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Showing posts from November, 2011

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