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ALF by Steve Glover (1)

ALF stands for A-level French. It's Steve Glover's site which contains a wealth of top quality resources to support AS and A2 level French teachers and students. Resources can be accessed directly online or can be ordered on CDs. Steve will even accept commissions for specific resources from busy teachers.

I took a careful look at one unit of his A*ttitudes AS level resources (la santé) and one of his sets of resources on a French film, Truffaut's La nuit américaine. In this review I'll focus on the AS material.

The unit on health comprises a good range of tasks, including some Taskmagic 3 games. To start with there is a partial vocab list which students can supplement. This is reinforced with some Taskmagic games. Then there is a lengthy text with pictures on various aspects of healthy living. Verbs are left in the infinitive and have to be put into the present tense, a worthwhile task at AS level, as many students are still insecure with the present tense. This text is supported with further Taskmagic activities. A Listothèque provides themed vocabulary which students can use to build utterances and ideas on various health-related issues. There then follows a range of grammatical exercises covering imperatives, possessive adjectives, imperfect + conditional and direct object pronouns. All the exercises are well-conceived and at the right level.
To develop listening skill there are two MP3 recordings and a video clip from the INA. The latter is from French TV news and is both interesting and quite challenging for this level, certainly faster and more dense than students will here in an examination situation. I like this - some other published materials are too easy. There is then a range of reading comprehension tasks, similar to those encountered in examinations - again, at the right level and well put together.

The essay planning material is very useful, though I did note that the language level was quite advanced for AS. It looked a little like A2 level, so might suit the more able AS student.

Steve provides three very useful model essays which press all the right exam buttons. Some might argue that they are on the short side to access the top content marks in the AQA's controversial mark schemes which favour content over written range and accuracy.

The A*ttitudes AS package comes with a teacher's scheme of work and an individual learning plan for students.

Conclusions? A-level resources I have seen in recent years have been lacking in imagination and too tailored to exam board specifications, but overall I liked this set of resources and much preferred them to the offering from Nelson-Thornes I used at my school. Steve lets you download them, adapt them, use them in any form in perpetuity. There is enough material in a unit to cover all your needs. If I were being critical I would say that, in this particular unit, there was room for more imaginative "fun" or information gap activity, but the teacher could easily add their own ideas to an already quite complete package. The language is accurate, interesting and Steve (with the help of Nathalie, his native speaker collaborator and proof reader) brings his teaching experience and knowledge of all the exam boards to bear. The material should stand the test of time and the exercise styles are familiar and effective, providing a good mix of target language input and oral, structural and lexical practice.

The whole course of 12 units costs £250 and I would say this is very good value, especially when you consider the price of a flimsy A-level text book with its accompanying online resources which need paying for annually. Teachers may prefer to buy individual units which cost £25 or £30 each, depending on the format chosen. Buyers benefit from the fact that they are not paying a publisher's overheads. There are versions for VLEs and Moodle too. If you wish to use the Taskmagic games this adds a significant extra (though one-off) cost.

Steve will let you try out his materials and you can contact him by mail or phone.


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What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’( The point i…

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…