Skip to main content


Discovering a written text aurally

Yesterday I blogged about an idea for exploiting a written text in a different way. In essence, students are given a set of questions, the teacher has the text, the students ask their questions and take notes from the teacher's answers. The students then compare their notes in pairs, before being able to see the written text and do some more focused language work. All the skills get practised, there is lots of comprehensible input and opportunities to produce language orally and in writing. So I wrote a resource for using this approach and I am sharing it below. An interesting challenge for the future will be to see if I can devise something similar for a lower level, e.g. Higher GCSE (CEFR A2/B1). See what you think? I'm pretty sure this would work well and be enjoyed by classes. The topic of the text is volunteering in France.                Le point sur le bénévolat en France en 2022   Teacher instructions 1.    Do not give a copy of the text to the class t
Recent posts

A different way to approach a written text

When you work with a written text, for example at A-level, common practice would be to do a read-aloud, engage in some meaning-focused activities, e.g. questions and answers, general discussion, summary, then go on to do what researchers call 'form-focused' or 'language focused' work. This means looking at and practising aspects of vocabulary and grammar. That's all fine. It satisfies the basics of language learning: comprehensible input, interaction and some focus on form. If the text covers a relevant and interesting cultural topic, so much the better. But how about a twist on this approach? Here is an alternative: 1. Give students a set of questions to ask about a text they cannot see. The teacher has a copy of the text. 2. Students take turn to ask you questions from the list which you answer, using our copy of the text. 3. As you answer, students take notes in L2 (or maybe L1). 4. After about twenty minutes, students can compare and discuss their notes in pairs

A yes/no speaking game

Below is a simple game to practise the use of the negative 'ne... pas' in French. It's based on the old yes/no game where neither partner is allowed to say yes or no. This version is tightly structured and suitable for students with about three years behind them (CEFR A2). With more experienced students you can design it to be more challenging and less structured, for example with a few starter questions to kickstart a general conversation. Each partner is given a sheet as below. Personne A      Oui/Non game Ask your partner the following questions. You must answer without saying oui or non . Every time you say oui or non you lose a point. Take turns with the questions. 1.           Tu vas au lit à sept heures du soir? 2.          Tu vas à l’église le dimanche matin ? 3.          Tu aides tes parents beaucoup à la maison ? 4.          Tu es membre d’un club au collège ? 5.          Tu fais beaucoup de devoirs chaque soir ? 6.          Tu manges des céréales

Plans for 2023

Image: the Sainte- Trinité  church in Pu yravault (Wikipedia) Writing this little post at our house in France allows me to think through what my professional and personal plans are for this year, so here goes.  In the autumn of 2022 I spent a good deal of time working on a second edition of The Language Teacher Toolkit , the book which began my writing collaboration with Gianfranco Conti in 2016. It's time to refresh that book to reflect our evolving reading and thinking, and to update the research references. The first redraft is complete, Gianfranco is reviewing it and I hope to crack on with the final draft in the weeks ahead for publication asap. The book has already undergone considerable changes, so it's very much a revised edition, not just a tweaked version of the original. New chapters have been written, some sections dropped, others reorganised. There is a greater emphasis on lexicogrammar, including EPI, lesson planning and intercultural understanding.  Later in the

A worksheet experiment with ChatGPT

 ChatGPT , the AI tool for creating conversations, texts and no doubt much more, is all the rage at this start of December 2022. So I thought I would dip my toe in, since it clearly has possibilities for language teachers - the main one, as far as I can see it, being speed. So I asked ChatGPT "Parlez-moi de Francis Cabrel" (then the same for two other singers), and ChatGPT produced three short, factually and linguistically accurate texts in French. I chose to edit them very lightly. A bonus I discovered is that, because ChatGPT draws on its bank of formulaic language, you end up with a narrow reading activity, with similar turns of phrase being used in each of the texts. I would judge the level of the language to be around A2/B1 (CEFR) in standard - in this case suitable for a good GCSE or typical Y12 class in England. I chose to add my own exercises to ensure careful reading, plus some vocab building and writing. An optional extra task would be for students to research thei

My five most viewed posts this year

 As we approach the end of the calendar year, I thought I'd share the five most viewed posts I have written this year. Actually, I blog less frequently than I used to, but still managed to upload 49 posts, with this the fiftieth.  Generally, speaking teachers click on posts which feature practical lesson ideas, more than reflections on or summaries of research. A curriculum change also gets teachers clicking and it was a post about the proposed curriculum change for GCSE which topped my chart for 2022. As it turned out, what the exam boards came up with later in the year was, predictably, more of an evolution than revolution. Yes, the oral will have reading aloud and less conversation, and the listening test includes a dictation task worth a few more marks than I would have liked. We'll see how basing listening and reading texts on a more tightly defined high-frequency vocabulary list changes things. I suspect not much, since existing texts already strongly featured high-frequ

An A-level discussion lesson

Do you ever feel that you would like to do a lesson totally unconnected with the syllabus? Do you like the idea of your advanced level students just communicating with each other on thought-provoking subjects? You know how language acquisition works: comprehensible input and interaction = acquisition! Below is a set of questions/prompts which should get your quite proficient class talking. You don't have to join in, but you could be available when they get stuck for a turn of phrase or item of vocabulary. I'll give you my French prompts (from a worksheet on, then translate them in case you teach a different language. French version 1. Si vous pouviez changer une chose dans votre vie, cela serait quoi et pourquoi ? Est-ce que votre vie serait différente aujourd’hui ? 2. Quel est votre plus grand exploit dans la vie ? Pourquoi était-ce important ? 3. Si vous aviez un superpouvoir cela serait quoi ? Vous feriez quoi avec ? 4. Si les scientifiques découvraient qu