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Showing posts from October, 2017

Buckingham Uni slides on conscious and unconscious learning

Here are the slides for my Buckingham University PGCE and IGCSE students. The session was about views on second language learning, with the focus on unconscious acquisition(implicit) and conscious (explicit) instruction. We then considered how classroom tasks reflect these two ends of the acquisition-learning spectrum. Buckingham university pgce from Steve Smith

Nifty ideas from the Buckingham University PGCE trainees

Today I had the pleasure of spending a day training twenty young teaching trainees (nearly all already in post). In one session they and I shared successful lesson ideas. Here is what we described, as curated by Rebekah Thomas (thanks!).

Ideas that work in the language classroom

• Plickers (free) – print out bar codes and stick in exercise books, create quiz, pupils use bar code to answer, poll app, good for assessment for learning, students do not need to have a device, multiple choice, true or false, bar chart can be displayed on the board to show results
• Mini-whiteboards – assessment for learning
• Mexican wave/chain – within a certain time frame, pupils have to say a word from a sequence: numbers, days of the week, months
• Entry routine – pupils count down with you when they come into the classroom e.g. count down from 20 or chant the alphabet song – by the end of it they have to be ready
• Role plays/information gap dialogue (communicative, student-led) – role play cards with corres…

Guided translation for near beginners

I have a number of these guided translation tasks on Try this one with your class if you think the level is right. Or you could easily adapt the principle.I’m not a huge fan of doing much translation, but it seems to me to be a useful activity later in a teaching sequence. I have included some comprehension and adapted writing here too

Use the initial text as the basis for 5he exercises which follow. You might choose to read it aloud first.

Ma maison – Amélie parle

J’habite une maison individuelle à Solesmes, une petite ville dans le nord de la France.
En bas il y a une entrée, une cuisine, une lingerie et un grand séjour-salle à manger. Il y a aussi un petit cabinet de toilette. En haut il y a trois chambres et une salle de bains. Nous avons aussi un garage à côté de la maison, mais maman gare la voiture devant la maison d’habitude.
Nous avons un assez grand jardin à l’arrière avec un petit potager pour des légumes, des fleurs et un arbre. Ma mère aime cultiver ses fleu…

La pauvreté en France

Here is a text with exercises taken from Help yourself!

La pauvreté en France

En France on estime que sur 65 millions d'habitants plus de 8,5 millions de personnes sont pauvres. Et on pense que 1,5 million sont des enfants ou des adolescents.

Selon un sondage plus d'un enfant sur deux a peur d’être pauvre. Huit enfants sur dix disent aussi que ce n'est pas la faute des familles, si elles sont dans cette situation, mais que c’est dû à un manque de chance. La majorité considère que la situation n’est pas juste. Enfin, tous les enfants sont d'accord pour dire qu'il est possible de faire davantage pour aider à améliorer la vie des familles pauvres.

Comment sait-on si quelqu'un est pauvre ?

La pauvreté n'est pas facile à définir. On peut dire, par exemple, qu'une personne est pauvre, si elle n'a pas suffisamment d'argent pour acheter à manger, ou pour se soigner quand elle est malade. Mais comment le savoir de manière exacte ?
En France,…

Book reviews

You never know quite how a new book will be received, so I am pleased to see the following early reviews on Amazon for my new handbook Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher.

“In an increasingly jargon-heavy and initiative-laden educational landscape, Steve Smith's approach is refreshingly straightforward. This book contains a wealth of common-sense advice and well thought-out strategies which actually work in the MFL classroom. It is pleasing that the focus is on learning and that the basics are not neglected - the chapter on "Running a Room" should be required reading for every NQT. Steve's technical knowledge is outstanding and ideas are explained clearly and precisely. Steve's book now accompanies me every time I sit down to plan and I thoroughly recommend it.”

“This has arrived last week and I have started reading it immediately. It is very well written and easy to read. The ideas presented are very useful and explains each task very clearly. I am very ha…

Worried about the new GCSEs?

Twitter and MFL Facebook groups are replete with posts expressing concerns about the new GCSEs and, in particular, the difficulty of the exam, grades and tiers. I can only comment from a distance since I am no longer in the classroom, but I have been through a number of sea changes in assessment over the years so may have something useful to say.

Firstly, as far as general difficulty of papers is concerned, I think it’s fair to say that the new assessment is harder (not necessarily in terms of grades though). This is particularly evident in the writing tasks and speaking test. Although it will still be possible to work in some memorised material in these parts of the exam, there is no doubt that weaker candidates will have more problems coping with the greater requirement for unrehearsed language. Past experience working with average to very able students tells me some, even those with reasonable attainment, will flounder on the written questions in the heat of the moment. Others will…

GCSE reading: a Syrian refugee family finds a home in Belgium

This is a text with exercises from

Help yourself if you think it would be useful with your classes. It would suit students aiming for higher tier and could be exploited in a range of ways.

Une famille syrienne réfugiée en Belgique

Le journal DH a rencontré la première citoyenne belge qui héberge des réfugiés dans sa maison, à Schaerbeek en Belgique.

Arrivée il y a deux semaines après un voyage très difficile de deux mois, la famille Mezrab a trouvé refuge chez Marcelle Bennick, une retraité de 73 ans. Elle habite toute seule et elle possède un appartement vide et meublé de 15 m2. Elle raconte : "J’ai pensé que, vu la crise des réfugiés que nous vivons en ce moment, je pourrais héberger une famille de réfugiés. Du coup, ils habitent en bas et moi à l’étage."

Marcelle était la première Belge inscrite sur le listing des citoyens qui acceptent d’héberger des réfugiés. Une première rencontre a été arrangée, un traducteur présent. Marcelle a tout de suite aimé la fam…

A-level knowledge portfolios

A-level MFL teachers will know that cultural knowledge forms an integral part of the specifications and mark schemes. This element is known as AO4 (Assessment Objective 4).

One idea which we have discussed during AQA presentations with teachers is for students to gradually build up, over the course, a portfolio of knowledge points which they could attempt to bring into their speaking test. These could prove to be very useful hooks on which to hang statements and opinions during the oral. I would suggest that there is a good case for learning some of these almost by rote so that, in the heat of the moment, candidates have got something to fall back on and build up points for AO4.

It must be stressed how important this is. Teachers should not be tempted to allow students to talk in generalities about their own lives or about English-speaking culture. AO4 is there, at the DfE's insistence, to make sure the focus is firmly on the culture of the language of study.

With this in mind, I …

Latest additions to frenchteacher

Here are the resources I have added to over the last month.


1. A new article and exercises on the French music industry and streaming in particular. Text, vocabulary to complete, multi-choice comprehension, oral work, gap-fill, written summary and translation into French. The works! Most suitable for Year 2 of the A-level course.

2. I am grateful to Chris Tanner who sent me updated versions of two A-level documents on the site: notes on the political system and the left and right in French politics. These are marked as updated on the A-level page.

3. Video listening. This one is about electronic tags from FR3/Youtube (AQA sub-theme "Comment on traite les criminels"). Vocab to complete and questions in French for oral or written work. As always check the availability of this video.

4. Video listening. Prisons in France. Vocabulary list, true statements to tick, gap-fill. This short video talks about some of the latest facts, figures and issues about Frenc…