remarkable site not to be missed. Suitable for GCSE or AS-level, depending on the topic, it is crammed with information on French culture, backed up by a variety of imaginative comprehension exercises, evocative images of everyday life, audio clips, video interviews and links to other sites for extension work. Drool over pictures of French food, listen to children talking about their school life, read about Lucky Luke and Asterix - this is a real treasure trove.
For a bilingual dictionary in almost any language, visit www.dictionaries.travlang.com
For checking definitions in French go to http:larousse.compuserve.comlaroussedico.htm
* Post a message on the staffroom forum at www.tes.co.uk and share your favourite websites and tips for exploiting them. A list of the best ones will be compiled for the next Languages Curriculum Special on October 19.