She just called me a . . .

7th March 1997 at 00:00
Danny Dice suggests an alternative method to get pupils to express themselves in a target language

Just when I thought I was getting to grips with promoting pupil target language use, I changed schools. This has been a humbling experience for two reasons. First, an alarmingly high number of my new pupils mysteriously fail to appreciate my considerable expertise as a modern languages teacher. Second, my new charges appear to have no use for any of the target language expressions I so painstakingly plastered over the walls of my last classroom, expressions which were lovingly illustrated by a departmental colleague.

As a service to all language teachers who may find themselves in front of a new class which is mildly reluctant to use the target language, I have compiled a supplementary list of suggested expressions for pupil use.

Strangely, none of these features in the section on classroom language in the national curriculum non-statutory guidance, Modern Foreign Languages. However, the guidance stresses how classroom language with which pupils are familiar can provide a springboard for highlighting grammatical points, so helping them to progress through the national curriculum attainment levels. I have therefore grouped the phrases below by grammatical content.

Negatives: I haven't done my homework.

I wasn't here when you set it.

You never told us there was a test. I'm not doing it.

Was it me? No, it wasn't me.

It's not fair.

You don't tell himher to move, do you?

I'm not coming back after school.

Tenses: I sat here last time.

I always sit here.

I'm not going to move.

Questions: What homework?

Did you see that?

Why should I move?

Why don't you put hisher name on the board?

Why do we have to do FrenchGerman anyway?

Imperatives: Tell himher, sirmiss.

Ask himher. Go on.

Ask himher if it was me.

Tell him her to move.

Third person: My mumdad says I don't have to do the homeworkdetention FrenchGerman.

Heshe's got my pen.

Heshe hit me.

Heshe just called me a . . .

(This last expression can also provide welcome opportunities for dictionary work.) Finally, forewarned is forearmed. I have given up pulling out my hair at the vociferous protests of my new Year 9 French group each time I have tried to get them to express in French what they wanted to say. Instead, I now respond calmly - and very inanely - with a ditty originally created to preserve my sanity when my daughters, aged three and five, were being impossible: Stop! This is a no whinge zone.

If you want to whinge, you must whinge on your own.

My department's assistante has provided a French translation: Stop! Ici c'est un zone o on ne doit pas se plaindre.

Si tu veux te plaindre, c'est tout seul que tu dois geindre.

Danny Dice is a pseudonym. The author is a head of department in the North

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