Product reviews for Games for Teaching Primary French

John Connor, Independent Consultant, Modern Languages
The introduction of language teaching into primary schools, while long overdue, has had a difficult start in life and now, after more than ten years, is still a toddler struggling to make its first hesitant steps. The virtual four year moratorium while the coalition government vacillated did nothing to help its development, and some serious issues remain unresolved.

One of these issues is that of confidence among the primary workforce. Many colleagues feel threatened by having to teach a subject which they themselves may have abandoned at the age of 14. How will I cope when my Year 6 pupils know more than I do? I know my accent isn't secure - I'm not giving my pupils the best possible learning experience. Secondary colleagues also feel apprehensive when there is such variability in pupils' exposure to language learning and they have to cope with Year 7 classes of pupils with widely differing experiences.

This publication makes a valuable contribution in this vexed area of teacher confidence. It is a veritable compendium of games. Many are tried and tested - the authors make no secret of this aspect, and this is one of the things by which primary colleagues can be reassured. Nobody expects them to be concert standard performers, yet they teach music. Nobody expects them to be gold medal elite athletes, yet they teach PE. In the same way, the message here must be that nobody expects them to be fluent, confident professional linguists. We are simply grafting a carefully controlled core of language onto what they already do very well - teach primary aged children.

Games for teaching Primary French is a cornucopia of activities for whole classes, small groups and pairs, from energetic team games that require larger spaces to card games that can be played by two pupils in a classroom setting. There is a roll call of old favourites - bingo, battleships, snap, Pelmanism - together with new games and some innovative twists on a few of the hardy annuals. Many of the games, while having an authentic French feel about them, will be recognisable to English children, and this presents teachers with a real opportunity for discussion of the two cultures.

The games are helpfully grouped into the four skill areas of listening, speaking, reading and writing. There is inevitably some overlap, as speaking activities will involve an element of listening. Instructions are clear and easy to follow, along with suggestions for resources. Instructions are also helpfully included in French with a translation, so that a colleague who feels insecure can be supported in introducing as much of the target language as possible. Many of the games require minimal or no preparation. There is an entire section which focuses exclusively on number practice. It is also very gratifying to see sections dedicated to grammar and phonology.

The importance of the phoneme-grapheme relationship cannot be overstated, as it is one of the foundation stones of fluency and the ability to apply accurate pronunciation and intonation to unfamiliar language. It is particularly significant in French, with its array of pronunciation hurdles (e.g. the letter blends é, ais, et, ez and er all produce very similar sounds, and there are many words that finish with non-vocalised letters or blends, e.g. chat, appellent). This section is a very welcome inclusion.

The authors have also tackled grammar head-on, which again is a positive aspect of this work. They use appropriate terminology throughout, and deal effectively with some of the trickier aspects such as conjugation, gender, word order and negatives.

Each game has helpful suggestions as to how levels of challenge might be increased, and this means that it will prove relatively straightforward to evidence progression across a year, or even a key stage, by recording pupils' responses to the games. Playing a game in Year 3 and then playing the same game in Year 6 with much more demanding stimuli and expecting and eliciting much more sophisticated responses should demonstrate how far pupils have come on their language learning journey. Keep that video camera handy!

In summary, this work should be a welcome addition to the resource base of any primary school teaching French. Equally, it should provide a real antidote to -˜Sunday afternoon brain freeze' - Monday morning is looming, and you don't know what you're going to be doing. A quick flick through this admirable resource should leave you buzzing with a wealth of ideas and ready to transmit that enthusiasm to your charges. Can't wait for the Spanish!
Guest | 23/10/2015 01:00
Was this review helpful? Yes No (0/0)