Lesson plans

March 3, 2013

The following articles I wrote for Teach Secondary magazine have recently been published on their website:

KS3: Understanding grammar and parts of speech

KS3: Discussing Halloween

KS4: Improving speaking skills

KS4: Conversation

KS4: Olympic values



The Olympic spirit – the Winter Youth Games

January 6, 2012

2012 –  Olympic year!  Whilst preparations are being finalised for the London games in July many of us teachers will be thinking about how we can exploit this in our classrooms over the coming weeks and months.  What may not yet be on everyone’s radar is that the Winter Youth Olympic Games are taking place from 13th – 22nd January in Innsbruck.  This is in fact the inaugural Winter Youth Olympics and is for young people between the ages of 14 and 18.  The first Summer Games were held in Singapore in 2010.

This will mark the third occasion that Innsbruck has been an Olympic host city (the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976).  The Innsbruck 2012 official site is in three languages  (German, English and French) and so provides plenty of authentic material and language about winter sports and the Olympics in general, including a section on the Olympic values (excellence, respect and friendship) and the mascot, Yoggl.

The Winter youth games could be exploited in a number of ways, and could easily fit into some existing/traditional schemes of work:

  • For those teaching German it is an opportunity to focus on Austria and the geography of the country, perhaps following the torch relay (Fackellauf/relais de la flamme), now into its 11th day.  There are links to information in German about each place on the relay route which could be exploited for skim reading e.g What could a visitor see/do in Eisenstadt?
  • The Torch relay page has links to “A day in the life of a relay runner” in French and German, so this could form the basis of a reading exercise where learners put sentences in the correct sequence.
  • The Fanshop could easily be form the basis for teaching about prices, souvenirs, clothes and materials
  • The timetable for events can be used to practise numbers, dates and times
  • There is an animated film (Yoggl goes CEP) featuring the mascot Yoggl;  this has images associated with many of the Olympic themes and values which could be exploited for oral and written work.
  • Another short video Innsbruck 2012 Freeze flashmob could be used to practise/revise vocabulary for winter sports

And much more……..

Having a laugh? – Using jokes

July 22, 2011

When I was talking at Language World about using authentic resources I gave an example of how a joke in the TL can introduce a serious topic.  The joke I mentioned  addresses the issue of foreigners in Germany, and in particular the status of Turks:

Lehrerin: “Bitte alle die Hand heben, die Deutsche sind.„

Alle außer Ali heben die Hand.

Fritzchen: “Ali, du bist doch hier in Deutschland geboren und aufgewachsen, also bist du Deutscher. Melde dich.”

Ali meldet sich. Als Ali dann nach der Schule nach Hause kommt und dem Vater davon erzählt, holt dieser aus und haut dem kleinen Ali eine runter.

Ali dreht sich um und sagt: “Oh man, kaum ist man Deutscher schon hat man Stress mit den Türken.”


The beauty of jokes is that the language is often very accessible whilst at the same time addressing quite complex concepts and issues.  After all that is the challenge of CLIL; to introduce concepts at the pupils’ cognitive levels whilst at the same time ensuring that the language is not beyond their linguistic level.

The example above could be used:

  • to introduce the Ausländer topic at A-Level
  • at key stage 3 or 4 to teach citizenship in the context of personal identity
  • to enable pupils to reflect on the multicultural society in which they live
  • as a model to be adapted by pupils to give biographical information
  • to show examples of specific structures/vocabulary in use e.g. the perfect tense,  subordinate clause word order etc.

Of course jokes can often reinforce stereotypes so obviously we need to use them carefully to make sure that we don’t get the wrong message across, but sometimes they can just be a bit of fun at the start or finish of a lesson:

Pourquoi les poissons-chats s’ennuient-ils dans l’eau?

Réponse: car les poissons-souris n’existent pas!