Making Every MFL Lesson Count

Six principles to support modern foreign language teaching

By: James A. Maxwell


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Size: 216 x 135mm
Pages : 192
ISBN : 9781785833960
Format: Paperback
Published: November 2019

James A. Maxwell's Making Every MFL Lesson Count: Six principles to support modern foreign language teaching shows modern foreign languages (MFL) teachers how they can take their students on a learning journey that both educates and inspires.

Writing in the practical, engaging style of the award-winning Making Every Lesson Count, experienced MFL teacher James A. Maxwell empowers educators with the strategies and know-how to boost their students' attainment, engagement and enthusiasm in the MFL classroom.

Making Every MFL Lesson Count is underpinned by six pedagogical principles – challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, feedback and questioning – and helps MFL teachers ensure that students leave their lessons with richer vocabulary, a better grasp of grammar and the skills and confidence to put the language learnt into practice. Bursting with templates, examples and flexible frameworks, this gimmick-free guide provides educators with a range of practical techniques designed to enhance their students' linguistic awareness and help them transfer the target language into long-term memory.

James skilfully marries evidence-based practice with collective experience and, in doing so, inspires a challenging approach to secondary school MFL teaching. Furthermore, he concludes each chapter with a series of questions that will inspire reflective thought and encourage teachers to relate the content to their own classroom practice.

Suitable for MFL teachers of students aged 11–18 years.

Picture for author James A. Maxwell

James A. Maxwell

An MFL teacher with twenty years' classroom experience, James A. Maxwell is principal of Carrickfergus Grammar School and winner of the London German Embassy's 2005 UK German Teacher Award. He has worked with the BBC on the development of their educational resources and has presented at various regional conferences, including on the use of digital media assets in modern languages education.


  1. This is a relevant and useful publication for secondary teachers of MFL. Within the context of the post-Brexit landscape, James Maxwell synthesises research-based evidence on teaching and learning and its  application in the classroom, using personal, collective and online experience. He draws on research from The British Council, The Sutton Trust and work from key authors, trainers and consultants such as Gianfranco Conti, Joe Dale and Steve Smith.

    Maxwell provides practical strategies within a framework of six interrelated pedagogical principles: Challenge, Explanation, Modelling, Practice, Feedback and  Questioning. These underpin theoretical evidence, and each chapter is clearly structured with helpful -˜Reflective Questions' at the end. Maxwell emphasises that -˜Challenge' should be an overarching aim of  classroom culture, teaching strategies, routines, vocabulary, grammar and the language we use to communicate expectations. He advocates the creation of a -˜healthy struggle zone' of meaningful challenge without overburdening the working memory or causing cognitive overload.

    The section on Explanation explores strategies and ideas for introducing vocabulary and grammar, the premise of chunking, the value of phonics and the role of songs and mnemonics as powerful memorisation tools.

    Maxwell describes knowledge organisers as a useful road map, containing key vocabulary, concepts and structures, and explains how they can reduce cognitive load in the Modelling chapter. Retrieval Practice is recommended as one of many valuable revision methods, with Quizlet, Quizizz and Kahoot described as effective Apps for vocabulary practice.

    In the chapter on Feedback, Maxwell suggests techniques for effective and efficient marking, and for closing the learning gap. He also describes the techniques of -˜Mark Smart' using codes, -˜Stop the Bus', self-marking, and the value of making time for reflection and re-drafting in class. I would recommend this publication as an excellent reference book, full of clear, practical tips, examples and ideas to help with planning and delivering effective MFL lessons.
  2. -‹This book like all the others in the series follow the success of Making Every Lesson Count so they present the same principle and are edited by the same team Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby, who have defined the six teaching and learning principles the books implement.

    The aim of the book is to help the teachers encourage students to love learning foreign languages and excel in them. The procedure they propose are: Challenge, Explanation and Modelling, Practice, Questioning and Feedback. This approach is reflected in the division of the book into chapters and their structure. In a nutshell challenges looks at how to help students aim high, explanation helps acquire new knowledge and skills, modelling shows how to apply this new knowledge and skills, questioning offers an opportunity to think hard, deep and accurately, and finally in feedback students think about ways of further developing their knowledge and skills.

    Each chapter presents a rationale for example the rationale of challenge referring to various aspects of language teaching and learning, with concrete examples of classroom practice. The book in question focuses mainly on secondary school contexts and would be of interest to teachers who teach any modern language. EFL/ELT teachers will definitely be inspired by this book, much more than by the other titles in this series.
  3. MFL teachers, and teachers of Welsh as a second language within English medium schools, will gain many outstanding ideas from this book - in particular on challenge, explanation, retrieval practice and models of excellence in language use.

    Teachers will find the discussions on teaching implicit routines, developing core vocabulary, use of songs and role play consistent with current effective practice. The structure of the book meets the needs of language teachers, and the sections on reflective questioning at the end of each chapter are very beneficial too.-‹

    Making Every MFL Lesson Count is a welcome addition to the literature on language teaching to promote the engagement and aspirations of learners learning a target language. -‹
  4. Making Every MFL Lesson Count is a thoroughly enjoyable read. It is honest, informative, rooted in research and shares ideas that are applicable to everyday MFL lessons.
  5. When I heard that there was an MFL edition in the Making Every Lesson Count series, I was really excited - and upon reading it I was really pleased to see that James has stayed true to the format of the original book, while acknowledging that MFL teaching and learning varies from that of other subjects in a number of ways.

    The mini case studies really help to set the scene at the start of each chapter, and the reflective questions are not only useful for personal reflection but also serve as helpful prompts for departmental meetings and development planning. What is also pleasing is the healthy balance that James has struck between references to research and his offering of a range of strategies that can be applied and adapted in the classroom. James also takes care to acknowledge the difficulties educators face in MFL teaching, such as time constraints, and factors these into his suggestions.

    Making Every MFL Lesson Count will be useful for any MFL teacher; I'll most definitely be recommending it to my colleagues. I'm certain it will shape my thinking when it comes to my planning, both of the curriculum and my individual lessons. 
  6. Making Every MFL Lesson Count is a timely resource for MFL teachers and heads of department. Timely, as it is based on the belief that languages are increasingly important in order to maintain positive attitudes and behaviours across our global society, but also because it is rooted in some of the latest research on what works in the classroom - particularly in terms of pedagogy and cognitive science, with particular links to memory. The balance between theory and practice is great and this, in my opinion, makes Maxwell's work an essential read.

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