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Teaching task-based lessons

Do you know much about task-based language teaching (TBLT)?  I've added a new page on this topic to the Teacher's Guide of It suggests some practical ideas you could use which exploit this dimension of language teaching. I'm not convinced it's a valid methodology for secondary MFL/WL classrooms overall, given all the syllabus and examination restrictions placed upon teachers, nor do I think it's an entirely valid methodology full-stop, but there are certainly worthwhile language tasks with a real purpose which can help bring lessons to life and increase pupil progress by building their vocabulary, grammar, comprehension and fluency.

For a rationale behind task-based teaching look at my review of Bill VanPatten's book While We're on the Topic.

Here is the link to my new page which includes practical classroom ideas:

The page is an adapted version of a chapter on my handbook…
Recent posts

Updates to A-level vocab and oral booklets

This is to mention that I've made significant changes to the AS-level (first year of A-level) vocabulary and oral booklets on One teacher pointed out to me that the questions were not focused tightly enough on the new requirement for cultural knowledge. As a result I have updated these booklets to include the new style of questions teachers or examiners might ask.

The A-level (Year 2) booklets are fine and do not need changing. these booklets are designed to help teachers and students prepare for the sub-theme cards.

For teacher-examiners the new paper 3 oral poses new challenges and there is a danger that some teachers may not focus tightly enough on the culture of the TL country. Although it's not expected that candidates will be quizzed on specific factual details, the type of open-ended question teachers might ask should encourage students to show off what they know. If they do these successfully they will score well for AO4 in the mark scheme.

Good tech…

GCSE and IGCSE revision links 2018

It's coming up to that time of year again. In England and Wales. Here is a handy list of some good interactive revision links for this level. These links are also good for intermediate exams in Scotland, Ireland and other English-speaking countries. You could copy and paste this to print off for students.

Don't forget the GCSE revision material on of course! How could you?

As far as apps for students are concerned, I would suggest the Cramit one, Memrise and Learn French which is pretty good for vocabulary. For Android devices try the Learn French Vocabulary Free. For listening, you could suggest Coffee Break French from Radio Lingua Network (iTunes podcasts).

Listening (Foundation/Higher) (Foundation/Higher) (Foundation/Higher)

GCSE resources on frenchteacher

Here is the list of resources specifically designed to support teachers and pupils preparing for the GCSE exams in England and Wales. The newest resource, uploaded yesterday, is a 15 page listening revision booklet which pupils could take away and use on their own.

Foundation Tier

Knowledge organiser (for speaking and writing)
AQA-style role-plays
AQA-style photo card conversations (2 sets)
Photo card conversation mat
AQA general conversation questions
AQA conversation questions as boardgames
100 translation sentences into French(with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
10 translations into English (with answers)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier

Listening revision booklet
Knowledge organiser (for speaking and writing)
AQA-style role-plays
AQA-style photo card conversations (Higher tier) - 2 sets
AQA general conversation questions
AQA conversation questions as boardgames
20 Higher Tier translations into French (with answers)

New A-level revision booklets on frenchteacher

This is just to make you aware of a resource which A-level French teachers might find very useful for students.

I have posted an 82 page revision booklet covering the first six AQA sub-themes (AS-level or the first year of the A-level course). These are:

FamilyCyber-societyCinemaContemporary musicVolunteeringCultural heritage
The booklet is in effect a compendium of listening and reading worksheets which you can already find on the site, some of which you may have used. I have provided nearly all the answers at the back of the booklet, with a few exceptions - notably song lyrics (copyright) and a very few older sheets for which I never produced answers in the first place.

I would anticipate this booklet being handed out for revision in the run-up to exams or being used in class, led by the teacher from the front.

The listening material is mostly in the form of video listening sheets linked to online sources, but there are a couple of audio worksheets (using Audio Lingua authentic reco…

Ways to help your students in the run-up to A-level orals

Once again in late April the orals season will be upon you and this will be the first year of the new A-level specification with its stimulus card conversation (AQA) and Individual Research Project (IRP) presentation and discussion. I have presented 10 courses for AQA, part of which have been devoted to orals, so I thought I would share some ideas of my own and others I have picked up from the many A-level teachers I have met.

1. Stimulus cards (AQA)

Train up students in using their 5 minute preparation time by using practice cards or just very short paragraphs in class. Get students working alone or in pairs for 5 minutes, producing bullet points for their answers, then modelling answers to questions on the board. Students could record your model answers on their phones.

Play “Just a minute” in small groups to encourage fluency, keeping the focus on knowledge of the TL country (AO4). Again could record these games.

In pairs play the game in which one person has to make a point about a su…

A task-based lesson plan

This is for an intermediate class (Y9-11 in England and Wales) and is closely based on an idea in Bill VanPatten's book While We're on the Topic, which I recently reviewed. It's far from original in concept but is a nice low preparation activity which would take about 25 minutes and which features many repetitions of perfect tense verbs.

How much is learning to sing like learning a language?

If you think the answer to the above question is “not at all” bear with me a moment.

I am currently having a rest break during my barbershop chorus’s annual weekend retreat in York. We do some pretty technical work on singing, and in particularly singing in close harmony.

Our talented chorus director uses a mix of explanation and structured practice to help us sing better. Singing, like speaking and understanding a language, can be broken down into sub-skills or micro-skills. When you sing you need to apply a range of techniques: bodily alignment (good posture), breath support (the key to everything), maintaining pitch, being aware of the “rhythmic sub-text”, vowel shaping to ensure consonance with the rest of chorus, mouth shaping to improve resonance, facial and physical expression, variation of volume and tone... I could go on.

By isolating these sub-skills, working on them repeatedly, you hopefully, by small increments become a better singer. In crude terms you develop a sort of musc…

Book review: While We're on the Topic by Bill VanPatten.

Bill VanPatten's book about language teaching is an admirably clear, simple and very short call to arms for classroom teaching based on input and purposeful tasks ("communicative input") and founded on research from the field of second language acquisition. If you haven't heard of him, VanPatten is a professor and teacher at Michigan State University self-professed diva of second language acquisition and a rare example of a reputed academic who engages with teachers, both through the written medium, conferences and his chatty radio show Tea with BVP.

"This is not your conventional book, nor should you expect a high-falutin’ scholarly text with lots of citations, long sentences, and the like," he writes in his prologue. Take from that what you will.

VanPatten begins with a definition of communication which he sees as the foundation of effective teaching, and this is not necessarily what you may understand about Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). He …