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Showing posts from March, 2017

Latest resources on frenchteacher

Here is a round-up of the resources I have added over the last month. My big focus at the moment is on listening for GCSE and A-level. These are instant, no preparation listening activities which you can read aloud or record. I now have a handful of tasks designed for Foundation Tier of your pupils are of that standard.

The A-level examples could also be used to practise the paraphrase task in the exam. Indeed, the latest resource, about prisons in France, has a model paraphrase in the answers section.

Here is the list of the new resources, with the most recent first:

Instant 30 minute listening. A-level -  "prisons in France". Source text for teachers to read or record, V/F/PM, single word gap-fill (no options) and an optional paraphrase task. All answers including model paraphrase supplied.Instant 30 minute listening. A-level. Young people's interest in politics. You could use these for paraphrase work too.Another in the series of 30 minute instant, no prep teacher-read…

Why is question-answer technique so important?

The extensive use of question-answer (QA) in language teaching is associated most closely with two quite contrasting approaches to language teaching. The first is what is sometimes termed the British oral-situational approach (developed most notably in the 1960s), the second is the TPRS approach where it is called circling. Most teachers use QA to a considerable degree whatever their pedagogical view about second language learning.

In the oral-situational context, QA was was developed by teachers as one form of direct method, with the principal aim of developing grammatical awareness and proficiency through the recycling of heard and spoken language rather than translating. Rules would be "internalised" through repeated use. The teacher took the lead and pair and group work was not very common.

Oral-situational QA is often, at beginner level, very focused on grammatical form, putting specifically chosen grammatical points in quasi-communicative contexts.("Where is the m…

The weak interface

What is meant by the "weak interface" in second language acquisition research? Why is it significant for language teachers?

The balance of opinion among second language acquisition scholars is that the large majority of second language is acquired implicitly, i.e. sub-consciously as learners hear, read and communicate meanings. In this regard second language acquisition is much like first language acquisition. You know yourself that you only became fluent once you were immersed in the language for lengthy periods. You would not have got there by learning vocab, doing grammar practice and comprehension exercises.

However, most researchers now believe that explicit instruction in rules and practice of forms (through drills, structured question-answer and other interactions etc) helps learners acquire language. This might seem obvious to most teachers who work on that assumption! When I talk to teachers and trainees the majority believe that skill-acquisition trumps input alon…

Different ways of doing dictation


Dictation can be described as a technique where pupils hear some spoken material, hold it in their memory for a short time, then write down what they heard.

It is one of the ancient crafts of language teaching. L G Kelly, in his 1969 book 25 Centuries of Language Teaching traces it back to at least the early middle ages. The Direct Methodists (progressives of their day) from the turn of the twentieth century valued it (Sweet, Passy).

Some like it, some hate it. Some accuse it of being boring and uncommunicative, a relic of the past when grammar-translation ruled the world; others argue that it has a valuable place, reinforcing phonological memory, improving grammar, spelling and listening skills. Over the years it has fallen out of fashion (particularly with rise of audio-lingualism and communicative language teaching), then seen a recent revival with MFL and EFL teachers around the world having their students walking around the classroom doing "running dictations&qu…

GCSE video listening resources

From the feedback I receive from French teachers, a popular resource on my site are the video listening worksheets. Finding appropriate video material for this level is a bit of a challenge, certainly harder than sourcing A-level video clips. In nearly all cases the worksheets would suit pupils aiming for Higher Tier at GCSE. I base the choice of videos on a number of factors:

- Interest level of the material
- Clarity of language
- Difficulty of language
- Length of video
- Relevance to GCSE topics

With these criteria in mind I have built up a set of worksheets linked to external videos. Here they are:

Future tense – song Octobre by Francis Cabrel
Conditional tense – song –Mourir demain – Pascal Obispo
Environment – eating meat
Why learn French?
Health – making vegetable soup
Technology – Ariane rocket
Jobs – cartoon short film
Health/sport – roller blading in Paris
Health/sport – Papa Cochon fait de l’exercice
Home life/food – Peppa Pig – les crêpes
Home life – Peppa Pig – Noël
Home life/D…

Dolanguages A-level film storyboards

Some of you will be familiar with the Steve Glover's brilliant site which has support materials for all the A-level languages films and books. Each unit he writes for films features a choice of resources you can purchase. These include:

Comprehensive questions on each sceneContextualised grammar exercisesQuestions on technique for film analysisMatching quotations to themes to prepare for paragraphingAn essay planning guideAn essay plan and sample essayAnalysis of individual scenesGapped summariesCharacter guidesA detailed summary of the film with gapped exercises
A new element Steve has recently added to the films section is "storyboards" (i.e. sets of still, hand-drawn stills which summarise the content of the films). If you know about films you'll be aware that directors usually prepare a storyboard to summarise their movie before production starts. Steve has drawn all the pictures himself (talented chap!) and added brief summaries in French. He has…

Three ways to help A-level students enrich their spoken language

One of the benefits of leading exam board training sessions is that you get to pick up new ideas from the attending teachers. In this case, while leading a session for AQA with teachers in York today, I was talking about ways to get A-level students to produce more sophisticated language in their speaking assessments.

I suggested that one way of varying pair work practice on an A-level sub-theme was to interrupt pairs of conversing students after, say, four minutes, then to display on the board five idiomatic phrases or complex syntactic structures which the students have to include in their conversations with a new partner for the next four minutes. Then, four minutes later, you add another five phrases or structures and ask students to include all ten chunks of new language into their next conversation with a new partner. And so on until the task runs out of steam.

Example phrases could be:

Ce que je trouve intéressant, c'est...
Il va sans dire que...
J'aurais plutôt l'i…

Everyday MFL

This is a plug for an excellent blog I was reminded of today while refreshing and weeding my list of French teacher blogs from around the world.

Everyday MFL is a rich source of very practical lesson ideas for language teachers. the anonymous author writes:

"The vision for this blog was to create something that MFL teachers can use. My hope is that the ideas are practical, adaptable and easy to use in your classroom. Perhaps, you will stumble across something you have never tried before that inspires and enthuses your students. Maybe, you will happen upon an idea long forgotten. Alternatively it might just be that something on here sparks your imagination and creativity into life."

Mission accomplished, I would suggest.

Recent posts include:
A comprehensive list of practical revision techniques, including ones entitled "last man standing bingo", "environmentally-friendly strip bingo" (nice!), vocab battles, dictation, collaborative mind maps and detaile…

Enjoying sounds (3)

This is the third and last post in the series about teaching listening. Like the others it is adapted from the forthcoming book Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. I am grateful to Gianfranco Conti who provided many of the ideas presented in this post and which have featured in posts on his blog The Language Gym.

This blog looks at how to develop listening and grammatical skill at the same time and suggests questions you can ask yourself regarding why your pupils may be struggling with listening tests. I also suggest some tech sources which can enhance the development of listening skills.

Teaching grammar through listening
One way to integrate listening within the teaching of other skills is to teach grammar through listening tasks. Here are three examples which involve listening to bite-size chunks of language.
Sentence puzzles
Sentence puzzles (see Figure 1) are an effective way to teach grammar and syntax through listening. Provide  students with a set of jumbled-up sentences t…