Independent Thinking on MFL

How to make modern foreign language teaching exciting, inclusive and relevant

By: Crista Hazell


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Size: 198 x 126mm
Pages : 256
ISBN : 9781781353370
Format: Paperback
Published: March 2020

Crista Hazell's Independent Thinking on MFL: How to make modern foreign language teaching exciting, inclusive and relevant takes teachers on a tour of how to get the teaching of a new language right.

Foreword by Ian Gilbert.

Learning a new language has the power to transform a life, as well as help break down the barriers that seem to be re-emerging between nations, cultures and people.

In the UK, MFL teaching has always had to battle with the everyone speaks English' argument, not to mention that, for so many, all that remains of their years learning a foreign language is bitte, por favor or s'il vous plait.

But with teachers like Independent Thinking Associate Crista Hazell at the front of the class, things can be very different.

Drawing on her many years of experience as an MFL teacher and head of department, Crista shares tips, techniques and inspirational ideas geared to help teachers build confidence, increase enjoyment and improve outcomes as they take their MFL teaching to a whole new level.

Crista provides a range of strategies – from how to hook students in the minute they enter the classroom to ensuring that the vocabulary sticks – designed to help learners develop confidence, take risks and enjoy the challenge that learning a new language brings. She also offers ideas and advice on how to make learning new vocabulary and grammar a great deal more effective – and empowers teachers to open up the benefits and enjoyment of learning a language to all students, not just those in the top sets.

Ultimately, however, her book sets out to help teachers create engaging, relevant and memorable learning experiences in the MFL classroom and encourage their learners to become lifelong and passionate linguists.

For MFL teachers and heads of languages departments in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges.

Independent Thinking on MFL has been shortlisted for the
Educational Book Award in the 2021 Education Resources Awards!

Picture for author Crista Hazell

Crista Hazell

Crista Hazell is an Independent Thinking Associate and MFL specialist with many years' experience both in the classroom and in positions of leadership. She has worked across the UK and internationally ' in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East ' with students, teachers and school leaders in developing teaching, learning, relationships and behaviour.


  1. I read the book cover to cover and am raving about it to everybody I know in the world of MFL. It is relatable, passionate, inspiring and full of great ideas and wisdom for teachers at all stages. I could relate to all of it after 23 years teaching languages.

  2. This book provides a timely and important addition to the debate around how to make language learning meaningful and engaging for our diverse learners in our multilingual and multicultural classrooms. The book places the learner at the centre of learning by emphasising the need to get to know our pupils, their passions, their talents and their needs. The set-up of the book allows the reader to read it front to back, dive into a selected chapter or search for advice on a particular issue and apply the ideas directly within the classroom the next day.-¯ 

    Whilst set within a UK context, Crista's book offers a thought-provoking and refreshing insight into the contemporary languages classroom, featuring lots and lots of useful advice, strategies and resources which are directly applicable to the classroom for teachers both in this country and abroad. The book convinces not only through the wealth of ideas and insights shared on a broad range of topics, but also through its accessible and relatable style. Crista's wealth of experience, passion for teaching and sincere concern for learners and teacher colleagues alike shines through the pages. Teacher trainees and early career  professionals will find step-by-step guidance to support them as they develop their teaching, whilst more experienced teachers will discover new tools to further enhance their teaching.

    The book provides teachers and teacher trainees with lots of practical ideas and tips to implement right away in their classrooms. The examples of activities and authentic resources have been carefully chosen for their pedagogical value to engage and motivate pupils, to maximise their learning and to nurture their creativity. A book that informs and excites, is easily accessible and makes you want to roll up your sleeves and try out Crista's strategies and activities right away. 

    The book is cost-effective because it offers advice, strategies and tools on such a broad range of topics that are pertinent not only to the languages classroom but also the wider teaching profession. It is possible to dip in and out and reread chapters, which makes it invaluable for all teachers, even beyond the languages department. At a time when schools can often not afford external continuing professional development (CPD) sessions or guest speakers, this book enables teachers to gain new knowledge, find support and advice for their classroom practice from a sympathetic and friendly expert. In times of COVID-19, it would be invaluable to be able to access the book as an ebook for ITE providers and schools alike.
  3. In Independent Thinking on MFL Crista Hazell addresses a large collection of topics that teachers need to be aware of when teaching in order to meet learners' needs and develop effective teaching practice.

    She stresses the power of student voice as an important element of raising learners' motivation and engagement. I have already implemented one of the techniques, exit tickets, into my own practice and it has proven to be extremely useful.

    As a head teacher I often observe lessons. After each observation I run an evaluation discussion with the teacher. However, to gain a more balanced picture I often lacked student feedback, so I tried to exchange a few words with some of them after the lesson. Usually, and not surprisingly, the most loquacious and academically successful learners shared their feedback, whereas those whose feedback was most needed silently slipped through the door. 

    Using the exit tickets technique, I managed to introduce a coherent structure to collecting feedback from every student in the classroom. As Crista Hazell points out, it is important to prepare students in advance, so in the beginning of a lesson students are introduced with the goal, purpose and timing. They are encouraged to share their sincere thoughts, opinions and experience. 

    The technique stimulates students to raise their learning awareness, and empowers them to verbalise their learning experience and provide suggestions to the teacher. When their comments are considered seriously, ownership of learning is strongly supported. Moreover, exit tickets reveal the meta language students have already acquired. 

    Last but not least, the technique can easily be implemented in distance learning, too. Students can give their feedback via email or some other interactive form, and the teacher can then discuss the feedback either with the whole class, in small groups or individually using web conferencing systems such as Zoom and Teams. Exit tickets is one of many genuinely simple and at the same time useful techniques and strategies presented in Crista's book, which I can recommend as being highly useful in supporting quality teaching and learning.

    The book should not be in school libraries, but on teachers' desks. 
  4. Crista's book arrived on the eve of the first lockdown during the 2020 outbreak of the coronavirus. With schools closing and my whole business at risk, I had to adapt quickly to the new challenges of delivering language lessons online. Her book was a lifeline, instilling confidence and reminding me of my passion for teaching languages.

    I was particularly interested in the chapter regarding oracy skills. I had always stressed correct pronunciation and taken time to encourage reading and writing; as the opportunity arose, I would address it, but I had never actually taught a lesson on how to do it. So Crista's idea of actually decoding a language through phonics, giving the children clues and teaching them how to look for patterns to develop their ability to match sounds and letters, really resonated with me. I encouraged the children to keep a log of sounds, we created an emoji to help them remember and they started to collect words with the same pattern - for example, -˜oi' in French was easy to spot in noir, trois and moi, but the sense of achievement they experienced when they were able to read oiseau was exhilarating. They really do see it as code-breaking or like a jigsaw - and, rather than me just telling them how to pronounce or spell, they are now able to do it for themselves.

    Appreciating if a child is engaged online is quite different to teaching face-to-face. Daily I am met with a sea of blank faces as they concentrate on how to interact and participate. Crista's idea of introducing tongue-twisters has provided a fun and engaging task. Setting a challenge, they have competed and timed each other in break-out rooms and been enthusiastic to share their achievements. More importantly, tongue twisters have highlighted for them the need to open their mouths and project their voices when speaking in the target language - skills they will be able to transfer easily at secondary school level. 

    Her chapter on content and language integrated learning (CLIL) also forced me to think of ways to inspire and engage the children. The topic on everyone's lips seemed a dreary one to introduce, but linking COVID-19 to what we should and shouldn't do to keep safe as well as the appreciation of surrounding nature and the environment really appealed. Suddenly I was forced to step outside of my usual -˜safe' and trusted topics used for years in schools and pick topics that were relevant to them.

    Before lockdown, I had established links with several local primaries where I was delivering language lessons to the whole of Key Stage 2. Part of the arrangement was also to upskill the staff. In preparation for the new national curriculum in Wales, I aimed to share knowledge and instil confidence so that non-specialist teachers will be able to deliver the target language themselves. Crista's chapter on MFL in primary and the importance of establishing links and a strong rapport with local secondary schools to assist with transition is something I feel strongly about - and, in keeping with her advice and guidance, I will continue to do this on my return. 

    Finally, as an independent language teacher, CPD takes motivation and initiative. Crista's comprehensive glossary of contacts and resources has provided me with further guidance, support and inspiration. 
  5. After months of remote teaching during lockdown, I was desperate for a resource that would reignite my spark for MFL teaching. Crista Hazell's book definitely did that. Her book covers all the areas that are crucial to successful and engaging MFL teaching: building relationships with students, the importance of teaching phonics, how oracy works in an MFL class, and how to turn the dreaded assessment into fun activities.  

    Since being back in the classroom, I have included a few of Crista's activities that have become -˜regulars' in all of the levels that I teach. My students are particularly fond of -˜two truths and one lie', -˜une minute', which I include in my settling-down routine at the beginning of my class, and -˜ch-ch-check it out', which is very useful when preparing for the directed writing part in the Scottish Higher exam. 

    Another aspect that makes Crista's book unique is the fact that she tackles very practical matters of MFL teaching, such as how to make use of the MFL assistant and classroom assistant. From experience, including an MFL assistant or classroom assistant can be difficult due to time constraints, diverging expectations and teaching styles. Crista's practical tips help to deal with those issues by offering concrete examples as to how to involve them in the MFL class.  

    The chapter dealing with budget constraints in the MFL class is really helpful, too. Crista offers very practical tips to make MFL teaching fun and engaging on a limited budget. She also lists a number of handy online resources for further ideas on this topic.

    Overall, I find that the title is apt: Crista's book offers a variety of stimulating tasks that will hook MFL learners, it shows how to include a broad spectrum of learners, and, lastly, tackles topical issues that all MFL teachers have to deal with.
  6. I have recently concluded my MA dissertation and I cited Crista's work in my thesis, as I feel it is one of the best books out there on MFL. The pedagogical aspects discussed in the book are clearly inherent and substantially important in foreign language teaching, and I thoroughly agreed with and loved the following statement, to the extent that I cited in my thesis: -˜I believe that if a student can speak it, they can write it, especially with the strong foundation of phonics.'

    The book takes into account innovative aspects of teaching languages as well as resuming basic consolidated ideas that have always worked well within the learning environment. It is a great learning tool for trainees, NQTs and RQTs, because it gives a series of practical activities that can be adopted to increase confidence. 

    Crista's writing style is extremely interesting and empathic, because Crista not only analyses the challenges and benefits of learning a foreign language through an explanation of effective techniques or previous theories, but throughout the book she always relates her own experience as a student and a teacher, which gives the book a lively and passionate narrative, that engages the reader not only in a pedagogical and
    impersonal sense, but also in a more tactile way with subjective perception.-¯

    The impacts within the learning environment that the book gives are many, and upon an examination of the contents, all the four skills involved in learning languages are clearly subdivided to avoid confusion.-¯I believe this to be a great strength as it enables a constant revision to aid an immediate solution of what is being searched. Each section is very well structured and logical - for example, in Chapter 3, on oracy, before moving to the activities used in the classroom, it explains the prior skills involved - such as decoding and phonics - and only after this explanation or the learner's acquisition does she then move to speaking.

    Each chapter is current and involves not only aspects of learning itself, but also a wider perception of teaching languages in schools, such as the CLIL, the effective use of TAs or FLAs, and tips and advice on-¯how to integrate novice teachers-¯in schools and support them on their learning journeys to becoming exceptional MFL teachers.

    The subtitle-¯How to make modern foreign language teaching exciting, inclusive and relevant-¯supports teachers' everyday life and work as the book includes tips, strategies, methods and activities which were successfully used by Crista in the classroom.

    The cost-effectiveness in terms of educational aims and results are various, as many of the activities require little preparation prep - and, as we are all extremely busy teachers, providing-¯us with a bank of them-¯is always extremely welcome. Thank you.

    The price itself is ridiculously good - not even '£10 for almost 250 pages - and to be honest I pre-ordered it a good six months before its first release. I have found each of the Independent Thinking On -¦ series titles useful and I love collecting and reading books involved in education.
  7. I can vouch that Independent Thinking on MFL: How to make modern foreign language teaching exciting, inclusive and relevant does exactly what Crista promises in her book's title. It has been a great read during lockdown and has inspired our department with so many engaging and practical ideas for the classroom. Since we have been back at school, we have been working our way through the many relevant and clear-¯strategies to hook and engage learners into their language learning journey after so long out of school and language lessons. I would recommend this book to anyone, from-¯MFL trainee teachers who need some insights of what should their-¯focus be in the classroom to experienced MFL teachers - some of whom might want to be reenergised and inspired with some innovative and practical ideas to work through at their own pace and in their own time to make a real difference.
  8. It's clear that this inspiring book builds on Crista's very rich experience of teaching languages and her wonderfully open-minded approach to what makes linguistic diversity so exciting. Crista shares her ideas really effectively, and I hope teachers will pursue them enthusiastically. 
  9. The aim of this book is to make modern foreign languages exciting, inclusive and relevant. The author has been a teacher and a head of department for many years, and here she shares her tips and inspirational ideas. She goes through productive language skills, revision, assessment and testing, and creativity through drama, music, art and film, as well other related topics. The ideas in Independent Thinking on MFL refer to teaching any modern language, so teachers who teach English as a foreign language could benefit from this book by getting a wider perspective on language teaching in general.
  10. Expertly and effectively written, organized and presented, Independent Thinking on MFL is an ideal textbook and instructional reference for use by MFL teachers and heads of languages departments in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges.

    We very highly recommend it as an essential addition to school district, college, and university library language instruction collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists.
  11. Expertly and effectively written, organized and presented, Independent Thinking on MFL is an ideal instructional reference book for use by MFL teachers and heads of languages departments in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges. We very highly recommend it as an essential and core addition to school district, college, and university library language instruction collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists.
  12. In this book Crista draws on her own personal experience as a language teacher and presents both those new to the profession and the experienced language teacher with a wealth of ideas, founded on sound principles of language teaching and learning. Crista examines the place of languages in the curriculum and ways in which we, as teachers, can ensure that language learning is a positive experience for students. Her passion for inspiring students to learn an international language is reflected in one of the many messages she gives in her book: “I believe that all learners can achieve in MFL, if given the opportunity and the right classroom climate.” For recently qualified teachers Crista's book contains comprehensive ideas on not just the teaching of the four skills, but also behaviour management, relationships and approaches to assessment amongst many other areas. In the penultimate chapter she offers some very down-to-earth information for trainees, NQTs and RQTs, which could equally be used as a checklist for mentors to promote discussion or to support their mentees. There is a lot of very sound advice given as well as practical suggestions for activities for the various skills we teach our students, as well as songs and films to engage learners and approaches to manage students' transition from the primary to the secondary phase. Whether considering creativity, revision or tips to improve reading skills in the classroom, Crista's book offers a range of ideas, which are practical and achievable. I particularly found the chapter about working with teaching assistants and students with additional needs very thought provoking. There are very many suggestions in this chapter, which would provide excellent discussion points between the two departments.

    Crista's book is inspiring. As an experienced teacher you can see the relevance of the message Crista communicates throughout her book, but equally it evokes reflection in the reader to examine their own practice. It will prove to be invaluable for those new to the profession, but equally it is a resource every teacher can return to when considering new approaches to supporting students with their learning. And as my ALL colleague Professor Anna Lise Gordon says in her review: “Any book with a chapter entitled -˜The awesome power of lucky socks' is bound to catch a teacher's eye.”
  13. I learned a great deal from Independent Thinking on MFL, as well as enjoying it greatly. It makes the case for MFL in a powerful and accessible way, as well as providing what looks to me (as someone outside the school/college sector) like such expert, thoughtful, and imaginative advice. It also gave me some ideas for how to improve lobbying for languages.
  14. One admiral key characteristic among the MFL teachers I have come across is their absolute dedication and passion about the languages they teach. This is even more admirable when you consider the common lack of enthusiasm encountered by society as a whole when it comes to venturing beyond the native English language. The challenge, when teaching MFL subjects, is to keep young learners enthused, engaged and eager to expand the repertoire that can open fantastic career and travelling opportunities to them in the future.

    In her book, Crista Hazell sets out to hook pupils from the start, sharing reasons why MFL colleagues absolutely love doing the job they undertake. However, as with many subjects, students will place obstacles in front of the teaching and learning as they may not find language learning a priority - an issue which the book explores offering counter-arguments against.

    In a key chapter exploring language skills and oracy, Crista highlights the four strands of oracy (physical, linguistic, cognitive and social & economic), that underpins every idea, resource and activity that follows through the rest of the book. The book includes 8 activities that support questions, and then 50 fantastic activities that help develop written work. Additionally, reading and listening skills (which are key elements of the MFL assessments) are given their due attention with the book offering great ideas to help students develop.

    Getting creative with your teaching and the learning of languages is also crucial, and 30 revision strategies are shared that creatively support the preparation of such key points in the school year. The book concludes in more a reflective nature, exploring why MFL is still a subject worth teaching, along with information aimed at newly, or recently qualified teachers. Additional resources and links are also shared towards the end of the book.

    This is a great book for teachers of MFL, or those starting out on their MFL teaching career, or for those in secondary schools who enjoy MFL filled with practical ideas and suggestions.
  15. -‹Any book with a chapter entitled -˜The awesome power of lucky socks' is bound to catch a teacher's eye. In Independent Thinking on MFL Crista draws on a wealth of personal experience and combines it with overwhelming positivity, a clear sense of purpose and lots of common sense. The book is bursting with ideas and practical suggestions for MFL teachers - and will make a great addition to the bookshelf for new and experienced teachers alike!
  16. Independent Thinking on MFL is a superb, practical and eminently sensible book which straddles lots of current dichotomies. It draws on both traditional and progressive approaches, is equally rooted in research and in practice, advocates the centrality of knowledge while highlighting the need to develop skills and wider learning, and is as much child-centred as it is subject-centred. It really is a book for anyone interested in teaching international languages and offers much to those simply interested in learning.

    Crista Hazell has pulled off quite a coup with this book. It is a manifesto for modern languages, a really useful handbook full of advice, hints, tips and techniques, and an insight into relevant research and support - all wrapped in a warm, personal and engaging style. -‹
  17. If you think this book is simply about how to teach modern foreign languages, then you are in for a very pleasant surprise - as this is a practical guide with bells on!

    Crista takes you on an inspirational journey that not only offers advice and guidance for the MFL classroom teacher but also shows how important a teacher's -˜method' is to their craft. Using a values-driven approach, and drawing on years of experience, she is able to take you on a voyage with practical advice, techniques and a whole load of thinking and reflection.

    This is a book about great teaching for teachers of all children, no matter what your specialism or phase is. Read it, use it and allow it to make a difference to the way you think and the way you work.
  18. -‹Crista's work is well known and recognised within the language teaching community, so to see her crystallise her ideas into Independent Thinking on MFL is a very welcome sight. She brings to the book a wealth of classroom experience and an unsurpassed depth of background reading and knowledge, which is well communicated throughout.

    -‹ -‹The various components of language teaching pedagogy and methodology are broken down into smaller pieces, complete with in-depth analyses of the issues and barriers to learning. Crista then proposes a wealth of strategies to address these issues - all rooted in classroom practice, and many of which require little in the way of burdensome preparation.

    -‹ -‹There is a thread running throughout the book which reinforces the notion that language is a gateway to the culture of the country whose language is being studied. This is further emphasised in a welcome section on creativity, which examines the roles played by art, music and film in the language learning process.

    -‹ -‹Crista also shares some down-to-earth practical advice on working with other contributors to the learning experience, such as teaching assistants and foreign language assistants, and a consideration of how to approach teaching languages to pupils with special educational needs or disabilities.

    -‹ -‹One of the challenges that language teachers continually face is defending the worth of their subject in the face of stiff competition from other subjects. Very often the perception is that languages are hard and of limited use (-˜I'm never going to France, so why am I learning French?'), but Crista tackles this head-on and gives a very useful analysis of the problem, along with strategies to address it.

    -‹ In summary, Independent Thinking on MFL will be a welcome addition to the CPD library of any MFL department. It is very accessible, and reading it is like having a conversation with Crista. Her personality, dedication to the task and enthusiasm shine through the text. I found myself repeatedly nodding in agreement. As an NQT I would have found the book invaluable, and I'm sure that current and future cohorts of new entrants to the profession will find it of immense support as a vade mecum through the trials and tribulations of the best job in the world - teaching languages.
  19. From the positivity, encouragement and warmth of the introduction to the myriad of immediately usable practical ideas, Independent Thinking on MFL is the book I would love to have had when I began my teaching journey.

    It is so easy to dip in to, and the words -˜safe, respectful and supportive' which Crista uses to describe the ideal classroom climate could encapsulate how the reader is likely to feel while reading it: safe, respected and supported.

    Faced with the challenges of constantly changing governmental decisions, timetabling cuts and now acknowledged harsh marking at GCSE, life as an MFL teacher can seem tough at times. In this book, however, Crista calms and reassures us by sharing her empathetic, practical and encouraging approach.

    Whether you are an NQT or a more experienced MFL teacher, the encouragement and practical ideas contained within this book will ignite, or reignite, your passion for the increasingly essential job of teaching modern foreign languages. -‹

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