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"Gained time"

Les oraux sont terminés et les élèves de Y11, 12 et 13 sont partis. On pousse un grand soupir de soulagement. Nous autres profs aimons bien cette période où on peut commencer à faire nos projets pour lesquels on n'a pas eu le temps jusqu'ici. Il y a des programmes à préparer pour l'an prochain, des idées à discuter, mais aussi des bulletins scolaires à écrire.

Comment organiser l'année de terminale pour l'an prochain? Le programme a changé. Plus de "coursework". Avec AQA les "cultural topics" à faire. Nous commençons à réfléchir sur notre planning. J'ai en tête l'idée de travailler sur une oeuvre littéraire après Noël, d'étudier un peu une époque historique avant Noël et de laisser travailler les élèves un peu sur un sujet qu'ils auront choisi eux-mêmes. Donc ils auront le choix entre trois sujets quand ils auront à faire leurs deux examens en mai/juin prochain. Qu'en pensez-vous?

J'ai revu avec mes élèves l'autre jour un film que j'adore: Un long dimanche de fiançailles. On pourrait étudier un peu la première guerre mondiale vue par la France. Ou bien on pourrait visionner le film et lire le roman dont il est tiré comme sujet littéraire.

Et puis j'ai vu chez HMV ce matin Au revoir les Enfants, un autre film également émouvant. Je vois un lien immédiat avec La Peste que j'ai fait plusieurs fois avant et que j'ai lu moi-même au lycée. La résistance et la collaboration sont des thèmes bien rôdés pour A-level, mais on pourrait les aborder quand même.

Je trouve quand même bizarre que nos élèves écriront leurs disserts et que l'examinateur ne pourra même pas juger le vrai fond de leur travail. Cela va exiger une préparation soignée pour que les élèves ne perdent pas de points le jour de l'examen.


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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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