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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…

Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

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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.

1. Explain in English that you are going to teach the class how to talk about and understand people talking about sport. By the end of the lesson they will be able to say and understand 20 different sport…

Delayed dictation

What is “delayed dictation”?

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It’s an added challenge for students but has significant value, I think. It reminds me of a phenomenon in music called audiation. I use it frequently as a singer and I bet you do too.

Audiation is thought to be the foundation of musicianship. It takes place when we hear and comprehend music for which the sound is no longer or may never have been present. You can audiate when listening to music, performing from notation, playing “by ear,” improvising, composing, or notating music. When we have a song going round in our mind we are audiating. When we are deliberately learning a song we are audiating.

In our language teaching case, though, the earworm is a word, chunk of l…

Designing a plan to improve listening skills

Read many books and articles about listening and you’ll see it described as the forgotten skill. It certainly seems to be the one which causes anxiety for both teachers and students. The reasons are clear: you only get a very few chances to hear the material, exercises feel like tests and listening is, well, hard. Just think of the complex processes involved: segmenting the sound stream, knowing lots of words and phrases, using grammatical knowledge to make meaning, coping with a new sound system and more. Add to this the fact that in England they have recently decided to make listening tests harder (too hard) and many teachers are wondering what else they can do to help their classes.

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GCSE and IGCSE revision links 2018

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Don't forget the GCSE revision material on of course! How could you?

As far as apps for students are concerned, I would suggest the Cramit one, Memrise and Learn French which is pretty good for vocabulary. For Android devices try the Learn French Vocabulary Free. For listening, you could suggest Coffee Break French from Radio Lingua Network (iTunes podcasts).

Listening (Foundation/Higher) (Foundation/Higher) (Foundation/Higher)