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30th May 2003 at 01:00
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As a modern languages PGCE student, I have had the challenging task of interesting my students in lost property, that topic which remains popular with the powers who set the exam specifications.

It seems fairly implausible that a 16-year-old boy (I chose a boy because we males are all supposed to be underachieving in foreign languages) who has lost his wallet and, even more horrifying, his mobile phone, should suddenly, after years of linguistic neglect, choose this moment to practise his French. However, I have found a way to make this dullest of topics make my pupils want to head for France, eager to throw their wallets into the Seine. All you need is an overhead transparency with a picture of an imaginary lost-property office, with bags, suitcases, camcorders, umbrellas and so on. Choose about 12 pictures from a catalogue and make sure they are different sizes and colours. JUnderneath each image write 11 questions and answers, such as: "Est-elle dans la valise jaune?" "Non".

Tell the pupils they have eight minutes to work through the list and report on whether there is a suspect package in the lost property office. They must then work their way down the list, eliminating each item of lost property.

This is useful as a starter activity and particularly appeals to boys' competitiveness.

Ian Kendrick, languages PGCE student, Leeds University

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