Skip to main content


Focus on meaning or focus on form?

In one view of second language learning it is claimed that we acquire by simply understanding messages. Just as a child picks up their first language by listening to and interacting with caregivers and other children, so a second language learner picks up language sub-consciously by interacting with the teacher and peers. In both cases the learner acquires the language by focusing on no more than meanings. Only in rare cases is any attention drawn to the form of the language, e.g. grammar, patterns, spelling. This type of learning has been characterised in a number of ways over the years, for example as informal, implicit or natural learning.

This view of second language acquisition has some appeal because adult learners still have that apparently innate and unique capacity which humans possess: the ability to acquire language. (Though some scholars challenge this assumption.) Why not assume that by creating similar conditions to first language acquisition we can foster effective secon…
Recent posts

Practising school subject vocab

Let's suppose you've taught the L2 words for school subjects (maths, English, history etc). Perhaps you used PowerPoint slides, held up flashcards, gave a simple bilingual list, used a simple Quizlet list, showed a simplified school timetable etc. Let's then suppose you personalised the topic by combining them with "I like" and "I don't like" or other variations. What next?

A common activity which you may not have come across is to carry out a class survey. This is simple example of task-based language teaching where having a specific purpose adds motivation for the exercise. First, teach the question "What subjects do you like?" Make sure it is well established with choral repetition and some whole class QA. Then tell students they will carry out a popularity survey. They must stand up, walk about the class, and in 10 minutes ask as many friends as possible what their THREE favourite subjects are. As the students are walking round and conv…

Principles for resource writing

Like many of you no doubt, I have been writing resources for language teachers (French) for many years. Although I have always used my instincts about what is useful I've never established a set of explicit principles on which to base my resources. In fact, these principles have existed implicitly in my head but I've never written them down.

Anyway, having just read a blog on the MaWSIG (IATEFL) site here by freelance ELT author Katherine Bilsborough, I've been prompted to give this some thought. In her blog post she discusses materials writing principles and refers to a number of ELT writers who have worked on this, such as Rod Ellis (second language acquisition research guru) Paul Nation (vocabulary research guru) and Brian Tomlinson (all round guru).

Of the various principles outlined for resource writing I liked these by Brian Tomlinson. See what you think:
Provide a rich, meaningful and recycled exposure to the target language in use.Stimulate affective engagement.Stim…

Why not become a GILT-er?

GILT stands for Global Innovative Language Teachers and is a Facebook closed group set up by Gianfranco Conti. If you use Facebook, just search for it. Unlike the other very good UK Facebook groups for modern language teachers, such as Secondary MFL Matters and MFL Teachers' Lounge, this one aims to bring together teachers of all languages, including EFL teachers, from around the world.

Within a few days the groups has seen well over 1000 teachers sign up from places including the UK, Australia, Canada, the USA, France and Malaysia. Early threads have been very busy with teachers from various backgrounds and diverse methodologies sharing ideas and asking questions. Gianfranco and others have opened up some some good topics such as: what are the qualities of a good Head of Department? What was your best ever lesson? How full should a scheme of work be? How does TPRS work? What is AIM all about? What was the funniest thing a student ever said or wrote?

The guidelines of the group in…

Great Story Reading Project

The Great Story Reading Project is a new wiki sponsored by the Stories First Foundation where teachers can upload short story texts to share with others. The languages available are English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The stories are categorised by level: Beginner, Intermediate and Intermediate-High/Advanced. The wiki is moderated by three teachers with a background in French, German and Spanish. Cécile Lainé moderates the French material.

The guidelines for the group are as follows:

"No copyrighted content. Write traditional tales or legends in your own words. Original stories are also acceptable. Do not share copyrighted work. By sharing work in the Great Story Reading Project, you waive copyright.

Authorship. When you share a story, you may choose to include your name as an author or share anonymously. We will do our best to keep by-lines intact, can not guarantee recognition of full authorship.

Children 18 and younger should not give their real, full names. …

Review: This is Language

It's been a while since I've had a good look at This is Language which was established in 2011 and seems to be going strong. They have been kind enough to supply me with a temporary logon to review the site. There are three languages available, French, German and Spanish. I'm looking at the French resources here.

The site is best known for its authentic video interview content which is primarily aimed at KS3 and GCSE students. Categories to choose from are Friends and Family, Free Time and Leisure, Education and Work, My Area, Home and Health, Holidays and Travel, Prompt cards and Compilations. In the friends and family there are over 50 short video clips tagged "My friends" ranging length from 15 seconds to two minutes. (Most are under one minute long.) The whole archive is enormous. A star rating system ranks clips from Easy to Hard.

The hardest clips are well within the range of good GCSE pupils while the easiest are more limited…

130 activities for the languages classroom by Clare Seccombe

Clare Seccombe, who runs the Lightbulb Languages website, has produced what looks to be a superb little resource for language teachers. Clare has been incredibly supportive of teachers over the years, sharing resources and ideas. She has worked in both the secondary and primary sectors and brings a wealth of experience and good sense to our field.

She is currently selling "130 Activities for the Languages Classroom" on Sellfy.

This is what she says:

"I have been sharing resources and blogging about them for many years now. These 130 activities are ones that I have either used in the classroom over the last 20+ years or blogged about at some point, or both!

A lot of the activities included cover more than one skill, so for ease of reference each one has a key which shows what it covers:

L - Listening
S - Speaking
R - Reading
W - Writing
V - Vocabulary
G - Grammar
P - Phonics
T - Translation

Most activities can be adapted to suit different age groups, ability levels and…