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Showing posts from October, 2011


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

Scandale au pays du cassoulet

Merci à Esther Mercier ( d'avoir partagé cette vidéo sur Twitter:

The F-word and a training session

1.  I'm talking about fun, of course. I just had a look at Philippe Watrelot's blog on education news in France and he refers to the claim that there is too little pleasure in French schooling, especially beyond the primary level. School is too boring. Work = boring. Hold that thought. 2. I recently had a conversation with a former colleague who is a PE specialist working in higher education. He was having a lively debate with a colleague overseas about whether "having fun" could be a viable objective for a lesson. Should we have as a lesson aim "to have fun"? My friend thought you could, whilst his colleague felt it might be a desirable outcome of the lesson, but should not be an aim in itself. 3. We had a training session on "good to outstanding" yesterday. It was well-led and thought-provoking. We watched teachers on video and talked about what was g

Mr Gove and primary modern languages You have to hand it to our education minister, he's full of ideas. His latest pre-conference interview reveals his plan for compulsory modern languages for all children from the age of five. He says there is a "slam-dunk" case for such an idea. Dude! He adds: "It is literally the case that learning languages makes you smarter". To achieve his aim he suggests we would have to lengthen the school day. No problem. As Mr Gove says: "More and more of the young teachers coming into the profession do so because they are idealistic – they want to work as long as it takes to help children succeed. If teachers know the Department of Education are on their side to help them, then any staffroom voices saying 'don't go the extra mile' will be a diminishing force." I'm not sure what planet Mr Gove is on, but it doesn't have staffrooms. But let