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Showing posts from June, 2016

10 aspects of my hybrid approach

There are no best methods. Many have been tried, none have worked with all pupils. I would treat with caution any claim that a new method will be the answer to your problems.

With the students I taught over the years, who were generally of above average aptitude and working in schools with a powerful learning ethos, I developed my own approach based on what I consider to be solid principles. I don't particularly recommend this approach to you, but I just record it here in broad terms in case you find it useful.

Every teacher has their own hybrid approach based either implicitly or explicitly on principles. Here are 10 elements which were important to me:

1. Provide lots of comprehensible input.

This would be my number one priority. I liked my lessons to be largely, not wholly, in the target language, with a strong focus on listening and responding, and a slightly lesser focus on reading. This meant that most of my lessons featured abundant question answer work, teacher-led interact…

Truth or lie?

Here is a handy little communicative speaking task for advanced level students or very good intermediates (GCSE).

Vérité ou mensonge ?
Students work in pairs and ask each other questions from the list below. The student answering must always say they did the activity. Then the questioner can ask any number of follow-up questions to try to establish if their partner actually did the activity or not. The questioner then has to decide if their partner has told the truth.
As-tu déjà volé quelque chose? As-tu déjà fait un sport dangereux ? Es-tu déjà resté dans un hôtel quatre étoiles ?
As-tu déjà  fait du camping en France ?
As-tu déjà  rencontré un personnage célèbre ?
As-tu déjà  gagné une médaille ou un trophée ?
As-tu  déjà mangé des escargots ?
As-tu déjà paru dans un article de journal local ?
As-tu déjà  bu un vin très cher ?
As-tu déjà raté un vol d’avion ?
As-tu déjà  copié les devoirs de quelqu’un d’autre ?
As-tu déjà  joué au golf ?
As-tu déjà  vu un film dans un cinéma en France…

Xenophobia comes in many forms

Like many of you on this morning of Friday 24th June, 2016, I feel shocked, angry and ashamed. 52% of our nation voted to leave the European Union, the greatest peace and economic cooperation project our continent has seen.

I also feel uncertain about what the future will hold for the UK. An independent Scotland now seems probable, political unrest in Northern Ireland closer, instability in Europe on the cards, Tory and Labour parties are in disarray, and who knows what sort of political leadership we shall be subject to?

Xenophobia played a significant role in this referendum campaign, and not just in the form of blatant racism you might come across in the pub or on the streets. Older people of my acquaintance who wanted to leave the EU are not racists or xenophobes in the worst sense; nevertheless they betray in their conversation a deep-seated paranoia and fear of foreigners. They think that the EU is a German-led conspiracy, they say the EU is undemocratic (while not mentioning th…

La libre circulation des ressortissants de l'UE

This is a text and exercises which will shortly appear on Help yourself: this would be a good one-off lesson for advanced level students.

La libre circulation des ressortissants de l'UE 

La libre circulation des travailleurs est un principe fondamental établi par l'article 45 du traité sur le fonctionnement de l'Union européenne. Les citoyens européens ont le droit:

 de chercher un emploi dans un autre pays de l'UE; d'y travailler sans avoir besoin d'un permis de travail; d'y vivre dans ce but; d'y rester même après avoir occupé cet emploi; de bénéficier du même traitement que les citoyens de ce pays en ce qui concerne l'accès à l'emploi, les conditions de travail et tout autre avantage social ou fiscal.

Les citoyens européens peuvent également faire transférer certains types d'assurance maladie et de régimes de sécurité sociale dans le pays dans lequel ils s'établissent pour trouver du travail.

La libre circulation…

Good practice activities for major tenses

This is an extract from The Language Teacher Toolkit. It's taken from our chapter on teaching grammar. These activities are partly taken from Penny Ur (1988). They all allow for repeated, interesting practice of verb structures with plenty of comprehensible input provided in the process..

Present tense 

Animal habits: for near beginners and intermediate level. Give the class the name of an animal and ask them what they know about its habits. For example, a rabbit: it lives in a hole, it eats plants and vegetables, it has lots of babies and it runs fast. You provide helpful vocabulary and verb infinitives (or present tense forms to make it easier) on the board. You can then ask students to choose other animals and produce more present tense sentences using the language you have provided.

Past (preterite) tense

Picture stories: for intermediate level students. Sequences of pictures with times on the board provide a tried and tested way of practising simple past tenses. You can draw thes…

All the latest resources from frenchteacher

Here is what has been added over the last month. I've been focusing on materials to support teachers with the new A-levels starting in England and Wales in September. As always, teachers around the world will find these resources useful. Bonne continuation!

- A text and exercises on the new Cité du Vin, just opened in Bordeaux. Article, vocabulary list to complete, true sentences to identify and translation into English. This fits well with the cultural heritage sub-themes for the new AS/A-levels. Easy advanced level.

- A video listening task linked to a BFM TV report about French families today. Short news report, vocabulary to spot, matching task, questions in French. A useful 20-25 minute task to supplement work about changing family structures (AS/A-level).

- Two model summary tasks for the new AS-level exam. Include source text, strategies and model summaries.

- A vocabulary booklet for the new Pearson Edexcel AS/A-level (sub-themes 1-6). This is designed to be handed out to stu…

What about natural aptitude for second language learning?

At the current time it is not particularly fashionable to talk about natural aptitude for subjects at school, the current preference being for the notion that with good teaching and practice all students have the potential to achieve well. This is no doubt a good message to be sending to pupils, but it does seem to fly in the face of language teachers' everyday experience, namely that some students, for whatever reason, seem to pick up languages much quicker than others.

Over the years research in psychology and applied linguistics has focused a good deal on language learning aptitude and motivation, both of which show good correlations with language learning success in formal learning contexts. In this blog, I'm going to look at aptitude and summarise where we are on this issue, using as my source parts of a chapter about individual differences in second language learning, written by Zoltán Dörnyei and Peter Skehan. The chapter appeared in The Handbook of Second Language Acqu…

The new Cité du Vin in Bordeaux

A magnificent new tourist attraction has just opened in Bordeaux, a UNESCO heritage city. It's called the Cité du Vin and is a state-of-the-art visitor centre/museum right by the Garonne, close to the city centre. Here is a text I wrote about it for frenchteacher. The worksheet has attached exercises.

Bordeaux vise à devenir la capitale mondiale du vin avec sa nouvelle attraction touristique, la très futuriste Cité du Vin qui a ouvert ses portes en juin 2016. Surnommé le « Guggenheim du vin », l'attraction qui a coûté €83 millions n’est pas seulement un panneau publicitaire colossal pour l'industrie du vin de Bordeaux, qui a une valeur de 4 milliards d'euros par an et qui fait travailler
50 000 employés.

Elle célèbre le vin à travers le monde et 6000 ans de vinification. Le bâtiment de huit étages à côté du pont Chaban-Delmas sur la Garonne est censé ressembler à du vin clapotant autour d'un verre et a été conçu par l'architecte parisien X-Tu. Le bâtiment aux f…

Intermediate (GCSE) parallel reading on frenchteacher

Regular users of frenchteacher will know that a staple of the site is texts with exercises at all levels. I have always thought that teaching grammar and vocabulary in context, through meaningful and interesting texts is a fruitful way to improve students' skills. I usually add a range of tasks to texts including vocab lists to complete, true/false/not mentioned, questions in French, matching, correcting false sentences, gap-fill, translation. communicative oral tasks and more.

One conundrum with texts, of course, is trying to match the linguistic and maturity levels. Generally speaking, interesting texts are too hard. One way around this is to use the idea of parallel texts in the target language and English so that students can get quickly to the meaning which interests them. But then, my instinct remains to try to teach texts almost wholly through the target language. I have found in the past that parallel texts are a useful route into a text, before you begin further exploitat…

Our little TES shop

As you may know, Gianfranco and I have been writing some new A-level French resources with a focus on translation, especially translation into French. We are working through the various A-level sub-themes, especially those from AQA and Pearson Edexcel.

So far we have uploaded 10 units of work for AS-level (first year of A-level): on family (AQA, Pearson, Eduqas), cyber-society (AQA), world of work (Pearson, Eduqas), music (AQA, Eduqas), literature (Eduqas), heritage (AQA, Pearson, Eduqas), education (Pearson and Eduqas) , voluntarywork (AQA), personalidentity (Eduqas) and cinema (AQA and Eduqas).

Each unit consists of seven to nine dense pages of exercises, including pre-reading tasks, a chunky text, comprehension, oral and grammar manipulation activities, translation into English, pre-translation tasks and, finally, three graded translations into French.

The content is a bit like "skill-building meets comprehensible input&quo…


This referendum has me very worried. I hope a majority of the country sees sense on June 23rd. The sweep of history is for us to be part of a cooperative Europe, not standing on the sidelines or, worse, provoking a gradual disintegration and return to the bickering and conflicts of the past. We should not forget the contrast between how Europe has been for most of its history and how it has been since 1945.

If we vote leave I see a government led by Johnson or May, an economy in shock, a rise in intolerance and xenophobia, a cabinet full of Brexit campaigners, years of negotiations ending with the UK in a single market without a say in decisions, possible threats to workers' rights, an independent Scotland and destabilised Europe with who knows what consequences in the long term.

This was posted on Facebook. If you have any doubts about how to vote, you might find it useful. It's hard to fault.