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FLEUR: Foreign Language Education: Unlocking reading. End of project conference, 3 July 2018. Register at:

We have been busy building on our work in reading,  and putting the pdcinmfl  Principle 5 to the test! So, if you:

  •  are interested in the teaching of reading to beginner learners in MFL
  • would like to get some new ideas and innovative resources for teaching reading strategies and phonics in French
  • would like to find out more about the latest research findings in this area

– then read on!

We have recently completed our ‘FLEUR’ reading research project.  This investigated different ways of teaching reading to beginner learners of French in Year 7.  Our project, a ‘Randomized Control Trial’ funded by the Nuffield Foundation, compared the effects of (a) explicit strategy instruction, (b) explicit phonics instruction and (b) the use of challenging texts on students’ reading comprehension (and a range of other outcomes).

We are holding a half-day conference to share our findings and think about their implications for the classroom.  This will be held on 3rd July 2018 at Oxford University Department of Education, 15 Norham Gardens, Oxford OX2 6PY, from 1:30pm till 4:30pm.  The conference is completely free of charge.

Our project focussed on Year 7, but we anticipate that the findings will also be relevant to colleagues teaching foreign language reading throughout KS3 as well as in primary schools.

If you would like to attend, please send a reply to     We will then register you for a place and send you further information and joining instructions.


Thanks and best wishes from

Robert Woore, Suzanne Graham, Alison Porter, Louise Courtney and Clare Savory

The FLEUR project team.


The Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research. More information is available at


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New publications for use with pdcinmfl materials available

Two books have recently been published that link directly to the Principles:

Improving Foreign language teaching: Towards a research-based curriculum and pedagogy, by Ernesto Macaro,  Suzanne Graham and Robert Woore.

The book outlines the research and thinking behind the Principles and ends with a chapter of activities that link to the materials on this website, giving teachers more ideas for how to use them.  Further information is available here.

Strategies for second language listening: Current scenarios and improved pedagogy, by Suzanne Graham and Denise Santos.

Devoted entirely to developing listening, the book combines a focus on listening research with a strong practical element, with a whole section outlining a range of activities to help teachers improve the listening skills of their learners.  The book links closely with Principles 5 and 6.  Further information is available here.

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A few ideas for implementing the principles in your language teaching


One school  has been working on teaching learners to ask questions  and then giving them small group tasks  where they  have to ask lots of questions – ie. information gap activities, the game ’20 questions’ and ‘taboo’. For more ideas see our ‘Oral Interaction‘ page.


Use challenging texts different from course books, reading strategy check lists, use English reading texts with target language words inserted, then reflect on the strategies used. Also see our ‘Reading‘ page.


Try implementing small things, e.g.  before a listening task, use one of the prediction grids  and then after the first listening, allow learners to discuss whether they thought their predictions were true or not and what were the clues? For more ideas see the ‘Listening‘ page.


Try using writing as a means for introducing a new topic, by encouraging students to use language that they already know and extending/adapting it. For more ideas, see the ‘Writing‘ page.


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Professional Development Clusters for MFL Teachers

Clusters of MFL teachers are now meeting in Reading/North HampshirePortsmouth/South Hampshire, Brighton/Sussex, Cheltenham/Gloucestershire, Oxford, South Oxfordshire and Birmingham. Another cluster is planned for Lincolnshire and Newcastle upon Tyne. The aim of the clusters is to:

• Create time after school to meet with local MFL colleagues and share in your professional development
• Revisit the PDC in MFL principles and use them as a basis for discussion
• Plan with your local colleagues how to apply one specific principle (or more) in your teaching
• Discuss and evaluate the outcomes together at subsequent meetings
Meetings are max 1.5 hours long, and take place 3-4 times per year, hosted by the teachers or teacher trainers involved in the cluster. The work of the PDC in MFL is used as a basis for discussion but the teachers and teacher trainers have autonomy over the clusters and decide what happens in each meeting.
Tanya Riordan opens the first cluster meeting in Portsmouth, May 2013

The first cluster meeting in Portsmouth, May 2013

If you want to get involved in one of these clusters, contact the cluster leaders directly at the appropriate email address given below:

Reading/North Hampshire:

Portsmouth/South Hampshire:



South Oxfordshire:



Lincolnshire or Newcastle upon Tyne: contact Suzanne Graham

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5 quick questions for language teachers

Funding for the Professional Development Consortium in MFL comes to an end in May (though this website will continue to run). We’d like to find out how useful the website and the Principles have been for language teachers. If you can, please give one minute of your time to answer five quick questions about your involvement in the Consortium this year:
Here are some key facts to summarise what has been achieved:
– 300+ participants at 7 free workshops and 3 conferences around England
– 100+ language teachers and teacher trainers have told us they incorporated the Principles in their practice
– 7000+ visitors to the website
– 8 research based principles to bring positive change to language teaching!
If you want to join an informal cluster of language teachers in your local area to meet occasionally and discuss how to develop your students’ language learning skills, then email – we can put you in touch with others nearby who want to do the same.
Thank you to everyone who has been involved and for your support this year!

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Proposed MFL Assessment Framework- what do you think?!

Thank you everyone for telling us how the Principles have made a difference to your teaching. But what about the alternative Assessment Framework which goes hand in hand with the Principles?

We would love to hear your comments, either by leaving a reply on this blog or by  emailing us (

Have a look at our proposed AF  here:

Speaking and Writing Assessment Framework (revised Jan 13)

Listening and Reading Assessment Framework (revised Jan 13)



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The Principles have made a difference to my teaching. Discuss!

We want to tell the decision makers for education in England how many of you have seen the benefit of using the Principles in your language classes. We want to show them evidence of what you have seen – that the development of language skills is something that can raise motivation and attainment in the classroom. So whether you have used just one of the principles as a basis for a lesson, or all of them, please would you leave a comment under this post, to tell us what difference the principles have made to you and your students? Thank you!

If you attended a workshop last summer please also complete our short questionnaire, if you haven’t done so already. The more responses we get, the more significant our final conclusions will be.


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Update – Assessment Framework for Languages

We have posted a revised draft of our alternative assessment framework for languages here. If you would like to try it out in your school, and feed back your experiences and thoughts to us, please let us know. There is also a quick poll to tell us what you think!


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Did you attend one of our workshops last year?

If you attended one of the workshops in Reading, Oxford, London, Bristol, Walsall or Nottingham last year, then you may have been using one, a few, or even all the principles in your language classes. If so, we would love to hear how you have been getting on, so that we can evaluate how useful the principles are in practice. All feedback is very welcome – good and bad! Please download the form and return to

Teacher Report

Thank you!


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Working with the Principles: Action Research possibilities

Many teachers and ITE tutors who attended our workshops in the summer have been working hard to use some or even all of the principles in their teaching this term. Some have told us that they would like to turn their work into an action research project and others simply want to see if the principles have had an impact on their students’ attainment. If you would like to have a go, here are some suggestions to get you started!

To go to the materials, videos and ideas website pages please click on the relevant link below:

In order to evaluate what impact implementing the Principles has had on your teaching, you need to firstly identify one particular aspect of students’ learning on which to focus.

Here are some examples of Action Research possibilities (there are of course many others and you may just have focused on one very small aspect of a Principle):

Oral Interaction

What impact does implementing Principle 4 have on the length of spoken phrases learners produce in pair work? (P4: Students need to be given opportunities to develop oral fluency but also taught how to use communication strategies when faced with communication difficulties). For example do they appear to use more gestures, fillers, and paraphrases in order to put across meaning when in difficulty? Does repeating a task with (for example) a week’s interval lead them to be more confident and fluent in speaking?

What impact does implementing Principle 3 have on the number of different verbs learners use in whole-class question and answer work? (P3: Although not all oral interaction can be ‘communicative’ (some will be practice and/or form focused), it has to demonstrate nevertheless ‘quality’ (among other things, student length of turn; adequate wait time; cognitive challenge [e.g. by requiring a verb phrase or subordinate clause]; appropriate teacher feedback; nomination rather than elicitation). For example, are learners more likely to use a verb in their answers; do they attempt longer and more complex answers?

What impact does implementing Principle 2 have on learners’ stated enjoyment of MFL lessons? (P2: Learners need to be encouraged to speak and to say things that they are not sure are correct). For example, do they make comments? Do they occasionally start ‘a new idea of their own’?

How successful is using two of the ‘ tick sheet’ materials presented at the workshops (e.g. a tick sheet where students record when they have asked a ‘classroom language-type’ question; a tick sheet where they record having answered a question in their heads which was actually aimed at other students)?  Do the sheets lead to better participation, more pupil target language use, etc?

Listening and Reading

What impact does teaching comprehension strategies for reading and  listening  have on learners’ ability to gain a global understanding of a passage?

What impact does teaching comprehension strategies have on learners’ level of confidence/self-efficacy for reading / listening?

What impact does teaching some  grapheme-phoneme (sound-spelling) rules have on learners’ ability to understand reading passages?

Does teaching a range of comprehension strategies for  listening/reading lead learners to use a wider range of such strategies?


Does asking learners to write at the very start of a topic rather than at the end lead them to use previously learnt language in new contexts? Does it lead to use of a wider range of vocabulary? How successful is the  four stage approach to writing that was presented at the workshops?

Feedback and reflection on strategy use

Does learner recording of strategies use on a task, and teacher feedback on that strategy use, lead to greater levels of confidence/self-efficacy on the part of learners?

Methods of Evaluation

How ‘scientific’ and ‘rigorous’ your evaluation is will depend on how much time you have available, whether you planned the evaluation before you started implementing the principle, whether you have access to a similar, parallel class  that has not been exposed to the Principles, etc.  However, some things you could try are as follows:

Oral interaction

If you haven’t planned the evaluation before starting implementing the Principles:

You or a colleague observe the ‘Principle’ class for some or all of the following things, after you have been implementing the Principle for a while:

-number of instances of a pupil asking a question in the TL in whole class or small group work

-number of instances of a pupil initiating a conversation (either in a small group or in whole class work)

-see if you can record a small group activity (a short one). Analyse it for the number of different verbs used, number of attempts to use a communication strategy, etc., depending on what you have been aiming to develop); time how long the average ‘run of speech’ is for each student in the small group. You might also be able to do the latter for whole class work.

Then do the above for a similar class (in terms of age, attainment level) which hasn’t had the treatment, and compare.

If you haven’t yet started implementing the Principles, it’s best to plan the evaluation at the start, and observe the two parallel classes both before and after the Principles have been implemented with one of the classes.  This will give you a better sense of what changes have occurred in the ‘Principles’ class. Also, if a parallel class isn’t available, you could just observe the ‘Principles’ class before and after the implementation.

Listening and Reading

The same structure could be used for the other skills.  For example, before teaching any listening strategies, ask learners to listen to fairly short but reasonably challenging passage. Ask them to write down in English everything they understood. Analyse these responses for how many ‘correct’ ideas they contain.  Then teach the class one or two strategies – for example, predicting the themes/language (phrases, verbs)  that might come up in a passage using a  prediction grid followed by careful verification (using paired discussion) of what was actually heard.  Then ask learners to listen again to the passage you gave them before teaching the listening strategies and to write down in English everything they understood.  Analyse as before and compare the ‘before’ and ‘after’ scores. The same procedure could be used for reading.


For writing,  you could compare what learners write over two topics – one, with writing only happening at the end of the topic; the other with writing occurring at the very start of the topic, and then again at the end, following the cycle outlined in the Writing Principle.  You might analyse the written work for number of different verb forms used, range of vocabulary, etc.

Self-efficacy, self confidence

The above methods for listening, reading and writing could be combined with an assessment of how confident learners feel before and after you have implemented the Principle in question.  You could give learners, say, the initial listening passage, then after the task give them a simple questionnaire or something similar.  After implementing the Principles you could do the same thing again. You could look at if, and how, individuals’ self-efficacy score changes, and also calculate the average score for the class, before and after.

Good luck, and let us know how you get on!

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