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Dissecting a lesson: 20 faits divers et Intéressants sur la France

An easy multi-skill task with some general knowledge thrown in. Try this lesson plan with a very good Y10/11 class or advanced group.

Pre-listening: try brainstorming any facts the class can produce about France. Give pairs 5 minutes for this, then elicit some answers, in French for advanced groups, English for intermediate level classes. Then explain that the class must watch and listen carefully to the video with the aim of recalling as many facts as possible.

1.  Play the video through once (2m 25s)
2.  Play the video a second time. After playing it, students must jot down in English, in pairs or individually, any facts they can recall.
3.  Play the video a third time. After this viewing students add to their previous list with as many items as they can recall.
4.  Do the same again a fourth time.
5.  Allow individuals or pairs to share their notes with other individuals or pairs. Advanced groups could do this in French, intermediate groups in English.
6.  Pairs or individuals then…
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The NCELP rationale for teaching phonics

First, a reminder that the NCELP is the National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy, the body based at York University which has as its objective to spread the word about "best practice" as defined by the TSC Review of MFL Pedagogy (2016).

Among its growing resources on phonics, vocabulary and grammar - three areas of focus from the TSC Review - there is a useful document written by Rachel Hawkes about the rationale for teaching phonics to beginners and near-beginners. I'll summarise its contents here, adding a few observations of my own, mainly to encourage a critical evaluation of the NCELP's guidance. The 13 points are in bold, with my comments added.

1. Teaching phonics develops phonological decoding (the ability to sound out accurately), and without explicit phonics teaching, decoding is limited.

I would add that many higher-achieving pupils in fact develop excellent decoding skills without much explicit phonics teaching at all. Their skill seems to deve…

NCELP resources and guidance

NCELP stands for the National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy. You can find it at ncelp.org. You might recall that this is the DfE-funded initiative set up to raise standards in MFL teaching and learning in England. Based at York University, and with a number of ‘hub schools’ around the country, its aim is to disseminate best practice and resources.

More info in this blog https://frenchteachernet.blogspot.com/2019/01/national-centre-for-excellence-for.html

What is ‘best practice’ is open to debate, of course, but the remit of the NCELP is clear: to encourage teachers to put into practice the guidance provided by the TSC Review of MFL Pedagogy.

That TSC Review is not as well-known as it might be. At a recent CPD event I ran for MFL teachers, only a small minority had actually heard of it. It deserves to be read carefully and critically. You can find it at :

https://www.tscouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/MFL-Pedagogy-Review-Report-2.pdf

I have blogged about the revie…

Drill and kill or drill and skill?

One of the legacies of the audio-lingual approach to language teaching is the grammatical drill.
This type of task was commonplace in classrooms in the 1960s and 70s, before the communicative movement took hold. In fact, teachers devised all sorts of variations on the drill, many of which are listed in an influential pre-communicative era handbook by Wilga Rivers.* Many teachers still use this type of exercise now and then. But are they an unpleasant imposition upon reluctant learners, or a useful tool in the box? Before we look at an example of a drill, let's consider why they were so popular.

The audio-lingual approach was based on the tenets of the behaviourist movement in psychology where learning was said to be (at least in part) a matter of habits being "stamped in" or "internalised" through repeated practice. You can see why the idea was appealing. Repeated practice at an isolated skill would gradually become perfected to the point where it would becom…

Curriculum planning

Many MFL departments are talking about planning in response to whole school initiatives related to Ofsted's latest emphasis: CURRICULUM. This post is about how a department might respond to such an initiative. It's fairly broad-brush, given the nature of the issue, but not too airy-fairy, I hope.

Here is Ofsted's definition of the curriculum:

“The curriculum is a framework for setting out the aims of a programme of education, including the knowledge and understanding to be gained at each stage (intent); for translating that framework over time into a structure and narrative, within an institutional context (implementation) and for evaluating what knowledge and understanding pupils have gained against expectations (impact/achievement).” (My highlighting.)

So Ofsted wants schools to:

• know their curriculum – design and intent;
• know how their curriculum is being implemented;
• know what impact their curriculum is having on pupils’ knowledge and understanding.

(I'…

The GILT Facebook group

GILT stands for Global Innovative Language Teachers. It's the Facebook professional group for language teachers around the world, although in truth it is dominated by teachers working with GCSE, IGCSE and A-level so far. Thanks largely to Gianfranco Conti it stands out from the other excellent Facebook groups such as Secondary MFL Matters and MFL Teachers' Lounge in so far as it is not just about sharing resources and finding answers to problems, but also a place to discuss theoretical and methodological matters.

Because Gianfranco set it up and is a regular contributor it has also spread the word among teachers about the lexicogrammar approach to teaching. To put it concisely and perhaps crudely, this research-informed approach is founded on the principle of chunking language within highly comprehensible texts and exercises, using, in particular, sentence builder frames and narrow reading and listening tasks. If used with skill and belief, the approach can produce lessons dom…

Helping students prepare for language they will hear outside the classroom

This is a short extract from our forthcoming book Breaking the Sound Barrier: Teaching Language Learners How to Listen. Expect to see this on Amazon in early July, or from other retailers some time after.

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We all know how often our students struggle to understand authentic speech when they encounter it for the first time. "It's not like the language we hear in class." "They speak so fast!" "The accent is really weird." "They seem to miss words out."

As you have gathered, we do not believe in presenting and practising a diet of fast, authentic speech to beginner-to-intermediate students, since this goes against principles of comprehensibility, scaffolding new language, slowing things down to make them easier, moving from easy to harder, avoiding cognitive overload and so on.

However, with this approach, it is possible to neglect preparing students for cases where the natural spoken form is …

GCSE resources on frenchteacher

There was a time when frenchteacher.net was best known for its A-level resources, but each time I have carried out a subscriber survey, the usage of the Y10-11 pages has risen. In the latest survey it appeared that the GCSE page is accessed roughly as many times as the A-level page.

So, in case you don't know my site (which is extraordinarily good value at £25 for over 1750 accurate resources!), here is a summary of what you can find for your Y10-11 pupils. Don't forget that all resources are in Word and therefore editable, e.g. you can add your own school logo or departmental identity as long as the original source is identified and not shared with other institutions. You'll also find that there plenty of resources on the y8-9mpages which might work well with your y10-11 classes, depending on their attainment.

1.  Grammar worksheets

These cover the main aspects of grammar you would expect to cover and can be supplemented by the numerous sheets form the Y8-9 pages. My surv…

Truth or lie oral game

Here’s a fun game for advanced level students. Just some listening and speaking fluency practice.

Students work in pairs and ask each other questions from the list below. The student answering must always say they did the activity. Then the questioner can ask any number of follow-up questions to try to establish if their partner actually did the activity or not. The questioner then has to decide if their partner has told the truth.
1. As-tu jamais volé quelque chose? 2. As-tu jamais fait un sport dangereux ? 3. Es-tu jamais resté dans un hôtel quatre étoiles ? 4. As-tu jamais fait du camping en France ? 5. As-tu jamais rencontré un personnage célèbre ? 6. As-tu jamais gagné une médaille ou un trophée ? 7. As-tu jamais mangé des escargots ? 8. As-tu jamais paru dans un article de journal local ? 9. As-tu jamais bu un vin très cher ? 10. As-tu jamais raté un vol d’avion ? 11. As-tu jamais copié les devoirs de quelqu’un d’autre ? 12. As-tu jamais joué au golf ? 13. As-tu jamais vu un film dans un ciné…