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Showing posts from January, 2014

Des abus sur Twitter

Des abus sur le réseau social Twitter L’ancien footballeur de l’équipe nationale d’Angleterre, devenu commentateur, Stan Collymore a accusé le réseau social Twitter en janvier 2014 de ne pas faire assez pour lutter contre la violence illégale sur le réseau, après avoir été soumis à des commentaires offensants sur le site.

Collymore a été victime d'une série de tweets abusifs après qu’il avait accusé Luis Suarez, l’attaquant de Liverpool, d’avoir plongé pour gagner un penalty contre Aston Villa en Premier League . La gymnaste olympique Beth Tweddle a été également ciblée par les trolls d'Internet mardi pendant une séance de questions-réponses sur Twitter, destinée à promouvoir le rôle des femmes dans le sport et discuter des questions liées à sa carrière.

Collymore a parlé à la radio et à la télévision pour exprimer sa frustration, affirmant que la police a été, elle aussi, déçue par le manque de réaction de Twitter qui n’avait rien fait pour stopper ces abus. La police …

Do we need "pass" and "fail"?

When GCSEs replaced O-levels and CSEs in about 1987 the grading system did not include, if I recall correctly, a fail threshold between grades C and D. The idea was that pupils would be rewarded for their achievement at whatever level. However, although the GCSE was designed to be a qualification for students of almost all abilities, it was always going to be the case that many would get below a grade C.

Once the tradition became quickly established that anything below a C was deemed (not necessarily by name) a "fail" students and schools would soon begin to doubt the value of their study. This contributed to the fall in MFL exam entries once the subject was made optional. In addition, with the growing importance of high stakes accountability measures schools, to a greater and greater extent, focused on the C/D borderline students, which inevitably had an effect on classroom practice.

The DfE has been aware of this side-effect of A-C accountability measures and is hoping to …

Does homework matter?

Every now and again I read teachers arguing that homework has little value, indeed that it can be harmful.

There have been a range of studies over the years on the value of homework. I dealt with this issue in a previous blog in 2011 entitled How useful is homework? I would like to return to the issue, mainly because I fear that if word gets around that homework is not useful, some teachers may actually start to believe it! You can find studies which make the case for and against homework and it is, of course, a difficult area on which to produce reliable data. This important meta-study from 2006 by Cooper, Robinson and Patall based on papers written between 1987 and 2003 concludes "... both within and across design types, there was generally consistent evidence for a positive influence of homework on achievement".

In a more recent meta-study John Hattie looked at 5 meta-studies covering 161 separate studies found a very positive effect overall for homework at secondary lev…

Input versus output

At one extreme, teachers who implicitly accept the Stephen Krashen style comprehension hypothesis try to make their lessons as full as possible with target language, whether it be in listening or reading form. They work under the assumption that by hearing and seeing lots of the foreign language, nature will take its course in time and comprehension, along with fluency, will develop. The emphasis is strongly on input.

At the other extreme, there are teachers who favour analysis of form and accuracy, conscious memorisation techniques, comparison with he native language, along with controlled speaking and writing practice. The focus is thus on output.

Most teachers, of course, fall somewhere in the middle and I have blogged previously here and here about how fluency and accuracy, grammar and comprehension, are not enemies.

I have to say, however, that my leaning, with the quite able students I taught, was more towards input i.e. supplying lots of target language in any form. I made the …

Grammar Evolution

Grammar Evolution is an online interactive teaching resource in beta form with a range of exercises under the categories grammar, vocabulary, dictation and reading. It contains abundant material in French and Spanish.Teachers can sign on for a six week trial. It is the creation of British languages teacher Rob Darby who writes:

Grammar Evolution's aim is to allow users to now practise their grammar in a competitive arena which is supported by an innovative league structure. Learners are rewarded for "giving it a go" but are also encouraged to focus on speed and accuracy to win games. The games suit language learners from beginner through to advanced levels, with the principle focus on the MFL curriculum in UK secondary schools. However, the grammar principles and vocabulary are applicable to anyone wishing to improve their grammar.

I've been having a look at the site to see what it's all abo…

Global Teacher Status Index

I just stumbled upon this report by the Varkey Gems Foundation about the status of teachers around the world. You might find it interesting and surprising in parts.

The headline bar chart is to be found on page 12 of the document, which reveals that the countries where teachers seem to be held in highest esteem are, in descending order,  China, Greece, Turkey, South Korea and New Zealand. The UK is in the middle of this particular pack of countries, just above France and below the USA. Countries where teachers seem to be held in lowest esteem are Israel, Brazil, the Czech Republic and Japan.

One thing that surprised me - given what we have been told about the Finnish education system, its highly qualified teachers and the esteem in which its profession is held - is that, according to this survey, Finnish teachers have lower status than their British counterparts. For example, in a separ…

Video listening updates

I have recently been scouring the internet for easy video listening material for the site. The advanced level pages are now well stocked with worksheets linking to videos on Youtube and elsewhere (always check links work before using a worksheet). Remember that these sheets can be used by pupils themselves in front of a computer or tablet, or by the teacher from the front. If it were me, I would tend to favour playing from the front, certainly for younger learners - that may be down to your taste and how reliable your students are.

Okay, so for post beginner and low intermediate learners I have found the odd useful resource. Here are some recent additions to the site:

La famille Berrow. Beginner worksheet linked to a BBC video. This may only work for British users (BBC copyright).Trotro joue à cache-cache. Trotro cartoon with French subtitles. Good for home vocabulary, rooms and prepositions. (FYI Trotro is a cartoon donkey.)  Easy video slideshow listening, reading and writing on topi…

A word about "phonics"

Synthetic phonics (known as blended phonics in the USA) is the approach recommended (enforced upon, actually) by the DfE to English primary teachers for the teaching of early reading. It is a method of teaching reading which firsts teaches the letter sounds then builds up to blending these sounds to make words.

The opposing approach is sometimes called the "whole word" or "whole language" approach which does not aim to analyse individual letters or phonemes. By this approach children become good readers by recognising whole words and by reading a lot.

A brief look around the internet reveals that the empirical evidence for the success of synthetic phonics is mixed. Stephen Krashen argues that studies supporting it really show that it may only lead to improvement in reading of single words or made up words. He claims that it is extensive reading which makes children better readers. Give children access to interesting books and they will improve.

We don't know fo…

Back to basics - good routines

Although most of us would like to keep our lessons varied, with a small dose of the unexpected, we also value the fact that children need and want clear routines.

Here are a few which worked for me and my colleagues:
Have any equipment ready and materials for the lesson laid out before the class enters the room.Make sure the class is lined up appropriately and not making too much noise.Greet the class at the door as they come. Have a cheerful word with a few as they file in. Rigorously check uniform at this point. (I was never a uniform fan, but I rarely left sloppy appearance unchecked.)With younger ones have them sing a song as they walk in (e.g. books have to be out by the time they get to the end of the song).If the class is excessively noisy as they stand behind their tables, make them go out and start again. Classes need training until they get things right.Check seating plan is in order. We found boy-girl pairs worked well in Y7 and Y8.Have a choral greeting routine as they sta…

No need to diss worksheets!

I sometimes pick up from articles and blogs that the word worksheet has a negative connotation. I think I understand why. If a worksheet is a grammar or vocabulary exercise handed out with little context; if it does not involve communicating in the target language; if it is used to keep a class quiet; if it is based on dubious methodology - well, these are all good reasons to be wary of the worksheet.

Good worksheets, on the other hand, are an excellent starting point for multi-skill work involving speaking in pairs or groups, information gap tasks, reading, listening, writing, grammar analysis and vocabulary building - in short, communicating. A worksheet is one resource among many which, if used skilfully, is a vital part of a language teacher's armoury.

I have blogged previously about how to exploit grammar worksheets to maximum effect.

Worksheets with texts and exercises are a super starting point for developing comprehension, practising reading aloud, question-answer, pair wo…