Skip to main content

Improving A-level summary technique

The new AS and A-level examinations contain a new element we haven't seen before in A-level exams (at least not quite in this form). In paper 1 (Listening, Reading and Writing) there are two summary tasks, one listening and one writing. Each task is worth 12 marks so they require particular attention.

I have blogged before about how I like this task in principle since it encourages good classroom practice (listening and reading input plus manipulation of vocabulary and syntax). It's a good example of the backwash effect from assessment having a good influence on classroom practice.

For students it's a challenge, however, since it demands not just good comprehension and grammar, but sound technique.

Below is part of a document  have posted on frenchteacher. It aims to focus students on the key elements for success and to provide practice in paraphrasing technique.

Two key points to retain:

1.  Students must not go beyond the word limit (90 words at A-level).
2.  Students do not have to change every item of vocabulary. Apart from covering the key content points (7 marks), they need to show frequent changes to the original grammar of the text (5 marks).

Here is the document (extract):

Improving your summary technique

Remember: to get top marks at the A-level listening and reading summary tasks you need to do two things:
  • Cover the required number of content points (AQA 7 marks)
  • Use your own varied and accurate grammar as much as possible (AQA 5     marks)

NB: you do not have to change the wording of everything you hear or read. The 5 marks are for grammar, not new vocabulary. However, altering or adapting vocabulary may allow you to vary your grammar more.

Here are some sentences from an AQA specimen exam paper with ways of summarising them plus commentary. New grammatical elements are in bold.

1.  Il y aura une réduction importante du nombre de salariés.
→ Le nombre d’employés va diminuer considérablement.
(Use of immediate future and adverbial form – ment)

2.  Les salaires vont baisser et la qualité de la production est menacée.
On verra une baisse des salaires et une dégradation de la production.
(Use of future tense and adaptation of verb baisser to noun baisse – this shows knowledge of word morphology)

3. C’est une véritable radio de service public qui offre des programmes que personne  d’autre ne propose.
→ C’est une radio axée sur le service public, diffusant des émissions originales.
(Use of past participle in axée, present participle and adjectives agreement)

4. Radio France, c’est aussi le premier employeur de comédiens en France.
→ C’est la compagnie qui emploie le plus grand nombre d’acteurs.
(Use of relative pronoun qui, present tense of an –yer verb and a superlative)

5. La culture est indispensable au maintien de la solidarité sociale
Pour maintenir la solidarité sociale il faut que la culture soit diffusée.

(Use of pour + infinitive and il faut que + subjunctive + passive + correct agreement on diffusée)

The document on frenchteacher is followed by 12 example sentences to paraphrase together with model answers.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

Making words memorable

Most teachers and researchers would agree that knowing words is even more important than knowing grammar if you wish to be proficient in a language. As linguist David Wilkins wrote in 1972: "Without grammar little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed."One of the frustrations for teachers is pupils' inability to retain vocabulary for productive use. A good deal of research has been done over the years into how pupils might better keep words in memory. Two concepts which have come to the fore are spacing and interleaving.

Spaced practice

A 2003 review of the literature by P.Y. Gu reported that most studies show that students frequently forget words after learning them just once.  Anderson and Jordan (1928) discovered that after initial learning, then one week, three weeks and eight weeks thereafter, the recall success was 66%, 48%, 39% and 37% respectively. Other studies have produced similar results. Unsurprisingly, these researchers recommend, space…

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’( The point i…