Phonics course @ TASC, Leeds – Wendy Adeniji

18 Nov


It has been a week of Inset, with more to come this weekend at the CILT ITE Secondary Conference down in London!

I spent this afternoon at my old University College with the lovely Wendy Adeniji learning more about phonics in French, German and Spanish.  

Wendy started by telling us that according to a recent CILT ( survey which asked why so many Y9 were dropping languages, 48% of those surveyed said it was because of pronunciation

The key to good pronunciation is to start ‘em young!  The younger the better, in fact.


To do: KS3 Framework for Languages – look for the many references linked to ‘Letters and Sounds.’


The aims of the course were:

To discuss the importance of phonics

To focus on Fr Ger Sp phonemes / graphemes  

Give examples of what phonics might look like in a lesson


What is phonics?


It is a good idea to refer to ‘Progression in Phonics’ DFEE 1999

Phonics, in a nutshell, is the skills of segmenting and blending letters and sounds.


The majority of current Y7s in the UK were taught to read and write in their own language (L1) using phonics / the letters and sounds technique.


Therefore we should tap into this and use it to our advantage in MFL T&L.


Next we moved onto

Underpinning principles of Phonics Teaching in Primary Schools


We then examined more closely

Why teach phonics explicitly in ML?


-Learners will learn more independently if they can sound out correctly any new words they come across

-This knowledge can be applied to early writing tasks

-Struggling learners acquire a range of strategies to help them in their learning

-Visual learners are disadvantage if they are not given the opportunity to see the written word



We then took a quick Quiz (see below) and were told that many children as young as 4 and 5 (my 5 year old daughter Amélie included) know this terminology.


Test yourself …


What is a grapheme?


What is a phoneme?


What is a diagraph?


What is a split diagraph?


What is meant by ‘to segment’?


Did you know (1) … there is a much higher rate of dyslexia in the UK than in France, Germany and Spain.

Did you know (2) … 40% of words in French are cognates.


Following on from this we discussed

The challenge of cognates : easy to write difficult to pronounce!


Try saying these words in French and think about the tricky sounds (compared to English):









Consider the following:

nasal sounds – un*, in, on, en / an (2 graphemes, same sound)


*un is the top high frequency word in French


Did you know (3) … there are 44 phonemes in the French language altogether.



22 out of those 44 phonemes are quite different from English.


A great way to start thinking about tricky sounds for English learners of French are the numbers 1-20:


un – deux – trois – quatre – cinq – six – sept – huit – neuf – dix

onze – douze – treize – quatorze – quinze – seize – dix-sept – dix-huit – dix-neuf – vingt


Here are a few of the tricky sounds in German:



We did a similar exercise in Spanish. (Photo)


It is important to note here that Spanish is a phonetic language.



Did you know (4) … that allegedly, King Ferdinand of Spain had a lisp which meant that Spanish speakers in Spain speak as those they have a lisp!


Spanish speakers help me out – is this true???



We then had a quick look at German examples and moved on to look at some concrete examples from Wendy’s brilliant resources ‘Les planetes phoniques’. (Now available from in French, German and Spanish)


Children are very keen to mimic the native speaker on the videos – it is an immediate instinct to do so, in fact.



A few pointers about this methodology: 



Wendy normally asks her learners to close their eyes when they are working to enable them to concentrate on the sounds!


Activity – Ask pupils to tell you words they know which contain the ‘oi’ sound.

-Check these against the planet ‘oi’.

-Listen to 2 words or phrases – which has the oi sound in it?   The first or the second?

-Try saying this rhyme in pairs!

‘Une oie, deux oies etc …’



Interestingly, we listened to a recording of a Y6 boy and were all very impressed by the way he naturally self corrected.


Importance of voice recording

We discussed the following ways of encouraging teachers to record their pupils at work:


-Easi-speak microphones and other recording devices

-Flip USB hand held video recorders

-Free Audacity software


Here is a link to an excellent blog post by Joe Dale all about creative use of audio in the MFL classroom: 


Wendy didn’t mention, but I would hasten to add, which pupils could easily access from home allowing them to ‘do speaking’ for homework!


The afore mentioned  activity may be followed by a tongue twister

‘Il etait une fois … ‘ which also allows for some all important Intercultural Understanding.


Search You Tube for more virelangues. 


As a final activity, pupils could be presented with some unknown language and then asked

‘Can you now pronounce these words: … ‘


Activities to practise key sounds:


Sounds like … 

Search ‘Fable Sounds’ on the wonderful MFL Sunderland site.


Running Dictation

Possibly try this once pupils have got a back of sounds.


Thinking skills

Get pupils to work out what is the common phoneme e.g.

prix – organise – ligne – merci

juin – train – cinq – besoin


Phonics placemat cards (from TES resources, I think)

Get the pupils to work out the key sound.  Examples below in French and Spanish.



Take the ‘j’ sound in Spanish.

Pupils offer words they already know containing the ‘j’ sound.


Listen to the rhyme: tally how many times you hear the ‘j’ sound.


You could also do a Mexican wave every time you hear the ‘j’ sound wave but beware – learners could just be waving because their friend is waving!


We went on to play a group game.

With a randomly mixed set of flashcards (from several different topics) – hold your card up in the air when you hear a certain phoneme.


e.g. – in  – I had a flashcard with a picture of ‘un lapin’


TOP TIP: Check TES resources for phonics / MFL stuff – some of which I personally uploaded at the start of the summer holidays.


To finish we focussed on German and the – au sound:


Augen, Haus, Blau, auf, Frau, grau


Listen to this rhyme and make an ‘ow’ face every time you hear the – au sound


We also talked briefly about linking the sounds with an action. I personally have used ‘Le Manuel Phonique’ by Jolly Phonics and think for less than £20 it is well worth investing in!


Other suggestions:



Have the planets on the ceiling and around the room as a display, with the objects that have the sound in.


Noisy phonemes!

I call this ‘Love train’ – pupils are given different words e.g. lapin main and are sent off to regroup with others in the class who have a word containing the same sound


Phonics fans

Available to buy from TTS – can be ordered online or you could make your own!


You Tube

‘Le lion est mort ce soir’

Give the pupils the lyrics and they highlight all the silent letters.


The same could be done with ‘Pigloo: Moi j’aime skier’

The focus would be on the – oi sound.


Search also for:

Der Penguin rap

Le ragga des pingouins

Funny Bear (available in most languages)


Phonic bingo

See attached document – silent letter bingo- if you download this and print there are enough cards for a whole class set.

Wendy also talked briefly about how to convert You Tube clips using and showed delegates how to embed a You Tube video clip into PPT.


We had a few technical hitches towards the end of the session, but Wendy ended by talking briefly about using  to showcase beautiful speaking work and made reference to (Quote unquote ‘Voki on steroids!’)


A really useful session and a topic very dear to my heart.

Hope some of this is useful folks!






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