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Showing posts from October, 2014

Three ways to get student feedback

Heads of Languages these days have to have processes in place to evaluate the performance of their department. Sources of information include value-added measures from the likes of Raiseonline, FFT, Yellis and ALPS, internal assessment scores, lesson observations and what are fashionably known as "learning walks".

Students themselves provide another source of useful feedback for self-evaluation. Many schools do this on a whole school basis, for example, using a private survey organisation. Such surveys produce satisfaction levels for each department.

But there are other ways of eliciting student feedback and I'm going to mention three of them.

Focus groups

It is easy to gather a small cross-section of students to ask them about their experience of language learning. Although in this format students may tend to say what they think the teacher wants to hear, they do provide useful feedback if the questions you ask are good ones.

You could take out the teacher factor by us…

Using the language assistant in the classroom

If you are lucky enough to have a foreign language assistant you have a range of ways of getting the best out of them. With A-level students, once they have had the chance to observe the students in class with the regular teacher, I think it is best if they work with small groups of students on their own most of the time. If they show a good deal of initiative they could essentially "do their own thing" with the groups. In this way students will not have the impression that they are doing "more of the same". If the assistant needs more help and guidance, you could provide them with a sequence of topics/lessons to teach. In any case they would benefit from access to all the resources and games you have.

The British Council assistant pages are useful. Their information booklet for FLAs is here.

In the run-up to exams the assistant can help with last minute practice and preparation. They can also be on hand on the orals day itself to do last minute practice.

The main…

Sharing resources

A few times recently I have come across colleagues online who feel they do not have access to adequate resources in their schools. A colleague who I used to work with has moved to a new school where they do not have any established resource bank or protocols for sharing resources they make.

I find it surprising there there still seem to be departments which are not efficiently set up with this in mind.

One job of a Head of Department is to ensure his or her colleagues have access to all the resources they need and that there is a culture of sharing. If there is healthy discussion going on within the department, then sharing resources follows naturally.

It appears that some teachers are reluctant to share what they have produced because they resent the fact that their colleagues are not doing the same. Why should they also get the fruits of my labours? Whilst I understand this sentiment, I do not support it. If the goal of a department is to get all students to achieve their best, then an…

Practice conversation questions for Y8 or Y9

These are taken from a worksheet in the Y8 section of frenchteacher.net. Help yourself. Teachers could go through them with classes, or students could do them in pairs and write up their answers.

Present tense
1.Comment t’appelles-tu? 2.Quel âge as-tu? (J’ai…) 3.Où habites-tu? 4.Habites-tu dans le sud de l’Angleterre? (Non, j’hab…) 5.De quelle nationalité es-tu? (Je s…) 6.Quelles langues parles-tu? 7.Tu habites une maison ou un appartement? 8.Décris ta maison. (Il y a …) 9.Il y a combien de personnes dans ta famille? 10.As-tu des frères ou des soeurs? 11.As-tu un animal à la maison? Si oui, décris-le. 12.Quelle heure est-il? (IL est… ) 13.Quel temps fait-il aujourd’hui? 14.A quelle heure tu te lèves normalement? (Je me …)

Truffaut

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the death of French film director, occasional actor and "auteur" François Truffaut. I got into Truffaut's films through teaching a few of them to my A-level students over the years. We worked on Les 400 Coups, Jules et Jim, La Nuit américaine, Le Dernier métro and La Femme d'à côté. My students and colleagues would gently rib me such was my enthusiasm for Truffaut.

Studying these films, watching all of his others, with the exception of La Chambre verte, I learned a good deal about film-making, the New Wave and about Truffaut himself. Has there has ever been a film-maker whose own life is so intimately tied to his movies?

Only a few of Truffaut's films are great. My own favourites include his first "long métrage" Les 400 Coups, made on a shoestring budget in black and white, and full of references to Truffaut's own childhood. All the clues to his later films are to be found in his portrayal of a young lad who goes …

Those memorable activities

Most classroom activities disappear quickly from the memory, others are worth doing because they are just fun events and which, for that very reason, increase motivation for the subject and, in turn, may improve performance in the longer run.

Two examples from my own A-level teaching:

I regularly did a news broadcast video task with AS level classes. In small groups they would do a reordering of news items activity, then film a news broadcast using studio anchors and on-the-spot reporters outside the classroom. It took a while to get done and, I confess, part of me felt I could have been getting on with other language work. The results, however, were often very good and the students always enjoyed the task greatly. They would certainly remember it more fondly than much of the other work they did.

The second example concerns a group of very gifted upper sixth students, two of whom went on to Oxford and Cambridge. We were studying Jules et Jim, the novel by Henri-Pierre Roché and film by …

Frenchteacher survey feedback

Thank you to the 85 teachers who completed the short Survey Monkey survey for me. My previous surveys attracted a similar number of respondents. Thanks also for the many kind comments teachers left, some of which I have added to my Testimonials page.

You may be interested in the responses. I read and take on board all individual comments.

Main findings

The A-level section remains the most widely used with nearly 90% of respondents recording that they use this section of the site. The GCSE/intermediate section is the next most popular, with over 50% using this. 20% use the Y9 section and fewer still use the Y8 and Y7/Primary sections. I was interested to see that 13% of respondents said they use the resources with primary age children.  My Adult Student section, which I created after a request to do so, is relatively new, so I am pleased to see it in regular use. 10% of subscribers said they used it.

97% said they found the site easy to navigate. This is a potential issue for me as the s…

Shelf life

When textbook writers and people like me writing resources online choose what to write about we are faced with a minor dilemma. We want to make our resources up to date and relevant, but want to ensure that they can be used for at least five years or so. If the shelf life of a resource is too short it cannot be used for very long.

I am sure we have all come across textbooks containing material which may have been fashionable at the time of writing, but which seem out of date five years later. This includes use of pictures of, say, cars or clothes. The best textbooks avoid this trap by using more timeless, generic texts and images.

That's why I try to produce resources with a decent shelf life on frenchteacher.net. When I write or adapt articles I avoid pieces based on fresh news because they will usually be of no interest a few months down the road. I would rather teachers found the resources useful over a longer period. One or two people who respond to my surveys would like to s…

Frenchteacher updates

I've been quite busy with the site lately and would like to keep you up to date with the latest resources. In addition, I have prepared a short survey, as I do from time to time, to get user feedback, which helps me develop the site further and respond to any issues raised.

The survey is here. It takes no more than five minutes and I'd be delighted if lots of people completed it.

By the way, there are currently around 1275 schools/teachers/tutors who subscribe to the site, mostly from the UK, but also from countries such as Canada, the USA, Ireland, China (Hong Kong), Dubai, France, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. At a rough guess, about a quarter to a third of English secondary schools (private, maintained and academies/frees) use frenchteacher.net. I know the resources do not support the full ability range - after all, the site originated in 2002 as a repository for materials I designed for my grammar school students. I am aware that some teachers take resources from a…