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Marking

Marking takes us a very considerable part of language teachers' lives, although, if it's any consolation, perhaps less so than the lives of our colleagues who teach English or history. Why do teachers mark? How much time should be spent on it? How should it be done?

My starting point is this: the main aim of marking is to make sure that students have done their work. Far more important than feedback is the simple point that students have to do the work in the first place, taking as much time and care as possible. My experience, and it may be yours, was that you could not trust a significant number of students to do their work properly unless they knew you would be checking it, reading it carefully, correcting it and, possibly, grading it - although I suspect the careful checking was more important than the grading, for which research gives scant support.

Many pupils want to please their teacher and one key way they can do this is by impressing you with their written classwork an…
Recent posts

Have a repertoire, lighten your workload (part three)

Well, hello again! This is part three of my series of four posts with my thoughts on how you can save time, reduce workload and stress, by having a repertoire of go-to lesson plans/teaching sequences. These are aimed at less experienced teachers or trainees, but older hands may find something to interest them or criticise!

In the first post I showed how you can use sentence builder frames. In the second I suggested a way of dealing with written texts. In this one, I'm going to refer back to a blog I wrote about exploiting sets of PowerPoint slides for teaching vocabulary or a new structure. This is such a staple of teaching in UK classrooms and you will probably have your own preferred routines. The one below mixes teacher-led work with pairs, building up logically from receptive to productive activity. Having a well-designed and structured PowerPoint is the place to start.

So this is what I wrote about:

I chose 20 clear, simple, clear and copyright-free images from pixabay.com to…

My latest subscriber survey results

Thank you to the 67 frenchteacher subscribers who responded to me latest survey. Here is a summary of what I found out.

Nearly 30% said they used the instant listening tasks on the Y0-11 page.

45% said they made use of the PowerPoints on the KS3 pages. these are a relatively recent addition so I'm pleased to see they are being used. I have made good use of pixabay.com as a source of copyright-free images.

Nearly 60% are using the new sentence builder frames. These are quite widely used, it seems, and made popular by Gianfranco Conti on his blog and in his workshops. I am quite a convert to them.

55% use the Y7 parallel texts, which have been on the site for a long time.

46% said they used the video listening worksheets on the y10-11 page, e.g. Peppa Pig.

45% said they use the grammar handouts - these are notes, not worksheets. It's clear that teachers are still hooked on grammar.

The pages used most often are the A-level and GCSE pages (about 70% each). this represents a grad…

Book review: Second Language Acquisition in Action: Principles from Practice (2018)

This book, aimed at language teachers either in training or those wishing to further their knowledge, is written by Andrea Nava and Luciana Pedrazzini who teach English and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Milan. It is a detailed account of some of the "big themes" in classroom second language acquisition, presented alongside examples of lesson extracts and videos of teachers at work (on an accompanying website).

Areas covered in the six main chapters are form, meaning and use; comprehensible input; input processing; implicit and explicit knowledge; interaction and corrective feedback and output production. Each concept is clearly explained with reference to the main research sources, then put in a classroom context with examples of teacher-pupil interactions, lesson ideas and discussion questions to consider.

The clarity of the exposition is admirable, with each area being described and critically analysed. There is something of a chronological feel to the…

Have a repertoire, lighten your workload (part two)

This is the second blog in the series of four where I dip into my archive to suggest some simple, evidence-informed approaches which you could reuse multiple times to create both routines and a bit of variety for your classes. Taken together, the four blogs offer a possible template of road-tested go-to teaching sequences which can be part of your repertoire and reduce workload. The first blog focused on using sentence builder frames as a very useful tool for introducing or practising language with near-beginners up to low-intermediate level.

In this post I'm going to look at simple ways to exploit written texts. Now, you often come across a piece of writing in a text book, or find an interesting, comprehensible text you fancy using. Yes, I did throw in comprehensible there, since (in case you need reminding!) the research suggests that for a text to be useful for acquisition it needs to be at least 95% comprehensible, i.e. the students should already know at least 95% of the wor…

Have a repertoire, lighten your workload (part one)

The next four blogs I'm going to post are the equivalent of one of those TV clip shows - you know, the ones where they need to fill a weekly slot by showing the best bits, or deleted scenes, from the series. But these four blogs have a theme. The clue is in the title. Like you, I worked hard when I was teaching, but I was pretty good at keeping things in proportion using a combination of economical planning, rapid marking and experience. The extra time those things created even allowed me to stay relaxed and have fun (most of the time) and to come up with the occasional innovative idea.

So, what I'm going to suggest here is that, if you have a little repertoire of go-to classroom activities, you can save yourself a lot of time and stress, and, what's more, all for the benefit of your classes. You see, I think (actually, I know) pupils like routines, but they also appreciate a bit of variety. So if you apply your repertoire of lesson/activity types sensibly you can satisfy b…

Making the case for micro-skill teaching

One of the assumptions we make in our forthcoming book about teaching listening, is that it's possible to analyse all the sub-skills required to listen, then design teaching to enable students to improve their use of these skills to comprehend messages more effectively. Micro-skills include spotting the difference between phonemes such as the /i/ in ship and sheep, recognising how intonation patterns give clues to meaning, being able to segment the sound stream (spot gaps between words) and parse sentences (work out the grammatical structure). Put another way, it's about breaking down the skills involved in listening, then bulding them back up.

J. Wilson looks at this issue in detail in a Chapter called Listening Micro-Skills in the TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching (2018). He notes that traditionally we have not shied away from analysing micro-skills of speaking, reading and writing, but that listening has been neglected - hence the occasionally used term '…