Sell your brother for a starter

26th September 1997 at 01:00
Tips for Busy Language Teachers series. By Martine Pillette. Motivating Reluctant Learners at 14-16

Stretching the More Able at 14-16

Brightening up Transactional Topics at 14-16

Independent Reading: how to make it work

Effective Use of a Bilingual Dictionary at 11-16

Homework and Cover Lessons: handy tips

Collins Pounds 2.25 each

These handy A5-sized booklets will find favour with a wide range of teachers. Easy to read, in a conversational style, they are full of ideas to add sparkle to a teacher's repertoire. They are attractively presented, the text interspersed with diagrams and tables and the odd cartoon, and at less than 30 pages each, can easily be read through at lunch time or over a cup of coffee.

Unlike so many how-to-do-it books these are not written for superteachers: they do not leave the rest of us feeling inadequate, wondering how on earth the writer manages to fit in three hours of preparation for each half-hour lesson. As the series title suggests, these provide practical tips for busy teachers, and most can be put into practice straight away.

Warning lights flickered momentarily when I read that I should "facilitate self access", but in general there is a refreshing lack of jargon.

This series makes you believe that you too can achieve success in your teaching. As such it will be of value equally to new entrants and old hands.

Some of the tips may seem obvious or even banal. In a section on Learning with a Friend the suggestion is made that one partner tests the other by reading out the foreign word and asking the other person to give the English. Very occasionally an apparently innocuous statement belies a degree of behind-the-scenes work which is out of reach to all but the pampered few of us: "Ask a language assistant or a good post-16 student to prepare a master tape" or "Set up a cassette lending library".

In general, though, the tips are down-to-earth and create the rather pleasant response of "Oh yes, of course, I'll try it out this afternoon".

If your pupils are bored with describing their brothers and sisters, for example, get them to create a radio advertisement in which the said brother or sister is offered for sale: "Sell your brother" will appeal to Year 7s and Year 11s alike. I liked the sneaky idea on homework: give students two pieces and they may be unwilling. Ask them to do two out of a choice of three and they will be much happier.

Every title in the set grabs the attention of the language teacher. These booklets address real classroom needs and deal with real issues rather than the artificial ones so often foisted on teachers at inservice events. Page for page they are not cheap, but they represent excellent value and teachers will, I am sure, return to them for inspiration for several years to come.

Richard Marsden is head of languages at Minster School, Southwell, Nottinghamshire

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