Les animaux – a Year 7 lesson plan with new GCSE-style questions

It is becoming increasingly clear that to ensure success at GCSE, we need to embed GCSE-style activities into lessons from the start. I don’t believe that this has to be too stressful or boring, however, which is why I’m creating a series of workbooks for Key Stage 3 learners of French, German and Spanish that include new GCSE-style reading, translation, writing and speaking tasks.

The following lesson plan incorporates some of the tasks from my French ‘me, my family and friends’ workbook, mixed with games and other activities that I have always made an integral part of my Key Stage 3 lessons. I hope that the ideas given here will prove useful for other teachers who are looking for ways of including GCSE-style tasks into Key Stage 3 lessons in an engaging way.

The plan is for a French lesson, but can easily be adapted to Spanish or German.

You can download the worksheets, detailed lesson plan and Powerpoint here:

Fish - Pets lesson Key Stage 3

Les animaux – pets

This lesson plan is for a Year 7 mixed ability class. It assumes little or no prior knowledge of French ‘animal’ vocabulary.

Students could be given vocabulary lists prior to the lesson (such as the katelanguages vocabulary and grammar booklet for the unit ‘Me, my family and friends’).

Activity 1 (max. 3 minutes)

PowerPoint slide 1 – Title

To check prior learning, the teacher asks if any students know the words for any animals in French. Students put up their hands and give max. one answer at a time. Teacher listens and corrects pronunciation where necessary.

Activity 2 (10-15 minutes)

PowerPoint slide 2 – Pictures of animals

This slide can be exploited in a number of ways:

  1. Choral repetition.
  2. Play games to practise the vocabulary, such as beat the teacher, slap the board, bingo, etc. Rules for these games are in the detailed lesson plan.
  3. What’s missing? Copy and paste the slide, deleting the words and changing the animation so one picture disappears at a time. Students work out which picture is missing and say the word in French.

Activity 3 (max. 5 minutes)

Powerpoint slide 3 – Opinions

Students match the French and English sentences. Check answers as a class.

Activity 4 (10 minutes)

PowerPoint slide 4 – Connect 4

Students are split into two teams. To be allowed to place a coin on the Connect 4 grid, students must give their opinion (in French) of the animal named at the top of that column. The winning team is the one who gets 4 in a row.

Activity 5 (5 minutes)

Powerpoint slides 5, 6 and 7 – Reading task

Hand out copies of the reading worksheet about Eric the cat and display the reading task on the board. Either get students to read the text aloud or on their own and then answer the questions. Set a time limit and then go through answers as a class. For differentiation ideas, see the detailed lesson plan.

Activity 6 (10 minutes)

PowerPoint slide 8 – Translation from French into English

Hand out copies of the text to translate and display the text on the board. Give students a time limit to complete the translation. For differentiation ideas, see the detailed lesson plan.

Activity 7 (5 minutes)

Powerpoint slide 10 – Translation from English into French – Plenary quiz

This can be done in a number of different ways:

  1. Ask the class and pick one student to answer each question orally.
  2. Put the class into teams and get them to write the answers down on paper or mini-whiteboards. The team with the most correct answers wins.
  3. Write the answers individually in their exercise books and check the answers together or when you next mark their books.
  4. Write answers on a post-it or scrap paper with their name and hand in as they leave. Their answers are checked individually by the teacher.

Follow-up lesson

In the next lesson, you could start with a crossword or another vocabulary exercise to ensure they remember the key ‘animals’ vocabulary.

Then, teach some adjectives to describe pets and explain the grammar of adjectival word order and agreement in a very simple way (useful words and grammar explanations can be found in my vocab and grammar booklet).

Next, you could display the photo of a dog from the GCSE-style questions booklet and get students to write 4 sentences about the dog. This could also be done orally or as a game.

To further practise, you could set up the role-play task from the booklet and get the students to ‘rehearse’ with a partner before performing their role-play to the class.

Lastly, to consolidate learning, students could write a 40-word paragraph about their pets or made-up pets. I prefer to set writing tasks in class, to minimise the use of Google translate and so that I can check them and get the students to redraft their work straight away if there is time.

Feedback and ideas

How would you exploit these new GCSE-style questions with Key Stage 3? Get in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and let me know your ideas!

Improving listening skills MFL

Improving listening skills

The most difficult skill?

Having seen lots of posts on social media and received a number of messages about how to improve listening skills (especially since the release of the latest GCSE results), it seems really clear that this is the skill that both teachers and students alike struggle with the most. So, how can you improve your listening skills, either to pass an exam or simply to be able to understand real-life conversations in a foreign language? How can teachers help their students to develop their listening skills, without simply doing ‘test’ after ‘test’ – i.e. describe the task, play the recording, repeat the recording, go through the answers, rinse and repeat – which, let’s face it, is pretty boring for everyone!

improving listening skills MFL

Ideas for good practice

I’ve reflected on my ideas for good practice in this area and what follows are some of the things I do to help both myself and my students become better listeners in a foreign language. The tips here are intended as practice in lessons, rather than what to do during the exam, but if activities like these are done regularly, an actual listening exam should be a doddle!

OK, so you might not be quite as excited as these kids… but you get the idea!

Tips for deeper understanding of a listening text

I’m going to use the first question from the Higher French AQA Sample Assessment Materials for the new specification GCSE as my example:

  1. Find the vocab for the possible answers in the question, but be aware that these words will almost certainly not be mentioned in the texts! Crosswords are a fun way of finding and learning vocab, vocab matching activities are quick and simple (either cut up and match the key words, or have two columns on a page with the answers in the wrong order and match up the words), or for more independent learners, use a dictionary to look up the words. Then, think of other words that are associated with each answer. For ‘road accident’, add ‘car’, ‘driver’, ‘injury’, etc.
  2. Listen to the recording all the way through. Scribble down in English or French as much as you have understood for each speaker. Then, chat to partners about what you’ve understood and/or feed back to the whole group. This helps everyone get a ‘gist’ of the texts. At this point, some people will want to answer the questions, but try to refrain from jumping to any conclusions and filling in the answers, thinking you’re all done and dusted!
  3. Transcribe the texts as you listen to them. This is a great way of really paying attention to the language, picking apart each separate word and thinking more deeply about the meaning of the text. You will need to pause, rewind and replay each sentence a number of times until you’ve got the whole transcript down on paper. Ideally, this is done on computers/MP3 players with headphones, so everyone can go at their own pace, but it is possible with a whole class or group. Here is the transcript of the 4 texts in my example question: 
  4. Translate the transcripts of the texts. This ensures full understanding of the texts and is also useful practice for the translation element of the reading exam!
  5. Do the task from the exam. By this point, it should be so straightforward that everyone gets 100% right!

More tips and tricks to improve listening skills

  • Translate as you listen. This is similar to transcribing, but you write the English meaning of the text. This is particularly helpful to practise answering questions in English.
  • Listen to texts that are harder than your current level. This can include AS or A Level texts (I’d recommend the old specification rather than the new one as it’s a bit easier) or even authentic news items or videos (my favourite website for French learners is 1jour1actu). Do vocab activities before listening, look up key words, pause and rewind as many times as you need, discuss your understanding with partners/a group, listen again and then have a go at the question. I wouldn’t recommend transcribing something that is more difficult, though.
  • Read the transcript as you listen. Most online videos these days have subtitles so we’re all much more used to reading and listening along at the same time. ‘Brut‘ is brilliant for French videos with subtitles and most videos on youtube have the option to show subtitles as well. Reading along helps our brains recognise the relationship between the sound and spelling of a word, which can be half the battle when it comes to listening, I find!
  • Lastly, listen to something fun like music, a podcast or watch TV/a film in the language you’re learning! Motivation to pay attention is so important, so find something you actually want to listen to, and try any of the above ideas and see how it improves your listening skills.

Let us know what you think!

I hope you find these tips helpful! I’d love to know how you have implemented them in your own teaching and learning, so get in touch via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to give me your feedback!

September – a time for resolutions?

I’ve always found the start of the new academic year to be a great time for making resolutions… much more so than January, which in the world of education is in the middle of the year and dark and cold and somehow already feels too late to be making resolutions. However, in September, I’m full of energy after a lovely summer holiday, excited about teaching new classes and meeting new students and colleagues, and generally much more motivated to get the shiny, fresh, brand new academic year off to a great start!

So, with all this abundant energy, I’ve made 3 ‘September Resolutions’ to focus on this academic year…

  1. Help others. I love creating resources and content for teachers, and my resolution this coming academic year is to share even more top-quality resources which will serve both teachers and their students as they prepare for the demands of the new MFL GCSEs. I started making and selling resources to help teachers save precious time, and I’ve had so many positive reviews saying that this is exactly what they have done! My favourite was this, from ‘boatie’: ‘Nice one, Katelanguages. This bundle meant I had weekend with my family – priceless.’ Although the majority of the resources on this website are paid, I have lots of free ones on TES as well and I will continue to add more freebies here as and when I can.
  2. Be healthy. I left full-time teaching due to health problems and since becoming a tutor, I have made it my priority to be healthy. I schedule yoga classes, gym sessions and chilling out time into my calendar, and refuse to be overworked any more. I am so fortunate to be able to do this and I am thankful every day that I am growing a career and business that allows me to prioritise my health. I think this resolution fits in with the first one, actually, as through my resources, I hope I am helping others to win back some time and be able to prioritise their own health, too.
  3. Learn something new. I am always reading, studying and learning new things, so this should be an easy one to fit into my life, right? At the moment, I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to learn, although I love my garden and being sustainable… Perhaps I could learn how to grow my own vegetables? Any ideas are very welcome!

So, as you gear up for the new academic year, what are your September resolutions, for teaching and/or for learning? Let me know on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! The person with the best/funniest resolutions will win a free resource of their choice!

If your resolution is to gain back some precious time, don’t forget to check out my GCSE and Key Stage 3 French, German and Spanish resources!

Reading books in another language

I’ve recently been challenged to post 10 book covers on Facebook that have ‘rocked my world’ and it got me thinking about reading books in foreign languages.

Before I start singing the praises of reading books in a foreign language, I have to say this loudly and clearly… it’s really hard! I find it takes me at least twice as long to read a book in another language, and it takes more than twice as much determination to finish reading the book as it does when I read one in English. But then the sense of achievement when I finish it is probably about 10 times as great … so it’s all worth the effort in the end!

However hard it may be, though, I truly believe that reading a book in a foreign language gives you so much more than reading a book in your first language. Here are 5 reasons why it’s amazing to read a book in another language:

  1. The demands on your brain for starters are much greater, so surely that’s got to be beneficial, right?
  2. Reading foreign language books gives you access to worlds that English-language books don’t – what better way to gain an insider’s view into a country than to read a book written in the language of that country?
  3. The same goes for history. As someone who is a bit of a history nerd, I love learning about the life and times of people in other countries through books written at the time in those countries.
  4. It increases your vocabulary 100-fold and takes you away from the common vocabulary regularly listed in GCSE or even A Level specifications.
  5. You get to be a bit smug when someone recommends a great book, or a new film comes out, and you can say ‘oh yes, I read that in the original language’!!

So, here are some ideas for French and German books that I have read and loved. With the exception of ‘Harry Quebert’, they are quite short, so are a great jumping-off point if you’ve never read a book in these languages. (Incidentally, they’re also all available in English, and therefore ideal for ‘parallel reading’, where you have the English and foreign language versions of the books open at the same time and switch between the two.)

On the Facebook challenge, I posted the cover of Thomas Mann’s Tod in Venedig, which was one of the books I studied at university and one that has always stayed with me. Just hearing the name of the novella transports me to the heat of the Venetian summer, the desperation of the protagonist, the innocence of the beautiful young boy he develops an obsession with. To this day, I still can’t see a man with dyed black hair without picturing the tragic end to the story and feeling a little bit sad.

Other foreign language books I have read in recent years, that I would highly recommend are:

Petit Pays‘ by Gaël Faye, which is set during the 1990s genocide in Burundi and Rwanda, and is as beautiful as it is shocking.

La Verité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert‘ by Joël Dicker, a thriller that is so exciting and past-paced, I must confess I switched to the English version of the book halfway through, just so I could race through it and find out what happened!

+UPDATE+ This amazing book has recently been turned into a TV show, starring the very lovely Patrick Dempsey!

Tschick‘ by Wolfgang Herrndorf, about a young boy and his friend, who ‘steal’ a car and drive around Germany in it. I laughed out loud a lot while reading this story and have recommended it numerous times to German learners ever since.

Having said all this, I still think there is a huge amount to be said for reading English translations of books by foreign language writers. You are still immersed in a different world, you still gain insights into the culture and who knows… if you read a book in English first, you could be inspired to re-read it or delve into more books by the same author in the original language!

My next challenge to myself is listening to an audiobook in French, German or Spanish and I’m always on the lookout for great new books, so let me know your recommendations!


using language games

Playing games is a great way to learn languages!

Whether you are playing traditional word games, such as I-Spy or 20 Questions, or purpose-made board games and card games, playing while you learn is a great way of staying motivated!

Particular favourites of mine are the shopping list game from Orchard Toys, which is even available in French (along with a number of other great games) – Orchard Toys French games Continue reading “Playing games is a great way to learn languages!”

Learn vocabulary with

Our favourite website to use for vocab learning is

It’s free to join, and there is something for every level.

We have lots of courses on memrise, especially if you are studying for your GCSEs, so check them out and have fun while learning some new words!

You’re never too old to learn a language

Many people think that you can’t learn a new language once you’re an adult… but research shows this simply isn’t the case!

Furthermore, being able to speak another language can actually keep your brain more active and help to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.