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Review: Ilini.com revisited

Ilini.com

I blogged some time ago about the new video listening site called Ilini which was then free and in Beta form. It is aimed mainly at advanced learners of French studying the A-level exam or equivalent, e.g. Scottish Higher. Some teachers will find certain videos suitable for high-attaining intermediate (GCSE) classes

Now the site is established and has different levels of subscription and much more content let me return to it once more.

What's in it?

Essentially a set of regularly refreshed short video clips from the world of French news, entertainment, culture and ideas. These are accompanied by a range of student and teacher resources including transcripts, online quizzes, pdf exercises, vocab lists and vocab flashcards. Each video has been chosen to be short and frequently matched to A-level French sub-themes. For example, topics you can see from the current home page include voluntary work, music, "Can a child go to jail?", optimism in Voltaire's Candide…
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Paid-for sites for French teachers

For about 15 years I have kept on my site a list of subscription and paid-for web sites for French teachers. With so many free resources out there (I would immediately pick out Lightbulblanguages, Quizlet and the free stuff on TES as three examples) anything you have to pay for needs to be good. (Careful, though, as the quality of TES hosted resources varies hugely.) The list I have compiled over the years only contains what I would consider worthwhile resources, many of them interactive.

I get to meet quite a few teachers at training sessions and meetings, so I thought I would share the resources which receive the most favourable comments and which I would value myself the most. Don't forget, these are just resources you have to pay for.

This is Language

This is not a cheap resource but I have heard nothing but positive reviews of it. The key selling point is their archive of authentic video interviews. They send out people to conduct video interviews with young French people and …

How useful is it to learn from themed vocab lists?

Most of the text books you may work with are built around a grammatical progression and topics. Units often feature lists of vocabulary (known in the research literature as themed lexical sets) which many of you will get pupils to try to set to memory or, at the very least, refer to. Other teachers like to use these themed lists as a basis for digital activities using tools such as Memrise and Quizlet. Many of us choose to sing the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year. We frequently use PowerPoint flashcards to teach clothes, animals, rooms, places around town all together.

Is using or presenting vocab lists arranged in this fashion the best approach? In some ways it seems a natural thing to do - put groups of words together such as household items, school subjects, character adjectives and so on. Indeed some past research has positively recommended the practice, based on the belief that this is how words are somehow arranged in the brain. Just think of when you play the game…

How useful is learning verb conjugations?

I guess most of you out there have at some point got your students to study verb tables, chant or sing verb paradigms, or played games to practise endings - Battleships and the interactive site Conjugemos spring to mind. Many of us have also found ourselves at some point bemoaning students' lack of skill with verb inflections and wondered what we can do improve the situation.

Most of you probably assume that memorising verb tables will lead to improvements in spoken and written accuracy and fluency. Is this actually the case?

The case for 

Common sense might suggest that if you practise the small bits of a second language you should be able to build them up like lego into larger bits. By practising the micro skills, the component parts, you become better at the main game - think of the musician practising scales or the footballer doing shooting practice. These activities lead to improved performance. This is the basis of skill acquisition theory and it has its proponents in academi…

Petit Ours Brun

Here is an example of a video listening task for near beginners/low intermediate level. Enjoy. There are many other sheets like this on frenchteacher.

Petit ours et le bébé3m 00

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLMICu97ZRs (copy and paste for video)


The theme song! (Sing-along?)


Oh, oh, Tiens voilà quelqu'unOh, look there’s someone !
Petit Ours BrunLittle brown bear
Coucou ! C'est toi mon copainHey there ! It’s your friend
Petit Ours BrunLittle brown bear
Tu fais toujours ton coquinYou’re always a little devil !
Mon petit ours malinMy naughty little bear.

Tape, tape dans tes mainsClap, clap your hands
Petit Ours BrunLittle brown bear
Saute, saute les pieds jointsJump, jump with your feet together
Petit Ours BrunLittle brown bear


Regardez et notez les phrases que vous entendez (tick the sentences you hear)
1.Aujourd’hui chez Petit Ours Brun il y a deux invités (guests). 2.Petit Ours Brun est tout excité ! 3.Oui, il vient juste de se réveiller. 4.J’aimerais bien qu’il se réveille, moi. …

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

A nifty “listening plus” lesson plan.

This is written in conjunction with Gianfranco Conti who provided the main idea from listening expert Larry Vandergrift (no longer with us). The main aim is to develop listening skills, but the lesson sequence suggested below also involves jigsaw reading and oral communicative activities.

These are Vandergrift's (2003) instructions for the initial listening-focused activity:

1. The listening scripts should be taken from the course book of the learners or related to its themes. Then it is rewritten into sequential statements which are jumbled to be ordered afterwards by the students.

2. Students work individually and predict the correct order of the statements and write the correct order in the Before Listening: My Choice column (see below).

3. Students work in pairs and discuss any difference in their answers. Then they should agree on a final order and write it down in the Before Listening: Our Choice column.

4. Students listen for the first time and check their prediction of  t…

Latest resources from frenchteacher

I've been pretty busy in the new year adding new resources to the site. I've reached the point now, I think, when I need to weed some older, less used resources to avoid the site becoming too unwieldy and difficult to search.

I am grateful to teachers and tutors who let me know if a link has gone dead, e.g. on my video listening worksheets. I also welcome fresh ideas or requests for particular resources. For example, one teacher recently asked if I could add more on the theme of the second world war, occupation and resistance in France. I have added a new text and exercises and a video listening task in response to that request.

So, in summary, here are the new resources I have added in January so far. As they include a range of texts and activities with the emphasis on comprehensible input and language manipulation, both oral and written.


A-level (advanced)
Video listening. This is linked to a video in the 1jour1question series and is about why General de Gaulle is considered …

Three ways to practise reading aloud

Having students read aloud in class meets with varying reactions from teachers. Some have been trained to avoid it all together, based on the idea that it is embarrassing for students, is often done badly and does little to assist language acquisition. Others believe the activity has value, allowing students to practise pronunciation and intonation, providing an alternative to the teacher's voice and helping students embed knowledge of language through their "phonological memories".

I was not at all averse to giving pupils the opportunity to do some reading aloud for the reasons given above. I would use it specifically to teach intonation patterns, get feedback on students' pronunciation and give them a chance to show off how well they could do it, building their sense of confidence in using the language, their "self-efficacy" if you like.

For reading aloud to be successful it generally needs to be scaffolded, for example through choral repetition with text…