Sunday, 3 December 2017

Starters with impact for GCSE

Starters with impact

We’ve just had our mocks, and we’ve got a long list of things to address on top of the content which we need to finish.  We are not going to magic extra time out of the ether, so that means that every activity we do in class needs to have maximum impact.  There are 2 main ways for this to happen:

1.  The activity combines language skills with heightening awareness of exam formats or requirements.

2.  By doing activities that emphasize key structures and start the process of memorising and internalising key structures and language.  

In many senses, I have been doing this already, but sharpening this up is beginning to make a difference.  What I’m going to look at in my next few blogs are some examples of strategies I’m using in class.


These play such a crucial role.  Here are some favourites of mine.

“5 a day”

Whilst stood at the photocopier, a couple of weeks ago, I had a bad case of worksheet envy.  I was admiring a starter sheet from maths, taken from this website “5 a day”.  The teacher said it was great for highlighting misconceptions.  Now I’m not going to have time to do something for every day, but here is one I made for my foundation French group:


2 photos – match the sentences to the card.  Once you’ve gone through it, give them 30 seconds to memorise, then show a version with key structures blanked out.  Get them to write them again on their mini-whiteboards.

2 photos – 2 descriptions.  Match the photo to the description, then similar process to before.  This allows you to model a full answer for the speaking photo card.

Summary questions

We call our bank of speaking questions for each topic “summary questions” so that the students don’t just think of these as questions just for the speaking exam.  We have a real task on our hands getting them to learn them, so we’ve started giving them a couple of key questions a week.  We also desperately need them to practise writing to a bullet point, and for them to see the connection between the summary questions and the writing exam.  They also need practice in understanding what is required of the bullet point.

We give them 2 questions to learn, but instead of always testing as a peer assessment, we sometimes put them as writing bullet points on the board and give them 10 minutes to answer one of the bullet points.

Here’s an example:

 Qu’est-ce que tu fais pendant ton temps libre?

is transformed to the bullet point

  • vos passe-temps préférés
My students have found this useful, and it seems to be helping them to make the links between their learning and the exam.

I’m still using my lollipop sticks starter, which I talked about here, but I now follow it up with a grid in the past, present and future that is similar to grids seen in the reading exam specimens, which I get them to fill in, either with or without prompts.


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