Modern Foreign LanguagesPrimary - Keep your reading real

30th September 2011 at 01:00
`Authentic' texts can help pupils hear the `music' of language

The Ofsted report Modern Languages: achievement and challenge 2007- 2010 was critical of reading in key stages 2 and 3. It found that in primary language teaching, the emphasis was largely on speaking and listening and "although there were good examples of systematically planned reading, these were rare". It also identified reading in KS3 as a "specific issue", singling out an underuse of "the wealth of authentic materials".

Reading fiction and non-fiction texts is important - it allows students to hear the music and rhythm of the language, experience extended exposure to the language, and participate in the narrative. And the key is simple - use interesting, accessible and appropriate texts. But where do we find them? The reading materials in textbooks, as pointed out by Ofsted, are often unsuitable.

Yet there are several options:

- Edit authentic texts written in the target language

The level of language can often be quite sophisticated, so it is necessary to choose wisely and sometimes do some judicious editing to make the text appropriate to the learners. Amy Lenord, a languages teacher in Texas, has created an Authentic Resources Wiki ( I also recommend the guide from UCLA (www.lmp.ucla.eduLessons.aspx?menu=003) which gives plenty of ideas on how to exploit authentic resources.

- Good commercially available translations of English books

The language used here tends to be simple and formulaic. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and We're Going On A Bear Hunt are examples that work well in the classroom. Anything where you can accompany the text with charades and has repetition of phrases is great.

- Raid your children's bookshelves and make your own translations

My daughters both loved Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli - and its simplicity and humour inspired me to create a Spanish version, which I use when teaching food and opinions.

- Make up your own stories

This could be as simple as a series of PowerPoint slides, or you could use one of the online authoring tools that are available, such as Storybird and Storyjumper. Storybird ( has a myriad of beautiful illustrations which you use to illustrate your own text. A must-see site is the MFL Storybird Wiki (, created by Fiona Joyce, which has plenty of ready-made stories. With Storyjumper ( you can build up your own images or even upload your own photographs and illustrations to accompany your text. And don't forget the low-tech alternatives. You can make your own reading books by using mini photo-display books - and insert your own pages and a vocabulary list for independent reading. Mini-books are another excellent way to encourage students to read. They are small and portable and only have seven pages if you don't count the title page. Only a small amount of text will fit onto each page, so they are a non-threatening, manageable length.

Clare Seccombe is an MFL teacher and consultant who has taught in primary and secondary schools, as well as being an advisory teacher for primary languages. She created and maintains the MFL Sunderland website


Check out rubiales' resource for KS1 and 2 French on the popular story La Petite Poule Rouge and introduce some animal names.


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