Home / Teachers' Home / Advice and Ideas / Teaching Tips
Teaching tips and ideas from language teachers


Resources By Language

Top Teaching Tips

The tips on this page were entered into a competition for language teachers, held through the BBC Active Language Teachers' Club, in December 2009. If you have any really great teaching tips that you think would be useful to other language teachers, then email BBCActive.languages.admin@pearson.com.

Find out a pupil's interests, then tailor a lesson to accommodate them. For instance, for teenagers it could be football and/or pop music; for adults it could be food, gardening or movies. I teach Italian and I once did a lesson in my garden, going through my flowerbeds and talking about plants and gardening tasks in Italian. It was fun for both of us as the weather was too gorgeous to be stucked in. With another pupil we worked through a summary of Italian regional cuisine and he went home with a printout of two recipes he could prepare for his dinner. With yet another pupil I prepared a lesson on great Italian movie makers, some of whom had gone to Hollywood and had achieved international renown.

Simone Castello

Back to top

I have prepared an "International Food Quiz" with food from different countries and you have to guess what the different food is and then from which country it comes. This is for prospective learners and I do it at school fairs or Neighbourhood Day, etc in order to advertise language courses and attract learners to enrol.

Around Christmas I also have a Christmas quiz which teaches learners all about Spanish customs (it could also be done on other languages).

Rosi Gemmell

Back to top

My students love any games and I have devised quite a few over the years! One of their favourites is Disputa entre Familias! I arrange for them to play in two teams of different abilities. I have devised the game in powerpoint. All the questions relate to vocabulary/grammar that they have seen and if they give me the top answer, they can choose whether to play or pass.

For example:
We surveyed 100 people and asked them to name a traditional Spanish food. I throw in some silly answers too like hamburger and chips as it makes the learners have a laugh but it also practices other vocabulary too! This is one of the best games I have devised. My learners love it and their competitive nature comes out!

Cat Bisland

Back to top

My students at Norfolk Spanish play lots of games, even though we are all adults. It helps us break the ice, speak Spanish and have a sociable time!

One of our favourite games is played in two teams and we call it: 'Un, Dos Tres, Repite Después'. I have a list of say 10 or even 20 categories which can be adapted for different levels - say, nationalities, countries, colours, clothes, things in a town, food, verbs of motion etc. - and each team choose a number blind and then have one minute (timed) to say all the things under the category in Spanish that they know. I give points even for incorrect answers as it is up to the opposing team to shout 'Párate' if they hear an error or a  repetition; if they do, we stop the clock and award a point to the opposing team, whose turn it is to choose a category. You can have a prize for the winning team and a commiseration for the losing team and teams can choose their own Spanish names. Categories can be adapted to suit higher levels eg. Verbs taking the preposition 'de', present and preterite pairs, adjectives describing personality etc. I have used this game to teach both Spanish and EFL.

Heather Ashdown

Back to top

My favourite Teaching Tip is the Formulator Tarsia puzzles. Pupils can complete them individually or by table (c. 6 pupils). I find them very effective for reinforcing new vocabulary. The teacher creates a puzzle (whose finished product can be a hexagon, rectangle, triangle etc.) by typing the words into given boxes. Each French word will appear opposite its English counterpart but on a different piece of the jigsaw. The teacher then prints out the puzzle, laminates it and cuts out the various individual pieces. The puzzle when completed produces a great sense of achievement, is fun to do as a 'team' and it is also easy to check that it is correct!

Pam Sebag-Montefiore

Back to top

My favourite teaching tip is a form of noughts and crosses which I use to reinforce vocabulary and key phrases with my students working either in pairs or small groups:
1. Students are divided into two teams and given a set of cards bearing a '0' or 'X'.
2. Nine flashcards are placed to form the grid.
3. I then model the language to be practised  - relating to the flashcards, e.g. “Je vois...”
4. In turn students play their cards BUT before they place their card they must say the correct word or phrase linked to the flashcard.  If playing in a team they can confer.
5. The winner is, of course, the first side to complete 3-in-a-row.
The possibilities using this game are numerous for example, I've used it to reinforce numbers, pronunciation, intonation, set phrases, or to encourage students to create their own sentences.
Not surprisingly, I've seen this game bring out a competitive streak in my students!

Danielle Chinnon

Back to top

With my Sixth Form I like to do 'extreme dictation' with songs, so they write down the lyrics and I stop the song after each sentence/piece. Thay also love riddles, tongue twisters and proverbs.
With other classes of higher ability we have done some plays, a fashion show and songs too. I have taken most of my groups to a cookery lesson and taught them how to make Spanish omelette. My Yr9 students still remember the Christmas songs I taught them or 'La Cucaracha'.

Ana Prada

Back to top

One of the most enjoyable activities that I use in class - which I am sure many other languages teachers also use - is 'Chaud - Froid'. This is a game in which one person is sent out of the room whilst the rest of the class decide on an object to be hidden. This could be a real object, a flashcard, or a text card. Once this has been done, the pupil is called back into the room, and has to search for the object. The class guide her/him by chanting the name of the hidden object quietly when the pupil is some distance from it, but increasingly loudly as the pupil gets closer to it. Hopefully, the pupil will find the hidden object without too much difficulty.
This is a good exercise for pupils in a Language lesson. I generally choose something that pupils are having difficulty in remembering or pronouncing. This way they chant the word or phrase numerous times, using correct pronunciation, and this helps them to remember the word in the future. This fulfils objectives O 3.2 - speak clearly and confidently; and O 3.4  - repeat words and phrases modelled by the teacher - from the Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages. The pupils who is 'on' has to listen carefully to what classmates are chanting in order to know what (s)he is looking for, thus fulfilling objectives O 3.2 - listen with care; O 4.2 - Listen for specific words and phrases; and O 3.4 and O 4.2 - use physical response to ... show understanding.
This game is a real favourite with pupils, and one which they love to play over and over again. I usually use it at the end of a lesson or teaching session, as pupils do get quite noisy during the game!

Helen Foley

Back to top

This is my favourite teaching tip- the kids love playing this game whatever their age and it's great for prounciation practice.
The game is called 'Hide the Card' or 'Cachez la Carte' or any language equivalent. It's a take on the hot/cold game. Take one of the flashcards - pictures or words - which the pupils have found difficult to pronounce, last time I was doing the weather we did this with 'il y a du brouillard'. Send one pupil out and choose another pupil to hide the card anywhere in the classroom. When the pupil comes back in the whole class say together 'il y a du brouillard', whispering it when the pupil is far away from the card and getting louder and louder until they find it. They will all then remember how to say it as they will have repeated it about 25 times! Lots of fun.

Julie Young

Back to top

My idea which I use with both adults (Spanish) and Primary (French) is to use a simple table tennis bat. There is on one side a UK flag and on the reverse, the flag of the language being taught.  You play vocab/ phrase/ question,answer, imaginary ping pong! eg:
I say Spanish word (UK side facing class), they say the English; or I reverse it and ask a question in the shown language and they either answer it or ask a different question to someone in the group. I also use this for sequences, e.g. I say a number and they do the next one (can be done with days, months etc.).

Anne Hennessey

Back to top

My favourite teaching tip with adults: Snakes and Ladders.
One of my favourite activities for my adult students of French is my snakes and ladders board. It is easy to make a grid with numbers on and draw on snakes and ladders. You can then laminate the A4 sheet and use it with dice and counters. At the end of  a unit (or after 2 units) of Talk French we get out the board and use it for revision. For each Talk French unit I create small cards with all the key phrases from that unit in English (e.g. good morning, how are you, twenty-four etc). This becomes cumulative revision, as if revising after unit 2, I will put the cards for Unit 1 and Unit 2 together - these could be colour coded, so each unit's cards are on a different colour to make sorting and filing easier afterwards!. 
Students work in pairs. Each pair has a snakes and ladders board, 2 different coloured counters, 1 dice + a pile of my revision phrase cards face down on the desk. They take it in turns to throw the dice and move the relevant number forward (counting the number out loud in French). They then have to turn over a phrase card and give that phrase in French. If they are right, they move forward a bonus one, if wrong they move backwards one. A biscuit prize is offered to the winner.
This game is always played noisily and enthusiastically and they really seem to work hard at refreshing their memories with all the phrases encountered to date, so it is a very useful teaching aid. It is very competitive too, hence all the noise!

Val Marsden

Back to top

When we're doing work on individual phonemes (or it could be anything, in fact), children listen and in groups each time they hear the particular phoneme (or word, or class of word) they build a lego brick (to make a tower), i.e. 1 instance of the phoneme = 1 lego brick in the tower.

Nicola Gooch

Back to top

My favourite teaching tip is using the game Chinese whispers. The pupils love the game and always go silent trying to hear what is being said!

Claire McCarthy

Back to top

My favourite tip is actually a favourite tool and is especially useful for children (of any age KS2-4 inclusive) who are self-conscious and afraid to speak in front of a class in the target language.
More sophisticated than puppets, but with the same effect of providing something to hide behind, are vokis - animated characters that say whatever you record or type. They can be safely embedded into VLEs, websites and the like and so pose no threat to esafety.

Jo Rhys-Jones

Back to top

Leaving (harmless) gossip messages about staff or students in the target language about the classroom for students to find on arrival.

Marilyn Tucker

Back to top

A quick game at the end of the lesson at any level makes everybody laugh and finish on a light note. For example: to practice the vocabulary learnt during that class or to revise anything that you told them beforehand, just get everybody out of their seats and make a circle, get a skittle or a ball and use your imagination! The easiest one is piggy in the middle: the teacher starts by being in that position and the objective of the learners is not to get there at all. You can then say for example: letter A and each person pass the skittle trying to give a word about the subject you are talking about that starts with that letter. Or say you are doing colours, say red fruits. The skittle starts passing round and the learners have to think of red fruits when no one can say any more the person in the middle has a chance to get away from that position saying the name of a red fruit that has not being mentioned before. If they succeed then the person who could not think of anything gets into the middle.

Paty Snaith

Back to top

A game which my students always love is as follows: I  put on the board  a selection of vocabulary items which they have been learning, either in English or the TL. I divide the class into 2 teams and ask a member of each team to come to the board. I then call out a word, either in English or the TL (whichever is not on the board) and the learners touch - or slap when they get enthusiastic! - the correct word. Whoever touches the correct word first wins a point. The same words can be left on for the next pair of contestants or a new selection put up.  When everyone has had a go, the points for each team are added up.
It is sensible to pit students of a similar ability (and height, so they can both reach words at the top of the board with the same ease or measure of difficulty).
A good deal of excitement can be generated as the onlookers encourage their representatives to get to the word first - without, of course, shouting it out!

Julian May

Back to top

My favourite tip for making learning languages fun is to use children's games, even for adults! If you use picture based games, like picture lotto, they are great for any language. You just distribute the three picture boards to your students, turn all the cards face down on the table and, as they turn over each card, they must say what they see in the target language. If it's on their board they can place it there, saying the name again. If not they replace it face down on the table and the student who needs that card has to remember where the card has been placed to pick it up in their turn. For younger students, or beginners, you can ask each student to show the card they pick up to everyone when saying what it is and you can help them by reinforcement and saying the word after (or even with) them. For more competent students such help should be unnecessary. I have also converted a pack of Happy Families into French, German and Spanish so that I can play (a simplified version of) the game with my students too. This provides repetition of phrases such as I WANT and HERE YOU ARE, or I DON'T HAVE and FAMILY. Competition is fierce but there is lots of laughter and the repetition helps the learning process. I teach a wide variety of ages and find that these games are useful for everyone, including the adults!

Victoria Smith

Back to top

My tip is to include an element of surprise when you do a consolidation activity so that students enjoy using their skills and are motivated to extend them.
An example of an activity my students really like is guessing a famous character on the basis of his/her description. After practising the vocabulary they work in a small team where two people ask the questions and the other two answer. They can ask questions about physical details, nationality, age, occupation. Usually at this stage I give them pictures of  a real famous character (e.g. a famous politician or actor), and they have to guess who it is. After this, I give them a fictional character (but those guessing do not know that that is the case) like Father Christmas, Bob the builder ... they greatly enjoy the challenge.

Maria Contrino

Back to top

My students from ages 7 to 80 love action songs. It's a great energy booster for me too! Normally I ask all to stand and move their arms upwards whilst saying su, then giu and moving arms down, shaking arms to the right and saying right then to the left, running on the stop whilst saying run and holding their hand out and saying stop. It's best for the GCSE group when practising role play cards for the oral part of the exam.

Michelina Alfieri-Adams

Back to top

Our favourite game at the moment: Grammatical Chairs.
I play this in Latin with Years 9 -11, but it would work in other languages.
· Put 6 chairs at the front of the classroom, one person on each.
· Each person in order labels his/her chair (I, you(s), he/she/it, we, you(pl), they) in whatever language you are using.
· The teacher, or the class, names a tense / irregular verb / whatever needs practice.
· Each student, in order, gives the part of the verb for his/her ‘person’.  In effect, they are reciting a verb table taking one part each.
· Continue setting different tenses / verbs until someone makes an error.
· The person who makes an error is replaced. The newcomer selects a chair and everyone else has to move to a chair they have not previously occupied.
· Repeat as often as you choose, or until you find the ‘dream team’ who know all their verb conjugations.

Judy Nesbit

Back to top

My favourite activity is quite an old one, but always fun. When practising new vocabulary around a theme - e.g. clothes  - start off with something like 'Pour mes vacances dans la jungle, je mets dans ma valise (un chapeau). Go round the class, each person having to say the whole sentence and trying to remember the item(s) said before, and then adding one of their own. With more able students, make the objects more complex - eg un joli chapeau rouge. It's a great memory trainer!

Liz Summerson

Back to top

When singing songs in the target language, fade in and out with the volume. The students absolutely love this as it not only tests their pronunciation and intonation, but also their musicality and ability to work collectively and harmoniously!

Amy Gregg

Back to top