Tried and tested - Listen up

3rd April 2009 at 01:00

Subject: Modern foreign languages

Lesson: Live listening

Ages: Any

Supplied by: Suzi Bewell, MFL teacher, All Saints RC School in York

1. What is it?

An effective speaking and learning activity for MFL pupils.

2. Who is it aimed at?

All key stages, even primary children can do this. It can be used in any topic and any language. It is particularly good for when you want to model what a great spoken or written answer looks like.

3. What happens in the lesson?

Each pupil is given an A4 piece of paper and asked to divide it into nine equal boxes that they number. They are divided into two groups - A and B. Pupils listen to nine phrases in the target language read by the teacher. Team A writes down the first letter of everything heard and Team B draws pictures to remind them of the key points. This is repeated and then As are asked to join a B to compare notes. When the pupils combine the first letters and the pictures they can construct the whole story.

4. What do you want the lesson to achieve?

Great thinking skills in action and teamwork. The pictures alone are not that helpful but when combined with the first letters, the pair can work out much more. There is plenty of speaking in the language, so the writing needs to be accurate. The lesson also allows pupils to reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement, maybe with coursework in mind.

5. How do you know it has been successful?

It works if they manage to reconstruct part or all of the story and speak lots in the target language. Pairings help weaker pupils gain confidence as they will encourage and motivate each other while peer assessing and correcting each other in a non-threatening way.

6. Why would you recommend this to other teachers?

It's difficult to come by listening materials that are 100 per cent appropriate to the task in MFL. As this activity is teacher led, you can tailor the pace to suit the level of the individuals, differentiating its outcome. It's fantastic for motivation - all of my pupils are always desperate to retell the story, particularly if it involves me as the protagonist.

7. Give us three top tips

- Encourage pupils to re-tell a story in the target language to promote extended speaking work.

- You can do a follow-up lesson where they write a similar story to yours, focusing particularly on any weaknesses they encountered in this lesson.

- After a few lessons using this technique, encourage pupils to take the part of the teacher and read aloud their story for others to listen to.

8. Useful resources

- Visit my blog ( It has had more than 15,000 hits worldwide.

- is a fantastic and free poster-making facility that allows MFL pupils to upload videos, text, audio, photos and pictures.

- helps pupils learn French verbs and grammar through meditation. It makes an unusual but refreshing change from PowerPoint and grammar handouts.


Title; Weather games

Ages: 11-14, Subject: Modern foreign languages

What is it? Easy to use games (memory cards and snakes and ladders) to practise talking about the weather in any language. Colourful weather symbols and weather expressions can be printed and made into cards. Lay face down and turn over two cards at a time to match a symbol with the weather expression.

Find it


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