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Showing posts from January, 2017

Book review: Teach Like a Champion 2.0

Let me sum up this review in two points right from the start:

1. All teachers would benefit from reading this outstanding book about how to run successful classrooms.
2. Language teachers will find some of the recommended classroom techniques less relevant.

If you don't already know of him, Doug Lemov is a leading expert in the field of describing successful classroom management. He is the Managing Director of the US group of urban Charter Schools Uncommon Schools’ "Teach Like a Champion" team. His book Teach Like a Champion 1.0, has sold nearly 1,000,000 copies and been translated into eight languages. This revised and upgraded Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College is the subject of this review. The book can be read in association with videos of teachers in action (referenced in the text) and a dedicated website.

When I began teaching in 1980, I wish there'd been a book like this. I would have made far fewer mistakes! Doug'…

The latest from frenchteacher

I've been busier on the site recently now I've got the typescript finished for my next book with Routledge called Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. I've been looking for a fresh idea for the site and come up with the concept "Instant 30 minute listening". If you think listening is the neglected skill, this resource may help.

The idea with these is to give teachers a script to read aloud, record or have recorded by a native speaker. This is accompanied by a couple of exercises, usually true/false or true/false/not mentioned and gap-fill. Teachers can decide how many times they want to read the text and at what pace, depending on their class. the exercises are all in target language to reinforce the language they hear and to improve reading skills.

All of these tasks are pretty much zero preparation as far as the teacher is concerned and should take about 30 minutes to do. You can correct them in class with the answers provided. Just give students the A4 w…

At what point should you start practising exam-style tasks?

The latest version of GCSE MFL features a number of quite specific test types, two of which we haven't seen before. The first is the "photo card" test which forms part of the speaking assessment; the second is the translation into target language, marking a very watered-down return to O-level-style assessment. When should teachers prepare their pupils for these questions?

I see from social media that some teachers are beginning to work on photo cards, as well as role-plays (which have previously featured in GCSE) from Y7. Others are spending a good deal more time on translation into the target language than they did before. Are they right to be doing this?

On the one hand we know from research that being familiar with a test type and practising it in advance will help you achieve better results. Pupils will learn certain techniques, know how the mark scheme works and generally know what to expect. They will even be able to predict to some degree what language will come up.…

Intermediate reading text - Lions

This is from the free samples page of frenchteacher.net and would suit GCSE (Higher) pupils. The text contains a high number of cognates.

LE LION

Le lion (Panthera leo) est l'un des quatre grands félins du genre Panthea. Avec quelques mâles de plus de 250 kg, c'est le chat vivant le deuxième plus grand après le tigre. Les lions sauvages existent aujourd’hui en Afrique sub-saharienne et en Inde (où la population menacée habite dans le parc national de Gir Forest ). Jusqu'à il y a environ 10.000 ans, le lion était le mammifère le plus répandu sur la Terre après l'homme.

Le lion est une espèce vulnérable, ayant connu une baisse de population de 30-50% au cours des deux dernières décennies. Bien qu’on ne comprenne pas la cause exacte de cette baisse, la perte d'habitat et les conflits avec les humains sont les principales causes de préoccupation.

Les lions vivent pendant 10-14 ans dans la nature, mais en captivité ils peuvent vivre plus de 20 ans. Dans la nature, les mâles…

GCSE Higher Tier reading gap-fills

Among the many free samples I have on the frenchteacher site there's one you may have overlooked and which you might find very useful when revising for reading exams. This is a set of nine cloze tasks, each of which consists of an adapted authentic text with gaps to be filled. Pupils can choose words from a box which makes the task similar in style to many you see on GCSE papers.

You can find them here (scroll down, bottom left-hand column).

You could copy them and make a booklet for use in class or at home.

Here's an example:


France Bienvenue revisited

https://francebienvenue1.wordpress.com/

This is in the way of a reminder about an excellent website I haven't blogged about for a long time. I'm always impressed when teachers maintain something of a high standard over a long period and this is a good example.

France Bienvenue, with its strapline De vraies conversations pour apprendre le français comme on le parle et tout pour les comprendre is well worth a visit if you teach advanced level French.

The recipe has always been the same. Teacher Anne from the IUT Marseille has, each year since 2008, got a small team of her students to record weekly conversations for the benefit of French learners around the world. Each conversation is accompanied by some sort of video (sometimes just slides which illustrate the topic), a transcript of the conversation and a glossary of language used with explanations in French. The conversations often have a distinct cultural element and give a nice flavour of student life in the Marseilles area.

Three types of PPP

PPP, in case you don't know, stands for Presentation Practice Production. In language classrooms it's the approach adopted by most teachers when they introduce a new grammatical structure or vocabulary topic. The idea is broadly that you present the structure, give students a chance to practise it within narrow parameters, then finally an opportunity to use the structure in a less controlled context. This approach fits well with the skill acquisition view of second language learning and is akin to the way you might teach other skills in life, e.g. learning how to do a side-step in rugby or play a simple piece of music on the piano.

But PPP can come in different forms and may mean different things to different teachers. Let me offer three different ways of applying it.

1. Deductive approach

In this clearest and simplest approach you would present a new structure on the board with examples, e.g. you might explain and show how the comparative of adjectives functions. This is expli…

An instant 30 minute listening task

I'm posting an example of some new listening tasks which are appearing on frenchteacher.net. They are pitched at Higher Tier GCSE level (both old and new specs) and can be used instantly for a 20 minute or so activity. For readers outside England and Wales the level is intermediate. In each case there is a teacher script which can be read aloud or recorded if you prefer. This is followed by two exercises with answers provided.

I'd recommend doing the task in the spirit of an exercise rather than a test. You could read the text in short chunks or in their entirety. You can add further tasks if you want, e.g. gap-filling and translation. The one below is on the topic of the environment - no apologies for this!

Talking about the environment
Teacher script 
On ne peut pas parler de l’environnement sans évoquer le problème numéro un de la planète – c’est-à-dire le réchauffement climatique. Malgré les énormes progrès qui ont été faits dans le domaine de l’énergie renouvelable, les voit…

Some great social media links for language teachers

When I left the classroom in 2012 I quickly discovered I could not shake off my obsession with language teaching. I have kept in touch with the languages community almost entirely via social media. I use various media to do three things: learn more about teaching around the world, notably the USA and Canada, exchange ideas with other teachers and sell some of the work I write. Social media has allowed me to fulfil the long-held ambition to help train other teachers and I consider that I can reach more teachers online than through any face-to-face course.

Here are the platforms I use:

Twitter

I make a point of following, almost without exception, teachers and others in education. By doing this I avoid the more unsavoury corners of Twitter. Exchanges are therefore almost always informative and polite. I try to avoid on the whole tweeting political stuff, but I don't always succeed. I decided some time ago to use Twitter for professional reasons and Facebook for social/family affairs. (…

An Amazon Echo or Google Home in the classroom?

Update: I read that Google Home is available with French language. We have to wait until 2018 for a French language version of the Echo.

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We succumbed over Christmas and bought an Amazon Echo Dot (the little sister of Alexa with the much smaller speaker). It's a fun digital assistant which will answer simple questions, play music from the radio, Spotify and Amazon, set alarms for you in the kitchen, make lists and more. Its speech recognition is great, even from a distance or when whispering to it close up. The default wake up call is Alexa, so you just say Alexa and then speak away. Its LED spinning light tells you she's listening.

So you can see where I am going with this. For a small outlay, an Amazon account and with a wifi classroom connection, you could set Alexa to your chosen language (only German so far)  and use her as a language learning aid. Note that Alexa is always on and needs no other …

Two fun listening games

I've begun posting new listening resources on the Y10-11 page of frenchteacher. Up to now I have only ever posted video listening exercises (worksheets linked to online video clips), but for a while I have wanted to publish some instantly usable listening tasks which can be read aloud by the teacher or recorded, e.g. by a native speaker. (Posting my own recordings is problematic since only teachers have login access to my site, not students.)

So far I've uploaded two scripts - a description of a movie (Interstellar) and a TV series (Mr Robot). Apart from the read-aloud script there are accompanying exercises, all in the target language. I'm calling these resources "20 minute listening tasks".

While on the topic of listening, here are two gun games you can use with intermediate students or above:

Would I lie?

For intermediate to advanced level. Students try to work out which three of six statements are not true by asking you questions. You prepare five statements…