Modern foreign languages - Something for nothing

11th November 2011 at 00:00
Boost learning with free software

Any language teacher worth their salt knows that enabling pupils to channel their creativity and express themselves is a sure-fire way to engage them in the active skills of speaking and writing, and help them to bring their language learning to life. Developing a classroom atmosphere where students feel confident to have a go and be creative takes time, but is essential for producing better results.

In my experience, technology is one way of unleashing pupils' creativity and giving them ownership of their work. There is a plethora of free tools out there that pupils of all abilities can use to produce professional- looking resources.

For example, use a microphone and digital recorder with the free sound- editing tool Audacity to straightforwardly record dialogues, presentations and voiceovers. This improves pronunciation, boosts confidence and deepens understanding through repetition. Or try shooting clips with a handheld video camera and editing them together in Movie Maker.

If you are searching for an alternative to PowerPoint, have a look at web tools such as Animoto and Glogster, which are brilliant for producing impressive multimedia slideshows and interactive posters. They could be helpful for revising topics. For creative writing tasks, try ToonDoo to make a cartoon, which you can use to practise greetings.

Storybird is a lovely free tool for making your own written stories with professional-looking artwork. Similarly, students could use Domo Animate to create an animated dialogue with different characters. The photo- sharing site Flickr is a wonderful source of authentic images from around the world that you can incorporate into your lessons. Why not do a spelling test where you show pupils images and see if they can guess which visual prompt refers to which item, say for adjectives, to describe someone's personality?

These types of projects are great for fostering creativity, facilitating collaboration, personalising learning and allowing pupils to access higher order thinking skills. If the results are then published online to a real audience, they become even more purposeful and relevant to technology- savvy young people.

Of course, ICT is not a panacea. Pupils can be creative in many other ways, such as by performing their own original songs, raps, poems, and puppet shows or putting on fashion parades. The most important thing is to give them the freedom to play and experiment with the new language they are learning.

Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant and host of the TES MFL forum



Try rhawkes' ideas for teachers to help develop students' creativity

What does learning a language say about your pupils? Some inspiring displays to keep your pupils motivated have been shared by Henriette

In the forums

Teachers discuss how to be innovative and creative in language classes

In another thread teachers look for things they can do in the language lab - share your thoughts

All resources and forum links at


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