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Video listening on frenchteacher

One of the staples of the frenchteacher site are the video listening tasks. They can be found for every level, but given how tricky it is to find level-appropriate authentic videos, most of mine are in the Y10-11 and a-level sections of the site. Below is one I uploaded fairly recently, based on an A-level topic: family life in France. When I am selecting videos I look for: interest, relevance to the syllabus, length (short) and clarity/speed. I'll embed the video so you can see it straight away. Isabelle - mère célibataire   3m 06 Regardez, écoutez et répondez. Le vocabulaire dans la case vous aidera.   un boulot – job             une femme de ménage – cleaner    une grande surface – supermarket le SMIG – minimum wage          à la minute pres – to the exact minute        conjoint – partner à l’amiable – on good terms   Un HLM – council flat    allocation logement – housing benefit    le RSA – universal credit            
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Climb the Wall listening task

In our book Breaking the Sound Barrier: Teaching Language Learners How to Listen (2019) Gianfranco and I described well over 200 different activities to model the process of listening, to exploit interpersonal listening and to do task-based listening. When you break down the process of listening into component parts, you get the sub-skills or micro-skills of listening, as researcher John Field described them. One of these micro-skills, probably the most important, is the ability to recognise vocabulary in the stream of sound. If you don’t recognise words and phrases, you just don’t understand. In the book we devoted a chapter to lexical retrieval and included a range of activities to help develop this skill. One of them is ‘Climb the Wall’ (you could call it rock climbing too). Below is a French example I recently posted on What I like about this is the amount if built-in repetition of generally high-frequency you get, as well as the motivation provided by having to

Back to school

Image: pixabay You may be about to start a new academic year of teaching. Maybe you've started already. When I was teaching, by the end of the summer holiday I was ready to get back into the classroom and excited about the prospect. As a Head of Department, I had digested and analysed the GCSE and A-level exam results, and was raring to meet new classes and meet up again with classes I already knew.  On social media, new teachers sometimes ask how to start the new year. Should you spend time going though classroom expectations? Should you do ice-breaking activities? Should you just get on and teach?  I preferred to do the latter, both when I was starting out and as an 'old hand'. Why? Well, partly I was always impatient to get on with work and felt that my classes wanted to as well. With the newly arrived Y7 classes, a bit of training was needed - how to line up, enter in an orderly way, get materials out and do start-of-lesson greetings. These things need practice so they

Learning from the unexpected

 This is a short extract from our book Memory: What Every Language Teacher Should Know (Smith and Conti, 2021). The chapter this is from was initially inspired by some reading I had done from a book by French cognitive neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene. One of his main ‘pillars of learning’ is the power of the unexpected to trigger new learning. When we encounter something we don’t anticipate our mind is alerted and prompted to pay extra attention. With that extra attention comes learning. Here is the extract. Are you the type of language teacher who believes students need to be accurate from the start or that it’s fine to make mistakes and that, indeed, we learn and remember more by doing so? Do you like to correct students’ speech and writing? Do you think it’s useful to show examples of faulty language in the name of building memory? To what extent can producing and being exposed to errors increase memory? This is the subject of this chapter. In general terms, psychologists believe t

Expanding spacing?

You are no doubt familiar with the idea of spaced retrieval practice. In case you aren’t, it’s the concept from cognitive psychology that if you space out learning and revision episodes over time,  rather than cramming lots of learning and repetition into a single bout of “massed practice” then long-term retention will benefit. The evidence base for this is huge and its effectiveness should chime with your own experience. That’s not to say massed practice is always a bad approach. Like me, you must have seen the benefits of major, night-before cramming before an exam. In language learning, although there is research evidence which does lend support to cramming input and interaction into a longer episode (you might call this an ‘immersion effect’), the predominant view is that spacing out exposure to input and practice is highly beneficial. Text book writers are not unaware of this, but in the books I have used they tend to do spacing in a crude manner, notably, leaving long gaps of tim

One way of teaching new grammatical patterns or vocabulary (via Boers, 2021)

 I’ve been reading and tweeting about the recently published book by Frank Boers called Evaluating Second Language Vocabulary and Grammar Instruction: a Synthesis of the Research on Teaching Words, Phrases and Patterns (published by Routledge).. I can recommend the book strongly to anyone interested in classroom second language acquisition research. It’s very clearly written, thorough and nuanced, notably in the way it evaluates research and draws tentative conclusions for the classroom. In the final section of the book, Boers draws together the findings of research into incidental (by which he doesn’t mean unconscious, but more like picking up new language when the focus is on content or meaning), and language-focused learning and suggests one possible way to organise teaching if the aim is to introduce new items. It’s important to emphasise that point - this is when the precise aim is to develop skill with particular words, phrases or patterns.This is by no means meant to be prescrip

A better way to learn vocabulary?

Vocabulary learning - setting words to memory at home using word lists or apps - is a staple of much language learning practice in schools. The advent of Google Translate has meant that teachers are even more likely to set vocab learning than they used too. When I was teaching it was a common rule of thumb homework policy to have two homeworks a week, with one devoted to learning words for a test. (I rarely stuck to this for three reasons: learning words is boring, running vocab tests is dull and I was aware that less conscientious students wouldn’t do the task well enough, if at all.) But the reality is that learning vocabulary is widespread and even gets official support from NCELP whose schemes of work and lessons include regular Quizlet exercises. Apps have made the process a little more palatable, and no doubt many students enjoy the routine and challenge of learning words. In addition, keeping a separate vocabulary book may be much rarer than it once was, but the practice still e

Euros football commentary task

 This is a new version of a blog I wrote in 2014. This could be a written task for Y12 French classes, or equivalent ( A2/B1). You'll find below a list of football commentary vocabulary, including quite advanced terms, which I originally put together in 2011 while watching a match on French TV. If I were to use it with a class I would suggest writing a report on a match, real or imaginary. A potentially more stimulating alternative would be to write or record an imaginary commentary to part of a match. Creative students could come up with some good stuff, I suspect. You could give them model extract along the lines below. The nice thing is that the commentary could be fairly random and they could make it amusing. You could ask students to include at least twenty expressions from the list. Coup d'envoi de Kane. Belle passe de l'extérieur du pied gauche de Rice, centre en retrait de Sterling. Bonne action devant la surface de réparation de la part de l'équipe anglaise. In