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Les vacances de Pâques ne sont pas loin et des élèves courageux de RGS vont faire la deuxième partie de leur échange en Charente Maritime. C'est le vingt et unième échange entre RGS et l'Institution Saint Louis, une école privée dans le village de Pont l'Abbé d'Arnoult. Finis les voyages interminables en car d'il y a quelques années, c'est Ryanair qui nous transporte directement à La Rochelle.

J'ai toujours été un fan des échanges depuis mon expérience d'adolescent quand j'ai passé une dizaine de jours en Bretagne et dans le Nord-Pas de Calais. Je garde toujours le souvenir d'une maison au bord de la mer aux Sables d'Or les Pins, des voyages en Mercedes et en DS et de la belle maison des Plichon à Solesmes, non loin de Valenciennes. Que fait Eric Plichon aujourd'hui?

A Tiffin School on avait échangé avec une école de Viroflay (au sud-ouest de Paris), puis à Hampton School c'était le Lycée de l'Arc à Orange.

Dommage que l'année prochaine (à partir du mois d'octobre) on soit obligé de demander aux familles d'accueil anglaises un extrait de casier judiciaire (ou du moins l'équivalent anglais). Je me demande si cela va dissuader un certain nombre de parents de participer à l'échange. Je trouve que c'est une mesure de trop. Je comprends la pensée du gouvernement, mais cela ne garantit pas la protection de l'enfant et ça risque de décourager professeurs et parents.

Mais cette année nous retournons voir nos vieux amis et je suis certain que nos élèves vont améliorer leur français et vivre des expériences mémorables.


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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…

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What is “delayed dictation”?

Instead of getting students to transcribe immediately what you say, or what a partner says, you can enforce a 10 second delay so that students have to keep running over in their heads what they have heard. Some teachers have even used the delay time to try to distract students with music.

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.

For students to become good listeners takes lots of time and practice, so there are no quick fixes. However, I’m going to suggest, very concisely, what principles could be the basis of an overall plan of action. These could be the basis of a useful departmental discussion or day-to-day chats about meth…

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Daily Geek Show

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France Bienvenue

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Responsive teaching

Dylan Wiliam, the academic most associated with Assessment for Learning (AfL), aka formative assessment, has stated that these labels have not been the most helpful to teachers. He believes that they have been partly responsible for poor implementation of AfL and the fact that AfL has not led to the improved outcomes originally intended.

Wiliam wrote on Twitter in 2013:

“Example of really big mistake: calling formative assessment formative assessment rather than something like "responsive teaching".”

For the record he subsequently added:

“The point I was making—years ago now—is that it would have been much easier if we had called formative assessment "responsive teaching". However, I now realize that this wouldn't have helped since it would have given many people the idea that it was all about the teacher's role.”

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