Monday, 30 January 2017

Book review: Teach Like a Champion 2.0

Let me sum up this review in two points right from the start:

1. All teachers would benefit from reading this outstanding book about how to run successful classrooms.
2. Language teachers will find some of the recommended classroom techniques less relevant.

If you don't already know of him, Doug Lemov is a leading expert in the field of describing successful classroom management. He is the Managing Director of the US group of urban Charter Schools Uncommon Schools’ "Teach Like a Champion" team. His book Teach Like a Champion 1.0, has sold nearly 1,000,000 copies and been translated into eight languages. This revised and upgraded Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College is the subject of this review. The book can be read in association with videos of teachers in action (referenced in the text) and a dedicated website.

When I began teaching in 1980, I wish there'd been a book like this. I would have made far fewer mistakes! Doug's book gives the lie to the notion that you cannot teach teachers to teach. Whilst he acknowledges in Part 4 that some teachers seem to have a natural poise and presence, this very detailed and readable book, punctuated here and there with personal anecdote, demonstrates that there is a whole host of specific techniques which teachers can apply to improve their craft. All of these are described with admirable clarity by referring to a considerable number of teachers Doug has carefully observed and recorded.

Let me pick out a few of his techniques and reflect on them from a language teacher's perspective.

His "Do Now" technique is to always have a 3-5 minute task as pupils enter with no need for teacher support. This is part of his "Strong Start" technique which he correctly claims is vital for effective lessons. Do Now aims to build habit of independence and make sure "Every Minute Counts". Pen and paper should be used to show evidence and the task needs to be corrected quickly. Many language teachers adopt this technique, although I find it a little too prescriptive and preferred my flying starts to be oral warm-ups (drills and the like).

His Technique 33 "Cold Call" is a key one, in Doug's opinion. It's what many of us know as "no hands-up" or even "hands-down". Doug considers this to be the single most transformative technique for involving all pupils and raising standards. I'm glad he doesn't argue that it should be the sole way of running question-answer sessions. Typically he describes in the variations on hands-up, hands-down and mixtures thereof. What's great about this book is how forensically he analyses every detail and consequence of teacher-student interaction. For instance, he mentions how, when you cold call a question, you should not name the student before the question in order that all students give thought to an answer.

Technique 43 "Turn and Talk" is one which is very familiar to language teachers. After some teacher-led work/interaction you get pupils to turn to. a partner and work orally to a very specific time limit. Doug puts this in the context of discussion (e.g. in an English lesson) whereas we language teachers would use it usually for more structured pair-work tasks with a focus on a structure or area of vocabulary.

One point he makes which I have seen elsewhere and used myself is that you should give very specific time limits, say four minutes, rather than rounded numbers like five or ten. This adds urgency and sends the message that you are precise in your time management. In fact, managing time and pace through effective transitions and mileposts during lessons to make every second count is a significant theme of the book. His Technique 27 "Change the Pace" includes advice on when to excite a class and when to calm them. Old hands know this well.

Doug argues quite strongly for forward-facing seating which has long made sense to me. How else can you effectively scan and track what pupils are doing and insist that they track you? On this point, I like his STAR/SLANT acronyms from Chapter 10. STAR: Sit up, Track the Speaker, Ask and answer questions like a scholar, Respect those around you. SLANT: Sit up, Listen, Ask and answer questions, Nod your head, Track the speaker. He recommends using the acronyms as useful, time-saving shorthand.

Part 4 of the book focuses on behaviour management. These are Techniques 51-57 - how to best manage behaviour through vigilance, calm finesse, the least invasive interventions, "art of the consequence", a strong voice and positive instructions - telling students what to do, not what not to do. Doug stresses how pupils need to be trained into good procedures and routines. He writes: "the more natural and routinised your classroom systems become, the less they feel like restrictions". This is partly in response to potential critics who may argue that his recommendations come across as repressive or undemocratic. Doug is unapologetic about teachers needing to exercise authority effectively.

On the value of quick interventions to manage behaviour Doug writes "if you're mad you've waited too long". He cites this as a useful piece of advice for teachers and he's right. He says that interventions should be quick, incremental, consistent and depersonalised, e.g. when when a class enters too boisterously, get them to do it again immediately. I cannot emphasise enough how much good detailed guidance there is in this book!

Observations of language teaching are absent, which is a slight pity. Some of Doug's analysis does not match so well with the practice of MFL/WL teachers who work within the communicative or TPRS paradigm where question-answer has a specific purpose in developing proficiency rather than developing concepts. Some of the recommended interactions would relate well to discussion of grammar or the teaching of topics, film or literature at advanced level, but less well with younger classes. "Call and Response", however, is widely used by language teachers who tend to refer to one type of it as choral repetition.

Technique 38 "Art of the Sentence" is interesting, since we language teachers often insist on whole sentences to help develop control of syntax. Doug's focus is however more on developing rich vocabulary, complex ideas and clarity of academic discourse, speaking in a scholarly way, if you like.

I could add a good deal more from the notes I took, but I hope you've got my drift by now! Doug Lemov and his colleagues who have contributed through their ideas and classroom practice have done teachers a great service by writing this new edition of Teach Like a Champion. Every department, whatever the school, would do well to get hold of a copy.

Teach Like a Champion 2.0 costs about £17 and is published by Jossey Bass.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The latest from frenchteacher

I've been busier on the site recently now I've got the typescript finished for my next book with Routledge called Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. I've been looking for a fresh idea for the site and come up with the concept "Instant 30 minute listening". If you think listening is the neglected skill, this resource may help.

The idea with these is to give teachers a script to read aloud, record or have recorded by a native speaker. This is accompanied by a couple of exercises, usually true/false or true/false/not mentioned and gap-fill. Teachers can decide how many times they want to read the text and at what pace, depending on their class. the exercises are all in target language to reinforce the language they hear and to improve reading skills.

All of these tasks are pretty much zero preparation as far as the teacher is concerned and should take about 30 minutes to do. You can correct them in class with the answers provided. Just give students the A4 worksheet and off you go!

I have focused mainly on GCSE Higher (intermediate) and done the following topics so far:

  • Sport (horse-riding)
  • Environment
  • Family
  • Volunteering
  • Healthy living
  • Cinema
  • Television

For AS/A-level (advanced) I have done:

  • Volunteering
  • Mobile phones

All topics tie in with common GCSE and A-level topics.

I shall be adding more of these in due course.

It's true that read-aloud texts based on written sources lack authenticity, but so do nearly all audio sources used in course books. On the plus side, the teacher can tailor the delivery of the text to their own class, even making the activity interactive if they want. In addition, manufactured texts of this type cover the key vocabulary and structures you want pupils to hear, read and practise.

If you want more authentic sources, then just use the many video listening exercises on the site.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

At what point should you start practising exam-style tasks?

The latest version of GCSE MFL features a number of quite specific test types, two of which we haven't seen before. The first is the "photo card" test which forms part of the speaking assessment; the second is the translation into target language, marking a very watered-down return to O-level-style assessment. When should teachers prepare their pupils for these questions?

I see from social media that some teachers are beginning to work on photo cards, as well as role-plays (which have previously featured in GCSE) from Y7. Others are spending a good deal more time on translation into the target language than they did before. Are they right to be doing this?

On the one hand we know from research that being familiar with a test type and practising it in advance will help you achieve better results. Pupils will learn certain techniques, know how the mark scheme works and generally know what to expect. They will even be able to predict to some degree what language will come up. This clearly means that teachers would be wise to give pupils plenty of practice at photo cards, role-play and translation.

On the other hand, we also know that in an ideal world question types would mirror the type of activity you would like to do in class anyway. A good exam would feature questions which reflect sound methodology. So, if you take the view that, in general, translating is not the best way to spend valuable class time, then matching classroom tasks to the exam will involve a degree of compromise. (I would have very rarely done translation at A-level had it not been in the exam.)

How much actual practice is needed? As far as the photo card is concerned, there is not a great deal of technique involved since most of the task is just an extension of the general conversation pupils will have prepared anyway. (Only the first question asks about the content of the photo.)

The role-play does require a bit more technique, notably involving simplifying answers as much as possible to avoid errors which cause ambiguity. Some role-plays are, as with the photo-card, an extension of general conversation, others are more based on alleged real-life situations. The specimen examples are quite unrealistic, in fact, in terms of when a teenager might use their language in another country.

As for translation, yes, a good deal of practice and modelling from the teacher will yield better results as pupils come to anticipate the common traps and favoured grammatical structures.

But when should all this practice be started? My own view is that you could leave the role-play and photo card until quite late in the day, say at some point in Year 11. These tasks are not inherently interesting and there are many more stimulating, input-focused things you can do in lessons.

Translation may be worth touching on from an earlier stage, at the very least because it can reinforce grammatical accuracy and because many pupils enjoy doing it. Even so, I would not work on it systematically until Y11. Remember too that not many marks are allocated to translation, so you may feel that it should not be a priority. Just think: every 20 minutes spent translating is time which could be used developing listening, reading, written composition and speaking skills.

So my gut feeling is that some teachers may be giving in too easily to the "backwash effect" where the test type dictates the teaching. I would suggest sticking to your methodological principles, whatever they may be, and do not be panicked into doing activities just because they are in the exam.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 23 January 2017

Intermediate reading text - Lions

This is from the free samples page of and would suit GCSE (Higher) pupils. The text contains a high number of cognates.


Le lion (Panthera leo) est l'un des quatre grands félins du genre Panthea. Avec quelques mâles de plus de 250 kg, c'est le chat vivant le deuxième plus grand après le tigre. Les lions sauvages existent aujourd’hui en Afrique sub-saharienne et en Inde (où la population menacée habite dans le parc national de Gir Forest ). Jusqu'à il y a environ 10.000 ans, le lion était le mammifère le plus répandu sur la Terre après l'homme.

Le lion est une espèce vulnérable, ayant connu une baisse de population de 30-50% au cours des deux dernières décennies. Bien qu’on ne comprenne pas la cause exacte de cette baisse, la perte d'habitat et les conflits avec les humains sont les principales causes de préoccupation.

Les lions vivent pendant 10-14 ans dans la nature, mais en captivité ils peuvent vivre plus de 20 ans. Dans la nature, les mâles vivent rarement plus de 10 ans, car les blessures subies par les combats avec des mâles rivaux continuent de réduire considérablement leur longévité.

En général, ils habitent la savane et les prairies, mais on peut les trouver dans la brousse et en forêt. Les lions sont relativement sociables par rapport à d'autres chats. Un groupe de lions se compose de femelles apparentées et de leurs descendants et un petit nombre de mâles adultes. Des groupes de lionnes chassent généralement ensemble.

Les lions sont des prédateurs. Leur proie se compose principalement de grands mammifères, avec une préférence pour les gnous, les impalas, les zèbres, les buffles et les phacochères et en Afrique. Les lionnes sont plus agressifs que les lions. Alors que les lions ne chassent pas les humains en général, certains le font. Les lions sont essentiellement nocturnes ; ils dorment principalement au cours de la journée.

Très distinctif, le lion est facilement reconnaissable par sa crinière, et son visage est l'un des symboles les plus reconnus des animaux dans la culture humaine. Les représentations existent depuis la période paléolithique supérieur, avec des sculptures et des peintures dans les grottes de Lascaux en France. Les lions sont conservés dans des collections d’animaux depuis l'époque de l'Empire romain, et sont exposés dans des zoos à travers le monde depuis la fin du 18e siècle.


sauvage = wild​mammifère = mammal​baisse = fall​décennie = decade
blessure = wound​brousse = bush​proie = prey​phacochère = warthog
chasser = to hunt​crinière = mane​grotte = cave​époque = era

Can you guess the meaning of these words ?

menacé - ___________​répandu - _____________​espèce - ___________

combat - _________​longévité - ____________​par rapport à - _________ ____

ensemble - ____________​reconnaissable - _________________

(A) Compréhension : vrai, faux ou pas mentionné (PM) ?

1.​Le tigre est plus lourd (heavy) que le lion. _____
2.​Les lions habitent seulement en Afrique. _____
3.​Il y a 10 000 ans il y avait des tigres en Afrique. _____
4.​Le lion est une espèce menacée aujourd’hui. _____
5.​On sait exactement pourquoi les lions sont à risque. _____
6.​Les lions vivent plus longtemps en captivité. _____
7.​Il y a des combats entre lionnes (femelles). _____
8.​Les lions n’habitent pas dans les forêts. _____
9.​Dans un groupe il y a plus de femelles que de mâles. _____
10.​Les lions mangent d’autres mammifères. _____
11.​Les lions n’attaquent jamais les humains. _____
12.​On a trouvé des images de lions en Afrique. _____
13.​Les Romains ont gardé des lions en captivité. _____

(B) Production écrite : corrigez ces phrases fausses

1.​Les mâles pèsent moins de 250kg. …………………………………………………………
2.​Le lion n’est pas une espèce vulnérable. …………………………………………………..
3.​Dans la nature les lions vivent souvent plus de 10 ans. …………………………………..
4.​Les lions sont moins sociables que les autres félins. ……………………………………..
5.​Les lionnes chassent individuellement . …………………………………………………….
6.​Les lions dorment la nuit. ……………………………………………………………………

(C) Pair work : without looking at the text each person has to say something about lions in French. The first who cannot say something loses.

(D) EITHER In English, write down 15 things you know about lions from this article.
OR From memory, write down ten things you know about lions in French.

Friday, 20 January 2017

GCSE Higher Tier reading gap-fills

Among the many free samples I have on the frenchteacher site there's one you may have overlooked and which you might find very useful when revising for reading exams. This is a set of nine cloze tasks, each of which consists of an adapted authentic text with gaps to be filled. Pupils can choose words from a box which makes the task similar in style to many you see on GCSE papers.

You can find them here (scroll down, bottom left-hand column).

You could copy them and make a booklet for use in class or at home.

Here's an example:

Les ados accros aux écrans

Remplir les blancs en utilisant les mots dans la case

console                 parisiens              projeté                  dire

facile                    collégiens             temps                   devant

quotidienne          passé                    aucun                            demandé

Les ados sont accros aux écrans : une étude réalisée auprès de 8000

_________ parisiens fait le point sur le comportement des jeunes dans

leur vie __________.

3 heures : voilà le temps passé chaque jour par les ados devant un écran

d’ordinateur, de télé ou de _______ ... Résultat, le lendemain matin, en

ils s’endorment en cours. Car ce temps devant l’écran est souvent

pris sur le ________ de sommeil. Ces résultats sont tout droits sortis

d’un questionnaire* adressé à 8000 collégiens_________. Il en ressort

que l’addiction aux écrans est le problème n°1 pour les collégiens,

________ l’alcool ou le tabac.  Les adultes se demandent quoi faire face

à cette situation. Car ________ aux ados « Vous passez trop de temps

sur un écran, ce n’est pas bon pour vous !" n’ a _______ effet ! Les

médecins qui ont piloté l’étude ont alors _________ à certains ados de

plancher sur un scénario puis de tourner un film ou ils se mettraient en

scène face à leurs écrans. Le film est destiné à être _________ pour

lancer la discussion... et ça marche!  Cet effet miroir aide à réaliser le

temps ________ devant la télé, l’ordi, ou la console… Une fois qu’on a

réalisé c’est plus ________ d’agir de manière à s’en passer !


le sommeil – sleep          accro à – addicted to      un écran - screen

plancher – (slang) to work         se passer de – to do without

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

France Bienvenue revisited

This is in the way of a reminder about an excellent website I haven't blogged about for a long time. I'm always impressed when teachers maintain something of a high standard over a long period and this is a good example.

France Bienvenue, with its strapline De vraies conversations pour apprendre le français comme on le parle et tout pour les comprendre is well worth a visit if you teach advanced level French.

The recipe has always been the same. Teacher Anne from the IUT Marseille has, each year since 2008, got a small team of her students to record weekly conversations for the benefit of French learners around the world. Each conversation is accompanied by some sort of video (sometimes just slides which illustrate the topic), a transcript of the conversation and a glossary of language used with explanations in French. The conversations often have a distinct cultural element and give a nice flavour of student life in the Marseilles area.

Anne writes:

Comprendre une langue telle qu’on la parle au quotidien, ce n’est pas toujours facile, surtout si on ne vit pas dans le pays où on parle cette langue!
Alors, nous avons envie de partager avec vous ces petites conversations authentiques que nous enregistrons avec nos amis, nos proches ou d’autres pour que vous puissiez entendre le français tel qu’on le parle ici en France, à Marseille et ailleurs.
Vos suggestions ou vos questions sont les bienvenues. Vous pouvez nous laisser vos commentaires, en français ou dans une autre langue ! (Si c’est en espagnol, en italien ou en allemand, nous nous débrouillerons pour comprendre !)

She also presents the site here.

The topics covered are wide-ranging and, in recent times, have included: holidays, dance, Christmas, horse-riding, food, living together at 19, work placements and the Stade Vélodrome in Marseilles.

The language used is authentic, of course, usually well-paced for A-level and the presence of the transcripts means you can design effective multi-skill lessons centred on listening. You could copy and paste the scripts, creating gap-fills, reading comprehension tasks or retranslation tasks. It's refreshing to have material which isn't textbook-style, artificial-sounding material, necessary though that is. Sound quality is good and the content often interesting.

You could use the recordings from the front of the class or have students listen and read on tablets, laptops or in a computer room. It is possible to listen with only the beginning of the transcript visible. I have over the years designed occasional worksheets for to go with France Bienvenue material.

Do let me know if you know of anything else similar.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Three types of PPP

PPP, in case you don't know, stands for Presentation Practice Production. In language classrooms it's the approach adopted by most teachers when they introduce a new grammatical structure or vocabulary topic. The idea is broadly that you present the structure, give students a chance to practise it within narrow parameters, then finally an opportunity to use the structure in a less controlled context. This approach fits well with the skill acquisition view of second language learning and is akin to the way you might teach other skills in life, e.g. learning how to do a side-step in rugby or play a simple piece of music on the piano.

But PPP can come in different forms and may mean different things to different teachers. Let me offer three different ways of applying it.

1. Deductive approach

In this clearest and simplest approach you would present a new structure on the board with examples, e.g. you might explain and show how the comparative of adjectives functions. This is explicit grammar teaching in its purest form and you could enhance the process with translations, using underlining, highlighting or colour to make the key elements clearer to students. Students might then copy down the notes before moving on to some structured practice. This might be in the form of a cloze exercise, a matching task, a spot-the-error task or similar. Translation into English could be involved along with some tightly structured question and answer or other oral interaction. Once you think the class has mastered the structure you then move on, probably in a subsequent lesson, to some production whereby students get the chance to use comparatives in a less tightly controlled fashion. This could involve an information gap task, general conversation questions featuring comparatives or a written task comparing two people.

2. Inductive approach (1)

This differs somewhat from the above in as far as you do not explain the structure from the very start. In this case you would present a limited number of examples of the structure in a meaningful context, e.g. for comparative of adjectives showing three stick figures of different heights, body shapes and IQ (controversial?) and proceed to describe the differences between the three characters. Fred is taller then John, John is smarter than David etc. At some point in the teaching sequence you would then ask students to notice what is going on, what patterns they can see or hear.

At this point you could then present the structure as above in Section 1 in order to make sure all students have understood. You could call this "inductive-lite" since you have not given a great deal of time for students to pick up the structure. Once you have presented the structure, you could then continue as in Section 1.

3. Inductive approach (2)

This has been described in a recent Gianfranco Conti blog here. In this case, you make sure that students hear and read many, many examples of the structure in context. You avoid any explicit grammar explanation for a long time, allowing plenty of time for the structure to become embedded in students' memories. Indeed, you may choose to avoid any explanation at all, if you think students have mastered the structure for themselves. In this approach, which would be favoured by proponents of the comprehension hypothesis (language is acquired by understanding messages), the emphasis is on meaning, but with much repetition of the target structure.

After a lengthy period of assimilation you would then proceed to do some structured practice examples and freer production as described above. In a sense this third approach is barely PPP at all, especially if you omit the explanation phase.


Which of the above three approaches is best? Research does not help us a great deal since no study has convincingly compared in controlled conditions the effectiveness of each. My own preference was generally for (2) but I varied how I taught grammar depending on the class and the structure being taught.

For example, with the subjunctive in A-level classes I chose approach (1), giving quite detailed handouts summarising the formation and use of the subjunctive, before proceeding to structured practice and freer production. Why? Because the range of forms and uses is too wide to teach by drip-feeding and older students who have opted for the subject can handle detailed explanations better.

On the other hand, when introducing a new tense with younger pupils I would usually use (2), often with pictures to support the presentation phase. I felt more comfortable letting students figure out the patterns for themselves, sensing that they might retain them better if they had noticed the pattern themselves without prompting. In addition, the challenge of working something out independently should inherently be more engaging.

With other trickier grammatical structures, e.g. the use of the relatives  ce qui and ce que I felt that explanation was more likely to lead to confusion with some intermediate students and felt it was better to let nature take its course, just letting students see and hear them in context. With some classes I would not have taught that structure at all, of course. You have to pick and choose your grammar carefully with lower attaining pupils.

All of this presupposes that we can "teach" grammar at all - some scholars and teachers claim we cannot and that students acquire grammar at their own rate and in their own order. I cannot possibly say for sure, but because of the way I was taught and through my reading, I remain of the opinion that practising structures, as long as you don't do it excessively, is very useful and can, in a school setting, lead to effective acquisition. If I were to hazard a guess at the amount of time I spent focused on grammar I would say that with advanced level students it was less than 10%, and with younger students no more than 30%. And within that 30% the large majority of the practice would have been based on meaningful (if not "compelling") target language.

We discuss these issues in more detail in The Language Teacher Toolkit.

Monday, 9 January 2017

An instant 30 minute listening task

I'm posting an example of some new listening tasks which are appearing on They are pitched at Higher Tier GCSE level (both old and new specs) and can be used instantly for a 20 minute or so activity. For readers outside England and Wales the level is intermediate. In each case there is a teacher script which can be read aloud or recorded if you prefer. This is followed by two exercises with answers provided.

I'd recommend doing the task in the spirit of an exercise rather than a test. You could read the text in short chunks or in their entirety. You can add further tasks if you want, e.g. gap-filling and translation. The one below is on the topic of the environment - no apologies for this!

Talking about the environment

Teacher script 

On ne peut pas parler de l’environnement sans évoquer le problème numéro un de la planète – c’est-à-dire le réchauffement climatique. Malgré les énormes progrès qui ont été faits dans le domaine de l’énergie renouvelable, les voitures électriques etc, à mon avis c’est trop tard pour empêcher des hausses de température dangereuses.
Mais pour le moment ce qui est responsable de milliers de morts dans le monde, c’est la pollution de l’air. Dans les pays plus développés c’est les véhicules et les centrales électriques qui en sont responsables. Je crois qu’on devrait abolir les véhicules diesel le plus vite possible et fermer les centrales qui brûlent du charbon. Savez-vous que les petites particules émises par les voitures diesel causent énormément de maladies différentes ? En Chine il y a tellement de pollution atmosphérique que certains jours on ne peut même pas sortir de la maison. Mais dans les pays en développement, c’est le bois qu’on brûle à l’intérieur des habitations qui provoquent le plus grand nombre de morts.
Personnellement j’essaie de ne pas trop rouler en voiture, je ne prends jamais l’avion et je réduis ma consommation d’énergie le plus possible. J’ai acheté des ampoules LED pour la maison et j’ai fait installer des panneaux solaires sur le toit de la maison. Bien sûr je recycle du papier, du papier carton, du verre, des matières plastiques et métalliques et je vais à la déchetterie de temps en temps.
Mais ça m’embête quand je vois des gens rouler trop vite dans leur voiture ou quand les gens se plaignent quand on fait construire de nouvelles éoliennes. A mon avis, le problème c’est que les gens ne voient pas trop de changements autour d’eux donc ils ne comprennent pas combien la situation est grave pour la planète.
Mon seul espoir est que nous trouverons des solutions technologiques qui limiteront le changement climatique et qui protégeront les populations qui seront les plus touchées par ce changement – c’est-à-dire les habitants des pays pauvres. Mais franchement je ne suis pas optimiste sur la question.

A.        Vrai ou faux ?
1.         On ne parle pas du problème principal de la planète.
2.         Peu de progrès ont été faits pour combattre le réchauffement.
3.         On demande si c’est trop tard pour limiter les hausses de température.
4.         C’est la pollution atmosphérique qui tue le plus grand nombre de personnes.
5.         Les véhicules diesel émettent trop de particules nuisibles pour la santé.
6.         Malgré la pollution les Chinois peuvent toujours sortir de la maison.
7.         Dans les pays pauvres l’air est plus pollué à l’intérieur des logements qu’à                 l’extérieur.
8.         Le/la professeur(e) roule trop en voiture malheureusement.
9.         Il/Elle essaie de limiter sa consommation d’énergie le plus possible.
10.       Il/Elle a fait installer des panneaux solaires sur le toit du garage.
11.       Il/Elle va à la déchetterie chaque semaine.
12.       Rien ne l’embête en ce qui concerne ce sujet.
13.       Il/Elle pense que les gens ne sont pas conscients de la gravité du problème.
14.       Des solutions technologiques ne sont pas exclues.
15.       Il/Elle a le plus peur pour les habitants les moins riches de la planète.

B.        Complétez les phrases en utilisant un mot dans la case. Deux mots ne sont       pas utilisés.

1.         Le réchauffement planétaire est une grande ________ d’inquiétude.
2.         Il est ________ de recycler toutes sortes de produits.
3.         Les voitures diesel émettent ________ de produits toxiques.
4.         L’énergie renouvelable ________ considérablement les émissions de CO2.
5.         Des milliers de personnes sont tuées ________ année par la pollution de l’air.
6.         La plupart des gens n’ont ________ idée combien la situation est grave.
7.         On peut réduire son empreinte carbone en ________ moins l’avion.
8.         C’est les gens pauvres de la Terre qui souffriront le ________ du                                    réchauffement.
9.         Je ne ________ pas trop aux questions de l’environnement.
10.       J’essaie de ne pas trop ________ la voiture.

trop             pense             source         rouler         prenant           prendre           chaque                   plus         aucune            réduit           facile          difficile


A. 1. F   2. F    3. V     4. V    5. V     6. F     7. V     8. F     9. V     10. F    11. F    12. F

13. V   14. V    15. V

1. source     2. facile    3. trop   4. réduit   5. chaque   6. aucune  7. prenant

8. plus   9. pense   10. prendre

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Some great social media links for language teachers

When I left the classroom in 2012 I quickly discovered I could not shake off my obsession with language teaching. I have kept in touch with the languages community almost entirely via social media. I use various media to do three things: learn more about teaching around the world, notably the USA and Canada, exchange ideas with other teachers and sell some of the work I write. Social media has allowed me to fulfil the long-held ambition to help train other teachers and I consider that I can reach more teachers online than through any face-to-face course.

Here are the platforms I use:


I make a point of following, almost without exception, teachers and others in education. By doing this I avoid the more unsavoury corners of Twitter. Exchanges are therefore almost always informative and polite. I try to avoid on the whole tweeting political stuff, but I don't always succeed. I decided some time ago to use Twitter for professional reasons and Facebook for social/family affairs. (The exception being professional closed Facebook groups.) I confess to finding Twitter very addictive!

Engaging with Twitter has taught me a huge amount about language teaching and education in general and I have made really useful links with teachers around the world, most notably with my collaborator Gianfranco Conti in Malaysia. Other notable language teachers and trainers I follow are Joe Dale, who oversees the MFL Twitterers list, Helen Myers who is very active in the ALL, Sara-E Cottrell and Martina Bex, both from the USA, José Picardo, and Pauline Galea from Canada. There are many others I could mention. I often use the Buffer app (free version) to post tweets in advance so that they appear at times of the day when teachers are more likely to read them.


There are a number of Facebook groups where teachers meet to share ideas and resources, and ask for help. The ones I contribute to are based in the UK, Canada and Malaysia. If you are on Facebook, just look up the following: Secondary MFL Matters, Secondary MFL in Wales, MFL Teachers' Lounge, Canadian Core French Teachers, Parlez avec Pauline, French Teachers, IGCSE Language Teachers, MFL Resources and Ideas and International Language Teachers in Malaysia. The atmosphere in these various groups is super, very supportive and hardly ever antagonistic.

MFL Yahoo Groups Forum

This has been around a while and still has hundreds of members even though messages have become rarer of late. Members stay in touch via email and, as with the Facebook groups, teachers ate helpful ad supportive. You can find the group easily enough by doing a google search. You can set up your account to have email messages sent to your inbox if you want. I am one of the moderators of the group which, for me at least, just means lightly vetting any new requests for members.


There are many useful teacher blogs out there from which I learn a great deal.
I keep a list of these on Most teachers don't have the time to update these regularly, but the best ones share great practice, tell you about how technology can be used and discuss methodological issues. You could start with Gianfranco Conti's detailed blogs ( which marry research and classroom practice, Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell's Musicuentos blog or Martina Bex's The Comprehensible Classroom. Again, there are many others you might find interesting. I have been running my own blog since 2009.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 2 January 2017

An Amazon Echo in the classroom?

We succumbed over Christmas and bought an Amazon Echo Dot (the little sister of Alexa with the much smaller speaker). It's a fun digital assistant which will answer simple questions, play music from the radio, Spotify and Amazon, set alarms for you in the kitchen, make lists and more. Its speech recognition is great, even from a distance or when whispering to it close up. The default wake up call is Alexa, so you just say Alexa and then speak away. Its LED spinning light tells you she's listening.

So you can see where I am going with this. For a small outlay, an Amazon account and with a wifi classroom connection, you could set Alexa to your chosen language (only German so far)  and use her as a language learning aid. Note that Alexa is always on and needs no other devices to function apart from the teacher's smartphone with the Alexa app.

When the app is set up you can add specific "skills" (like mini-apps) which allow Alexa to perform further functions. Thee can be accessed via the app.

What could you do? Most of these can be done at intermediate level or above. All of these tasks involve careful listening, sometimes combined with note-taking, translating or summarising.

1. Ask Alexa factual questions in TL and get students to note down or transcribe her answers, e.g. "what is the longest, second longest, what is the highest, how long is..."
2. Practise weather expressions by asking her for the forecast in different locations, e.g. towns in France.
3. Practise distances/measurements by asking her the distance between locations in the chosen country.
4. Set alerts for timed classroom activities.
5. Say good morning to her (she responds with interesting facts about the day). Students can listen and note down what they hear.
6. Set up a news flash briefing (for advanced students only).You can customise news briefings, choosing from a range of sources. Students take notes.
7. Ask for spellings of words. This would work with near-beginners too. Alexa spells put words clearly for you.
8. Ask for definitions of words. Alexa has access to a dictionary. This could be useful when you are stuck for a meaning or could be done as a combined listening/vocab task
9. Ask for biographical information about famous people. Alexa gives brief answers which could be summarised, translated or transcribed.
10. Practise times by setting up a specific skill. These depend on the country and language, but you could search for something like train times.

Note that the Echo with the larger speaker would be better for a large classroom, but you can connect the Dot to an external speaker either by wire or bluetooth. The language delivery is very clear, but with some minor intonation issues.

If you ask Alexa for a translation of a word she says she cannot pronounce but it is recorded in the app (as all answers are).

Am I in the realms of gimmickry here? I'm not sure. Once the Echo is set up it is always on and can be consulted at any time. You'd also have to have clear protocols about its use with students so they don't set it off for amusement or ask dodgy questions if you are out if the room. In addition, the Echo has to be set up through an Amazon account, so you don't want students ordering you things without your knowledge! You might find a copy of The Language Teacher Toolkit waiting for you at home!

The Echo is the best digital assistant you can use from a distance in a room, with Google Home on its way to the UK at some time. In time, when they become more sophisticated, I can imagine them being used routinely in classrooms.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Two fun listening games

I've begun posting new listening resources on the Y10-11 page of frenchteacher. Up to now I have only ever posted video listening exercises (worksheets linked to online video clips), but for a while I have wanted to publish some instantly usable listening tasks which can be read aloud by the teacher or recorded, e.g. by a native speaker. (Posting my own recordings is problematic since only teachers have login access to my site, not students.)

So far I've uploaded two scripts - a description of a movie (Interstellar) and a TV series (Mr Robot). Apart from the read-aloud script there are accompanying exercises, all in the target language. I'm calling these resources "20 minute listening tasks".

While on the topic of listening, here are two gun games you can use with intermediate students or above:

Would I lie?

For intermediate to advanced level. Students try to work out which three of six statements are not true by asking you questions. You prepare five statements about yourself, three true and two false, and write them on the board. For example:
• My brother has twin sons.
• I have three cats.
• If I’d been a boy, I would’ve been called George.
• My family was brought up in Spain.
• My favourite movie is The Sound of Music.
• My father was an extra in Star Wars.
You can ask the class how many of the statements they think are false. Then tell them there are three. Tell them they have to work out which by asking you questions, listening to your answers and watching your reaction. You can embroider your answers as much as possible, giving the right number of hints depending on how fast you think your class is.

Let the students ask questions until they have decided which ones they believe (by a show of hands). Give them the real answer. You could add an element of competition by putting the class into pairs or small groups, with each grouping coming up with their chosen two false statements.

An extension to this task is to ask students to write down similar statements for themselves – three true and three false. Divide them into groups and repeat as above with one person from the group being questioned by the others.

One lie

While on the theme of lying, here is another game for intermediate level students and which can be played in pairs. Give each student about five minutes to write down a set of statements about themselves, all of which are true except one. In turn, each student reads their sentences and their partner has to identify the false statement.You can make this fit a particular grammar point you have been working on, e.g. to practice the past (preterite) tense you could set the them What I did last summer? Or, to practice the future tense My plans for the future.
A simple variation would be for each partner to have to discover how many lies their partner uttered, rather than just find one.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad