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Showing posts from November, 2014

Christmas resources and ideas from frenchteacher

I do have a range of Christmassy worksheets and activities on if you like that sort of thing near the end of term.

Beginning at primary/Year 7 level you'll find a crossword, online Blockbusters game, wordsearch, vocabulary list, code- breaking task and strip bingo game. All of these can equally be used with Y8 pupils, or even some Y9s.

On the Y10-11 (intermediate) page there is a pairwork activity on Christmas presents which works well for a first lesson back after Christmas. The focus is on developing vocabulary and using recevoir and offrir. There is also a text with activities based on the Cinderella story, if you find that a Christmassy thing to do.

But Christmas activities need not just be for the young ones! In the A-level section there is a video listening task, which could be done with Y11s too (high intermediate/low advanced). This is based on a good video made at Nottingham High School. In addition there are two interesting texts with exercises. The fir…

MFL teacher's handbook

I just wanted to draw teachers' attention to the handbook I put together some months ago and which will, no doubt, evolve further as I add new sections. I know that some teachers have used this resource to inform their departmental discussions and it was always my intention that it might be a useful resource both for new and experienced colleagues.

There are around 70 pages of ideas for language teachers, most of which have been copied- and in some cases adapted or rewritten - from existing material from or this blog.

The content includes a number of concise checklists and includes the following areas:

Update: section on target language teaching now added.

- Methodology/theoretical basis of good practice
- Classroom organisation
- Lesson planning
- Speaking and writing activities
- Listening and reading
- Using texts
- Teaching vocabulary
- Using music
- Teaching film and literature
- Using games
- Reconciling …

Is there a consensus on language teaching methodology?

It is well established that we are in a "post methods" or eclectic period when it comes to how best to teach languages. Having been down various roads, maybe cul-de-sacs: grammar-translation, audio-lingual/visual, strong communicative and no doubt others, we seem to be in an era when most teachers accept the need for a suitable balance of target language/comprehension and grammar-vocabulary teaching/controlled practice.

When I read what teachers write online I do wonder sometimes whether teachers feel confused about what works best. Should I be using more target language? Should I be teaching grammar more explicitly? Should I feel guilty about using English or translating? Is there actually a consensus about what works best? Or are we just confused?

It would be reassuring if there were a body of reliable research to support a particular approach, but, despite some claims to the contrary, I do not believe there is such a body of empirical data which tells us clearly and objec…

Témoignages de migrants africains

This is a text and exercises from If you were to use this A-level resource you could set up the activity by getting students to watch this video report about the role of the Italian navy in rescuing migrants. This was linked on Twitter by a former student of mine, Giles Pitts.

Fundamental challenge of new GCSE speaking assessment

It won't be long before we see what the awarding bodies have in mind for the latest version of GCSE speaking test. As always, the fundamental challenge will be to produce an assessment which challenges the most able and supports the least.

The most recent version of oral assessment, the controlled assessment regime, has leaned towards helping the less confident linguist. By allowing students to set answers to memory, we end up with nearly every student being able to say something worthwhile. Weaker students achieve something. At the same time, the most competent linguists still get the chance to excel by producing longer and more linguistically complex responses.

Previous versions of GCSE speaking tests have attempted to achieve the same balancing act by allowing part of the test to be a memorised talk of at least one minute. The earliest version of GCSE speaking, back in 1987-8, as I recall it, leaned too much towards spontaneity for weaker pupils.

The current controlled assessme…

What's better: work done in books or blogs?

For a couple of years I experimented with having a proportion of written homework done using student blogs. Y10-11 classes would write a composition piece about once every two weeks. I taught them how to set up a Blooger blog, encouraged them to personalise it and to read the blogs of other students. I would always read and comment on every homework done in this way.

Overall students seemed happy to do work in this way and I really should have got some empirical feedback, but I didn't.

On reflection there were a few disadvantages in having students work in this way.

Firstly, I always had the impression that typed work in a blog was less carefully done than it would have been in their exercise books. I am not certain why this was the case. Maybe there were simple typos. Maybe the blog format encouraged fluid writing at the expense of accuracy. Maybe typing encouraged some subtle use of copy-paste/ Google Translate (I never was aware of this at the time). Word-processing does allow fo…

Adult beginner resources

A little project I have given myself is to create some resources specifically for beginner and near beginner adult students. This is in response to requests from adult tutors and feedback from my recent Survey Monkey questionnaire.

What I have in mind is nothing very original, but it should be useful. I shall write some simple situational dialogues for reading aloud in pairs or small groups. The conversations can then be adapted as appropriate. I'll add some cultural notes, key phrases or vocabulary lists to help.

As always with the resources I write, my intention is that they be considered practical, accurate and usable. Each of these respurces should take about 20 minutes or so to use in class.

These new resources should usefully supplement the numerous advanced resources already on the Adult Students page.

Update: 13.11.14 I have now posted seven dialogues,  au restaurant, à la réception de l'hôtel, au camping,à la boulangerie, au café, à la boucherie and à la poissonnerie.


MFL A-levels are not dire; they are rather good!

I blogged yesterday about remarks made about the current modern languages A-levels. The accusation was, essentially, that they are dumbed down, lack rigour and are not interesting enough. I categorically rejected that claim but did not go into why I believe the current A-level is very good.

The AS level offers a good bridge between GCSE and A2 level. ALCAB made this a criticism, claiming AS was too much like AS level. I think they underestimate how much students like the topics, how stimulating they can be and how weak many students are when they emerge from GCSE. ALCAB believed that the new GCSE might fix the latter issue. It will not.The current A-level stresses target langauge use in nearly every respect, especially as far as the cultural topics are concerned. Discussion and assessment in the target language are best. If you set essays in the target langauge, you will practise them that way. If you set essays in English students will spend hours writing English, not the target langu…

A-levels are not "dire"

An article in The Guardian penned by Lucy Ward caught my eye this morning. The starting point was a survey of students which suggested that most language students cannot do more than understand basic phrases. The thrust of the article was to reinforce the view that languages are in a state of crisis in English schools.

One point in the piece attracted my attention in particular. This was the attack by Katrin Kohl, professor of German literature at Oxford who labelled the current A-level syllabus "dire". Kohl was a member of the ALCAB panel tasked by Michael Gove to reform MFL A-levels. The DfE syllabus produced from their report is now in consultation, having met with a great deal of ire from the language teaching community.

Kohl is quoted as saying that the reformed qualification is “supposed to be an A-level, not some kind of dumbed-down Berlitz course".

I'm not sure how well placed Professor Kohl is to judge the current A-level, but I can assure her that very few…

Enseigner Le Français avec TV5Monde

I last blogged about this site back in 2012. I've been looking at it again and have to say that it's a fabulous resource for video listening, with some skillfully produced graded worksheets.

If you do a search via Fiche par Thème, you access a large range of advanced level listening material. the topics include: Actualité mondiale, Diversité à l'école, Expressions imagées francophones, l'Europe vue par des experts, Découverte des régions francophones (including some from Canada), Patrimoine oral francophone, Analyse des relations internationales, Un pays, un lieu, une émotion, Sport en tous genres. There are quite a few more.

Whether you like the videos may depend on your taste and that of your students, but the ones I have viewed are generally interesting, clear and well-paced for advanced level and are accompanied by a range of very usable worksheets, set at different levels, depending on the class you have. On the whole they will suit Upper Sixth students in Englan…

Four great Francis Cabrel songs for the classroom

I am a fan of Francis Cabrel. French friends introduced me to his music quite a few years ago and I used his songs many times in French lessons, from Year 10 (intermediate) to advanced level. Although he writes intimate love songs, he also follows that tradition of the singer songwriter with a social conscience. As a result there is much in his lyrics to chew on in lessons. Principally, though, he has a very clear voice and writes great music, strongly influenced by anglo-saxon musicians (e.g. Dylan) and the blues.

Here are four of his songs which work well in the classroom and which will get classes humming.  I have worksheets on naturellement.

J'ai peur de l'avion (from the album Sarbacane)

This is a heavy blues rock song in which Cabrel sings of his fear of flying. I used this song to tie in with the theme of transport. The lyrics and music are straightforward. A good song for intermediate level. I can't find this one online, so you'd have to buy th…