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Parallel reading: Superheroes


On oublie souvent que les vrais premiers super-héros nous viennent de la mythologie. Dans la mythologie grecque ou romaine on trouve beaucoup de personnages qui accomplissent des exploits remarquables : c'est le cas par exemple de certains dieux ou demi-dieux comme Hercule chez les Grecs ou Thor dans la mythologie scandinave (oui, oui le blondinet avec le marteau). Pour une fois, ça ne vient pas des Américains !

Le personnage du "surhomme" apparaît d’abord dans les fameux romans-feuilletons du XIXe siècle. Ces histoires paraissent sous forme d'épisodes de quelques pages dans les journaux. C’est un peu comme lorsqu'on attend le nouvel épisode de Game of Thrones. On trouve aussi des personnages de fiction qui n'ont pas vraiment de pouvoirs surhumains mais qui présentent des capacités exceptionnelles, comme Sherlock Holmes et son intelligence remarquable. Le super-héros au sens où on l'entend aujourd'hui apparait dans les années 1930 dans la ba…
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Towards a programme of listening instruction

Gianfranco Conti and I are gradually working towards publishing a book about teaching listening skills in the languages classroom. We hope to achieve our goal by around Christmas when the aforementioned volume could easily fit into your stocking!

The proposed title is Breaking the Sound Barrier, and both Gianfranco and I have written and spoken a number of times about the so-called Cinderella skill of listening. In prepping for this book, which will be mainly focused on practical classroom ideas, I have been re-reading John Field’s 2009 book Listening in the Language Classroom. Its main tenet is that the traditional comprehension model of teaching listening (essentially a product-based approach where pupils often perceive listening as a test of comprehension) should be complemented by a process-based model where we teach students how to listen, in particular how to deal with the difficult practice of decoding complex streams of sound in the stream of language.

In the concluding chapt…

Using authentic recordings in listening lessons

This is a summary of and reflection on some key points from Chapter 14 of John Field’s book Listening in the Language Classroom (2009). Field is one if the most eminent researchers on listening and his meticulous book is required reading for anyone wishing to study this aspect of language learning. Chapter 14 focuses on the use of authentic recordings.

So, a few questions for you to begin with:

What do you consider an authentic recording to be?
Does your course include any?
How often do you think we should use them?
Should they be used at all levels, including beginners?
What are the issues involved with exploiting authentic recordings?

Let’s look at some of what Field has to say on these questions.

First, in terms of what constitutes authenticity, he uses a definition from Morrow (2007):

“a stretch of real language, produced by a real speaker or writer for a real audience and designed to carry a real message of some sort.”

Actually, you could just about stretch that definition to any courseboo…

Jim Scrivener Teaching Tips

Jim Scrivener is well known in the field of teaching English and has written, for example, a widely selling handbook called Learning Teaching  now in its third edition. There is a collection of his teaching tips at this site:

Here are a few from the site which made great sense to me as a modern language teacher-trainer.

Managing time 

"If an activity does start late or looks like overrunning, don’t wait until the end and then suddenly cut it short. Decide early on how to alter the activity so that it still achieves what you want it to do. It’s often better to speed up an earlier part rather than to abruptly stop things when the bell rings."

"Remember that lesson time follows the laws of relativity! It is entirely flexible and seems different to different people. When you start an activity you can state how long students have to do it e.g. “You have ten minutes.” But just because you said a time limit – it doesn't mean that you have to measure and keep it exa…

Latest additions to

Below are new resources I have posted in the last month. As exams in England and Wales approach you should find some really useful stuff which could help your students.

If there are any particular resources you would like me to work on, just ask. I can always say no.But I sometimes say yes.

Key Stage 3 (beginner to low intermediate)
A picture with various exercises to practise prepositions. Vocab provided, then true/false, gap-fill, questions and oral pair work memory task. Could be used with a weaker Y8 group.  Perfect tense crossword - phrases to translate. Avoir and être verbs. A set of easy short texts about family. matching task, translation both ways, sentence writing and oral summary.Key Stage 4 (intermediate)
A 15 page listening revision booklet. This is a selection of existing video and audio listening worksheets put together with answers as a handy booklet. All tasks link out to online audio or video recordings chosen for their relevance and level. Suitable for Higher Tier GC…

Book review: Explicit learning in the L2 Classroom by Ronald P. Leow (2015)

A scholarly, highly referenced and occasionally entertaining book about the importance of awareness (consciousness?) in language learning and teaching, providing a detailed theoretical and research background to such notions as consciousness, attention, information processing, input, intake, working and long term memory, and learning itself. This is detailed material, tough at times (because of the subject matter), but sweetened by the author's lucid style, occasional use of metaphor for the benefit of readers without a research background, and his own acknowledgment of the complexity of the field (Leow is both a teacher and researcher).

I confess that I only read sections of the text, skipping over descriptions of particular research studies and the problems of conducting them, since my interest is in finding information that language teachers may find immediately useful. On that last point teachers may end up feeling short-changed.

But first, in Leow's own words:

This is &q…

Book review: Scott Thornbury’s 30 Language Teaching Methods (2017)

This is the first book I have read by the well-known writer from the EFL world Scott Thornbury and I can recommend it as a concise introduction to a wide range of language teaching methods and approaches.

At only 130 pages you could read this volume in one or two sessions, or could dip into any of the short chapters which interest you most. The book is arranged in four parts, with Thornbury deciding to group each method into six general themes: natural, linguistic, communicative, “visionaries”, self-study methods and a final part entitled Beyond Methods. As the writer points out, this is a reminder that methods do not succeed each other in a historical sequence. However, this choice of structure does have its slight limitations as there are significant overlaps not only between methods within one theme, but across those from different themes. For example the Situational Method has a good deal in common with the Oral Method, and Communicative Language Teaching could easily be viewed as …

Video listening: Inégalités salariales entre les hommes et les femmes

I've just posted this A-level video listening exercise on frenchteacher. Help yourself! Juts copy and paste then re-format a bit. Apologies for the awful formatting here. Word and Blogger are not very compatible.

The video is from France TV Education/YouTube and is from 2017, so it has some up to date facts and figures for A-level students doing this sub-theme. It's interesting in its own right anyway (and topical in the UK just now).

Post-method principles

This is the third and last in this short series of blogs about the so-called post-method era, based on Part 3 of B. Kumaravadivelu’s 2006 book. In the first two blogs I summarised points he made regarding the inadequacy of using a method to teach a language, myths surrounding methods and some general parameters he suggests for making teachers autonomous creators of their own, principled approach, based less on a “top-down” view of teacher education (teacher as consumer) and more on a “bottom-up” view (teacher as self-developer).

I should stress that I am being very selective in the material I use from the book, as Kumaravidelu goes into a considerable level of detail about how he views the “post-method teacher”. I have chosen what stands out for me and what I think might appeal to you.

In this post I’m going to look at some more specific principles Kumaravidelu suggests which might guide your teaching and methodological outlook.

In Chapter 9 of his book, after examining post-method mo…