top of page

Prep school French teacher Marie Allirot reflects on trialling Private Joke ® with her pupils.

In November 2023, I came across a post on LinkedIn that caught my eye. It was by Olive Halsall, a linguist like myself, reaching out to the teaching community with an intriguing proposition. She was on the lookout for adventurous teachers willing to try out a game called Private Joke ®, designed specifically for the MFL classroom.

Instantly, my curiosity was piqued. As an advocate for innovative teaching methods and a firm believer in the power of gamification, I knew this was an opportunity I couldn't ignore. 

Olive then posted me a game, and I decided to test it with my Year 8 (12-13 years old) form group. Most of them were studying French or Spanish at our school and were enthusiastic about giving it a go! During my initial trial with a class of 14 children, I was pleased to see that they were all actively involved and thoroughly enjoyed the process of coming up with funny and silly words and crafting explanations for their creations.

The second time around, I had a smaller group of 8 children, which made it easier for me to closely observe their interactions and reasoning behind the words they proposed. It was great to see how engaged they were in the game, and they had so much fun throughout the session. What struck me most was the diverse range of abilities and backgrounds represented in the trial, yet every child had an equally enjoyable experience.

Their level of creativity was truly impressive, and they were so engrossed in the game that they didn't want to stop playing!

As the game progressed, I watched in amazement at the creativity displayed by my pupils. They delved into the depths of their imagination, concocting words that would make even the most advanced linguist chuckle. What struck me most was the level of engagement from every single student. Everyone was actively participating, eager to contribute their unique word creations. Even the quieter students, who usually preferred to blend into the background, found their voices in this game. It was a joy to witness their confidence grow with each word they invented and explained. 

Encouraged by the success of the game with my form group, I decided to run the game again with a smaller group of four Year 7 students during our open morning. The pupils learned to think on their feet, to justify their ideas, and to collaborate with their peers. The most rewarding part of this experience was seeing the smiles on their faces and the laughter that filled the classroom. In the days and weeks that followed, the pupils continued to talk about Private Joke ®. They begged for more opportunities to play. 

As a passionate advocate for acknowledging and supporting neurodiversity in educational and professional settings, I took on leading the neurodiversity programme for my school. Celebrating neurodiversity is about recognising and valuing the diverse ways in which people's brains work. It promotes a more inclusive, understanding, and supportive environment for all individuals.

As Neurodiversity Week approached, and with the responsibility of leading the program at my school, I made the decision to integrate Private Joke ® into our form competition. Collaborating with our two Neurodiversity Prefects, we carefully chose 5 cards, one for each day of the week, to shape the competition for students from Year 3 to Year 8. Embedding a Google Form in a Genially  for submitting their invented words, every form group had the opportunity to deliberate on the suggested definitions and collectively select a word to submit.

The Private Joke ® neurodiversity competition was a success, with most of the form groups participating and collectively generating a word for each definition. Following this, the Learning Enhancement department rated each word on a scale of 1 to 5, considering innovation, creativity, and originality. We then awarded prizes to the top 3 scores.

Here are the words submitted by the winning form:

It was interesting to see the scores awarded by the LE department, teachers who are not linguists and might score differently to what I would. Interestingly, each day, the top score came from a different year group. Among the top scores, we had:

  • “Hesiname” for “the act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name”.

  • “Foreignopia” for “randomly starting to use a foreign language accent for absolutely no reason at all”.

  • “Pudroom” for “the mysterious extra room for dessert after a large meal”

I was impressed with the Private Joke ® game and would highly recommend it to others. The concept developed by Olive is enjoyable and interactive, sparking intriguing conversations within the classroom.

A word from Olive:

MFL Teachers -

Private Joke ® costs 29.99 GBP (available to purchase here) and is sustainably made in the UK. Olea is a bootstrapped startup, which means that for now, every single investment you make into a PJ game goes towards the development of new games, such as our first single-language Franglais PJ, or getting our APP built for even further reach. By purchasing a game, you fuel us to keep at this. So that one day, maybe one day, every British child actively WANTS to learn a foreign language. ❤️ ,🫒.


bottom of page