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On est gâtés!

Nous venons de rentrer de Puyravault. Il fait doux en Charente Maritime et le soleil ne se cache pas. Joel a fait du travail pour son I.B. et Elspeth s'est préparée un peu pour son voyage à Atlanta et au Mexique. Nous avons passé les soirées à regarder des épisodes du West Wing que Joel découvre pour la première fois. Moi, j'ai eu le temps de lire aussi What Next? de Chris Patten qui traite de toutes les grandes questions auxquelles le monde fait face actuellement. C'est un livre à la fois excellent et déprimant.

Nous avons aussi dîné avec nos vieux amis Jacques et Catherine, leurs enfants et leur futur gendre Morgan. C'est toujours un plaisir. Mais, puisque ce blog est principalement "professionnel", Catherine (qui est prof d'histoire-géo) m'a rappelé le fait que les écoles en France sont nettement moins bien équipées en nouvelles technologies, notamment en tableaux interactifs et en ordinateurs. Dans son établissement il n'y a aucun tableau interactif et uniquement une salle d'informatique où les ordinateurs sont mal entretenus. Dans un établissement qui compte plus de 900 élèves il y a un seul technicien qui vient un jour par semaine pour s'occuper des ordinateurs vieillissants. Elle a fait un stage où elle a pu voir un tableau interactif et elle voudrait s'en servir, mais son école (comme presque toutes les écoles en France, j'imagine) n'a pas les moyens d'acheter du matériel de ce genre.

En Angleterre les profs se plaignent souvent de leur sort, mais on ne peut pas nier qu'en ce qui concerne les ordinateurs, les tableaux interactifs et les projecteurs, nous sommes vraiment gâtés. Les crédits viennent de plusieurs sources ("Specialist Status", "Excellence in Cities" etc etc), mais essentiellement le gouvernement a trouvé les moyens nécessaires pour doter nos établissements d'un matériel moderne et performant, sans parler du personnel nécessaire pour l'entretenir.

J'échangerais volontiers toute cette technologie contre des classes moins nombreuses, mais il faut que nous admettions que dans le domaine de la technologie, nous avons plus ou moins ce qu'il nous faut et que nous sommes loin devant nos collègues d'outre Manche qui sont dans l'ère préhistorique.


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The latest research on teaching vocabulary

I've been dipping into The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition (2017) edited by Loewen and Sato. This blog is a succinct summary of Chapter 16 by Beatriz González-Fernández and Norbert Schmitt on the topic of teaching vocabulary. I hope you find it useful.

1.  Background

The authors begin by outlining the clear importance of vocabulary knowledge in language acquisition, stating that it's a key predictor of overall language proficiency (e.g. Alderson, 2007). Students often say that their lack of vocabulary is the main reason for their difficulty understanding and using the language (e.g. Nation, 2012). Historically vocabulary has been neglected when compared to grammar, notably in the grammar-translation and audio-lingual traditions as well as  communicative language teaching.

(My note: this is also true, to an extent, of the oral-situational approach which I was trained in where most vocabulary is learned incidentally as part of question-answer sequence…

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

I was prompted to write this just having produced for three separate PowerPoint presentations using the same set of 20 pictures (sports). A very good way for you to save time is to reuse the same resource in a number of different ways.

I chose 20 clear, simple, clear and copyright-free images from to produce three presentations on present tense (beginners), near future (post beginner) and perfect tense (post-beginner/low intermediate). Here is one of them:

Below is how I would have taught using this presentation - it won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially of you are not big on choral repetition and PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production), but I'll justify my choice in the plan at each stage. For some readers this will be standard practice.

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