Sunday, 1 October 2017

Spirals and Waves (updated)

Nearly four years ago I blogged about Festisite, a very useful site that you can use to make word spirals and waves.  Since then, the settings of the site have changed a little, and more shapes have been added.

The options are now listed down the right hand side, and you can see a preview of the eventual output.

To generate the PDF, you now have to click on the "Printable Document" button.  I still recommend selecting a large-size font (I use 26 or 28) and A3 paper in order to generate a large image that will be good quality when you crop and shrink it.  The Preview button speaks for itself, while the Download button will generate the PDF for you.

You can see an example of a spiral above.  Can you find the Spanish numbers 0-15 in it ?  This particular one can be differentiated for lower ability by taking out the extra letters that are not part of the numbers.  The spirals can be used in other ways as well.  For example: how many of each Spanish number 1 to 6 can you see in this spiral ?

The spiral generator will also make egg-shaped spirals:

I like to use the wave setting to make word snakes, like this one:
as well as to make "wavy paragraphs" in which to find words or phrases.

The Valentine setting puts your words around a heart.  This is useful for anything to do with opinions.  For example: Which fruits does this person like?

So have a go with Festisite and see what you can make!

Friday, 29 September 2017


At the moment, with my Year 5 Spaniards, I am doing big numbers and money.  We've been focusing on amounts of Euros, for obvious reasons, but the children are very interested in pesetas.  I've told them how I always remember the difference between cien and ciento by thinking of the 100 peseta coin, which had "cien pesetas" written on it:

I said I would have a look at home to see if I still had any pesetas to show them.  I found four 25 peseta pieces and two 5 peseta pieces (and a whole set of French francs, some Dutch guilders and some South African rand).

The peseta coins that I have turn out to be very useful on a cultural as well as a historical level.  I've scanned them on both sides and magnified them a lot so that the children will be able to examine them next lesson.  Here they are, in case you would like to use them.  Each vertical pair is one coin.  Can you work out the cultural references on each coin?

I don't teach French at the moment and so the French francs are not of use to me, but if you would like to use them, here they are:

Monday, 18 September 2017

Spicy Phonics

Two weeks ago I started teaching in a new school.  Well, not brand new, but new to me.  And I started teaching Spanish there, so now I am teaching Spanish in both my schools and no French anymore.  My Year 6s there have already done three years of French, and I have a year in which to get them to substantial progress in Spanish.  So I am having to come up with ways to move them on quickly.

The first thing we are doing is a big push on phonics, starting with ñ, silent h, ll and accented vowels.  I have started with these sounds because we met them in the first words of the first Spanish lesson - español, hola, me llamo and adiós.

Like me, you may have come across Takeaway Homework.  Indeed my Y10 daughter brought home her first one last week, for English.  It gave me the idea for this phonics activity, where the words all contain the relevant phonemes, but are graded according to their length and relative difficulty.  Therefore the children can choose whichever number of chili peppers they want, whichever one they feel comfortable with, to read aloud to practise the phonemes.  Whichever one they choose, they are still practising the sounds.  It also means I can use the same resource with Year 3 all the way through to Year 6.  Less printing and less laminating, and we can always revisit it.

So we are doing the above one first and will then be using this one once we have learned the numbers 1 to 10:

If you'd like to use them yourself, you can download them from here.  They will be equally useful for Key Stage 3 beginners, I'm sure!

Can you think of any other activities that could be made "spicy" in this way?

Sunday, 23 July 2017

130 Activities for the Languages Classroom

A week ago I finished and published this resource.  It was inspired by a teacher on the Secondary MFL Matters Facebook group who had been asking if there was a list of activities anywhere, and by other colleagues who have been saying for a while "You should write a book!"

All the activities listed and described are ones that I have used in the classroom or blogged about or both.  It was originally going to be called "150 Activities.." based on my original list, but the list was reduced when I saw that some activities could be put together.

Each activity has a key to show which skills it addresses - Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, Vocabulary, Grammar, Phonics or Translation.  Here is an example of one of the activities:

It's available from my Sellfy shop now. I hope you like it, and that you find there some activities that you didn't know about, as well as some that you did know about but had forgotten.

Saturday, 22 July 2017


A few days ago I saw this tweet from Lindsay Williams (@LDLanguages):

I asked her about how Clozemaster works, liked the sound of it and had a search for it.  Very luckily there is an Android app!  There is also a web interface, and I presume there is a fruit-based app also.

I've mentioned before that I am learning German at the moment (daughter #1 begins her GCSE German course in September) and so far have been using Duolingo and Stimmt 1.  

Here's how it works.  You need to sign up for an account and give yourself a username.  Then you choose the language you want to work on.  This is my dashboard:

I've chosen to work on the 100 most common words to begin with and am quite chuffed how much I know from Duolingo.

When you select the words you want to work on, you get different options:

I've chosen the top multiple choice.  I might be brave and do the text input version later!  This is an example of a question.  You have the sentence with the gap and four options underneath.  Helpfully, you have the English translation as well to help you to find the correct word.

You tap on the word you think fills the gap, and you get instant feedback:

If you get it wrong, the same question comes around again before you finish the round.

I think this would be very useful for Key Stage 4 students wanting some consolidation of basic sentences, and of course anyone who, like me, is learning a new language in their own time!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

28 in a row...

So I managed 28 days in a row of blogging.  Not quite the 31 that I was expecting, but there we go.  I have officially run out of ideas.  For now!

Sunday, 4 June 2017


A little word about copyright, if I may.

In 2004, I uploaded for the first time a languages resource website called MFL Sunderland (you may have heard of it).  It contained 99% of the language resources I have ever made.  Then, in April 2014, MFL Sunderland ceased to exist, and I moved its content to a new site, Light Bulb Languages.  It continues to contain 99% of the resources I have ever made, as well as a number of resources that have been donated by kind and generous users.

All the resources are available to users free of charge, but they are not copyright-free.  Every resource has a copyright statement giving the website name, the URL, the year it was made and the name or initials of the person who made it.

This afternoon I have, once more, found copies of my own resources available on TES Resources.  And the user offering them is not me.  In this instance, the resources are being offered for free, and so I have left blunt reviews on each of them detailing their provenance, and also giving links to the originals.  A few months ago, I received a message from a user to say that they had seen resources of mine being offered for sale on TES Resources.  Sure enough, many of my resources were there, with my copyright statements still on them in most cases, being sold on TES Resources, by one user.  I reported it to TES, the resources were taken down and the user has since deleted that account.

Neither of these cases is an isolated incident.  Neither is TES Resources the only guilty site, but it is the main one.  Neither is this problem confined to language teachers - I have been corresponding today with an English teacher who has had the same thing happen to them.

This is wrong.  Why should other teachers make a profit out of my work that I offer to them for free?  Why should other teachers get the praise and the nice comments, when it's my work?  It's wrong, and it's theft.

So this is my way of saying PLEASE respect other peoples' copyright.  Think about how it makes the original authors feel to find their hard work being plagiarised.

Thanks for reading.

For your reference, the Light Bulb Languages copyright statement is here.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Marie Marvingt

Marie Marvingt
It has been said that social media users sometimes feel inadequate when looking at the online exploits of the people that they follow.  I admit to feeling somewhat inadequate when I first read about Marie Marvingt (1875-1963).

She was an aviation pioneer, a high-achieving sportswoman, a writer, artist and member of the Légion d'Honneur.  She tried to enlist in the army in World War One, disguised as a man, but was discovered when she became ill.  She applied to take part in the 1908 Tour de France.  Her application was refused as she was a woman, but she rode the course regardless, behind the men, and finished the course when many of the men did not.

And yet, for all her achievements, little is known about her.  A search on reveals only three books about her.

I have been preparing some resources about her, and thought this mind map might be of interest.  It will give you a taste of her amazing life.

Marie Marvingt mind map copyright CSeccombe

You will find the resources here.

Friday, 2 June 2017

French Flowcharts

My post about Flowcharts on Sunday featured flowcharts in Spanish.  Since then, I've had a go at making flowcharts for French.  French turns out to be a bit more complex than Spanish!  Here are the charts for plurals and articles.  Please let me know if there are any bugs to report!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

May's most popular posts

You might have noticed that I've been blogging a lot more this month than usual.  I have set myself the challenge of publishing a post a day for a month.  Previously I had published 244 in 8 years.  That's an average of about 30 a year!  I started the month on 8th May, and am seeing if I can get to 8th June.  Watch this space!

These were the most popular posts in May:

1.  Starting to write in a new language
2.  Sugarcane
3.  Kagan Rally Table
4.  Reading about France and French Culture
5.  Flowcharts

If you'd like to be notified when I publish a new post, please sign up for an email subscription.  Have a look on the right of this post, under the picture of me!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Mundo Primaria

While looking for something else yesterday, I found Mundo Primaria.  It's a website intended for Spanish children, but has plenty to offer us as teachers of Spanish, both in primary and secondary.

Here are my favourite pages:

  • Chistes cortos para niños  At Language World, Glennis Pye recommended jokes as good short texts for translation.  This page has a slide show of 25 jokes.

  • Lecturas cortas  These texts too would be good for translation, particularly the non-fiction ones.  El Sol is among the texts that would also be useful for reading in Key Stage 2.
  • Cuentos infantiles cortos  Lots of short stories of different genres.
  • Infografías educativas  The first ones are for English, but look further down the list and there are some good word mats for maths and the solar system.  I particularly like this food pyramid one.
  • Ejercicios de ciencias sociales  Downloadable worksheets for social sciences.  The geography ones are to do with the map of Spain (which is what I was looking for originally!) and even if you don't use the exact resource it will give you some ideas for teaching the geography of Spain.  The Vida en sociedad and Historia worksheets are also useful for cross-curricular learning in Key Stage 2 and even Key Stage 3.
  • Ejercicios de lengua  Worksheets that provide useful ideas for teaching grammar, especially in Key Stage 2.
  • Números naturales hasta el millar  These maths worksheets would be useful for any student learning big numbers in Spanish.
  • El Euro  Some useful adding-up-money sheets  (The rest of the maths sheets can be accessed from here.)

Tuesday, 30 May 2017


Here are some videos I thought you might like. Do you have any you'd recommend?


Photo de classe is a thought-provoking set of videos where children talk about their families' countries of origin.

On fait les crêpes from the BBC

Masculine and feminine body parts from BBC Virtually There

Being French - a day in a French Primary School from the BBC

Primary French - Deux Jeux de Mains

Primary French - Playground Games and pocket money


The gender of nouns in Spanish from BBC Virtually There

El Pasado y el Presente - Then and Now

Un recorrido de mi ciudad - In my town

Aquí está mi escuela - a primary school in Mexico

Las cuatro estaciones - seasons and weather

Monday, 29 May 2017

Maps, glorious maps

I've always liked a good map.  And I have always liked showing maps to my students, to put the languages they are learning into some kind of context.

Here are some useful links about maps:

Sunday, 28 May 2017


Apart from two rainy interludes, yesterday was warm and windy - excellent drying weather.  While I was pegging out another load of washing, I had the idea that some grammatical points can be explained and facilitated using flowcharts.  I sketched some out last night, and today had a go at making them.

I wanted to use an app, but couldn't find one that I liked and that worked well on my tablet.  If you know of a good Android flowchart app, please let me know in the comments!

I consulted with my engineer husband, who I knew had recently put together a complex flowchart as instructions for an electronic archery gadget he made.  He told me about the meanings of the differently-shaped boxes and arrows, and said that Publisher was a good tool.  That was OK, as I make most of my resources using Publisher.  It was the first time, though, that I have used the flowchart Autoshapes for their proper purpose!

Flowchart-Plurals copyright Light Bulb Languages

Flowchart-Articles copyright Light Bulb Languages

These two were relatively simple to put together.  There are things like Ser and Estar, and Por and Para that I could do as well, but they would be much more complex!

I also discovered this afternoon that flowcharts are part of the programming component of the KS2 Computing curriculum.  Flowcharts, therefore, are another opportunity for some cross-curricular learning.  Children could demonstrate their understanding of concepts or groups of vocabulary by devising a flowchart for their classmates to test out and debug.

What do you think?  Do you think flowcharts would be a useful tool in the languages classroom?

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Practising spelling and structure

I've written before about ways of supporting children as they start to write words, phrases and sentences.  We can give them letter cards to try out spelling and also arrange the parts of the sentences into writing frames or dice grids.

Sometimes, to assist children in collecting together a series of correct sentences to act as a model, I give them an activity like this one:
For the first four sentences, the letters are in the right order, but there are no capital letters, finger spaces or punctuation.  The children have to rewrite the sentences, adding those aspects.  The second group of sentences have the finger spaces, but no capital letters or punctuation.  Oh, and the letters in each word are not in the right order.  The children have to unmix the letters so that each sentence makes sense.  All 8 sentences have the same structure, though, and at the end of the activity (which they usually self- or peer-assess) they will have 8 model sentences to help them when they come to do their own writing.

I've recently rediscovered a website that will allow you to create a variation on this kind of activity - the Reverse Text Generator from Text Mechanic.

If I take the basic sentence il fait chaud aujourd'hui, I can:
  • reverse it: iuh'druojua duahc tiaf li
  • reverse the wording: hui'aujourd chaud fait il
  • reverse each word's lettering: li tiaf duahc druojua'iuh
  • write the sentence upside down!: ınɥ,pɹnoɾnɐ pnɐɥɔ ʇıɐɟ ןı
Making sentences using some of these methods would again require children to transliterate the sentences to make them correct, and again provide them with an accurate model which they can then adapt.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Le Tour de France

Yesterday I blogged my list of resources for 14 juillet.  Today, here are some useful links and resources for another important French event which will be taking place at the end of this term: the Tour de France.  Please feel free to add in the comments any links that you think other people would like!  you can find a list of French festivals and celebrations here.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

14 juillet

After this week there is only half a term left of this academic year.  We are starting to think about our lessons for that last half term, and starting to look for resources that will help us to include 14 juillet (la Fête Nationale / Bastille Day) and the Tour de France in our French lessons.

I've been looking around for some resources for 14 juillet, and thought I'd share my findings here.  Please feel free to add in a comment any resources that you've found that you think people would like!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Radio Labo

It's tricky to find suitable and good-quality listening materials for Key Stage 2 French.  Radio Labo from BBC School Radio is a series of 10 fifteen-minute programmes. They are intended for upper Key Stage 2, but the earlier programmes would be just as useful for Years 3 and 4.

The programmes cover vocabulary, grammar and phonics, and each programme also has a song.  The language is presented but also practised via games.

There are some very comprehensive teacher's notes to go with each programme, and I think it would be wise to study these before listening to the programme with the children in order to gain the maximum benefit from the programme.

Have a listen and see what you think!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Word puzzles: valuable or a waste of precious time?

all puzzles from this resource
If, like me, you used to spend a lot of time on the TES Modern Languages forum in the good old days, you'll remember the pretty frequent mention of "TWALT", where the T, W and A stood for Time Wasting Activities.  These activities were things like Making a Poster, and Colouring In.  Anything easy for the teacher to plan and that students would get on with without fuss while still looking busy to the casual observer.

Do wordsearches, crosswords and other word puzzles fit into this category?  Are they time-wasting activities or do they serve a valuable educational purpose within the lesson?

Here are my thoughts, and along with some ideas for how to use them.  Admittedly I am coming at this from a primary point of view.  If your learners are older you may have a different opinion.

  • Puzzles can be used to reinforce vocabulary and structures.
  • Puzzles are a useful addition to the repertoire of Repetition activities.
  • It is easy to customise puzzles to the class or to individual children.
  • You can't use them too often or the novelty will wear off.
  • You need to have a meaningful reason within your sequence of planned activities for using the puzzles.
  • Puzzles help to develop visual acuity for recognising words in the new language.
  • Wordsearches encourage children to think about and notice aspects of the written words that will help them, such as written accents and unusual letters.
  • Learners feel a sense of achievement when they complete a puzzle.
  • The ability to complete a crossword is a useful lifelong skill.
  • Completing a puzzle is good exercise for the brain.
  • Puzzles like this are associated with recreation and so are perceived by children as a less threatening activity.
  • Crosswords need exact spelling and so children are obliged to write accurately.
  • Puzzles are useful as a five-minute activity.
  • With crosswords, clues can be given in sentence form with a word or words missing.  The missing word or words are the answer.
  • With wordsearches, the word list can be given in English and the children have to find the words in the second language, or vice versa.
  • When matching up new vocabulary, children can use a crossword puzzle to test their hypotheses, like in this activity.
  • Crosswords can be completed in teams in the style of the quiz game Crosswits.
  • Crossword grids can also be used as "grid fills", where a word list is given and the children needs to fit the words in the right place on the grid.  They need to look at the letters they already have and count the number of letters in each word.  Like this one.
  • Word spirals and waves using Festisite can be used as an alternative to a traditional wordsearch.

I make my puzzles with a program called Crossword Compiler, which I have had for years.  You have to pay for it, but it produces professional-looking results quickly and easily.  There are online, free puzzle makers available, such as Armored Penguin.

Monday, 22 May 2017

What's in a name?

It won't have escaped your attention that I make a lot of resources.  You might even have used some of them!  When creating a resource, I want it to be as authentic as possible, and so choose carefully the names that I am going to use.

My favourite website for choosing appropriate names is Meilleurs Prénoms.  I particularly like it because you can select a year to see the most popular boys' and girls' names for that year.  For example, let's say I'm making a new resource for Year 4.  They are 8 or 9 years old, and so are likely to have been born in 2008.  So I click on "Tendances" on the homepage of the website, then "Prénoms par année".  Underneath the lists of names there is a box where you can enter your "Autre année". I have entered 2008:

The lack of a name in the no.1 position on each list is a fault that I've noticed the last few times I've used the site.  Hopefully it'll be put right soon.  So if I'm making a resource for Year 4, I'll use some of the names from this list.  If they were to go to France, the children their age would more than likely have these names.  Similarly, if I'm making a resource about family members, I'll choose appropriate names for the parents and grandparents.

Here's the list for 1970.  I recognise quite a few penpals and exchange partners!

Some other name-related websites that I like:



This Spanish website allows you to see the most popular names in recent years (scroll down to below the lists to see the years to select)

Calendar of Saints' names, month by month


This German website also shows you the list of the most popular names for a given year.

And finally, an interesting graphic which shows how the names of countries, continents and oceans translate in their native languages.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Generation Game

Here are some websites that you might like to try for making resources:

SEN Teacher Maths Printables: Add coin worksheets:  Tell the generator which currency you want to use, how many of the coins you want to be included, which level of difficulty you require, and it'll give you a sheet showing piles of coins that need adding up.  Euros are one of the currencies available, so it's great for doing numbers in a different way and for some cultural input.

Classtools SMS Generator:   Use this generator to create authentic-looking SMS dialogues.  Something to make dialogues a bit more interesting!

Festisite is still one of my favourites, for making word spirals, hearts and waves.  I use the wave setting for word snakes.  Since I last wrote about the site, it's undergone some changes:
Type in the words that you want to be in the spiral, heart or wave, then select "Printable Document". This means that it will generate a PDF of your finished word shape.  I select 26pt font, and A3 size paper. This means that you'll get a large word shape which will be nice and clear when you paste it into your document.  Then click on "Download" and you'll get the PDF with your word shape in the middle.  You can then screen-capture it and paste it into your resource as required.

The Tools for Educators Board Game generator is mentioned frequently on social media.  There are various different kinds of games, and you can use images and text or just images.  Here's one with fruits and vegetables:
I also like the AtoZ teacher stuff Word Shape worksheets generator.  I like to use these word shapes as a step towards memorising spelling.  The only slight downfall is that it doesn't recognise accented characters:

Do you know of any other good resource generators?