Engaging ideas for the MFL classroom


This page lists some ideas which have been used successfully in the secondary MFL classroom for engaging and motivating students of all abilities. Many make use of simple technology which is affordable for the majority of schools.


Bee-Bot

A programmable floor robot, the Bee-Bot was designed to teach the control element of the ICT curriculum but can also be used as an innovative approach to teaching directions. Since the product has been showcased to MFL teachers by Orangery Education a French town mat has been produced which embraces this opportunity. There's also Constructa-Bot, a toughened-up version of the original robot, and an iPad app for ICT use.


Echobot

This is a small, friendly device with 10 seconds of recording time. The recorded message is played back when triggered by a motion sensor in Echobot's 'eye'. Useful for adding an interactive element to wall displays or simply welcoming visitors to the MFL classroom using the target language.


Handbells

We initially bought these for a music workshop but they are great for bringing a new dimension to listening for detail in the MFL classroom. When playing an audio or video clip, ask students to listen for a particular word and, when they hear it, to ring their bell. They could also listen for particular types of word, such as adjectives or nouns of a certain gender.


Easi-View Visualiser

An affordable version of the visualisers often seen in Science and Technology classrooms, the Easi-View is ideal for Assessment for Learning where a piece of written work can be immediately shared with the class who can then highlight the good points and give suggestions for improvement. The device can also be used as a webcam using its built-in microphone.


Chatter Block

A tough dice with transparent pockets and 10 seconds of recording time on each of its six sides, this has a number of possibilities for the MFL classroom, from pictures linked to recorded vocabulary items to longer sentences for older students. When the dice is rolled the sound recorded on the top face is played.


Flip Video Camera

The Flip is a simple video camera available in a range of models including HD. With basic controls it is simple to use and features an integrated USB connection so that video files can be quickly uploaded to a PC. This makes it ideal for keeping video diaries and sending clips to partner schools in other countries. Unfortunately the Flip range has now been discontinued but is still available from second-hand retailers.


Talk Ball

Originally intended for use in the primary classroom, this inflatable beach ball is a hit with low-ability classes in KS3. Displaying a range of key questions, the ball can be passed around the class where students take turns to have a basic dialogue. Also available is a range of talk balls with topic-based pictures which could also be useful for group discussions.


Handheld Keyboard

Only slightly larger than a remote-control handset, this device incorporates a touch pad and QWERTY keyboard, allowing full control of the computer from up to 30 feet away. While mobile slates allow for mouse control, this adds the possibility to type words for gap-fill exercises, website addresses and short sentences, and is much cheaper than the learner response systems which offer equivalent functions.


Digital Photo Frame

These have been increasingly popular as gifts in recent years, but they could also be useful in the classroom. Try uploading a set of key words and phrases to the photo frame and have them playing on a loop during the lesson - students will notice this and begin to memorise the words on the display. You will need basic photo-editing software to produce the images which should be saved in a format such as jpg.


Lexibar

An absolute must for any language teacher taking their class into the MFL suite, the Lexibar is a free toolbar which sits above other programs (including Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and some interactive whiteboard software). Available in dozens of languages, it allows you to simply 'drag and drop' the character into your work, and also displays the numeric keypad codes as you hover with the mouse.


Talking Photo Album

Great for story-telling activities with younger learners but also useful for international projects, each of the 24 pages takes an A5 insert (photograph, drawing, text etc.) and is accompanied by 10 seconds of recording time. Ideal for sending to a partner school with pictures of your local area and audio descriptions.


Metal Detector

Inspired by early years 'treasure chest' activities, this hand-held device is great for sorting activities in MFL lessons. Categories could be healthy and unhealthy foods, or for more advanced students different tenses, or spotting sentences with mistakes in them. The secret: simply produce a set of cards and stick a strip of kitchen foil behind those which fall into one category.


Easi-Speak Microphones

The Easi-speak microphone, a clever mp3 player which has a built-in USB connection for immediate uploading to a PC. It can record up to 4 hours of high quality sound and even comes pre-installed with the popular Audacity software. Recognising that this was something that language teachers would love he began to include the Easi-Speak in his seminars on ICT in MFL, and before long they could be seen in language classrooms up and down the country. In the meantime TTS have added the Easi-Speak to the Primary Languages section of their website, and also produced the Easi-Speak Pro, which has similar functions but in a more 'grown-up' casing - ideal for secondary school students and those preparing for controlled assessments.


Talking Postcards

A very versatile resource in a range of sizes from 7.5cm² to A3 size and with 10 or 30 seconds of recording time, these can be used for various activities.

Try the following:

• Attach a photo to a talking postcard and ask the student to give you it back with a recorded description.

• Record an incorrect description of the photo and ask the student to record a corrected version.

• Record a sentence onto A4 or A3 cards and ask students to draw a picture (using whiteboard markers) to match the recording (e.g. for family descriptions, pets or hobbies).

• Use a series of small postcards, stick each onto a larger piece of card and record one phoneme on each. When new vocabulary is introduced students can demonstrate their understanding of sound/spelling links by writing the new words alongside the correct phoneme(s).


Talking Point

A simple device with 10 or 30 seconds of recording time, the Talking Point range can be used alongside displays or hidden around the room to record clues for treasure hunts. Try using a series of them to help teach prepositions.


If you would like to arrange a lively, ideas-packed session at your school, perhaps in a departmental meeting, please contact us or complete the form below.