Thursday, 30 June 2011

Ideas for exploiting films

These ideas are lifted straight from Michelle Cairns' blog called Resources for the MFL Classroom. Thanks to her.

Ideas for activities before during & after to ensure active watching:
  1. Use still images to elicit ideas & try to predict story line/characters
  2. Show the first scene, what came before/will come after?
  3. Video without sound or just listen with no visual
  4. Tick boxes to check comprehension in target language while watching film
  5. Map the changes in character/mood, is there a relationship between them?
  6. Spot the function/grammar
  7. Play soundtrack & have a tick list for moods – joyeux/terrifiant/angoissant
  8. True/False activity
  9. Cut off final few frames for prediction
  10. Re-order the plot
  11. Who said what? – match the characters & the quotes
  12. Dramatize using still images as prompts – no script to encourage     spontaneous language
  13. Open dialogues – imagine the other character (eg dialogue on the telephone) or imagine what the people in the scene are thinking
  14. Rewrite a scene from the film – how else could it have started/ended?
  15. Interview the director/characters = to improve questioning skills

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

ALL webinar on music in modern language lessons

http://lancelot.adobeconnect.com/p2vjedtrbn7?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal

This is interesting! Helen Myers of the ALL (Association for Language Learning) London Branch, with the help of Heike Philp and 20 or so others, all recently took part in a "webinar" using Adobe Connect. After Helen's introduction, John Connor gives a talk with powerpoint notes about using music in MFL lessons. The link above is to a recording of the event. John has all sorts of ideas about this, some well known and some I hadn't thought of at all, so language teachers should find something instructive in it.

It lasts over an hour and I haven't watched it all yet, but I do recommend it. I hope I can show it to my colleagues in the department at the first opportunity. You could easily watch, take notes and put a section in the departmental handbook/scheme of work.

I think this kind of meeting is a very good idea. Interesting, informative and fewer (or is it less?) carbon emissions compared to a conference.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

So whatever happened to translation?

Funny, isn't it, that you never, ever see translation exercises in GCSE modern language text books. You don't see much of it in A-level books either, even though translation to and from French features in A-level examinations. Why did the exam boards and publishers abandon it? What's wrong with it?

In the 1960s the grammar-translation method became discredited as the influence of behaviourism, audio-lingualism and later communicative theory, led us towards a less analytical methodology, and one based more on natural acquisition and inductive approaches to the internalisation of vocabulary and grammar rules. Whitmarsh was dead, long live target language, authenticity and communication.

This was, on the whole, "a good thing". GT was for many children, no doubt, a difficult and soul-destroying way of learning a language which you would rarely get to speak. Many teachers couldn't speak French very well, but could master and transmit the rules of grammar. Children did not hear enough French and failed to develop effective listening and oral skills.

But I would argue that we may have been wrong to get divorced from translation. We could have at least remained friends. Why?

Well, my experience with the children I have taught is that they rather enjoy translating (both "prose" - English to French, and "unseen" - French to English). They enjoy it because it is a mental challenge, it helps clarify grammar, it fixes vocabulary, it develops detailed comprehension and it's a change. It also focuses strongly on meaning whereas some forms of practice focus on form at the expense of meaning. How often do we practise something and the child says, but what does it mean?

When I began teaching I only did translation grudgingly because I had been trained in the oral, question-answer approach, because it still featured in O-level exams and you had to do it. It was still to be found in some text books too. These days, I do it less grudgingly, realising that, although, in the case of prose, it does not play on the natural acquisition dimension, it does perform the other functions I mentioned above. I would happily see sentences to translate into French in text books and passages to put into English.

Let's use all the weapons in our armoury and take advantage of all learning styles.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Good to outstanding

Some discussion in the department recently on the question of what constitutes an "outstanding" lesson - OFSTED's adjective, not mine. Funny how we take on board an imposed term and assume it makes sense. It's all part of a national drive to increas the number of really good lessons. Maybe "really good" would be a better term - firstly because, by definition, an "outstanding" lesson should be a fairly rare one (am I being pedantic there?); secondly it is actually not that easy to define what a "really good" lesson is.

When we talked about this we came up with a number of features which might (I stress might) be part of a really good lesson. Interested? Well, here they are:
  • Enjoyment (not necessarily fun)
  • Large amounts of target language
  • Progress being made according to the ability of each pupil, which implies...
  • Differentiation
  • Participation of many
  • A cultural element
  • Variety of tasks
  • Pace
  • Challenge
  • Pupils recognising their own progress
  • A collective feeling of support for each other and from the teacher
  • Appropriate homework where relevant
I may have forgotten something, but that is pretty much what we came up with. We felt it was hard to define an "outstanding" lesson, but that we might recognise it when we saw it. There is also an element of subjectivity involved because we may have different views on how a second language is best learned.

We wondered whether the following could be called "outstanding":
  • A lesson spent translating sentences
  • Doing a dictation
  • Watching a foreign language film
  • Spending a lesson in the ICT room doing an interactive listening task with almost no teacher input
My guess is that we would not plan any of those lessons for an inspector even though they are all perfectly valid lessons which would further the progress of a student.

One problem with any generic set of descriptors for a good lesson is that they do not take account of individual subject needs. In a language lesson, notably the need for plenty of target language input.

Anyway, I reckon we should keep teaching lots of good lessons and hope that some of them are "really good". That would be a decent average in a job where we have too many lessons and too many pupils in each classroom.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Jean de Florette

Just completed our first viewing of Claude Berri's Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. Looking back at these again you are struck by the beauty of the Bruno Nuytten's photography, the gorgeous settings, but above all the quality of the acting, especially the duo of Yves Montand and Daniel Auteuil. The poignancy of the climax, barely hinted at in the first movie, still brings a tear to the eye. Berri's direction is subtle, never showy, never mawkish. I suppose the film is, above all, an examination of human nature in various forms: avarice, love, vengeance, ambition, self-delusion, moral confusion. The characters are intimately bound up with the land they live on, subject to the whims of nature, still wary of God. It's all down to Marcel Pagnol's vision of course.

The films were rewarded in 1987 with eight Césars and, a year later, with four BAFTAs. I was interested to read:

"Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources have been interpreted as part of a wider trend in the 1980s of so-called 'heritage cinema': period pieces and costume dramas that celebrated the history, culture and landscape of France. It was the official policy of President François Mitterrand, elected in 1981, and particularly his Minister of Culture Jack Lang, to promote these kinds of films through increased funding of the ailing French film industry. Berri's pair of films stand as the most prominent example of this effort." (Wikipedia)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Neal Morse in London

Don't mention Facebook and Twitter!

Thanks to Alan Crease for directing me to an article by John Naughton in the Observer on a recent ruling by the French media regulator the CSA (Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel) that TV and radio should not refer explicitly to Facebook and Twitter unless they are explicitly involved in the news story. They may refer instead to "your favourite social network", for example.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jun/19/twitter-facebook-free-plug

I tend to agree with John Naughton that we should not forget that Facebook and Twitter are companies making profits for shareholders, so why should they get free advertising? As Mr Naughton says, the BBC would not refer to a vacuum cleaner as a Dyson; it amounts to promotion. At what point does brand name become an everyday item of vocabulary? Hoover? Ipod? Walkman? Bic?

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A good week!

Apart from a large stack of Y8 exam marking, this week has been a good one. I managed to nip down on the train to London for an overnight stay. Back to Yorkshire on the 0615 from King's Cross. Saw my prog rock hero Neal Morse and his European band in concert at the King's College Students Union Tutu's club in the Strand. Magnificent gig with a superb band. Someone just in front of me posted the photo below on the Neal Morse web site forum.

Also got a lovely gift from my A2 leavers - a mug with a picture of our set on one side and a picture of Truffaut on the other.

Drive out to the dales this afternoon with a walk along the Wharfe.

Gig tonight at the Countess of Rosse in Shipley with Fischer's Ghost with my two professor roadies: Elspeth and her colleague Betty from Australia.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Le mariage homosexuel restera illégal en France

Voici un extrait d'un article d'Emile Picy paru sur le site yahoo.fr:

"PARIS (Reuters) - Les députés ont rejeté mardi par 293 voix contre 222 une proposition de loi du groupe socialiste visant à ouvrir le mariage aux couples de même sexe, une vingtaine d'élus de la majorité votant pour ou s'abstenant. Le groupe UMP et celui du Nouveau centre (NC) ont voté massivement contre la proposition de loi de qui propose d'introduire un nouvel article dans le Code civil. Toutefois, 9 élus UMP dont Jean-Louis Borloo, président du Parti radical, Axel Poniatowski, président de la commission des Affaires étrangères, et Franck Riester ont voté en faveur du texte.Neuf députés UMP se sont volontairement abstenus comme les anciens ministres Christian Estrosi et Nicole Ameline....

SOS HOMOPHOBIE "RÉVOLTÉE ET INDIGNÉE"

Après avoir rappelé l'existence du Pacs, qui est ouvert aux couples de même sexe ou non, le ministre de la Justice, Michel Mercier, a justifié le rejet du texte.
"Votre proposition de loi introduirait, si elle était adoptée, un changement de taille dans les valeurs de notre société dont il nous faut mesurer toutes les conséquences. Vous ne serez pas surpris : le gouvernement n'est pas favorable à ce texte", a-t-il souligné.

SOS Homophobie a déploré le sens du vote des députés.

"Les parlementaires de la majorité ont ainsi montré qu'ils et elles hiérarchisent encore les citoyen(ne)s français(es) en fonction de leur orientation sexuelle, que l'homosexualité continue d'être considérée comme inférieure à l'hétérosexualité", écrit l'association dans un communiqué.
"SOS Homophobie est révoltée et indignée par tant de mépris de la part de la majorité politique française", poursuit le texte....

Dix pays ont à ce jour légalisé le mariage homosexuel : les Pays-Bas, la Belgique, l'Espagne, le Canada, l'Afrique du Sud, la Norvège, la Suède, le Portugal, l'Islande et l'Argentine. Il faut y ajouter la ville de Mexico, cinq Etats des Etats-Unis et Washington."

A noter que la mariage gay reste illégal au Royaume-Uni. Au mois de février on avait parlé d'un éventuel projet de loi (les travaillistes et les libéro-démocrates sont pour) mais pas de nouvelles depuis. Les "civil partnerships" pour homosexuels existent depuis 2004. En France le PACS (Pacte civil de solidarité) existe depuis 1999. Il est ouvert aux hétéros et aux homos.

Mon avis? Je ne vois pas pourquoi les homosexuels ne devraient pas avoir les mêmes droits que les hétérosexuels dans ce domaine. La situation actuelle discrimine contre les gays.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Is bilingualism good for you?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jun/12/ellen-bialystok-bilingual-brains-more-healthy

Did I mention that I am now an official Twitterer (as opposed to just a twit)? @spsmith45

I'm hoping I'll pick up and share some nice professional titbits (or, as the Americans say, tidbits).

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Frenchteacher.net updates

I've been working a bit on the site today. Apart from a few minor presentational improvements, I've added a text and exercises on bullying in schools (le harcèlement) in the A-level section and a worksheet for Year 7 for general revision. The latter is a word re-ordering task. These are quite good because they get the pupils thinking about syntax and agreements.They play on the analytical side of language learning, rather than the natural, acquisitional, if you see what I mean.

The bullying text is based on something from Le journal des Enfants, an online magazine for children to which children can subscribe for the full version. It is similar to what was Les Clés Junior, now called 1jour1actu. These sites are a good source of short, simple articles based on news of the day. here are the links:

http://www.frenchteacher.net
http://www.jde.fr/
http://1jour1actu.com

Friday, 10 June 2011

Little and often

I have often thought that one thing which holds back successful language acquisition is the nature of modern school timetables. One hour lessons are the common practice in schools these days, with two or three contacts with the teacher in a modern language per week. At my own school we still work on the basis of four or five contacts of 40 minutes per week and I believe our students benefit from it. I had never come across any specific evidence for this, even though it seems pretty much like common sense.

I wonder to what extent this was considered when the government designed the 1 hour three part lesson?

Anyway, someone posted a link to an article called The Psychology of Foreign Language Vocabulary Acquisition, by psychologist Nick Ellis from the University of Bangor written in 1995. Here is the relevant passage:

The spacing effect is one of the most robust phenomena in experimental psychology: for a given amount of study time, spaced presentations yield substantially better learning than do massed presentations. It is better to distribute practice. In many cases two spaced presentations are about twice as effective as two massed presentations, and the difference between them increases as the frequency of repetition increases (Melton, 1970; Underwood, 1970). This effect was apparent in of the earliest of experimental studies of learning and memory performed by Ebbinghaus (1885) who concluded that “with any considerable number of repetitions a suitable distribution of them over a space of time is decidedly more advantageous than the massing of them at a single time”. It was soon being passed on to educators; for example, William James (1901) advised teachers and students that it is better to repeat an association on many different days than again and again on just a few days. Yet despite the power of this effect, it is rarely realised by implementation in educational programmes, whether text- or CAL-based (Dempster, 1988).

Ellis was researching vocabulary retention, but I believe that the same would hold for the acquisition of syntax. To my mind, the best school timetable would allow enough flexibility for some subjects, such as art and science, to have longer sessions, but to allow others, such as maths and languages, to have shorter ones.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

MFL Times

Seen this yet?

http://paper.li/MFLTimes

I picked up this link via Twitter which I have finally succumbed to, despite the fact I rarely use a mobile phone. Another thing to fritter my time away with!

The Citroën DS5

Now, this is the real deal! The first Citroën to be manufactured in China as well as France with a diesel hybrid option producing only 99g of CO2. I'd like one of these! The pictures below come from Autoexpress in April:







Wednesday, 8 June 2011

languagesresources.co.uk

Just a plug for a very good site for modern language resources, especially French. It is Samatha Lunn's languagesresources.co.uk site which has a mine of resources for French teachers. Samantha is a Head of Department at a school in the north west of England. The site was revamped a while ago and I just re-discovered it after having neglected it for a while. It's true that there are some mistakes here and there, partly because the work sheets and powerpoints come from a range of sources, but Samantha has been very generous in making all this stuff available to French teachers. Thanks.

http://www.languagesresources.co.uk

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

La nouvelle DS

 Merci Hélène de m'avoir envoyé ce message qui plairait à n'importe quel Citroëniste:

 Après la DS - 3, en alu

 
Après la DS - 4, en titane :


Après la DS - 5, en carbone :
 

 
 
Bientôt la "DS - K " ……….. en TÔLE ...

Friday, 3 June 2011

ieLanguages

http://ielanguages.com/frenchlistening.html

Just had another look at Jennifer Wagner's excellent ieLanguages site which has a clearly laid out set of listening tasks for intermediate level. Each short passage has a transcript and accompanying cloze exercise. All free and well worth checking out. I shall use this next term with my Y10 class.

Neat ways of doing French accents

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/17762660/characters.exe

A former student sent me the above link to a piece of software which allows you do French accents more speedily than with ALT numbers. It's free download designed by a fellow student. One or two people I know thought it was very good, but I found the scrolling process a bit of a nuisance. Maybe a bit of practice is needed.

I'm doing this post on the ipad which has a handy system for accents which it shares with the iphone. You just slide away from the letter and you are offered all the possible accents. I used to occasionally use shortcuts on a traditional keyboard using CTRL ALT and punctuation marks, but now use ALT with code numbers.

Code numbers are a nuisance on notebooks, however, so the download I have linked to could be particularly useful for laptop users. Give it a try!

Alternatively, download Lexibar. This little dowload places an icon on your desktop. When you activate it a vertical, narrow and movable bar appears with all your French accented characters. You have to move the cursor to them, but it could suit some people.

In Word you can choose your language, type away ignoring accernts and then hover over words afterwards. Correct versions with accents will appear which you can then insert.

Laura Lawless on the About site recommends the International Keyboard. Haven't tried this, but you could look into it.

If you are really smart you can set up your own hot keys which are easier than thwe exisiting ones in Windows whereby you hold down two or three keys simultaneously to produce accented characters. Can't do this yet, but that would be a nifty solution.

We are all creatures of habit, so I may stick with ALT codes for the moment. They work fine on a desktop, but don't work for notebook users.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Puyravault

We are spending a week in the house in Puyravault with Elspeth's mum amd dad, Pat and Les. A chance to visit some familiar and well-loved places: St Martin on the Ile de Ré, the Hermione ship in Rochefort and a trip around the Venise Verte today. Everything is so dry and brown. You would think it was August to judge by the colour of the grass. The water shortages are worrying and comparisons are being made with the drought year of 1976. Local farmers can only irrigate at certain times of day and fields of peas on the edge of the village look dead.

Sud-Ouest have an interesting article with archive pictures from '76.


http://www.sudouest.fr/2011/06/01/1976-2011-les-deux-printemps-de-la-soif-413686-757.php#xtor=EPR-260-%5BNewsletter%5D-20110601-%5Bzone_info%5D