How do you encourage your pupils to pick up a book written in a foreign language? Start with illustrated books to help them follow the story. Books written for children are good because they are designed to teach new vocabulary but have matching pictures.
Select a range of children's books in the target language and get your class to analyse the language. What tenses are used? What vocabulary? Are the sentences simple or complex?
Then get your pupils to plan, write and create a short book of their own in the target language - for a younger brother or sister, perhaps, or for pupils in younger classes. Divide up the tasks so that there is a writer, a proofreader, a researcher and so on.
Encourage them to keep the story simple and to focus on writing clearly and accurately. A simple story can still be compelling. Loss is a classic subject for a story. It draws the reader in at once and gains sympathy for whoever has lost something. Any story about loss will involve plenty of useful verbs, such as "lose", "look for", "ask", "help", "wonder" and "find".
Who the character is and what they have lost will determine the vocabulary that pupils need. Tell them this at the outset so they can research it. This will make writing the story easier and more fun. It will also help them to decide on a topic.
If Jonny Guitar loses his iPod, he could call on a series of musical friends for help. Free things up, though: the characters do not all have to be human. If a squirrel loses a mobile phone, the vocabulary needed would include animals and the natural world as well as technology.
If a vampire loses his coffin, your writers and illustrators would have to research the language of night and day. Also, pupils of all ages love the language of horror, suspense and the supernatural.
Finally, they could visit a younger class on World Book Day and show them the books, reading to them from their own work. They could explain the meaning of any foreign words that might puzzle their audience.
All this will place your pupils in the position of being modern foreign language teachers, without their even realising it. This will boost their confidence. And each pupil will now have a storybook with a whole set of vocabulary that interests them, so their finished book could be a useful source of preparation for future spoken language examinations.
Catherine Paver is an English teacher and singer-songwriter who writes songs about her travels. www.paversongs.com
A French website about illustrated children's books is great for vocabulary and a good introduction to French writers.
Take a look at Claire Miles' booklet on French tenses and when to use them.
Get your class telling stories in Spanish with rhawkes' activities.