Saturday, 24 September 2016

My two favourite bloggers

I follow my Twitter timeline pretty religiously every day. When you follow over 5000 people (nearly all teachers, by the way) you have to be selective about which links you tap or click. The two blog links I almost always follow up are those written by (surprise,surprise) my co-author Gianfranco Conti and by headteacher Tom Sherrington, who works at Highbury Grove School in London.

Here are the URLs:

gianfrancoconti.wordpress.com

headguruteacher.com

What's unique about Gianfranco's blog is its detailed level of analysis of research combined with classroom practice. Gianfranco is very knowledgeable about the scholarly field of second language acquisition and has a firm belief, based on his instincts and experience, in the skill acquisition model of language learning. Although a full-time teacher in Malaysia, he manages to be both a prolific writer of resources, most of which he shares freely on TES, an interactive website writer, as well as blogger. Gian seems to have a 48 hour day.

Although there are plenty of language teacher blogs out there which share experience and neat lesson ideas, only Gianfranco's analyses and justifies classroom practices in such detail. Some readers will not agree with his prescriptions, particularly those who dislike the skill-building view of language learning, but all should find his descriptions and analyses interesting and challenging.

Gianfranco is not frightened to criticise poor practice, bad textbooks, dislikes time-wasting tasks and tech for the sake of tech. He is interested in the latest information coming from brain research and writes a good deal about memory function and what this implies for language learning. I find that much of what he writes chimes with my own experience, even if he leans marginally more towards 'focus on form', as the scholars call it, than me.

Gianfranco covers plenty of ground: teaching listening and reading, skill acquisition theory, feedback, grammar teaching, translation, metacognition, thinking skills, speaking, spontaneity and much more. His blogs are clearly structured, written in an academic style, and nearly always provide reasoned arguments for specific classroom techniques.

If you haven't read Gianfranco's blog, I urge you to do so. You'll learn a lot.


Tom Sherrington's blog is not for language teachers, but it interests me for its general educational content. Tom writes frequently (always a plus in a blog) and his posts are almost always based on his own rich experience both as a teacher and head teacher. He covers a lot of ground: assessment, behaviour, curriculum, ability grouping, differentiation, leadership, teaching and learning, Ofsted, individual lessons and much more.

Modesty, knowledge, depth of wisdom, integrity and passion all shine through in Tom's posts. He often relates his writing to what is happening in his school, sharing practice, helping other teachers and leaders with their thinking. There is great clarity in his writing and a degree of passion when needed, for example over the recent grammar school debate.

A post I read this morning from January 2015 contains a few typical gems. Here is one I'd pick out, useful for anyone having some discipline issues with a class. I'll borrow it in full:

"For some teachers, from time to time, a particular class is the key source of stress: the behaviour isn’t right; it feels like a perpetual cycle of negativity: they don’t do what you want; you have to be the arch-enforcer and the atmosphere is horrible. This can happen if you weren’t firm enough early on or when you get ‘sanction fatigue’ in relation to issues (eg persistent talking or calling out) that ought to seem minor. Resetting is really powerful in this situation. You can do this at the start of a term or at any time you choose. I’d recommend being very explicit with the class about how you feel (or a selected sub-group if that is more appropriate) :

“Right – tools down – before we go on, we’re going to re-establish our basic expectations. I’m not enjoying these lessons as much as I’d like because the persistent low-level disruption is spoiling the atmosphere; you are lovely people but there is just too much talking and I want that to change. I need you listening and when I say ‘silent working’ that’s exactly what I mean; from today, I want you to respond to that and I will go as far as ..(insert sanction)… if you can’t manage it. OK?”

You re-claim the territory; re-establish your expectations and give yourself a clean slate; a chance to be on the front-foot and to be positive. When you get the atmosphere you want – tell them. “Thank you. This is lovely. This is what I’ve been asking for.” From then on you can follow-up on the sanctions more consistently and assertively, setting higher standards than you’d managed before. It’s a huge relief. It will last for a period and you may need to reset repeatedly before it is fully embedded."

Do have a look at Tom's archives, especially if you have an interest in general teaching and learning, and leadership.




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Friday, 23 September 2016

French Playground

The French Playground is an original resource for French teachers and students. The site offers two different ways to engage students in authentic French activities and culture.


1. COIN CULTUREL: You choose from a calendar of free French cultural events where you and your students can participate in online French games, performances, interviews, class mystery meetings, meet-and-greets, co-teach lessons and engage in activities for authentic French interaction with other schools worldwide, at any date and time.

2. MISSIONS: Choose from dozens of pre-made authentic French challenges, tasks and dares (called Missions). French students can collect points and submit completed Missions to the French Playground for badges.

Teacher Etienne Langlois wrote on Facebook:

"I've been teaching French (all levels) for 24 years. This is by far the greatest thing I've ever done for my French students. Interacting on the French Playground is free and in one click you can be live, online with other French classes from around the world. Monday we played Kahoot in French with over 70 students. Tuesday we played Quizlet in French, Wednesday we took part in a live interview with a French ventriloquist, today, we team-taught a lesson with a school living 24 hours away in Toronto doing the "Jeud-I-mage" together. Thank you to everyone that created this amazing, living platform for my French students (designed by over 100 French teachers from around the world... credit where credit is due)."

You can explore and find events or missions here:

frenchplayground.com

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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Listening tips from Penny Ur

I've been dipping into sections of Penny Ur's excellent little book 100 Teaching Tips which I have previously reviewed here. I find myself agreeing with nearly everything she writes. Although her background is teaching English as a foreign language, what she says is highly relevant to modern language teachers. So many excellent ideas have come form EFL over the years.

Here are some points she makes about teaching listening, which she says is the most important skill - I agree. Most people spend more time listening, including in conversation, than they do reading, speaking or writing. I think it should be at the heart of our practice.

Give the topic and task in advance

Make sure you give the context of any listening task to students in advance. Never just play a recording and ask students to listen and understand. make sure they have an idea who is speaking, what the topic is, what the context may be and what precise task they will have to do. If they have a worksheet to do, give it to them at the outset.

Don't always pre-teach vocabulary

Pre-listening tasks are great (e.g. some general questions about the subject, he speaker, the type of task they might be doing), but don't feel you need to pre-teach key vocabulary. The reason she gives is this:  being taught a new item before it is heard in a new context does not necessarily make it easier to understand. Better to have taught and practised the item several times in advance before the listening task. (This implies that a listening task may be better set later in a teaching sequence.)
If you feel the need to pre-teach items, then just do one or two key words or chunks, placing less load on memory. By the way, she cites research by Chang and Read* in support of her view. they concluded from a study that pre-teaching vocabulary was the least successful of four strategies, the others being repetition of the text itself, seeing comprehension questions in advance and providing information about the content.

Don't use written texts for listening

Textbook listenings may just be written texts read aloud. This is less than satisfactory. Written discourse is designed to be read, not listened to. It lacks pauses, redundant phrasing and repetition - the sort of cues which make listening easier. If you cannot access natural-sounding listening, then the best source may be your own voice. You can tailor the speed and content to the class. This is also a good argument for plenty of teacher talk, provided it's interesting and meaningful.

Let the students see the speaker

We tend to use audio recordings because they are cheaper to produce and more convenient to use. Adding a visual element makes listening more interesting and a little easier because you can see the speaker's facial expressions, for example. This is another argument for teacher talk or, for example, using visiting speakers. In real life we usually see the person we are talking to. Audio listening is a good preparation for listening to the radio, but otherwise teacher talk and video are better.

Divide the text into short bits

Avoid having students listen to long sections in one ago. In natural discourse listening is usually broken into short fragments. This applies not just to conversation, but to other sources of listening such as movie scenes, a TV commercial or a talk with slides. Listening to long stretches places a huge load on working memory and is one reason students find it so hard and off-putting. Again, it may be that teacher talk (e.g. telling a good story) is one occasion when lengthy listening is justifiable.

Use dictations

Dictation is not just a test of spelling, it is a very good way of developing listening skills at lower levels. It is not a meaningless grammar task. To do a dictation well you have to understand the meaning of the text. penny ur cites research to support this.**

As a final note, I would add a point which my friend Gianfranco Conti often makes and which we point out in our Toolkit - to some extent it is implied in some of Penny Ur's remarks - that you should try to avoid treating listening as a test or product. This is one reason pupils often say they don't like it. Rather, it's a process which you can teach, by clever scaffolding, breaking it down into bits, showing the task type in advance, phonological practice, pre-listening tasks and more.

*      Chang, A.C.  and Read, J (2006). The effects of listening support on the listening performance of EFL learners. TESOL Quarterly, 40 (2)

**   Reza Kiany, G. and Shiramiry, E. (2002). The effect of frequent dictation on the listening comprehension ability of elemntary EFL learners. TESL, Canada Journal, 20 (1)




Sunday, 18 September 2016

LIFT feedback technique

 Teachers may find this useful. My Language Teacher Toolkit partner-in-crime Gianfranco Conti makes use of a correction/feedback technique he calls L.I.F.T. (You can't beat a nifty acronym.) This is what Gianfranco has written on Facebook about it:

"An example of a feedback technique I am currently using with my year 11 French students, which I call LIFT (Learner Initiated Teacher Feedback). They write an essay then ask questions about things they are unsure about. (You can see the questions in the right margin- I ask them to leave some space.) It gives the teacher a great insight into things students do not feel sure about and starts a learning conversation with the students whereby making the correction process more of a two way process than a unidirectional teacher prescription."

The picture below gives you a good idea of what he's doing.



I rather like this. I can see how it would encourage students to share their language issues and in so doing it may also encourage them to try even harder and experiment with the language more. 

What do you think?

New Higher Tier GCSE units on TES

Gianfranco Conti and I have begun work on a set of resources for GCSE French. The first is now available on the TES site. We have adapted the model of the A-level resources which have been selling well.

Here is where you can find our shop:

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/spsmith45
 
Here is the description of the first unit we have written. More will follow soon and we hope to sell them as a bundle in a few weeks.

"This is a densely packed eight page unit of work with a focus on reading and translation into French. The theme is healthy living. The level is Higher Tier GCSE. You will find pre-reading tasks, a set of reading comprehension paragraphs, pre-translation activities and short, graded passages for translation into French. These tasks enable students to build up their skills by recycling language in various ways (matching, translating, synonyms, antonyms, true/false, questions etc). They are based on the concept of "narrow reading" whereby similar language is used across a number of reading paragraphs enabling students to have repeated exposure to the similar language. A detailed answer key is supplied. This resource is primarily for independent work to be done in class or at home. There is a pdf version and editable Word document."

We are charging £3 each. We would anticipate selling a bundle of 10 for £20 in the future and will be covering a full range of GCSE topics/sub-themes.

I should stress that these are aimed at Higher Tier and would make a very good supplementary resource for quite capable students (probably aiming at grade B equivalent or above - Progress 8 level 6?). Regular users of Gianfranco's resources will recognise the style and format of this first unit. He is writing some of them and I shall write others. The first unit is Gianfranco's baby.

If you have not yet discovered Gianfranco's TES resources you it's worth mentioning that he has published well over 1500 of them. The vast majority are free. He can't stop writing!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Great starters for advanced students




Lateral thinking stories

You present a scenario and the students have to find out what happened only using yes/no questions. Here are three examples:

1.   When Jack comes home he finds Mandy is dead, lying in a pool of water and Tom is sitting quietly on the armchair. There is some broken glass on the floor. Tom won’t be charged with murder. Why not? Answer: Mandy is a fish and Tom is a cat. Mandy was swimming in her bowl. Tom started playing with it and knocked it over.

2.   A woman lives on the 30th floor of a building. When she gets home from work, she usually takes the lift as far as the 21st floor and then climbs the stairs to the 30th. However when it’s raining, she’ll always take the lift to the 30th floor. What explains this strange behaviour? Answer: She is of small stature and cannot reach the top button unless she is carrying an umbrella.

3.   A man sprints up some stairs, desperately turns on a light switch, looks out the window and sees dead people everywhere, then commits suicide. Answer: He was operator of a life house who forgot to switch on the light.

Tube train

This is really a twist on speed-dating. You line up two rows of chairs, facing each other and all quite close together. Each student sits down, facing their partner and all students are given a topic to discuss with each other for two minutes. Then one student moves along the train and all the students should have a new partner and the game begins again, this time with a new topic.

Just a minute

In small groups each student has to talk for a minute on a subject of their choosing, while the other students check the time. If the student hesitates badly another student ‘buzzes in’ and takes over the topic for the rest of the minute. You can choose topics for the students, preferably linking up with recent work.

Persuade a partner yours is better

Get the students to all write down their favourite film. In small groups they then have to persuade the other people that their choice is more important than the others. Students can repeat this with their favourite animal, TV programme, social media platform etc.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A useful starter for beginners

The main reason French is one of the easier languages for our students to learn is, of course, the presence of so many cognates, those words with similar meanings which look and therefore sound the same across languages. This means that even beginners can pick up the meaning of new spoken or written utterances. Furthermore, students can work out meanings by other cues in a sentence, such as a name or place, or their general knowledge of the world.

Here is a useful, low preparation starter you could use with your beginners. It's a list of 25 statements you could show to help them realise how they can use cognates and other cues to infer meaning. You could display these as a list and get pupils, to a time limit (I would suggest no more than 5 minutes - create a sense of urgency) to write down what each one means in English. That could then be the cue for a brief discussion about what cues or strategies students can use to help them understand what they hear or read.

Then, at the end of the lesson, you could repeat the task as a listening activity. Simply read out each sentence twice for the class to write down the meaning in English. You could lessen the difficulty for weaker groups by providing a list of meanings in English for students to tick off.

Here's my list. You could make up others which might refer to your own class.

1. Je m'appelle Steve Smith.
2. J'habite Paris en France.
3. J'adore le football et le tennis.
4. Je déteste les mathématiques.
5. Je collectionne les Pokémon.
6. Mon téléphone portable est mon objet favori.
7. Iron Man est mon super-héros favori.
8. Mes parents s'appellent Laura et Dave.
9. Je regarde les Jeux Olympiques à la télévision.
10. La musique électro est fantastique.
11. J'adore le golf, la gymnastique et le bowling.
12. Mon cochon favori est Peppa.
13. L'âge idēal pour le mariage est 30 ans.
14. J'habite un petit appartement au centre de Manchester.
15. Je déteste les insectes, les reptiles et les serpents.
16. Je préfère voyager en train. C'est confortable et rapide.
17. La limonade est bonne, mais je préfère le coca-cola.
18. Mon restaurant favori est Nandos.
19. J'adore utiliser la tablette en classe.
20. J'adore les animaux: par exemple les lions, les tigres, les éléphants et les crocodiles.
21. Gareth Bale est un footballeur superbe.
22. Au cinéma je préfère les films d'action.
23. Je mange des carottes et du porc.
24. Mon papa adore la bière.
25. Ma maman préfère le vin.


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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Classroom seating arrangements

Through my teaching career I experimented with a number of desk arrangements: rows, cabaret style, horseshoes and double horseshoes. In later years I regularly used rows for large groups and a single horseshoe for groups below about 12 students (most A-level classes).

I think my temptation to used grouped tables, cabaret style, was a vague feeling that it was less formal and that it suited pair and small group work. On reflection I believe it was a bad idea.

What does research say?

This piece of research seems to confirm what common sense suggests.

http://www.corelearn.com/files/Archer/Seating_Arrangements.pdf

I have seen this confirmed in other studies. Let me quote from the abstract:

"Seating arrangements are important classroom setting events because they have the potential to help prevent problem behaviours that decrease student attention and diminish available instructional time.... Eight studies that investigated at least two of three common arrangements (i.e., rows, groups or semi-circles) were considered. Results indicate that teachers should let the nature of the task dictate seating arrangements. Evidence supports the idea that students display higher levels of appropriate behaviour during individual tasks when they are seated in rows, with disruptive students benefiting the most."

It seems to me therefore that when seating students you would be wise not to follow any fashion or vague notion that cabaret style is more modern, less formal or discourages communication. Better, in my view, to prioritise behaviour and the reality that much lesson time is spent with the focus on the teacher with eye contact being hugely important. Having students watch your every facial expression is important is establishing successful relationships.

Tables and students can easily move in any case, so if you need space for walking about or acting, then just pile up tables. If it's pair or group work you want to do, then students can quickly turn around.

My methodology was largely teacher-led but with copious pair work so rows made total sense.

How do you arrange your classroom?


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Monday, 29 August 2016

Selling resources or sharing for free?

I come across quite a few teachers on social media unhappy that teachers sell their resources on sites like TES. They say that this is against the spirit of teaching and that we should share freely.

There are a few points I'd like to make about this.

Sharing stuff for free is great. I did it for 10 years via frenchteacher.net and often still do via my site, my blog or on TES (to a very limited extent). We shared worksheets in our departments for years. But I have no objection at all to teachers earning money for the fruits of their labours.

Teachers are not paid like solicitors, doctors and accountants. If they put in extra time for the benefit of other teachers I see no problem with them being paid.  We are all used to buying from publishers and think nothing of it. A teacher who has written a resource effectively becomes a self-publisher. I, like many teachers, feel a little uncomfortable about being an entrepreneur, but you quickly get used to it. In my case, once I had retired from teaching, I wanted to keep writing but, frankly, it would have been daft to do it for nothing. It helps teachers a lot and supplements my pension.

Free resources are great, but they often come with errors and are variable in quality. When you are charging you have to be extra careful to produce something of quality. People will only buy if they think they are getting something better than, or beyond the scope of, free stuff.

Resources sold by teachers are often very good value and complement text book materials. They are often editable too.

It's a free world. No one is forcing a colleague to buy their resources. If you have an objection to paying for teacher-made resources (remember that text books are often written by practising teachers), then you don't have to buy. Up to around a third (rough estimate) of all English secondary school subscribe to frenchteacher.net. I don't see a huge difference between that and buying an individual's PowerPoint or worksheets.

So, to teachers who sell on TES I say, good on you, but I hope the resources are good! And to teachers who share for free, that's even better.

L'affaire burkini

Here is a good starter activity for your A-level students this year - maybe even a main course! Perhaps better done sooner than later while the topic is still fresh in minds. It may have a while to run yet. I'm assuming you have been keeping up to date with the French mayors' decision to ban burkinis on some beaches and the French upper court (Conseil d'Etat) deeming it illegal. Well, someone posted this picture on Twitter (I don't know its provenance, but I'll happily remove it if anyone objects). I'll offer you some good questions in French to generate discussion and widen students' knowledge and critical skills.

Some key vocabulary first:

un burkini (burqini) - tenue de bain intégrale
un maillot de bain - swimming costume
un bikini
une combinaison de plongée - wetsuit
un habit de religieuse - nun's habit
une bonne soeur/une religieuse - nun
un symbole - symbol
ostentatatoire- ostentatious, showy
un voile intégral - full body veil
un burqa, un niqab, un hijab




bannir - to ban
un maire - mayor
la modestie - modesty
le port du voile - wearing of the veil
la cohésion sociale - social cohesion
une tunique - long woman's top
un attentat terroriste - terrorist attack
un contrevenant - offender
passible d'une amende - subject to a fine
la laïcité - "secularism" - strict separation of religion and state, historically to limit power of the catholic church

Questions

(Take these in any order depending on responses - adapt as needed)

Qu'est-ce que vous voyez ici? Décrivez cette image.
A quoi sert une combinaison de plongée?
Un burkini, c'est quoi exactement?
Pourquoi parle-t-on du burkini en ce moment?
Comment les maires justifient-il l'interdiction du port du burkini? (Risque de provoquer des incidents car c'est symbole ostentatoire de l'islam jihadiste - n'oubliez pas les attentats terroristes atroces en France)
Quelle image a choqué beaucoup de personnes, surtout en dehors de la France? (Des policiers armés qui demandaient à une femme d'enlever sa tunique sur une plage dans le midi de la France)
Qui a inventé le burkini? (Une designer australienne - les ventes ont décollé depuis cette affaire!)
Que dit la loi nationale sur le burkini sur les plages? (en août 2016 le Conseil d'Etat a dit que c'est illégal)
Pourquoi est-ce que certaines musulmanes portent un voile ou un voile intégral?
Quels sont les avantages de porter un burkini sur la plage?
Est-ce un signe de l'oppression des femmes ou un simple choix personnel?
Que dit l'islam sur le port du voile? (Il n'y a pas de règle stricte)
Que dit la loi française sur le port du voile intégral (burka/niqab)? (Interdit dans les lieux public - les contrevenantes sont passibles d'une amende - en fait, le port du niqb est rare en France)
Est-ce qu'on devrait dire aux femmes ce qu'elles peuvent porter?
quelle est la différence entre porter une combinaison de plongée, un burkini ou un habit de religieuse?
Pourquoi cette affaire est-elle si importante pour la société française?
Quelle serait l'attitude des Britanniques en ce concerne le port du burkini?
Que pensez-vous de cette question?
Est-ce que la laïcité est un prétexte pour la xénophobie?
Cest quoi, la xénophobie?

Hard to avoid talking a bit about French secularism (laïcité) versus British multiculturalism. Which leads to better integration?

Question fondamentale: c'est quoi, l'intégration - assimiler les minorités en les obligeant à suivre un modèle traditionnel français - ou encourager la cohésion sociale en tolérant et même encourageant les différences?

If you want to go further, you can explain that right-wing candidates for the leadership of the Les Républicains party have been trying to attract support by taking a hard, some woudl say xenophobic, line on this issue, notably ex president Nicolas Sarkozy.

After discussion you could set these questions for written reinforcement.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Another look Languages Resources by Samantha Broom






Samantha Broom has had her website online for quite a few years now. It had a refresh some time ago. Many teachers and pupils must have benefited from her work over the years. If you haven't come across it, do take a look. There are resources for five languages, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese. I'll concentrate on the French materials in this post.

From the home page navigate to French from the drop-down menu at the top, not the Babbel "Practise French" advert.

Although there are a few A-level resources on Maupassant and Molière, the bulk of them are for near beginners and intermediates (GCSE). Topics include: personal information, daily life, home and abroad, healthy lifestyle, basics and Christmas.

If we take just one sub-section of the Home and Abroad category, holidays, you see a menu of over 50 resources, principally Word docs, but also some PowerPoints. there is a mixture of worksheets, presentations, games, cue cards, texts, gapped texts, Titles of resources include; J'ai logé; A l'hôtel conversation; Où vas-tu aller en vacances; transport; En panne; Dans ma valise and Tu pars en vacances. This is the tip of the iceberg.


On the subject of accommodation, the J'ai logé sheet has clear pictures for a matching task and some oral and written production. You could display it for an instant 20 minute session practsining J'ai logé... and J'ai passé... You could extend it to practise pendant. The level is Y8 or easy Y9.

On countries, the Où es-tu allé(e)? sheet is clearly laid out and could be used for display to generate simple oral work and writing. It would suit Y8 pupils learning cities and countries with prepositions.

The Comment as-tu voyagé? sheet has standard clear visuals with gaps to fill. Phases are presented at the top. This would be dispalyed, again, to generate oral work and you could easily blank out the supplied vocab as a simple development of the teaching sequence. This type of resource is s staple of controlled practice in the target language, in the early stages of a teaching sequence.

In fact, many of the resources you find on this site reflect Samantha's mainstream TL approach, which makes total sense to me. It's really quite old-school, but may still be less than familiar to some teachers. I would guess she would adopt a teacher-led approach to sheets like this, then handing over to students to practise in pairs or even groups. There is so much you can do with this type of material, recycling language along the way.

The sheet entitled Le weekend dernier consists of a set of six boxes of TL words and chunks and gapped verbs, all of which will help pupils build up an oral or written description of their last weekend. You might display this for oral practice/repetition and then use it to build up a simple composition.

You can probably tell that I relate strongly to this approach. There are some little errors in some of the sheets, but since they are all editable you could fix these.

Samantha has been very generous to share all her many resources over the years. If you have missed this site, dip into it, soak up the methodology (Samantha trained at St Martin's College, now University of Cumbria, I believe)  and plug any gaps in your scheme of work. I think there is a tendency sometimes to value what is new at the risk of forgetting what high quality material has been freely out there for a while.




Tuesday, 23 August 2016

On marking and feedback

In 2013 I wrote a blog about marking and in The Language Teacher Toolkit we included a section about marking, partly based on that blog. I'd like to come back to the issue now.

Marking takes us a very considerable part of language teachers' lives, although, if it's any consolation, perhaps less so than the lives of our colleagues who teach English or history. Why do we mark? How much time should we spend on it? How should we do it?

My starting point is this: the main aim of marking is to make sure that students have done their work. Far more important than feedback is the simple point that students have to do the work in the first place, taking as much time and care as possible. My experience, and it may be yours, was that you could not trust a significant number of students to do their work properly unless they knew you would be checking it, reading it carefully, correcting it and, yes, grading it - although I suspect the careful checking was more important than the grading.

Many pupils want to please their teacher and one key way they can do this is by impressing you with their written classwork and homework. If you don't mark their work regularly, they will spend less time and inevitably make less progress. There is research on this (google John Hattie), but actually we are in the realm of common sense here.

However, you only have so many hours in the week, so you have to mark quickly and not spend too long writing detailed comments. If the alternative is to set less work and mark it more slowly amd meticulously, it is a less desirable one in my view. Less work = less input = less recycling = less progress.

So what about making life easier by marking work in class? This is a great idea for some types of exercise, but bear in mind three points. Firstly, that type of exercise (grammar drill, gap-fill, comprehension matching task etc) has its limitations and can be easily copied. Pupils cheat. Secondly, going through and ticking an exercise in class is a bit routine and boring; I often felt I could be doing something more interesting.  Thirdly, if you do too much marking in class, some pupils may start to take their work less seriously because they know you won't be reading it personally. But yes, overall, quick marking in class is worthwhile, recycles language practised at home and, crucially, saves you time.

Taking books or papers in regularly for marking is hugely important for you as a teacher. It really shows you how carefully students are working and what they are finding easier and harder. You'll see who the careful, neat writers are; who goes the extra mile by looking things up; who has taken in what you did in class. Furthermore, it's your personal, private means of two-way communication with each student. You can give confidential praise and advice, admonish, build up a rapport, encourages them to want to impress you even more next time. All this helps you maintain good classroom control too, as each student knows that you know them and care about their progress. If you are intimately acquainted with students' written work, you can make subtle reference to it in class, building your relationship further.

That's all very well, but it takes time, I hear you say! Well, why not correct selectively, use underlinings/circles and get students to self -correct, use codes, don't write too much at the end and don't bother with systems like "two stars and a wish"? In England Ofsted have no preferred marking method. Remember that the key point is that the students did the work carefully and knew you would mark it. Two minutes a book may be more than enough for intermediate students. With experience you learn to go fast. If students know your standards are high, they will also write more neatly, making your task quicker. If work is too scruffy, don't accept it. If they have to write it out twice, they will be less inclined to hand in scruffy work in the future. No excuses.

Grading is a contentious issue and you may simply have to apply your school's or department's policy. On balance, I was in favour of it. High performing pupils were motivated by maintaining high grades. To get a lower grade can be a loss of face which they will want to put right next time. You can even use this to inspire pupils to better effort and performance. Similarly, you can grade tactically with lower-performing pupils - give them a merited higher grade and they will be delighted and hopefully want to keep up that standard. If your grading is criterion-referenced in some way, so much the better.

What about the old problem "They only look at the grade, not my corrections?" That's easy to fix. Just allocate a little time for written corrections to be done. Alternatively, if, like me, you found that a bit dull, make it a part of a homework or save up corrections for a 15 minute session in a later lesson. This forces pupils to go over earlier work and recycle language.

So, in sum: mark a lot, take in books, mark quickly, build those relationships.