When I began videoconferencing with French students in my primary classes, I had already set up a French teaching and learning blog. But it was Sophie Herblot, a young headteacher in northern France, who suggested the mutual benefit it might have for our classes, writes Suzi Bewell.
Using Skype felt rather like an experiment, but it gave me the best French lesson of my career and is now a routine part of my teaching.
Our first lesson introduced the French pupils to their English counterparts, using numbers and the alphabet (French and English) to fill out personal details. It was a real light-bulb moment to see the children appreciate that learning could take place for a purpose, in front of a real audience. When my pupils performed a puppet show, read books and sang songs in the target language, real French kids applauded.
In subsequent lessons we used cardboard cut-outs of "Pierre" and "Marie" that the French pupils had sent us. We listened to their instructions in French and demonstrated our understanding by dressing the dolls appropriately in differently-coloured clothes. It was great fun.
We connected once or twice a month and wrote letters to keep the contact going and focus on reading some basic EnglishFrench. The effect was tremendous. Asked what they would like to do as follow-up activities, my pupils were eager to continue performing for their French counterparts and many have developed great friendships.
I have discovered a free web-conferencing tool called Flash Meeting (http:flashmeeting.e2bn.net) for connecting with language teachers all over the world.
Find out more about Suzi Bewell's videoconferencing project at: http:tinyurl.comfrenchblog.