Fun Learning Activities for Modern Foreign Languages

A Complete Toolkit for Ensuring Engagement, Progress and Achievement

By: Jake Hunton


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 240 x 210mm
Pages : 264
ISBN : 9781845908928
Format: Paperback
Published: March 2015

Students learning modern foreign languages often comment that it is just too hard to learn, and remember, all of vocabulary presented to them. Yes, there is a lot of content that needs to be covered, and a lot of vocabulary that needs to be learned. But there is a way of making this process engaging and motivating. Language lessons needn't be full of grammar worksheets, endless drilling and rote learning lists of vocabulary.

Learning languages isn't always fun and games. But these aren't games; they are fun learning activities. And they can help revolutionise language teaching; enabling teachers to authoritatively impart knowledge while fostering a thirst for knowledge and love of learning in their students.

First, the Vocab Fun Learning Activities (VFLAs) – learn the vocabulary in ways which will improve recognition and recall. Then, the Fun Learning Activities – use this vocabulary knowledge to build sentences and paragraphs; explore and use this language while keeping the whole class engaged and actively learning. The activities are designed to encourage all students to participate and learn more through enjoyment.

Based on the author's extensive classroom experience, and underpinned by research into how students learn best, each activity comes complete with a detailed explanation and plenty of ideas for variations, differentiations and extensions. The activities come with example vocabulary lists in French, German and Spanish as a starting point, which are all available for download via a link provided in the book. However, the activities will work effectively in any language and with any vocabulary list of the teacher's choosing, and can be adapted to suit every topic, learning objective and age range.

Discover ready to use activities which will make for outstanding lessons in every class and ensure engagement, motivation, rapport, progress and attainment over time.

Picture for author Jake Hunton

Jake Hunton

Jake Hunton is head of modern foreign languages at Heart of England School in Solihull and believes in combining passionate, engaging and fast-paced teaching with a focus on the highest achievement for all students.

Click here to read Jake's insights on teaching approaches, research and challenging misconceptions in education in his interview with The Learning Scientists.


  1. Fun Learning Activities for Modern Foreign Languages states that it is full of tried and tested techniques and fun learning activities. The author is himself an MFL teacher and uses his own experience to explain the suggested activities. The fact that these ideas come straight from the -˜chalk face' is reassuring to those of us who may not have time to test things out without knowing whether they are successful or not. It is a comprehensive reference guide filled with activities that are ready to use in the classroom. Chapters include one for magic and mini whiteboards, one referred to in the book as VFLAs (Vocab Fun Learning Activities) and one for FLAs (Fun Learning Activities). The book also includes free downloads with examples to support the integration of the activities into lessons.

    The VFL concept is all about introducing language content first, followed by engaging ways for students to practice the language, making vocabulary and short phrases stick. The FLAs are linked to sentence structure and ways to practise paragraph building. Most of the FLAs involve group work and independent language practice. For both types of activity, there is a wide range of detailed examples on how they can be used and how they will benefit the students. Each activity has a summary, information about preparation and resources, variations, and teacher notes with tips on how best to make the activity successful in lessons.

    The activities are described in a clear way; many with little preparation needed. Towards the end of the book there are more detailed examples of using the activities and spaced practice. These examples are clear and concise and show exactly the best way to use the activities.

    The book is an excellent reference guide for new and more experienced teachers alike, in order to maintain enthusiasm and boost confidence in the MFL classroom.
  2. No matter what, somewhere along the line, you'll need worksheets or tests/quiz's to know that your student is understanding  and maintaining vocabulary. These activities in this book help to enrich learning by helping students to RETAIN the knowledge, by making it fun with games like Teacher vs YouTube and Three Amigos and Make the Switch. The vocabulary lists also give you a great starting point for making your own lessons. Each game is its own chapter and included preparation and resources, instructions, variations and notes.  It's a really well put together book and one I can't recommend enough!

    Put together with the previous book, you have a 1-2 punch that REALLY helps you figure out what you as a new foreign language teacher can do to make learning FUN!
  3. With the sharp fall of students in secondary schools opting to study Modern Foreign  languages in Wales and to a lesser extent in England Jake Hunton is to be congratulated on producing  an excellent tool kit at an opportune time.  The author has put together a wide range of Vocal Fun Learning Activities (VFLAs)to improve engagement and participation.  The focus is upon  encouraging pupils to learn vocabulary and practice using it by repeated recall.  The VFLAs will be of considerable benefit for teachers of MFL at primary and secondary level.   The ideas can easily be adapted by teachers working with ESOL students and teachers in Wales working to promote Welsh asa second language.  The key factor is that the activities discussed will improve engagement and promote confidence in the pupils to use the “language” outside of the MFL classroom

    This book certainly gives ideas to enables teachers to gain the skills, strategies and  confidence  to promote more effective learning and use of languages other than their mother tongue..  This book will be a valuable addition to the resource material and framework to improve teaching , learning and achievement  in Modern Foreign Languages and Welsh.  
  4. The first chapter of the book charts the development of the author's personal philosophy with sound and relevant reference to a range of professional literature. Through the account of his learning journey we see where the rationale for the ideas resented originated. Where necessary, he is not afraid to challenge some of the -˜preferred learning styles' and received wisdom which have been prevalent in the MFL classroom for some considerable time! He also links his strategies to the Ofsted framework, showing that the activities in the book will promote the level of pupil engagement which is often found lacking in MFL lessons. He also provides some food for thought about the perhaps misunderstood concept of independent learning and engages with the idea of mastery, i.e. ensuring that learners have sufficient depth of knowledge. This concept of mastery has underpinned changes to the National Curriculum programmes of study including the removal of levels from most subjects, so it could perhaps have been explored in more depth.

    A wide range of VFLAs and FLAs are presented in the book. The definition of these as -˜activities' rather than -˜games' is helpful; the author rightly argues that pupils must be aware that their learning is of more importance than -˜having fun'. The activities are presented in a clearly understandable format with examples and exemplar resources provided. They are simple, doable and highly engaging. The author has thought carefully about the problem with many language activities; i.e. that they involve a few students and allow the rest to be passive. He has -˜tweaked' some familiar activities in such a way as to involve all learners.  He has also thought carefully about how to make group and pair work both purposeful and engaging so that pupils are more likely to stay on task. Some of the activities involve students giving each other feedback; this is an aspect of formative assessment which can often end up a something perfunctory and unfocussed. Feedback activities presented in the book ensure that pupils can work on this in an engaging and meaningful way. 

    This book gets a big thumbs up from me and I would be happy to recommend it. A wealth of ideas to increase enjoyment, engagement and, most importantly, to enhance learning. 

    A great addition to the MFL library. I will put it on the reading list for our students.
  5. This book aims to provide a fresh and engaging approach to language learning. It is full of fun activities, beginning with ideas for learning and reinforcing vocabulary, and moving on to focus on sentence structure and how to encourage learning and participation through enjoyment.
  6. I was excited to receive a review copy of Hunton's book, 'Fun Learning Activities for Modern Foreign Languages', especially, as MFL-specific publications are relatively rare and always a welcome addition to a language teacher's book collection. On opening the book, I particularly liked how Hunton explains his philosophy of teaching in the introduction where he creates a solid pedagogical foundation of his classroom ideology. It is very much linked to the school of active learning and the tasks perfectly mirror this. The huge range of Vocab Fun Learning Activities (VFLAs) and Fun Learning Activities (FLAs) are a fantastic resource especially for practitioners starting out, that will certainly motivate and engage learners and energise the teacher. 

    Hunton's book is packed full of practical ideas. From very energetic ones, such as VFLA The Mexican Crazy Card Wave, to highly competitive ones, such as VFLA Boards, Bells and Textbook Tasks. I can see the book sitting well on the bookshelves of NQTs or recently qualified teachers who can use it to develop their teaching toolkit. It is also a must-have in a departmental or staff library, to be used as a useful toolkit for professional development and the planning of schemes of learning. The real strength of this book is how Hunton demonstrates how many non-MFL specific activities can be adapted to become VFLAs like The Drama Game. This book will enable less experienced teachers to move away from what they may have been shown at university to developing their own activities. 

    The book is well structured, as each VFLA and FLA has a short introduction of where it came from, how it is 'played' and the resources that are needed. In addition Hunton also offers variations to each one of them, which is a real encouragement for the reader to try out and adapt. I put 'played' in inverted commas earlier, as Hunton points out that his VFLAs and FLAs are not games and he is very clear that each of them serves the purpose "to expand students' core body of knowledge". Yet, and that is its strength, every VFLA and FLA is geared towards motivating learners acquiring specific skills.

    The book does not lend itself well to being a coffee-table style book which you can dip in and out of easily, however, you can find real nuggets of advice if you look. Ideas that particularly resonated with my existing practice were FLA Dictation, Dictation, Retranslation and FLA Pull the Switch. To summarise, 'Fun Learning Activities for Modern Foreign Languages' is a great learning book especially for teachers new to the profession and a really useful reference for those a bit longer in the tooth.
  7. Sometimes, pupils just -˜don't see the point' of learning a foreign language, being very self-conscious of making errors in front of their peers and having to accentuate their voice! But many of us grow up wishing we'd given more attention to our language classes when we were at school, feeling foolish that we are stuck with only our English language as we travel to explore the big wide world!

    One of the key challenges for teachers was making their language lessons engaging, fun and helping pupils progress in their foreign language development. But, in his book, Jake Hunton (Head of Spanish at Heart of England School in Solihull) believes in combining passionate, engaging and fast-paced Modern Foreign Language teaching with a focus on the highest of achievement for all students.

    Packed full of practical ideas and activities, this is a book for those wanting to re-invigorate their teaching practice whilst, at the same time, really help pupils progress and achieve in their chosen language/s. Focusing on German, Spanish and French, the book is organised into -˜Vocab Fun Learning Activities' and -˜Fun Learning Activities', all containing a collection of classroom practical ideas suited for the primary or secondary classroom. The ideas are central to this book, and creative teachers of other modern foreign languages could easily adapt the ideas for the language in focus.

    See the full article here:

    The book is also accompanied with a CD-Rom which has supporting materials for some of the activities, along with the fantastic illustrative images, created by Les Evans, which can be used to prompt discussion and help context.

    Jake's philosophy for active-learning shines throughout the book, with many of the games being superficial for the deep-learning that goes on behind them. This is key - and certainly a winner in getting pupils engaged and enjoy foreign language learning. Say goodbye to grammar worksheets, endless drilling and rote learning lists of vocabulary!
  8. This idea-filled 250 page book with accompanying CD Rom has eight chapters:

    1. An introduction explaining the philosophy behind Jake's ideas - how he came to formulate his activities. He explains how, through experience, he evolved sets of activities which engage pupils and allow them to retain much more language than they had with traditional methods he had previously been using. How could he get children to remember more words for the exam? He sees vocabulary knowledge as fundamental to proficiency. He draws on Hattie's Visible Learning research and the theory of spaced practice and introduces the reader to his two key acronyms: VFLAs (Vocabulary Fun Learning Activities) and FLAs (Fun Learning Activities).

    2. In Chapter 2 Jake writes about Magic Whiteboards and mini-whiteboards. The former can be stuck on surfaces around the classroom (walls, windows, cupboards, doors) and allow students to write up model answers for other pupils to see, create mini-classrooms within a classroom, create a "gallery of work in progress" and be a variation on the traditional way of having students hold up their mini-whiteboards to the teacher. Jake uses both types of whiteboards for many of his VFLAs and FLAs.

    3/4.  Jake next introduces and describes his VFLAs. He explains 18 separate activities with intriguing names such Bob-Up Classic, Mexican Wave, Vhispers, Vlotto and Mimey Mimey. He explains that the philosophy behind all the games is that as many pupils as possible are involved and that the teacher should use whatever means possible to show as much language as possible to students. Jake prefers to go beyond single words wherever possible.

    Just to give you one example: in Bob-Up Classic Jake shows a Powerpoint slide with 13 TL sentences relating to personal descriptions; e.g. J'ai les cheveux blonds; J'ai les yeux verts. The class is divided in two with each half having a captain (who gets to wear a football captain's armband). The captain distributes cards with numbers on them, 1-13, one to each pupil on each team. The teacher calls out a number at random and whoever has that number on each team has to "bob up" and say the phrase in TL and translate it into English. The quickest student wins a point for the team. Jake stresses that this is not a frivolous game and that it helps with retrieval of previously learned language beyond the single word level. I can certainly imagine it working well. Jake correctly notes that boys in particular tend to respond well to competitive games.

    The other 17 VFLAs are explained in detail, with variations offered. In Random Random it is easy to show how games based on individual words can generate paragraph length target language. Mexican Wave looks like a noisy and exciting way to start a lesson - the teacher will need, as with other games in the book, to have a good rapport with the class and firm class control. Not all of the games are teacher-centred - Toy Time involves groups of four pupils passing around a soft toy. Verbal Volley is done in pairs and played at speed.

    5. Chapter 5 lists no less than 40 FLAs (Fun Learning Activities, remember?). Some take 10 or 15 minutes, others a whole lesson. Titles include Pic 'n' Mix, The Three Amigos, Walkie-Talkies and Mobile Phun. I'll leave you to imagine how these games might go. Jake explains how he has sometimes adapted his games from others he has seen, sometimes in other subject areas.

    Here is an example: Relay. In this activity a dozen or so numbered English sentences are written on separate pieces of paper. Students form groups of three or four and assign themselves roles: scribe, runner (takes the translation to the teacher) and two researchers (who consult textbooks and dictionaries). The teacher goes to each group, hands them a one of the pieces of paper, says "Go!" and the groups have to race to see who can get the TL translation to you on a mini-whiteboard (you could use rough paper).

    Whilst I have reservations about the reliance on translation in this game (I would normally prefer to keep the lesson in TL as much as possible), I can see how this game would embed language and be motivational. It's simple and effective. Running dictation was a favourite in my own narrow repertoire of games, so I know how competition motivates and gets pupils to work at speed.

    6. Chapter 6 looks a bit more at the benefits of "spaced learning" and offers to examples of how a teacher might plan a sequence of lessons to make the most of spaced practice. Jake is on to something powerful here. A good textbook builds in an element of constant revision, but with the poor timetabling languages often gets these days in schools, regular spaced practice can be hard to achieve. It needs to be planned for.

    7. Chapter 7 lists 10 maxims Jake chooses to follow. They all make good sense. I like this one: talk to the students about why you are doing an activity. "Sell the rationale" to students and be positive. I wonder if teachers do this enough.

    8. Jake briefly shows how VFLAs might be adapted to other subjects and then make some concluding comments.

    I like this book. I would happily try out most of the games. They are adaptable to various age groups and abilities. I would have the book in my departmental library for colleagues - if you don't have such a small library, why not start one? Looking at individual activities would make a good activity for departmental meetings and stimulate teachers to come up with their own ideas. Not all the games will suit every teacher and every group, and, let's face it, you don't have to do games to teach well - good classroom control is a prerequisite, but as lists of games goes, this is a very good one, supported by some sound pedagogical theory.
  9. I have read a lot of books supposedly offering practical advice and ideas to teachers, but I have never come across one devoted to MFL, offering such inspiring activities to bring the languages classroom to life.  Gone are the days of copying lists of vocabulary from the board; this is a practical book for the modern teacher of MFL, who is looking for fresh ideas and ways of developing their classroom practice.

    This book contains inspirational techniques to inspire, motivate and enthuse students into learning a foreign language.  I loved the easy-to-follow instructions and the possible variations to each FLA, which has got me thinking about adapting each one to different classes and different abilities.  I have already started implementing some of the ideas from this book in my everyday teaching and the students love them.
  10. Jake has thought this through effectively and is proposing an engaging resource for teachers and schools. His enthusiasm for languages is more than evident and this is certainly an excellent resource for all MFL teachers. 
  11. A very useful book which provides a wealth of creative ideas to liven up any language lesson. The ideas can be used with a range of different age-groups and can be adapted for use with a wide range of abilities in the MFL classroom. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to any teacher of MFL who is struggling to make lessons more fun and interactive.
  12. This book deals with the big issue - how to help language learners build up a base of vocabulary, which they can recall and use creatively to make the language their own. It contains an excellent range of easily implemented activities together with the thinking behind them, which any MFL teacher could use, adapt and have lots of fun with. A must-have for student and in-service teachers alike.

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