What I wish I'd known about MFL teaching when I was training...

Author: Rebecca Nobes
Published: 23/09/2019

Language Text Books

Having just finished my fifth year of teaching and reflecting on what has changed in that time, here is my list of things I wish I’d known when I began…

Simplify your lesson planning 

You don’t need a PowerPoint for everything, and it certainly doesn’t need whizzy animations and transitions. Once upon a time it seemed like the PowerPoint was everything – if you didn’t have a PowerPoint, had you even planned a lesson?! But this isn’t the case! Just include the essentials on a fairly plan template. It doesn’t even need to look pretty.

Think twice about laminating 

It’s all too easy to spend many an evening laminating sheets and games that you think you’re going to re-use loads. You’ll never get back all of those hours you spend in front of the laminator (not to mention the environmental waste…).

Consider the impact on learning 

Think about the impact of what you’re doing. If it’s going to take a huge amount of time and effort then it ought to be having an equally huge impact on learning. If it’s not then re-think.

Don't reinvent the wheel

You don’t need to religiously follow the textbook but equally you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There is a balance between following a textbook and having to come up with the most creative and engaging lessons ever. Realising this will save you quite some time. 


There’s no need to splash the cash on school-related stuff. There will be great displays, resources and online subscriptions but you don’t need to fork out for all of these yourself. Discuss with your department and other trainees about what you could share.

Be yourself 

It’s absolutely fine to have a different approach to another teacher. You don’t have the same sort of lessons as the NQT down the corridor who seems to be having some sort of party (whilst having total control of the class and being adored by staff and students alike). Who cares? Different teaching styles can be just as successful as each other in their own way. You do you.

Practice makes perfect

Worry less about fun and engaging activities. You’ll spend too much time trying to work out a fun way of teaching certain concepts when the class would get it so much quicker if you just explain it and then give them time to practice. There are some great, fun activities out there designed to help students practice language, but you don’t need to pack your lessons full of them.

Use vocab 

Focus less on teaching lists of vocabulary and get students using them. PowerPoints with slide after slide of pictures to introduce lots of lists of nouns are all well and good but then you won’t spend enough time actually supporting students to use those nouns in a more useful way.

Be open 

Remember to keep your eyes and ears open to ideas from all sources, no one person will be right about everything (even if they do have loads of followers on twitter!). Be open to new ideas and critical of what you are told.

Think of new ways to give feedback 

Giving feedback doesn’t mean marking a book to within an inch of its life with multiple colours, stamps and stickers. There are easier ways.

Join the Twitterati 

Get yourself onto twitter. There is loads out there for language teachers! Start by looking at #MFLTwitterati and following some of the people who are tweeting there. Then follow @MFLChat and join the chats on Mondays at 8.30pm.

Think about what works for you

Finally, and ironically considering the article you’re reading, you’re going to be bombarded with advice from all angles. Know when to listen and take on board what suits you. You can’t do it all!  

Rebecca Nobes

Rebecca Nobes is Head of Spanish, and recently achieved Chartered Teacher Status. She is a passionate advocate of the Chartered College of Teaching, enjoys attending events such as ResearchEd and occasionally speaking at them, and is also involved with her local branch of the Association for Language Learning.