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Modern foreign languages - Skype makes sense

resources | Published in TES magazine on 3 February, 2012 | By: Suzi Bewell

Enhance lessons by chatting to pupils around the world

When I first began videoconferencing with French students in my primary MFL classes, I was reasonably au fait with technology, having already set up a French teaching and learning blog (http://tinyurl.com/frenchblog). But it was Sophie Herblot, a young French headteacher in Bantouzelle, near Cambrai in northern France, who contacted me to suggest the mutual benefit it might have for both our classes.

Using Skype felt rather like an experiment. But it ended up giving me the best French lesson of my career and is now a routine part of my teaching.

Our first lesson was spent introducing the French pupils to their English counterparts, using numbers and the alphabet (in French and English) to fill out personal details. It was a real light-bulb moment to see the pupils appreciate that learning could take place for a purpose, in front of a real audience. When my pupils performed a puppet show, read books and sang songs in the target language, real French kids applauded - a huge morale boost.

In subsequent lessons, we used cardboard cut-outs of "Pierre" and "Marie" that the French pupils had sent us. We listened to their instructions in French and demonstrated our understanding by dressing the dolls appropriately in differently coloured clothes. Much fun was had by all.

In another videoconference, we were treated to a rendition of Hello, It's Me, an English version of a song they had viewed on our blog called Bonjour, C'est Moi (http://tinyurl.com/bonjourcestmoi). My pupils were full of praise and were amazed at how good the French pupils' English was.

Other highlights have included a truly bilingual Christmas videoconference, in which we performed a medley of Vive Le Vent and Jingle Bells.

We connected once or twice a month and decided to write letters to keep the contact going and to focus on reading some basic English/French. The effect on my pupils was tremendous. Asked what they would like to do as follow-up activities, they were extremely keen to continue to perform for their French counterparts and many have gone on to develop great friendships.

Today, as well as using Skype, I have also discovered a free web-conferencing tool called Flash Meeting (http://flashmeeting.e2bn.net). I regularly use this to connect with language teachers from all over the world.

Suzi Bewell is a primary MFL teacher

What else?

Find out more about Suzi Bewell's videoconferencing project with primary school pupils on her blog:

http://tinyurl.com/frenchblog

In the forums

Read advice on how to make the most of videoconferencing for sixth-form MFL teaching.

Find tips from teachers who have successfully used the technology to contact schools abroad.

For all links and resources visit www.tes.co.uk/resources020.


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