Skip to main content


Let’s not overdo the phonics, eh?

Phonics, to be clear, is not just teaching sounds and pronunciation; it is about explicitly pointing out and practising sound-spelling relationships. The theory goes that by teaching phonics, either incidentally or in a planned way, we will produce better decoders, pronouncers and readers.

At a recent presentation I gave about teaching listening I asked the roughly 50 teachers present how many taught phonics in a very systematic (planned in detail) way. A couple said they did. Most said they taught phonics in a somewhat incidental way. I confess that I rarely did at all, preferring to spend more time on just reading aloud and pronunciation divorced from spelling, i.e. repeating individual phonemes, words or chunks without the spellings in view.

The 2017 TSC (Teaching Schools Council) report on MFL pedagogy in England recommended, among other things, phonics teaching. I believe that many primary teachers, used to teaching phonics to L1 leaners, enjoy doing the same with their second lang…
Recent posts

World Language Classroom

This is mainly to point out the existence of a very good blog site for language teachers. It's called World Language Classroom and it's maintained by Josué (Joshua) who sometimes posts Periscope videos on Twitter, in which he discusses issues to do with language teaching. Josué is from the Boston, Massachusetts area, has an MA in applied linguistics, teaches, runs workshops and raises money through his resources for two schools, one in Haiti, one in Nicaragua. He also spends time volunteering in those same schools. Busy fellow! His blog has had over 1.2 million views too.

His blog posts feature subjects such as grammar teaching, planning, task-based language teaching (where he outlines a definition of the difference between "exercises" and "tasks"), modes of communication (based on the ACTFL's model - Interpersonal, Presentational and Interpretive), target language use and Project based Learning (PBL).

One interesting post about grammar features the so…

One dice, one pencil

There is a craze for this game on MFL teacher social media at the moment. It is variously called: One die, one pen; One dice, one pen; One die, one pencil. Just combine your preferred noun with your writing implement. I have just learned it comes from the book Games for Teaching Primary French by Danièle Bourdais and Sue Finnie.

This is how the game is played. Each partner has a writing task to complete (gapped translations seem popular). On starts with the pen(cil),the other with the dice. While the pen-holder starts their written task, the dice holder rolls the dice until they get a 6. When they do they get to use the pen while their partner gets the dice and starts rolling until they get their turn again. The winner is the pupil who finishes their written task first. Some teachers are playing variations on this pattern with groups of three or four. Teachers report how motivating the game is and how keen students are to work quickly.

You could give each student a different written …

How useful is it to correct written errors?

I was prompted to write this blog after reading two research-based blogs about correcting students' written errors. The first, typically provocative in its title,  is one by Gianfranco Conti here. the second, in response to Gianfranco's post is here by Russell Mayne on the blog Evidence based EFL. I recommend both blogs.

The introduction of Gianfranco's blog post (one of a number he has written on error correction) puts the issue of error correction into context:

"Most secondary school MFL teachers correct their student writers’ mistakes. But does error correction ACTUALLY enhance L2-writing proficiency development? A large number of scholars who espouse Cognitive theories of L2-acquisition (e.g. McLaughlin, 1987; Johnson, 1988, 1996), the vast majority of teachers (Applebee, 1984; Zamel, 1985) and most L2-learners (Ferris and Hedgcock, 1998) think so. However, many language educators working in the Nativist paradigm oppose this view. Believing that L2-acquisit…

Les origines de Noël

Here is a text from with some exercises about Christmas. It's pitched at advanced students, but could be used with a really good Y11 class (high intermediate). Feel free to copy and paste.

Beginner's guide to exploiting a written text

I thought some teachers or trainees would find instructive this example of how you might deal with a written text in class. I'm going to use an English example so as not to exclude teachers of any particular language. You could apply the same principles to any language if you like them.

The fundamental principles underlying this teaching sequence are;
Making the language comprehensible and interesting.Scaffolding activities, building from easier to harder. Building in repetition.Varying the task.Varying the skill mode (listening, reading, speaking, writing).Allowing each skill to reinforce the others.
Here is the text - pitched at intermediate level (e.g. Higher Tier GCSE):

A new survey in France reveals that young people spend more than 27 hours per week online. This figure has tripled over the last decade. The opinion pollster IPSOS carried out the study based on thousands of young 16-24 year-olds as part of its report in 2017 about media usage and attitudes towards it. IPSO…

The problem with authentic resources

Authentic resources in language teaching are usually defined as ones written or recorded for a native speaker readership or audience. There has been a long debate in language teaching circles about the value of such resources.

Those who argue strongly for using authentic resources usually make the following points:
They are more motivating than dry text book materials.They show language as it is really used so are a better preparation for real world language use.When they seem too difficult for the class you can adjust the task to fit them. "Alter the task, not the text." Arguments presented against authentic materials include:
It is hard to find sources which match the attainment level of the class.They often contain low frequency language which may not be usefully transferable to other contexts for students.There are copyright issues with using authentic resources.
My own view is clear on this. Written and spoken texts for classroom use are best when they are both interestin…