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Showing posts from August, 2011

Linguatrivia The nice people at Linguascope are organising a national competition called Linguatrivia for Y7 French students. There is a small entry fee for schools whose students take part.  The dedicated website has a practice test and full instructions about how to enter. The deadline for entry is early in 2012, so there's plenty of time to think about it. Looks like an excellent initiative. There are some very nice prizes on offer and apparently everyone wins a prize! I might have to enter under a pseudonym.

Fin de vacances

It's been a good few weeks. First I had the Year 8 French trip to Normandy. Nice to have Elspeth me for the last one. The kids were great and we had good fun as a staff. First timers Liz and Arwen were brilliant and we even got Glenn to sign up for Facebook. The coach broke down on the way home, but that didn't spoil a very enjoyable and stress-free time. My brother-in-law and family came to stay and it was good to spend some time with them, seeing the three children growing up, doing some local visits (Newby Hall and Harewood House). The Himalayan garden and vegetable garden are amazing at Harewood. We had fun digging up potatoes and carrots from the new vegetable beds in our totally revamped garden designed by Elspeth. We've had some fabulous cabbages, spinach, carrots, lettuce, beetroot, swede, sugar snap peas, potatoes and ripening tomatoes. If you have never grown your own carrots, try it - they taste superb. We got to Puyravault by August 10th. Our friends Douglas

GCSE Helen Myers of the London branch of the ALL has commented on the recent GCSE results in modern languages. She picks up the key points, which, just to reiterate, are the fall in the number of entries again this year (one might have expected this to have bottomed out by now), the continuing issue of severe grading and the fall in the number of A* grades at GCSE, both in total numbers and as a percentage. The latter is incomprehensible; with a falling cohort we might have expected relatively more A* grades. Then, of course, there's the continuing issue of a lack of A* grades at A-Level. Am I missing something? Have the goalposts been moved a shade? One wonders how carefully the examination boards finalise their grading patterns and what factors come into play in their calculations. The results analysis sections of the boards' web sites are

Air Sarko One aménagé Il est rassurant de voir que Sarko prend bien compte de la conjoncture économique actuelle. L'année dernière l'état français a acheté un Airbus d'occasion pour le président de la République. Il a été totalement refait pour lui et maintenant on continue à le moderniser. La facture totale de ce moyen de transport peu nécessaire: plus de 250 millions d'euros. Imaginez si la reine faisait une chose pareille. En fait, ils n'oseraient pas, sachant le scandale que ça déclencherait dans les médias. Mais les médias en France...

School uniform Patrick Barkham in the Guardian has written a good piece on the vexed issue of school uniform following one school's decision to make trousers compulsory for girls. I have to say that, having worked as an assistant years ago in France, and having regularly observed classes at our French partner school, I have never been a fan of uniform. I also observe that when we have non-uniform days at RGS the behaviour of pupils does not change. Why would it? Curiously, most of our pupils seem happy enough with uniform, especially the girls who don't have to decide what to wear each morning. Even our sixth-formers wear a traditional navy blue/black uniform with little complaint. I am little persuaded by the egalitarian argument and certainly not by the behaviour one. There is no evidence, as the Guardian article points out, that uniform raises academic performance or improves behaviour. Uniform is

"Outstanding" lessons revisited Michelle Cairns has produced a useful mind map on the subject of what constitutes an outstanding modern language lesson. I posted on this a while ago and we had a discussion in our department on the same question. I still balk, by the way, at the word outstanding which OFSTED gave us and which has now become part of our teachers' vocabulary, even though it should not be the word we use. One comment on Michelle's exercise... On the internet there are well known twitterers and bloggers who share ideas, run training sessions and support each other. This is excellent and I would like to see more language teachers engaging with the whole MFL community. These teachers, unsurprisingly, usually share an interest in trying out the latest developments in ICT. I am one of them... up to a point. You see, I have had a nagging feeling for a while that we need to be just a bit more critical of wh

Fin de l'internet illimité au domicile en France? Dans un document de discussion on avance la possibilité de mettre fin à l'internet illimité en France étant donné le risque d'une saturation du réseau. En fait, au Royaume-Uni nous avons déjà de tels seuils. Avec TalkTalk mon fournisseur d'accès je suis limité à 40go par mois. En réalité je ne suis pas conscient de cette limite car je télécharge relativement peu et je ne joue pas de jeux en ligne. Le réseau internet ressemble à la fameuse M25, l'autoroute qui contourne Londres. On l'élargit, mais elle finit toujours par être saturée. Pour ce qui concerne internet il me semble naturel que ceux qui s'en servent le plus devraient payer plus cher. Peut-être que les autres verront une baisse du prix. Ce que je voudrais voir en France, ce serait un marché plus compétitif. Tous les fournisseurs pratiquent dese forfaits du même prix et ce sont d prix relativement élevés par rapp

A-Level results

I was able to have a very close look at our A and As results thanks to the Enhanced Results Analysis section of the e AQA site. This is, by the way, an excellent service which allows you to see how your school compared with others on whole papers and individual questions. One general observation: it is, once again this year, very hard for students to get an A* in MFL. I wonder how many of the small minority who do get A* are native speakers. For two years running I have seen very able linguists not reaching that grade. You could easily argue that, given the small but significant percentage of native speakers, the overall ratio of A* to A grades should be higher than for other subjects. Maybe the overall proportion of A grades should be higher too. Exam boards do not measure numbers of native speakers, partly because defining native speaker competence is not always easy. Ofqual really need to look into this area. The papers report, yet again, a fall in the number of entries for A-Le

Scottish primary languages plan Hot off the press today from The Herald, an intention for all Scottish primary school pupils to learn two modern foreign languages! I add the exclamation mark since, whilst I admire the ambition of this initiative, I wonder how on Earth it will be achieved, especially given how hard it has proved to introduce just one foreign language in English schools. The idea seems to be a response to the falling numbers of children taking languages further up the system. As in England, Spanish is holding its own, whilst French and German are in decline. It is a curiosity that, as languages are in ever greater demand in Europe... ( British students are showing less and less interest in studying them. The reasons for the relative unpopularity of MFL in England are well known, league table effects, inherent difficulty and severe grading being high on

Online modern language teaching methods course Readers may already be familiar with the excellent Français Interactif from the University of Texas. Well, they have produced another outstanding resource and I thoroughly recommend this online training course for modern foreign language teachers. It consists of a series of modules in the form of discussion points and short videos. Many of the main issues facing language teachers are dealt with with an emphasis on the practical rather than the theoretical. The videos are snippets of lessons or seminars. Modules include the teaching of speaking, listening, reading and writing. There are also modules on, for example, assessment and culture. Modules are supported by further references which have an American bias. The site is clear, easy to navigate and uses both Flash and Quicktime for video, so is accessible to ipad users. I have just spent half an hour browsing the course and can see how it could be used not only for trainee teachers, but also for

Les personnalités préférées des Français Chaque année le Journal du Dimanche fait faire un sondage sur les personnages préférés des Français. Le lien vous dirige vers un diaporama qui pourrait servir de cours culturel. Mon chanteur français favori, Cabrel, y était à la cinquième place. Yannick Noah reste en pole position pour la deuxième fois consécutive. On n'a pas ce genre de sondage en Angleterre. La Radio 4 de la BBC fait une enquête annuelle, mais il s'agit de personnages du monde entier. Time magazine aux USA fait quelque chose de semblable. Je ne sais pas comment les gens peuvent répondre à ce genre de question, mais je trouve intéressant quand même que les sportifs, les chanteurs et les acteurs occupent, pour la plupart, les premières places. Les chanteurs de "variétés" tels que Cabrel et Goldmann ont énormément de fans. En Angleterre la "chanson" a moins d'importance, même si notre pays reste très créatif musicalement

Pourquoi les émeutiers s'arment de battes de baseball C'est un article curieux que j'ai vu sur Apparemment les ventes en ligne de battes de baseball ont augmenté. L'auteur pose la question pourquoi la batte de cricket n'est pas l'arme préférée des voyous. Ce qu'il ne dit pas, c'est que la batte de cricket, plus lourde, est un peu plus difficile à manier que la batte de baseball. La crosse de hockey, elle, est peut-être un peu trop longue. Je parie également que la batte de cricket est plus chère. Certains des voyous responsables de la récente vague de criminalité n'auraient jamais vu un match de cricket de toute façon. En passant, j'ai appris le terme "coquille de protection des testicules". En anglais ça se dit tout simplement "box".

Big County Chorus

In my spare time, one of musical hobbies is barbershop singing. I wrote that with a straight face. If you like singing and if you particularly like singing in harmony, smiling with pleasure as you hear a ringing chord, then I recommend you seek out your local barbershop harmony club. It isn't just a men's hobby, by the way, although most clubs are male only. Want to see a really good example of barbershop chorus singing? Vocal Majority, from the USA, are the most famous chorus and are one of the best choirs in the world. Here is one of the best choruses in Britain: I belong to the Big County Chorus, a barbershop chorus from the Leeds-Bradford area. I've been maintaining their web site for a few weeks. If you are interested it is here .

French and Saunders on Gérard Depardieu

Claude Berri update

I have been adding some exercises and links on Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources to the A-level page on . I used Taskmagic 3 for some gap fills and a matching task on plot and characters. I also found a nice little video interview, originally from the INA site, with Daniel Auteuil, the day of the premiere of Jean de Florette. You get the impression he is still just a little in the character of Ugolin! Or was it my imagination? There is a worksheet to go with it if you happen to be working on this film. Here is a link to the Daniel Auteuil video . I heard an interview with him a few months ago on the radio. He seemed such a nice guy and he recalled what an important role Ugolin was for him. In addition, I have uploaded some resources for Lucie Aubrac and Germinal. Do let me know if you know of any other materials.

La France votée le pays préféré des retraités américains

 Et pour la cinquième fois consécutive, paraît-il. Si vous suivez les liens fournis par Laura Lawless sur son excellent site, vous trouverez que les Français eux-mêmes ne prennent pas trop au sérieux cette étude. Et moi, qui passe plusieurs semaines par an à vivre en Charente-Maritime avec un certain nombre d'amis français avec qui j'ai passé pas mal de temps, qu'est-ce que j'aime dans l'Hexagone? Un peu au hasard, je mettrais en avant: sa belle langue, ses grands espaces, la variété et la beauté de ses paysages, son littoral et ses plages, son patrimoine historique et culturel, son réseau autoroutier et ferroviaire, sa gastronomie, ses liens de famille très proches, son hospitalité et sa convivialité, ses spécificités régionales, sa créativité artistique, architecturale et technologique, son attachement à la justice sociale, son climat agréable, sa démocratie, son cinéma, sa laïcité et sa relat updates

Source: a UKIP member's site! After realising that I didn't have a really good text with exercises on immigration, I managed to find a pdf of an article based on a report from the OECD on immigration and why it is beneficial. It hits the spot perfectly for A2 level, so I have uploaded it along with some exercises, translation and gap fill using Taskmagic. Given the public's often ill thought out views this issue and the nonsense published in rags like the Mail and Express I feel almost bound to get the issue properly explained to sixth-formers. This article does it effectively. Just before the end of term I uploaded a few more texts, exercises and gap fills. You can find them all on . Topics include facebook and fashion (barbed clothes). In the article, the OECD recommends that governments do what they have to to ease social tension between ethnic groups. Easier said than done. However, they really could be more courageous in explainin