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Showing posts from March, 2014

Example reading text for low intermediates

On there is a huge range of articles to help students improve their reading comprehension. The two key factors I bear in mind when selecting texts are: (1) Is the text at the right linguistic level to make it accessible enough? (2) Is the content inherently interesting for the age range it is pitched at? Below is an example from the Y9 page (low intermediate). I used questions in English for this text to make it more accessible for low intermediates, but there are also true/false/not mentioned questions to add extra reading input.

The text was rewritten from online encyclopedia material.

Le suricate
Le suricate mesure de 26 à 38 centimètres Il mange des insectes, des souris, des rats, des oiseaux, des petits reptiles et des bulbes de plantes qu'il trouve dans le sol avec ses griffes.
Le suricate habite en colonies de vingt membres environ, dans des terriers des plaines d'Afrique du sud, au sud du fleuve Orange (Angola, Namibie, Afrique du Sud et sud du Botswana)…

Recipes make for good listening material

I've been looking around for good video listening material for the adult student section of and discovered that there are a myriad of useful short videos featuring cooking recipes. Many are short enough (up to about 4 minutes is good) and easy enough to be very usable in the classroom or for homework.

As with all listening resources you need to find language which is clear and not too fast. With recipes you have the great advantage that the visuals follow  the language very closely so comprehension is facilitated. In addition, most students would find at least some interest in following recipes.

Videos like this can be exploited in a number of ways. Here are a few:
True/false/not mentionedGap fillMatching starts and ends of sentences Vocabulary list completionOral recounting of the recipe to a partnerAdapting the material to produce a written account in past tenseMaking the recipe at home to be brought in for a class tasting.Focusing on an aspect of grammar (e.g. …

Four Yorkshiremen game

This is the opposite of the one-upmanship game I have posted about before. With one-upmanship (known cheekily as "Swankers" on BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue), students work in pairs or small groups. You give a student a statement e.g. L'année dernière je suis allé en vacances à Scarborough. Students then take turns to impress with something better. Results can be amusing and ridiculious.

So, it occurred to me you could do tyhe opposite à la Four Yorkshiremen sketch from Monty Python. In case you don't know it, here is part of the script:

Michael Palin: Ahh.. Very passable, this, very passable.

Graham Chapman: Nothing like a good glass of Chateau de Chassilier wine, ay Gessiah?

Terry Gilliam: You're right there Obediah.

Eric Idle: Who'd a thought thirty years ago we'd all be sittin' here drinking Chateau de Chassilier wine?

MP: Aye. In them days, we'd a' been glad to have the price of a cup o' tea.

GC: A cup ' COLD tea.

Blogger or Wordpress?

I have worked with Blogger for nearly five years and Wordpress for nearly two and can share a few observations for any potential bloggers out there who don't have much experience of this sort of thing. By the way, I am not an IT expert, but have taught myself enough to get by on over the years. Youtube videos can be brilliant.

This is my main blog, using Blogger of course. I also run a Blogger blog for one of my choral groups, The White Rose Chorus. You'll see that it looks a tad primitive, with a bit of time and effort it could be made better! The site was designed by a former student using Wordpress. He taught me the basics of using Wordpress. I have since put together two other Wordpress sites, one for our village, Follifoot, and one for my other barbershop chorus Spirit of Harmony. I designed these two sites by slavishly following this excellent video on Youtube.

So, why use Blogger and why use Wordpress? Blogger is entirely free. It is owned by Google,…

Clever vocabulary discussion game

I thought I would share this with you. It comes straight from Josué's World Language Classroom Resources blog:

If you follow the link everything is explained simply and there is a link to an example vocabulary list in French (plus English and Spanish). In a high school context I believe this would work well with intermediate to advanced students. I like the fact that, by choosing words carefully, you can get students to argue about what category each word should be. For advanced students you could even include abstract terms on a topic you have been covering.

It's also one of those lessons which could be done as a "one-off" between topics, or as one of those fillers when you feel you just need to do something a bit different. Don't we all need those from time to time?

Once the pairs or small groups have allocated their words to categories they could then…

Clarity is all

I began my teaching career believing that teaching almost always in the target language was the way to go to maximise pupil progress. I would still hold to this pretty strongly, but after many years of experience teaching quite able young linguists I came to realise more and more that pupils understood less of what I and my colleagues were saying than I had thought. So much for comprehensible input!

I also realised that some students were being put off the subject a bit because basically they didn't really know what was going on all the time. They felt confused and even a little alienated. Maybe, to put it technically, their "affective filter" comes into play, makes them feel uncomfortable and negative about the subject. This would occur typically when, after explaining an activity in French, you realised you had to do it again in English to ensure everyone was clear what they were doing and successfully on task. My conclusion was that, in order to maximise motivation an…

French for Free review

This is a quick guided tour of the site French for Free which is party of the FrenchSpanishOnline website by Pascal d'Hervé.

The contents feature vocabulary by theme, "French method", conversation, verbs, GCSE, grammar, expressions, easy vocabulary, difficulties, news in French and English, exercises and "hear what you type". There is a good degree of interactivity on the site, as well as a mine of reference material.

The Vocabulary section is very extensive and each of the 26 topics  includes lists and a whole host of interactive tasks including matching, drag and drop, gap fill and multiple choice. There is some use of colourful pictures and "audio quizzes" where students listen to a short clip and then do exercises. There is also the opportunity for students to record their own voice. All vocabulary, both individual words and phrases, can be listened to.

The section entitled French Method has a set of mini dialogues and vocabulary lists. Once again…

La nouvelle LGV Tours-Bordeaux

I love this stylish video presentation of the new high speed rail line being built between Tours and Bordeaux. You could use it as a resource. There is no listening involved, but students could watch at home, pause, take notes, adapting the language on screen, and write a summary in French. There are plenty of opportunities to convert nouns to verbs and vice versa, use passives and various tenses. A lovely two hour homework assignment.

See what you think.

Resources for adult learners

 J'ai une idée.

The focus of has always been on high school students, since that was the target audience of the resources I designed for the pupils in my classes. One of my subscribers, Rosalind Leveridge, who is a tutor for adult learners has reminded me that many of the resources, especially those in the A-level section, are appropriate for adults doing continuing education. However, many resources make the assumption that users are teenagers, with teenager interests. They also strongly bear in mind the needs of the exam specifications.

With that in mind, I am going to take up a suggestion Rosalind made, which is to adapt some resources and create new ones with older students in mind. Resources might relate, for example, to subjects such as work, home ownership, house buying, travel, food, restaurants, topics of cultural interest and so on.

I shall look at the possibility of highlighting these in some way, possibly by creating an extra page dedicated specifical…

Translations on frenchteacher

Anyone who follows my blog will know that I have reservations about translation in language teaching, largely because it takes valuable time away from activities which provide target language input, "comprehensible input" if you prefer.

However, with regard to translation into the target language, I have usually found that students enjoy the problem-solving aspect, the chance to fix grammar issues which have troubled them and the idea that that have a clearly defined task which they can complete with success. It seems likely to me that if you do translation into the target language students will, at the very least, improve their accuracy.

Translation from the TL provides good input, but, at a more advanced level, becomes a test of a student's English as much as their knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. It is really a specialised skill which should be left until later.

There is little "authentic" in either forms of translation - grammar and comprehension can be…