The Keys revamped

I’ve been tweaking The 20 Keys since I created the system just over ten years ago. This is their latest incarnation.

I hope you find them useful!



5-example mats

Here’s a link to a previous blog on how to use them to mark work in moments:

Support in MFL

This is how I try to make sure that ALL students, including those with special educational needs, are supported in MFL.



Accessing student information

To simply gather all available information about our students, keeping it in one accessible place and making sure we update and review it from time to time.

Annotated seating plans

To have seating plans that have the essential information that guides our planning written on.

Seating plans designed for peer support

To be mindful, when we design seating plans, that we want all students to sit next to someone who will challenge and support them. I try to sit friends together and regularly ask students to let me know if they’re not comfortable where they are sitting. This usually improves behaviour, but when it doesn’t, the seating plan changes.


Learning mats

You can find a blog about using learning mats here.

Language handouts

Language handouts contain all the vocab or sentence builders that are going to be taught in a module. It’s best to hand them it at the beginning of the unit. Also best to print them as A5 booklets and in yellow paper, so they can be easily found.

Use of transcripts for listening

Listening is a daunting skill. I always show students the transcript after a listening exercise. Sometimes I ask students to find words they don’t know, sometimes they all read out loud while trying to keep up with the recording, sometimes I talk them through it.


Quizlet used to learn and pre-learn vocab

Lessons flow much more smoothly if we have used the Quizlet Flascards option (see TL first, translating into English). This applied to the Sixth Form too!

Sentence builders

Sentence builders, or as we used to call them, writing frames, are excellent support for students, as they give them a ready-made structure that they can adapt.

Repetition games to support memory

Research says that we have to say a phrase numerous times before it becomes part of our active language. There are many repetition games out there, many of them fun but mindless. I make no apologies, repetition really helps, so we do it all the time. You’ll be able to find some activities that promote repetition here.


Connect, consolidate

I always start the lesson with the same retrieval starter (translate 6 phrases) and end the lesson with a mini-test of what has been learnt.

Regular low-stakes tests

These can happen as part of a schedule or as a time filler in the lesson.

I often use Quizlet – Learn option – multiple choice – answer in Spanish. All students have to do is to write, say, signal a number from 1 to 4 to give an answer. Students love it and it’s as low stakes as it goes.

Revision materials distributed online

Having key materials on OneNote (or equivalent), as part of a very organised system, and training students on how to find them will save you time and it will make your students more independent. Plus, you can copy and paste next year!


Explicitly teaching skills required

Explicitly teaching what we want students to learn is the most effective way to get students to learn. This goes for broad skills, such as listening or writing, or the skill of taking notes or keeping a glossary. The more explicit, the better.

Live modelling

Live modelling is incredibly powerful and it will be even more powerful if students are able to hear your thinking process as you model. I make sure that I throw in a couple of mistakes that you can correct as I check my work at the end, and I also make sure that I change my mind a couple of times, so I can show students how to improve their work on the go.

Use of wagolls and wabolls

I would never ask students to produce language before having shown them an example of a good one (a wagoll) beforehand. I don’t always use wabolls (“what a bad one looks like”), but they are a great way for students to become aware of common errors and avoid them.


Supportive climate for learning

As well as working really hard to make sure that behaviour is always calm and purposeful in my lessons, I make a point very early on that the MFL classroom is a safe place where students can take risks without fearing being mocked. And I follow through, if a student ever laughs at someone’s efforts, I make sure I stop the lesson and I deal with the student until they are clear on why what they’ve done is wrong.

Strong routine

The high level of interaction in MFL lessons can be a source of anxiety for many students. Having the same lesson structure for all lessons helps students with this. The activities change regularly, but the structure is the same. This is my lesson structure:

Bounce questioning

Bounce questioning follows the same stages:

The bounce stage is when, after having had an answer (or an “I don’t know”) from a student, you ask other students the same question. This checks that they know the answer and that they are engaged.

I never leave out the thinking stage, to make sure that everyone answers the questions, even if to themselves, and I don’t announce the name of the student who will answer until after it.

Using learning mats to support students

I have recently been asked to share a few examples of my learning mats.

Learning mats are worksheets that I prepare for students with everything they need in a lesson.

They all contain the new vocab or grammar, space for students to complete guided practice and space for students to complete independent practice. Sometimes, they also include a Quizlet link to practise the vocab.

I find that these are a huge time saver in the lesson and that they offer extra support to my more vulnerable students.

You may notice that they have 2 wide margins and 2 narrow ones. This is so that I only have to trim 2 sides of the mat before it gets glued into books, so it saves half the trimming time – I love a shortcut.

I hope you find them useful!