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The problem with authentic resources

Authentic resources in language teaching are usually defined as ones written or recorded for a native speaker readership or audience. There has been a long debate in language teaching circles about the value of such resources.

Those who argue strongly for using authentic resources usually make the following points:
They are more motivating than dry text book materials.They show language as it is really used so are a better preparation for real world language use.When they seem too difficult for the class you can adjust the task to fit them. "Alter the task, not the text." Arguments presented against authentic materials include:
It is hard to find sources which match the attainment level of the class.They often contain low frequency language which may not be usefully transferable to other contexts for students.There are copyright issues with using authentic resources.
My own view is clear on this. Written and spoken texts for classroom use are best when they are both interestin…
Recent posts

The latest from frenchteacher

This is one of my regular updates to let you know what new resources I have been adding to over the last month.

Key Stage 3

A simple word ordering worksheet to practise the verb parler in the present tense. This is for near beginners and is an addition to a few others which use the same format.A new Peppa Pig video listening worksheet for Y9 (low intermediate). You could use it with Y10 or 11. This one asks pupils to spot correct sentences then has a short drill on il ne faut pas que...An adjective agreement crossword for near-beginners.

For intermediate level (GCSE)

Two grammar practice worksheets, one on using si clauses with the imperfect and conditional tenses, the other about using the avant de + infinitive structure. the exercises types I have used are sentence combining are translation into French. Both sheets get students to add complexity to their spoken and written language.Two sets of four GCSE conversation questions presented in a dice board game format. Gre…

Breaking the Sound Barrier

Here are the slides I used for my presentation to the ISMLA French day at Queen's College, London. ISMLA stands for Independent Schools Modern Languages Association. The general theme of the talk was how we might teach the neglected skill of listening in a structured, research-informed way and provided practical classroom examples of bottom-up skill practice (including phonics tasks) and two-way listening, including activities such as "whole body listening", question-answer and specific games where the focus is on developing listening skill.

Gianfranco Conti and I are together working on a book with the working title Breaking the Sound Barrier.

Ismla London November 18th from Steve Smith

An hour of language teaching chat

Last Sunday evening I was the guest on Etienne Langlois’s webinar show Shop Talk. Etienne is a Canadian teacher and DJ who runs the French Playground site which organises live, online French activities and events including interviews, French class meet and greets, games of "Devinez le dessin", "Triva", and Kahoot. Etienne nad I talked for an hour about my work and about language teaching in general. I am grateful to Etienne for setting up the interview.

Exploiting a simple drill worksheet

One type of activity which I found useful to do from time to time with students was audio-lingual style grammar drills. A simple cue and response style drill can be exploited in a number of ways. In the example below the exercise is designed to practise perfect tense verbs (avoir auxiliary, regular past participles).

So as not to overload pupils with too much other distracting information, all the (high frequency) vocabulary should already be known to the class so that students are encouraged to notice and focus on the contrast between present and perfect tense.

First of all, the worksheet is meant to be used primarily for whole class and paired oral work so that pupils get to hear multiple uses of the two tenses. Assume that these exercises come late in a sequence of work focusing on the perfect tense with avoir verbs, i.e. pupils already have a good understanding of how the grammar works and the phonology associated with the two tenses. This stress on listening should help build a s…

Games or purposeful tasks?


a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules. synonyms:match · contest · tournament · meeting · sports meeting · meet · event ·  an activity that one engages in for amusement: "a computer game" synonyms:pastime · diversion · entertainment · amusement · distraction a complete episode or period of play, ending in a final result: "a baseball game" a type of activity or business regarded as a game: "he was in the restaurant game for the glamour"

There’s a good deal of debate around the value of games in the languages classroom. Inexperienced trainees I meet are often strongly encouraged to use games, while others feel "gamification" may devalue the subject and contribute too little to learning. I wonder how you see the role of games...

My own feeling on this is if a game is a purposeful task which enhances learning at least as well as any other, then why not use it to provide an enjoyable and memorable lesson? Take the common whole …

The Google Translate problem

I read on social media groups for language teachers that many teachers have stopped setting written homework to pupils because the latter are resorting to Google Translate so often. Instead these teachers are setting learning homework or exercises with apps such as Memrise. This is, in a way, understandable, but it's also very regrettable.

If written work is done in the classroom it leaves less time for listening and speaking, which it is harder to plan for as homework. Time is already too limited for MFL so to restrict that time for listening and speaking even further is bound to hinder the progress pupils can make. Second language acquisition occurs primarily through receiving understandable messages and communicating, not so much by doing written drills, writing paragraphs or learning individual words from lists of apps. If you do less listening and communication in class you limit the progress students can make. Put simply, if students do not do written homework I believe they…