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Showing posts from July, 2011

Yes: Fly From Here

A teacher once said to me that the music you listen to when you are eighteen stays with you for life. For me, Yes were the band who brought together two things I enjoyed: rock and classical symphonies. Yes are the grandfathers of symphomic progressive rock music and they have just released their first album in ten years.

For this album Chris Squire (bass), Steve Howe (guitar), Alan White (drums) turned for help to their former collaborators Trevor Horn, the esteemed producer, and Geoff Downes (keys), who together formed the Buggles. Remember Video Killed the Radio Star? Horn and Downes had previously made the album Drama with Yes before moving on the other things. The singer is Benoit David whose high pitched tenor resembles that of Jon Anderson, the long standing leader of the band. He has been singing on tour with the band for a good while, having been the singer in a Canadian Yes tribute band.

This new album is seriously good! Trsut me! At around 48 minutes it clocks in fairly sh…

End of an era

Got back last night from Normandy after six days with the Year 8s at the Château du Molay near Bayeux. Elspeth came with me this time, which was nice after all the stories I've told her about the place over the years. This was the last trip after 22 years of 2nd year trips, at least 17 of which have been at the château. It was a slight relief to get all the kids back safe and sound, our only hiccup this time being a broken down coach on the way back to Calais which added nearly three hours to the journey.

Once again we went to the Bayeux tapestry, Arromanches, the Mémorial in Caen, Omaha Beach American War cenetery and Memorial, the Mont St Michel, St Malo and Riva Bella beach in Ouistreham. Why change a winning formula?

The kids were brilliant: happy, well-behaved, interested and quite calm. No late night antics to speak of.

I shall miss the château, but hope to go back there to stay sometime in the future. If you don't know this part of Normandy I thoroughly recommend it. It…

Et si la Wallonie devenait un département de la France?

Communiqué de Presse de Marine Le Pen, Présidente du Front National :
La crise politique que connaît la Belgique s’aggrave, ne trouve pas de solution et jette Wallons et Flamands dans une incertitude terrible. Personne ne se réjouit de cette situation et chacun en France partage l’inquiétude des Belges.
En cette veille de fête nationale belge, Il est néanmoins de la responsabilité de la France et des Français de tendre la main aux Wallons.
Si la Belgique venait à éclater, si la Flandre prenait son indépendance, hypothèse de plus en plus crédible, la République française s’honorerait d’accueillir en son sein la Wallonie. Les liens historiques et fraternels qui unissent nos deux peuples sont trop forts pour que la France abandonne la Wallonie.
Il va de soi que ces décisions importantes pour l’avenir de nos peuples ne pourraient être prises qu’après consultation par référendum des Français et des Wallons.

C'est un réel soulagement.

The post CA era: what next?

So, the death knell has sounded for controlled assessments and it looks very likely that in the nearish future we shall see a return to terminal exams for GCSE. I have to say that as we approach our third and last year group doing CAs we have got used to them, students seem happy with the system and the marks they produce reflect their aptitude. My main reservation has concerned the importance of pure memorisation in the speaking tests. This was a step too far. The written CAs are very much like part of the old coursework format and allow all students to produce acceptable work.

Anyway, the wheel turns and there has been some discussion on the TES forum, mainly led by Martin Lapworth of Taskmagic fame, about what type of exam we should have for GCSE.

Here is my two penneth:

Firstly, tiering should be maintained to allow the examination to be a good test, but manageable by the relatively less able whom we are encouraging to keep languages going.

Secondly it should be fair but challengi…

Memrise

Just picked up this link via Twitter:

http://www.memrise.com/about/

The team say:

"At Memrise, we're integrating everything we know about the art and science of memory to help you learn faster. Memrise is based in Cambridge, MA and was founded by Greg Detre, a PhD neuroscientist from Princeton, and Ed Cooke, a Grandmaster of Memory. From the science of memory, Dr. Detre brings an acute understanding of how best to strengthen memories, by testing and reviewing them over time in the most efficient manner. From the art of memory, Grandmaster Cooke brings an understanding of how learning rejoices in anything that is pithy, colourful, humorous, fantastical, attractive, scary, important, unusual or vivid.
We think that learning can be a special kind of creative pleasure, and we're building impeccable learning products that will help you learn quicker and more creatively than you ever thought possible."

How is it meant to work?

 They say:

"The more your brain …

"Resources panic"

My colleagues in the department have recently commented on what they call "resources panic". I know what they mean. We seem to have such a huge range of resources: powerpoints, web sites, worksheets, songs, text book exercises, CDs and games, that you sometimes feel snowed under. "Back in the day" had a text book to work with, cassette, repromasters, worksheets you produced and, if you tried hard, the occasional recording from French long wave radio! The problem now is not where to find stuff, but choosing from the plethora of resources available. Our approach to the scheme of work (or is it a "scheme of learning" now?) is to have a thick ring-binder for each year group with most of our sheets and references to other materials all in one place. The SoW is not one in which every lesson is mapped out hour by hour. Because we see pupils four or even five times a week for 40 minutes at a time, it makes more sense to plan some lessons ahead, but t…

Schools push students into Ebacc subjects

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jul/13/ebacc-limited-choice-gcse-school-pupils?CMP=twt_gu

I guess this is no surprise and of course it was the whole point! Michael Gove's Ebacc scheme is having the effect he had hoped for as schools get pupils, at short notice it seems, to switch to languages and humanities. There is a tricky balance here, isn't there? On the one hand most language teachers applauded the notion of an Ebacc scheme which would bring back more pupils to modern languages; on the other hand, some fear, as do I, that non- Ebacc subjects will be devalued and some pupils may end up doing subjects which they find too hard, too dull or too irrelevant.

We know that schools have been smart in raising their league table level by allowing students to do subjects they find easier or just more relevant to them. We also know that there are not enough pupils learning languages, history and geography. Headteachers will need to set up curriculum models which allow studen…

iSLCollective

http://fr.islcollective.com

Just come across this very good file and worksheet sharing site. The quality of the worksheets looks generally very good (look out for some surprising errors though) and some would be a very useful addition to a French teacher's resources.

You can search the site via level, skill type, student type (e.g. adult, primary, secondary) and activity type (e.g. game, exam revision, lesson plan, worksheet).

The webmasters say:

"Nous sommes une communauté d'enseignants de langues des quatre coins du globe et nous partageons nos fiches pédagogiques sur cette tribune libre d'utilisation.  Ce site s'adresse à tous les enseignants de langues, que vous soyez en milieu scolaire ou que vous donniez des cours privés.  Ensemble, collaborons pour simplifer notre planification de cours et rendre notre enseignement plus enrichissant!"

Definitely worth a coup d'oeil.

Têtes de séries

Je suis fana d'un certain nombre de séries sur DVD (en ce moment c'est Boston Legal, notre plaisir coupable), donc je jette un petit coup d'oeil sur le blog de Pierre Langlais. Chose peu surprenante, on y trouve des anglicismes comme remake (m), brainstorming (m) , playlist (f) et geek (m), mais j'ai été quelque peu surpris de trouver le verbe forwarder dans la phrase:

"Comme leur voix trouvait un échos particulier dans la presse internationale (voir ce solide argumentaire forwardé par un de ces collègues, Guillaume Regourd), j’ai décidé de faire un “pour / contre Treme.” 

N'existe-t-il pas d'autre verbe pour exprimer cette idée?

réexpédier? transférer? faire parvenir?

OK, si vous insistez, voici mon top-ten des séries américaines:

1.  The West Wing - remarquable du début à la fin
2.  The Wire - idem
3.  Star Trek TNG
4.  Seinfeld
5.  The Sopranos
6.  Battlestar Galactica (deuxième version)
7.  Lost (la première saison surtout)
8.  (Dr) House
9.  Boston Legal
10. M…

Should we put grades on pupils' work?

For a number of years there have been calls from some quarters for teachers to stop putting grades on pupils' work. A seminal article in this context seems to be "Inside the black box" by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam written in 2001. They cite research in a passionate argument against grades. The argument is familiar: kids only look at the grade and not the comment, the bright ones become complacent and the less brilliant are deflated. Allocating national curriculum levels has the same effect, they would argue.

http://weaeducation.typepad.co.uk/files/blackbox-1.pdf

Donald Clark summarises "why marking sucks" in his entertaining blog:

http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/

So why is it that I have resisted a policy of no marks on work? Well, we have spoken to pupils about this and we have discussed it more than once in the department. It has to be said also that our pupils are in the 11-18 age range and are nearly all are of above average aptitude. Black and Wiliam&…

O2learn

http://www.o2learn.co.uk

You have to wonder about their motives, but heck, why not applaud an excellent initiative from O2? They have done their own version of Teachertube. I'm not sure the latter has ever really caught on now that Youtube is widely available to teachers in schools, but o2learn is an upload site which aims to help students with their studies and exam revision. Teachers record and upload five minute "micro lessons". The site specifically targets students aged 13-18, so that may be an advantage over Teachertube. It is moderated for taste, though not necessarily total accuracy, as their FAQs page points out. Even so, they claim to have subject specialists from an external agency who do the checking. A ratings system may deal with that to some extent.

All videos are viewed before appearance on the site and it is supported by a wide range of respected educational organisations. It's in beta form, but a few teachers have already uploaded short teaching vid…