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Showing posts from May, 2012

Do MFL teachers need good degrees?

I read in The Guardian today that applications from students to PGCE courses are slow this year, although in subjects where extra financial incentives have been made available (e.g. languages and physics), applications have risen. This is all in the context of the governments attempt to raise the status of the teaching profession by giving higher grants to students with a 2.1 or First and not allowing students with third class honours to apply at all. Not sure what you think about that, but I understand that research indicates that there is little or no correlation between a teacher's degree classification and the quality of a teacher's results. The argument is obvious: good teaching depends more on communication skills and effective pedagogy than pure subject knowledge. We all know of very bright people who are not great teachers. I have to confess, however, that when I look at a CV, the degree classification and university is something which carries weight with me. Why?

Tech bringing MFL to life?

I was prompted to write this by a tweet I read just now. It was asking for any ways the iPad could be used to bring language lessons to life. Now, as it happens, I am an iPad addict and I'm not against technology, but there are a number of quite evangelical apologists for what is now often called "tech" here on the internet. Not surprising, I hear you say, that's where you'll find them. But in actual fact, the large majority of language teachers do not tweet, do not read blogs, make little effort to seek out new technology, but just use their computer suites and interactive boards judiciously, or not at all. They teach very good lessons and their students are motivated. They they are good communicators, have a sound basis in methodology and know how to keep kids on task. They have good reasons for not seeing technology as a panacea. Their lessons are not dead, moribund or dull. They talk a lot, they do lots of listening, they do pair and group work, they use i updates

The site became partly subscription based on May 1st as planned, thanks to the web designing of one of our students Harry Green. The bulk of French resources are now available at £20 a year. I pitched the price pretty low to entice as many users as possible. I would rather lots of people used any resources I produce rather than a select few. Just a reminder that all the powerpoints, whiteboard notes and Spanish resources are free, as are the sections in the Teacher's Guide. So far almost 300 people have signed up. I'm really pleased with that number. I really had no idea how many teachers would choose to carry on with the site. A colleague suggested I was like a crack dealer who had already got people hooked over a long time. I have had the odd issue with subscribers finding it hard to pay online, so the option to allow payment by cheque has been worthwhile. I have also had the odd broken link after the changeover. I am fixing these. I have had the very occasional grumble


I raised a Spock-like eyebrow the other day when I heard an interview on the Today programme with Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK, the very profitable parent company behind the Edexcel examinations board. He was commenting on the issue of grade inflation and testing in general. I was a little surprised because we don't normally hear exam boards commenting on educational issues and I wondered why he had chosen to speak out, or why he had been given a platform. You would usually expect Ofqual to be speaking on these issues, as they have done recently. Now, exam boards set and mark exams. That's their job and I'm not sure they should be commenting on issues of educational policy. But I also wonder why a prosperous multinational publishing organisation is running exams at all. Exam fees from schools come in the main from public funds which have been filtered through to state schools. To me it feels a tad askew, as Jerry Seinfeld might have put it, for tax-payers money to

Are French exams getting easier?

To write this post I am depending on slightly unreliable memory and long experience! If I limit myself to the GCSE era since about 1987, a comparison of listening and reading tests would show that the content of today's papers is easier, at least at higher tier level. Over the years teachers have bemoaned the difficulty of GCSE listening tests. Exam boards have responded to these criticisms by designing papers which are less demoralising for candidates. On the other hand, the boards have become less generous when converting raw marks to UMS scores, so overall the range of grades has not changed hugely. In this sense, therefore, the exams have not got easier. Fewer of my students now get full UMS scores for listening. The same could be said for GCSE reading papers. In the nineties many of my students achieved full UMS scores, but today far fewer do because the raw/UMS conversions are meaner. How about orals? I would argue that the latest CA regime is easier for candidates that

BBC Learning Zone Class Clips

The BBC has a good tradition of supporting the learning of French over the years, but in recent times budget squeezes have led to a drying up of new content. Pity. However, the BBC has done us a really good service by organising a good deal of its French content into short "class clips" which can be used at home or in the classroom. Here's the page to start with: You choose French from the menu of subjects, then a topic from the drop-down list. This provides you with a list of available clips from programmes such as Quinze Minutes Plus , Vingt Minutes , Jeunes Francophones and so on. Each clip comes with lesson ideas and a list of formats which can be used to stream the clip. These short videos are great for spicing up a lesson at any point and can easily be exploited in a number of ways. A whole screen option is available for classroom use. Students could easily view them at home. Today with my Y10 class we were working on sh

Le discours de François Hollande

Extensive reading

In the United States the second language acquisition academic Stephen Krashen has many supporters. I wrote a dissertation about his work back in the 1980s. His main contention, laid out in his book Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning , was that people best acquire second language through exposure to large amounts of "comprehensible input". Krashen argued, and still does, that traditional "skill-building" approaches which see a language as a complex system to be gradually mastered, bit by bit, from simplest to more complex, through analysis and controlled practice, are less successful. He now calls his idea the Comprehension Hypothesis. It is superficially attractive since it effectively says that second language acquisition is like first language acquisition and that all you need to do is provide students with large amounts of understandable listening and reading for successful acquisition to take place. Krashen goes further, however, by cl