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Showing posts from June, 2017

Fortunately, unfortunately

I came across this useful lesson starter/filler/plenary which you might like. It was tweeted by English language teacher Matthew Stott (@ThisIsMattStott) It's an oral fluency game called Fortunately, Unfortunately. You could use it with intermediate or, perhaps best, with advanced level students.

It's as simple as this: you go round the class inviting sentences to develop a simple narrative beginning each sentence with either fortunately or unfortunately. If you'd rather not go round the class in turn you could use hands-up or no hands-up. You could either give students a free choice or get them to use the words alternately.

The sequence of sentences might go something like this:

Teacher starts: Last week I went on holiday to Spain.

Fortunately, the weather was great for two weeks.
Unfortunately, when we arrived the hotel wasn't finished.
Fortunately our room was very comfortable.
Unfortunately, the food was awful
Fortunately, there was a great restaurant not far from the h…

New listening resources based on Audio Lingua

Many of you may already be familiar with the excellent free site called Audio Lingua. The site is run by the Académie de Versailles in France and hosts a large range of short audio clips sent in by children and adults. Apart from French there are clips in German, Spanish, Italian and other languages. The quality of these mainly short recordings is variable, but generally good and the level of each recording is measured against the European framework.

I have started to produce worksheets based on French recordings, with Audio Lingua's permission. These will be primarily aimed at intermediate (GCSE) level, but some will be of A-level standard too.

These worksheets based on audio-only recordings will supplement my many worksheets based on video or the teacher's voice.

Below is a first example which I posted today. All worksheets posted on frenchteacher will have answers provided. I hope they will be a very useful supplement to any of your own recordings or textbook resources.

Des …

Language Trends Survey 2016-17

Every year since 2002 the British Council has conducted a survey of language teaching in primary and secondary schools in the UK, both in the state and independent sectors. This latest survey was carried out between September and December 2016. 2970 state secondary schools, 655 independent secondary schools and 6000 state primary school were invited to respond to a questionnaire. Responses were received from 701 state secondaries, 146 independent secondaries and 727 primary schools.

The main focus of this year's report , produced once again by Teresa Tinsley and Kathryn Board, was to see how schools, primaries, are responding to the long term aspiration of 90% of young people taking a GCSE in a language as part of the EBacc suite of subjects.

Primary schools - key findings

Although languages are becoming more embedded there are, unsurprisingly, large disparities in provision. Languages still have a low profile when compared with core subjects. Even so 88% of respondents expressed w…

New book out in August

I have blogged a couple of times about the book I've written for Routledge. It's called Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. Following the success of The Language Teacher Toolkit written with Gianfranco Conti, Routledge approached me out of the blue to write a book in their series "Becoming an Outstanding...". I had not been intending to write a second handbook, but on reflection I saw how I could put together something which would be distinctive and original. The target readership is teacher trainees and other interested teachers aiming to refine their practice. Since most of the examples I use are in English, so as not to confuse teachers of particular languages, the book may appeal to ESL/EFL teachers too.

The book is now in the final stages of proofing. There are fourteen chapters covering areas such as running a classroom, teaching texts, listening, purposeful games, vocabulary, task-based teaching, writing and speaking, as well as a final chapter featuri…

How to save money in your MFL department

Budgets are tighter and tighter and schools and languages departments are often seeking ways to make savings. Maybe your "magic money tree" is running dry. There was a thread on this issue on the (excellent) MFL Teachers' Lounge Facebook group, so I thought it might to be useful to share the ideas posted there to another audience.

The original question posted was about reducing the photocopying bill, so here are some suggestions which came up plus some of my own about saving money in general:

Number 1 tip
Displaying a worksheet on the board rather than handing it out. This has the merit of getting all pupils to face the front as you model good answers to, say, oral grammar drills. You may get better eye contact from pupils too. They can always write answers on mini-whiteboards, rough paper or in their exercises books. Texts for oral exploitation can be used in this way provided they are clear enough.

Cut down the size of worksheets by reducing an A4, putting on …

10 ways to train students to cope with authentic speech

We all know how often our pupils struggle to understand authentic speech when they encounter it for the first time. "It's not like the language we hear in class." "They speak so fast!" "The accent is really weird." "They seem to miss words out."

In this post I'm not going to argue that we should be presenting and practising a total diet of fast, authentic speech. I believe this goes against some basic principles of learning which involve our scaffolding new language, slowing things down to make them easier, moving from easy to harder, avoiding cognitive overload and so on. However, it's quite possible that we neglect preparing students for some of the more frequent cases where the natural spoken form is unlike the "correct" grammatical or written form. This typically occurs when speakers elide from one sound or word to the next, drop redundant words or omit some sounds completely.

In English, if you say "Do you know wh…

Review: Tricolore Exam Skills for Cambridge IGCSE

This is a 150 page workbook and accompanying CD by Andrew Loughe and Jane Mansfield for the Cambridge IGCSE examination. The writers, both experienced teachers and examiners, say they wrote the book to help pupils prepare for the demands of the exam, with a particular focus on the techniques and vocabulary needed to succeed.

The black and white workbook, liberally sprinkled with pictures, contains 10 units, each with listening, reading, speaking and writing exercises. Topics are:

Jeunes sans frontièresEn ville et à la campagneBon séjour!Une semaine typiqueBon appétit!Ça m'intéresseNouveaux horizonsA votre santéProjets d'avenirNotre planète

In addition there are to practice exam papers covering the four skills preceded by a gebneral advice section. In each unit there are examiners' tips, boxes featuring words not in the defined syllabus, word riddles and reminders about aspects of French relevant to the exam.

There is a good range of exercises types which cater for a range …

York Teachmeet presentation on listening

These are the slides used on 7.6.17 at St Peter's School, York, for the MFL and Latin Teachmeet.

After a brief introduction and description of how listening works (based on John Field) I offer some examples of bottom-up phonics activities, followed by some comprehension and interpersonal listening games and activities.

A note on two slides: the picture of my old school cricket team is designed for asking and answering questions using the imperfect tense; the Peppa Pig written text is used to demonstrate the role of question-answer technique in developing listening.

Listening power point York Teachmeet from Steve Smith

Responses to latest frenchteacher survey

Every few months I conduct a Surveymonkey survey to get some feedback about I am interested to see which sections and resource types get most used and to receive any other feedback, critical or otherwise. The feedback I receive does sometimes affect what I do subsequently, for example I now systematically provide answers with resources and I do develop specific resources if there appears to be a demand for them, e.g. I developed quite a few new adult student resources for private tutors.

Anyway, 96 subscribers responded to my ten questions and here is a summary of the responses. Thank you to all those who took a moment to respond.

Have you used any of the Y10-11 instant listening tasks (not video listening)? Over 70% of respondents said they do. I'm pleased to see that a new type of resource is already being widely used. I shall develop some more exercises of this type.
2.   Have you used video listening tasks from Y9 to Y11? Just under 50% of subscribers sa…

Review: Cambridge IGCSE and O level French as a Foreign language

Written by Danièle Bourdais and Geneviève Talon, this brand new coursebook and accompanying CDs are for pupils studying for IGCSE and O level. It's a thickish, colourful and clearly laid out 12 unit pupil book of nearly 200 pages. The book looks suitable for good Year 10 and 11 pupils.

Unit titles are: mon quotidien, La pleine forme, Une famille à l'étranger, Faites la fête!, Ma ville, demain, La nature - amie, ennemie ou victime, Bonjour de Francophonie, L'école et après, Au travail!, A l'écoute du monde, En voyage and Jeune au XXIe siècle. There are revision units built in to the course after every two units. The coursebook should be bought in conjunction with the Workbook if you want plenty of back-up vocabulary, grammar and strategies support. These workbooks are usually well worth getting.

When I look at a unit in detail, e.g. Faites la fête, I see it contains a good range of activity types: imaginative questions, comprehension matching, task-based activities suc…

Practical activities for balanced listening instruction (part 2)

This is the second blog based on Beth Sheppard's webinar about teaching listening. The first blog with the video itself is here. Beth works at the University of Oregon. The first blog post looked at what she calls "language-focused listening instruction". This post summarises what she says about meaning-focused listening instruction, strategies and fluency-building listening.

There are many levels of meaning in speech. Here are two types of meaning-focused activities:
a) Content reconstruction
Let's suppose students are asked to listen to a short talk. Ask students to take notes as they listen. You can scaffold this (scaffolding is defined here as providing a temporary structure to help students do something which they can later do themselves) e.g. provide a table or grid, a set of headings to divide the talk into sections or gaps to fill. From the notes students can then create a summary or correct a faulty one you provide. Alternatively the…

Paired jumbled word dictation

I have a small number of pair work tasks on which involve students reading a set of words to their partner who has to re-order them to form a correct sentence. As each word is read aloud, the other student transcribes it and attempts to reorder the words appropriately. Alternatively, the exercise could be led by the teacher which would have the advantage of providing a better model of pronunciation. In this instance the class could write their answers on mini-whiteboards to allow you to see how successful they have been.

Although I have the reservation that the task is not a particularly communicative one and provides limited comprehensible input, it does get students to listen carefully, transcribe words and apply their knowledge of syntax and morphology to produce the right answers. There is, therefore, a focus both on form and meaning.

In the example below the grammatical focus is on the present tense. The activity would suit near-beginners (Y8) and could be place…