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Showing posts from 2011

What can we learn from the Finns?

This is a very good piece in The Atlantic: Essentially it is argued that an educational system based on cooperation rather than competition, with no private schools, little accountability or inspection, no standardised tests or league tables, no streaming or tracking, well paid and highly qualified teachers, achieves better results than the American or British model. In answer to those critics who point out that Finland is a small, relatively wealthy and socially homogeneous nation with 600 000 pupils as opposed to the 7 million or so in England and Wales, the article cites evidence that other educational jurisdictions including Norway or some states in the USA, with similar levels of wealth and social homogeneity, still do less well. Norway's model, for example, is more like the American than the Finnish. All this should lead us to quest

The oral approach

Henry Sweet was one of the founders of a new way of teaching foreign languages early in the twentieth century, a century littered with methodological alternatives to the grammar-translation approach. Sweet, like Gouin in France, believed that speech was more important than the written word and that languages should be taught primarily using the spoken word. The approach which subsequently developed was not a "direct method" as such since the oral approach assumed careful selection and gradation of target language input. It was strongly teacher-led, discouraged formal teaching of grammatical structures, preferring the notion that students would pick up rules from the skilled presentation and practice provided by the teacher. The approach was also situational in that structures would be practised within a meaningful situational context, for example, family life. Central to the approach is the use of repetition and question and answer in the classroom, along with contextual cl

2012 - an interesting year to come

As the year comes to a close there are exciting things ahead for your blogger. By August 2012 I shall be a retired French teacher, missing many aspects of the job, no doubt, but being a shade relieved that the day to day stresses will be over. My post as Head of Modern Languages is currently being advertised on the Ripon Grammar School website and will appear in the Times Ed in the new year. No doubt I shall reflect more on looming retirement in future posts, so enough of that. Professionally I shall be devoting more time to the website, with the aim of making it a minor commercial venture by May. Not so much a business, more a paid hobby, I hope. I shall also be trying to ensure that the department is all totally in order for my successor who will inherit a talented and enthusiastic team. Being Head of MFL at RGS really is a tremendous privilege. I shall continue to keep close contact with the teacher networks such as mflresources , TES Connect and the MFL "t

Latest primary languages news What's going on with primary modern languages? Many teachers in the field would like to know as things have been "on hold" for some time. Although things are still a bit up in the air, Clare Seccombe has posted a very good summary of what has emerged so far from the National Curriculum review. Look at the table she has posted summarising what should be taught at key Stages 1 and 2. I remain on the sceptical side of primary languages. In Ripon there has been pretty good coverage of French at KS2, but the pupils I encounter in Year 7 seem to be at no great advantage when compared with those I taught twenty years ago. They have acquired some vocabulary, variable pronunciation habits and a degree of enthusiasm (thankfully), but the time allocated to French at primary means that significant progression is limited. Their knowledge is not strongly embedded and they have little or no writing skills. I am sure t

Le top 50 des verbes français

 1. Être 2. Avoir 3. Faire 4. Dire 5. Pouvoir 6. Aller 7. Voir 8. Savoir 9. Vouloir 10.Venir  11. Falloir 12. Devoir 13. Croire 14. Trouver 15. Donner 16. Prendre 17. Parler 18. Aimer 19. Passer 20. Mettre  21. Demander 22. Tenir 23. Sembler 24. Laisser 25. Rester 26. Penser 27. Entendre 28. Regarder 29. Répondre 30. Rendre  31. Connaître 32. Paraître 33. Arriver 34. Sentir 35. Attendre 36. Vivre 37. Chercher 38. Sentir 39. Comprendre 40. Porter  41. Devenir 42. Entrer 43. Retenir 44. Écrire 45. Appeler 46. Tomber 47. Reprendre 48. Commencer 49. Suivre 50. Montrer Source: CNRS and

IPSOS-Mori survey finds teachers generally positive about controlled assessment . (Report dated October 2011.) .... although French teachers are less positive than most, mentioning in particular two aspects: firstly, the fact that rote learning plays such a large role in the production of controlled assessments (p.26); secondly, that there are many practical problems in carrying them out, notably the demands for cover staff whilst orals are being carried out. The survey/report does suggest that the modern language controlled assessments need looking at. I was surprised to find little reference to the issue of reliability of assessment (i.e. cheating). Although respondents said that they could not control what sources were used by students, the issue is not dealt with in the conclusions. All in all, it is not the kind of damning report that critics of CA would like to have seen, me included. I imagine Michael Gove may have wel

Maxime Le Forestier

Au fil des ans , mes deux chanteurs préférés français, tant pour l'écoute à la maison qu'en cours , ont été Maxime Le Forestier et Francis Cabrel. J'ai découvert Maxime Le Forestier , quand j'étais assistant à Montauban en 1977-8 . C'était son apogée , cette époque où la radio passait des chansons telles que San Francisco et Un arbre dans la Ville . J'aimais sa voix pure et la simplicité de ses chansons. Il a continué à faire des enregistrements au cours des années et j'ai apprécié certains albums plus récents , Passer ma route et L'Écho des Étoiles . La clarté de sa voix fait de lui un bon choix pour la classe aussi, donc j'espère que ma classe A2 a apprécié un peu de l' ancien et du plus récent , l'autre jour . Youtube rend l'utilisation du chant dans la classe plus stimulante aussi. Voici deux extraits de Le Forestier. Dans le premier il parle de ses amis de la « Maison

Does learning languages make kids smarter? If you have 28 minutes to spare, have a look at this interesting discussion featuring the eminent Canadian researchers Ellen Bialystok, whose speciality is bilingualism and intelligence, and Laura-Ann Petitto, a neuroscientist. The discussion is pitched at the intelligent layman, but is certainly of interest to foreign language teachers. The title of this post is simplistic, of course, though Bialystok does state that any stimulating mental activity is good for front brain development, so bilingualism is certainly good for you. She points out that twenty tears ago we would not have been asking if it was good for you, but rather is it bad for you. Times have changed. Another useful point made by Petitto is that very young learners are better at picking up syntax and phonological patterns, but that vocabulary is equally well acquired by humans of all ages. D

WatchKnowLearn Thanks to Isabelle Jones for tweeting this link. This looks a very useful resource for language educators. They have brought together videos on foreign language learning, along with many other subject areas, and put them all in one place. This is what they say: "Imagine hundreds of thousands of great short videos, and other media, explaining every topic taught to school kids. Imagine them rated and sorted into a giant Directory, making them simple to find. WatchKnowLearn is a non-profit online community devoted to this goal." There is a strongly hierarchical structure to the site with the main languages category broken down into separate languages (e.g. French), then with further sub-categories (e.g. song, grammar, sounds, basic vocabulary). Each of these categories is then broken down further. For example, within the French grammar section you get adjectives, gender, imperfect tense and so on. Not sure th

A discredited exam system?

The revelations in the Daily Telegraph about improper practice at examination meetings raise a number of questions. Firstly, let's not pretend that there is anything new in individual examiners overstepping the mark at meetings when advising teachers about how to get the best marks in GCSE and GCE exams. Off the cuff comments about the ease of exams or advice to teachers about what to teach or emphasise may be too careless, but are not necessarily symptomatic of a deeper issue. Examiners have been saying this kind of thing for years. They are nearly all practising or former teachers, so their inclination is to support colleagues as far as possible. As exam boards have become less aloof and keen to offer better customer service, examiners will occasionally overdo it. They are only human. No, the real issue here is the one which other commentators and teachers have raised: the commercialisation of the exam system. Exam boards are competing for schools' business and there is ser

Poor exam marking Ofqual reported today a very significant rise in the number of re-marks and re-grades in this year's GCE and GCSE examinations. The rise is partly explained, say Ofqual, by a rise in the number of units being taken. This does not explain the rise of re-marks and re-grades at A-Leve. Whatever, any practising secondary school teacher knows, from plenty of anecdotal evidence, that standards of marking are too variable and may be declining. At my own school this year we had particular issues with AS level history and GCSE French and German. In French we sent off 15 writing scripts for re-mark and 12 went up by a few UMS points, in two cases leading to higher grades. A small number of our German GCSE students saw UMS points rises of at least 10. The standard of marking is just not good enough and means teachers lose faith in the examination system. The quality of examiners must be questionable, training and standardisation may be inadeq

BFI Ciné-Minis Just came across this site via Serena Dawson on Twitter. The BFI has some French short movies on DVD with accompanying teaching ideas. In theory the material is aimed at KS2 and KS3, but the one film I watched (via Youtube) could be used with older students. There is a DVD to buy with all dozen or so shorts, but at least two of them are on Youtube. I watched StrictEternum, a quirky eight minute film with clues leading you to the amusing dénouement. The "lesson plan" to go with it would make sense with, say, Y8 through to Y10. Well worth a look.

Un nouveau paquebot "France"?

Article tiré de Yahoo Actualités:  "Le projet de construction d'un nouveau paquebot France se concrétise peu à peu. La troisième phase d'études vient en effet d'être lancée par Didier Spade, patron d'une société parisienne de bateaux de luxe qui se démène depuis trois ans pour reconstruire le mythique navire lancé il y a 50 ans aux chantiers navals de Saint-Nazaire. Après deux études portant sur la conception du navire et la répartition des espaces - réalisé toutes deux par les chantiers STX de Saint-Nazaire -, cette nouvelle phase porte sur l'aménagement intérieur du paquebot et la gastronomie à bord. Le célèbre chef Alain Ducasse s'est d'ailleurs associé au projet. La construction est désormais envisagée pour 2013. Elle pourrait s'effectuer aux chantiers nazairiens, comme le souhaitent Didier Spade et STX. La mise à l'eau, elle, aurait lieu en 2015. 350 millions d'euros à trouver Image du futur paquebot (Yahoo) « Ce se

Audio Lingua This is rather good! This site offers a large archive of short audio clips, mainly of intermediate level, recorded by native speakers. Clips are in six different languages, with lots in French. The ones I have listened to would suit higher GCSE or even A-level and could be recommended for home use, for example in the run-up to exams for listening practice. Alternatively they could be used from the from of the class or in a computer suite. You could ask studenst to take notes in French or English, or design easy comprehension tasks (e.g. questions in English or French). The audio quality is a little variable, but usually very good. You can dowload clips or just play them from the site, which is what I would do. Clips carry star ratings and you can select them by difficulty level. This what they say: Audio-Lingua, qu’est-ce ? Une base de données collaborative de fichiers audio authentiques, enregistrés par des locuteurs natifs, libres de droits pour

Ten commandments and one more of language teaching

I am grateful to John Canning of the University of Brighton (UK) who posted the following on his blog. The source is the Modern Language Journal from 75 years ago. Harry Kurtz of the University of Nebraska came up with these. He was clearly a wise man. 1. Thou shalt make every student recite every day. 2. Thou shalt make thy questions shorter and distribute them more frequently to the unworthy of thy flock. 3. Thou shalt demand written homework for every lesson as an evidence of individual effort. 4. Thou mayest spare thy strength in the marking of these by having them corrected in class, but thou shalt collect them and check them off on the rolls. 5. Thou shalt refrain from personal eloquence in the classroom. 6. Remember that the strained silence of pupils thinking is worth more than volubility, thine or theirs. 7. Thou shalt plan thy hour and mark thy pages beforehand, so that never, no never, shalt thou ask thy sheep on what page they stopped grazing the last time. 8.

Néologophile ou néologophobe? Vous avez l'esprit ouvert? Vous aimez jouer avec les mots? Ou craignez-vous la destruction de la langue française? Il y a un organisme qui cherche des mots nouveaux. C'est quoi une "attachiante"? Ou "phonard"? Ou "bête seller"? Si vous avez d'autres suggestions, il faut les envoyer à: Je propose "néologophile" et "néologophobe" (à moins qu'ils n'existent déjà). Merci à Linguascope d'avoir tweeté ce lien.

Ofsted literacy drive

Our school, like most around the country, is having a bit of a literacy drive at the moment. Don't get me wrong; bad punctuation, poor grammar and dodgy spelling bring out the Victor Meldrew in me. There are times when I almost feel like a Telegraph reader when I encounter that misplaced apostrophe on the restaurant blackboard. (I have been known to point it out to waiters.) We hear from the world of work that standards of literacy are falling and that even graduates cannot write in a coherent and accurate fashion. Ofsted have, no doubt, in their myriad inspections, observed inadequate literacy. Not surprising, therefore, that we are witnessing a focus on this area. My colleague the other day reminded me, however, that there is a danger in getting too het up about this. Firstly, accuracy itself is less important than clear communication. Secondly, what do people actually write once they leave school and no longer have to write compositions, experiment write-ups, reports, punctu

Top ten free French teaching web sites for able pupils

Oh no! Not another "top ten".... These are the sites I value the most highly for teaching my pupils aged 11 to 18 in a grammar school. They may not be the best, but they are the ones we use most. In no particular order..... 1. LanguagesOnline . This is our favourite web site by far for interactive grammar and vocabulary work. It is written and designed mainly by Andrew Balaam from Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe. It is attractive, challenging and enjoyed by students. It can be used from the front, but is best used in a computer suite. 2. This is the site I first go to when searching out listening material for A2 students. Clips are often interviews with experts ina field. The speech is clear and slow enough for comprehension, with repetition. The standard is challenging, above that required in A2 level examinations. It is a large archive covering many A-level topics. You can use Curosphere in a computer suite or from the whiteboard. 3. Ashcombe

The four skills

Since the late 1980s, at GCSE in England and Wales, we have been assessing the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing separately. We have moved from discrete skill testing, to more mixed skill testing, back to discrete skill testing. By which I mean that, for example, in a reading tests students are not now tested on their writing at the same time. Interestingly, at A-Level we have not been too concerned about testing each skill in this strict discrete fashion. At the same time, at GCSE, the weighting of the four skills was, for a long time, 25% for each one. Just recently, this changed to 20% listening, 20% reading, 30% oral and 30% writing. This change was entirely owing to the fact that MFL had to be in line with all subjects in allocating 60% of marks to controlled assessments. In languages this was seen to mean speaking and writing where production of tasks was required. (It would be hard to conceive of a listening or reading task which could be done with pupil

Byki language learning app Just a quick mention for what looks like an excellent app for iPhones, iPads, iPodTouches and Android phones. Thanks to Graham Davies for tweeting this. This is what they say: Learn over 1,000 critical words and phrases. Hear language spoken by real, native speakers, complete with the ability to learn every nuance with Byki's SlowSound technology. Read and see your chosen language in its native form. Search for words and phrases on Twitter to see how others use the language. Track your progress as you work your way through Byki lists. Download hundreds of additional vocabulary lists, created by other Byki users from our List Central community. I shall be mentioning this app to students. There are some convincing testimonials and case studies on the site. The future of interactivity with mobile devices looks very interesting. It's early days at the moment with SIRI for iPhone 4, but I can see the phone becoming a tremendous (a

L'évaluation des enseignants

Selon un scoop sur le site du Café Pédagogique , qui s'est procuré de documents gouvernementaux, l'évaluation des profs se profile un peu plus clairement sur l'horizon. Cette évaluation se fera tous les trois ans et dans les collèges et lycées c'est le chef d'établissement qui en sera responsable. A mon sens, il est bien temps que les enseignants en France puissent bénéficier d'un système d'évaluation bien conçue, mais cette évaluation tous les trois ans par le directeur n'est pas suffisante. Les syndicats se plaignent que le chef d'établissement n'est pas en mesure d'évaluer les compétences professionnelles dans toutes les matières, mais le problème n'est pas là. L'expérience anglo-saxonne montre qu'un directeur est bien capable de juger la qualité d'un cours car bon nombre des éléments d'un cours réussi sont génériques. Ce qui manque dans les écoles françaises c'est une structure hiérarchique qui permet un


Yes in Manchester 13.11.11 I was 18 when I first saw Yes at the Southampton Gaumont. Since that time Elspeth, Joel and I have seen them on various occasions and have never been disappointed. I approached the Manchester Apollo gig with lower than usual expectations, having read some slightly mixed reviews from their recent American tour with Styx.We were not to be disappointed, though, as the band gave a polished and exciting performance to a packed venue. I was pleased the band played plenty of material from the new album Fly From Here. Steve Howe announced the We Can Fly from Here suite by saying it was brave of them to play it. I guess he meant that the loyal Yes fans expect the band to play as much back catalogue as possible. Personally I was glad the band played this new stuff; they have been too conservative in the past with their sets. It may not match the classic Yes songs, but it is still, by most standards, excellent music. Steve Howe was outstanding as usual. To me, he i

Outstanding or inspiring?

I gather that the latest standards for teachers in England include the word "inspiring". I wonder wherher the DOE missed a trick when they formulated their most recent definitions of what constitutes outstanding teaching, outstanding departments and outstanding schools. If you ever follow my posts you'll know that I, like many colleagues, have a problem with the misuse of the word outstanding and how it has slipped into schools' everyday vocabulary merely because Ofsted choose to use it. Maybe the word inspiring would be more apt to describe those extra special lessons we do sometimes. If you'll permit me to be anecdotal, my son, who is now at university studying physics, went through secondary schooling encountering barely a couple of what he considered inspiring teachers. He was at a good school too. I consider this a pretty poor hit rate, and whilst I know that only a minority of teachers and lessons will be inspiring, we should be aiming for more. How could

Good old days? Oldies (and maybe younger colleagues) may be interested to take a peek at a 1959 O-Level French papers, posted at the Lawnswood School site. The papers I took in 1973 were not hugely dissimilar, though I seem to recall we had some listening comprehension in there somewhere. It would be tempting to say that the grammatical difficulty level of those papers (not far away from modern A2 standard) means that standards have fallen over the years. This would be a huge simplification, however. French exams in those days were aimed at a small percentage of the school population and some of them would have found such papers hard. In addition, there was far more emphasis on translation and grammar at the expense of oral and aural work. Most modern students would barely tolerate the type of preparation which was required to perform well in exams of that type. To do well on the prose translation and picture essay students would practis

Une bière par jour est bon pour la santé

Article et photo tirés de Les Anglais ont un dicton: «An apple a day keeps the doctor away» (une pomme par jour vous tient éloigné du médecin). Il semblerait que la maxime puisse s'appliquer également à la bière. La consommation de bière avec modération peut réduire les risques de diabète et d’hypertension, et même aider à perdre du poids , selon une récente étude réalisée par des médecins espagnols. En fait, la bière contient de l'acide folique, des vitamines, du fer et du calcium, qui ont des effets protecteurs pour le système cardiovasculaire, et a les mêmes effets positifs pour la santé que ceux attribués au vin en quantité modérée, expliquent les scientifiques. L’étude a été menée conjointement par l’ université de Barcelone , la Hospital Clinic de Barcelone et l’Institut de santé Carlos III de Madrid. Les Dr Estruch et Lamuela ont étudié 1.249 hommes et femmes de plus de 57 ans, et ont observé que ceux qui boivent des faibles quantités de bière de manière

Google Translate (bis)

TES discussion here: OK. So, how about an advanced piece of French to English? Here is an original extract from about the abuse of anti-depressants in the USA: La dernière épidémie qui touche les Etats-Unis n'est pas une maladie mais une addiction: héroïne, cocaïne? Non, telle une armée de Dr. House, les Américains se tuent à coup de vicodine, méthadone et autres puissants antidouleurs, médicaments sur ordonnance. Le Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (Centre pour la prévention et le contrôle des maladies, l'agence fédérale de santé publique qui avait notamment publié un très bon guide pour survivre en cas d'invasion zombie) sort un rapport alarmant: plus de gens meurent d'overdoses d'antidouleur aux Etats-Unis désormais que ceux qui meurent d'overdoses d'héroïne et de cocaïne! Un niveau qui a atteint celui d'épidémie dans la dernière décennie, explique le CDC. Here is the unadulter

Google Translate

Prompted by a post on TES Connect by Graham Davies I thought I would take a look at Google Translate, which I almost never used. Graham was arguing that it is so good now, especially given that you can interact with it and refine translations, that it may not be worthwhile setting translation or composition for homework. Here is a sample Eng-French translation from an intermediate level piece of text: Original:  I believe that I have a fairly healthy lifestyle. I eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, at least four portions a day, I do exercise three times a week and I never smoke. I occasionally have an alcoholic drink, but rarely drink to excess. Last night I had a nice glass a of red wine with my meal . Google's "unadulterated" version: Je crois que j'ai un style de vie assez sain. Je mange beaucoup de fruits et légumes, au moins quatre portions par jour , je ne l'exercice trois fois par semaine et je ne fume jamais . J'ai parfois avoir

Je tweete, tu tweetes, il tweete Article intéressant sur Twitter et son effet sur la langue anglaise. Je dois avouer que je suis devenu un peu accro à Twitter. J'y jette un coup d'oeil tous les jours et je tweete très souvent. Mais je me suis imposé une règle: je ne tweete pas sur n'importe quoi. Je ne vais pas perdre mon temps et celui d'autrui en racontant les menus détails de ma vie personnelle. Par contre je suis content de partager des liens utiles qui touchent à mon métier de prof. Mes collègues du "MFLtwitterati" font généralement de même. Par ce moyen j'ai eu accès à pas mal de blogs, de sites et de points de vue différents. Dommage que les profs qui tweetent restent relativement peu nombreux. Les 140 caractères autorisés vous obligent à être très concis, donc ce n'est pas un lieu de discussion sérieuse. Le blog et le forum sont un meilleur endroit pour ce genre de débat. Je ne sais pas si je resterai fidèle à c


Just got back from our exchange and the kids seem to have a good time, with no problems to report. That will be the last exchange I do as I am joining my wife in retirement at the end of this academic year. I'm hoping that we can keep our long-standing exchange going with the Institution Saint Louis. It is odd knowing that you are doing something for the last time. That'll happen a lot this year. One thing I have decided to do, to keep my hand in, is to develop the web site into a minor commercial concern. I hesitate to call it business, because my aim is not to make a lot of money out of it, but to develop the site further whilst maintaining the motivation to add new resources. The site has been a enjoyable hobby of mine and the resources I have posted over the last few years, with some help from colleagues, have all been used with our classes at Ripon Grammar School. I know they are widely used in other schools, both in the UK and abroad. Once I stop teac

The problem with specs

In the days of Zeppelin and Floyd we didn't have specifications or syllabuses for modern languages. Like the British constitution, we relied on tradition. We also looked carefully at past papers and made sure our students were prepared for what they would encounter in the prose, unseen translation, comprehension and essays. The nearest we came to a syllabus was the sometimes unappealing list of prescribed literary texts from which we could select. We were effectively preparing students for a French degree at university. We are probably in a better place now. We test listening skills, use more authentic texts and rely less on translation at A-Level. We also have a clearly explained specification which lists topics, structures, skills and which tells us what will be in the exams and how the mark schemes work. All this enables us to be far more explicit with students about how they will be assessed. We also know that most of our students will not continue with French in higher educa


Voici un premier essai avec l'appli Blogger pour iphone/ipad. Voyons... Hmmm... mal formaté mais je ne sais pas le modifier. Tant pis. Voilà notre groupe à l'amphithéâtre gallo-romain de Saintes et au Château de la Roche Courbon.

How useful is homework?

I reacted somewhat abruptly on Twitter to a blog post which claimed that research showed no causal relationship between homework and academic achievement. I have always assumed that setting and marking regular homework was an important part of helping students make the most progress. I have occasionally heard colleagues claim homework is a waste of time and some research, notably a much-cited study by Cooper et al. of other research, found no correlation between achievement and homework for younger pupils. The Cooper et al. study did, however, find a good case for homework improving achievement at secondary school level. Now, research in this kind of area is notoriously hard to conduct and results need to be looked at critically, but in this instance I would also make a case for common sense and experience. If I set two written tasks a week on top of the four lessons of mainly oral and aural work i do, then I expect the skill and knowledge levels of my students to increase. I am sure

Lingua Ludica I have been given a gift of this excellent board game which can be played by between two and sixteen people. It would really suit A-Level students and could be used with the regular teacher or a foreign language assistant. There is a board around which you move your counter by the roll of a dice. You can land on one of eight spaces with the following French names: expression, jeu de rôle, vocabulaire, joker, définition, grammaire, culture. When you land on a category you pick up a card at one of three levels and talk. Here's an example from the "définition" category: Expliquez sans faire de gestes: "Révolution". Il est interdit de dire les mots guerre, France et peuple. To win the game you have to collect a certain number of cards. I haven't looked into the precise rules of the game properly yet. Anyway, looks like a clever, fun way of developing oral work with quite able A-Level students. I would use it with good A2 classes in

Exchange time

Roma arena in Saintes It's that time of year when we do our annual exchange with the Institution Saint Louis in Pont l'Abbé d'Arnoult. Have look at their new web site. We began exchanging in February 1989 so hundreds of students have taken part over the years. I guess it's one of the things I am most proud of in my career. We set off tomorrow for ten days with a smaller group than usual (16 students). We do a morning of lessons, an afternoon watching a movie (I've chosen Etre et Avoir ), then a day exploring Saintes and doing a guided tour of the Château de la Roche Courbon which I have previously mentioned in this blog. It's been a tiring half term, what with getting over some disappointment with GCSE writing marks, plus the usual drain of day to day teaching, preparing, marking, meetings and the umpteen other chores which raise the stress levels a bit. Fortunately, the classroom remains an enjoyable place to be and nearly all our students are keen to lea

The Guardian ipad edition

I've been waiting for the Guardian's ipad edition for some time. It has been pretty rigorously pre-tested because they know it had to be good enough to entice people to spend £10 a month on it rather than the minimal sum the iphone/ipad version costs, or spending nothing at all on the standard web site. If you have an ipad 1 you first need to download Apple's latest operating system iOS5. This took about three hours from the itunes store with a slowish broadband connection. Then it took a little while for the Guardian download and a surprisingly long time (at least 10 minutes) for the Saturday edition of the ipad Guardian to download. I hope it was only this long because it was the first download, but we shall see. Updates on the iphone version are almost instantaneous. The paper is accessed from the ipad's home screen via an icon called "newstand", within which you could place other news sources. So, I have it in front of me. From the front page, rich in

Do we need to teach writing any more?

I have never used google translate, but I have recently been informed that it is becoming more and more sophisticated. It seems likely that, at some point in the not too far distant future, we shall be able to instantly translate between languages to a reasonably acceptable level. So, this being the case, what will be the point of teaching students to write in a foreign language at all? Well, if we assume that learning one language skill (speaking, listening, reading and writing) supports the others - a reasonable assumption - then one could argue that practising correct spelling and grammar is not just an aim in itself, rather it supports the general development of comprehension and fluency. Writing things down will always help embed vocabulary and structures, especially when language learning is not taking place in an immersion situation. Perhaps we should question, however, the value we place on writing in formal examinations. At GCSE we currently award an excessive 30% of marks

Lancement de la version française du Huffington Post

Reportage tiré de "Lundi 10 octobre à Paris, Arianna Huffington, fondatrice du Huffington Post aux Etats-Unis et directrice de la rédaction de AOL-Huffington Post Media Group, a annoncé le lancement avant la fin de l’année de la version française du site . Il se fera en partenariat avec Le Monde et Les Nouvelles Editions Indépendantes, propriétaires des Inrocks. C'était une nouvelle très attendue en France. Le Huffington Post, créé en 2005, et propriété d'AOL depuis cette année, est un site d'actualité très influent aux Etats-Unis , avec plus d'un million de commentaires postés sur le site chaque mois. Le site sera en français, avec une ligne éditoriale française et des journalistes français. Et il pourra bénéficier de contenus du  site américain. Arianna Huffington espère que le site français, dans la mouvance des journaux américains, fera s’atténuer deux frontières selon elle très françaises: celle entre la gauche et la droite, et celle entre le

Alan Partridge tells all

 It's the autobiography for which we have been eagerly awaiting. Former BBC sports reporter, radio and TV chat show host, Radio Norwich disc jockey and now radio presenter for North Norfolk Digital, Alan Partridge has finally put it all in print. He has laid his soul bare. His book I, Partridge (We Need to talk about Alan) is now available from all good book sellers. To give you just a small flavour of Partridge's story, here is how he starts to talk about his troubled childhood: As I write these words I'm noisily chomping away on not one, but two Murray Mints. I've a powerful suck and soon they'll be whittled away to nothing. But for the time being at least they have each other . For the time being, they are brothers. Which is more than can be said for me, for I was an only child. I will now talk about being an only child. The book follows his life chronologically , from beginning to end, and one wonders whether he is in the twilight of his career when he w