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Showing posts from November, 2012

Teachers Pay Teachers Teachers Pay Teachers is an American site set up by Paul Edelman, a former new York City teacher, which allows teachers to sell their resources to each other for modest fees. There seems to be a good range of French resources available, but it is hard to evaluate their quality since you can only rely on the description of each one; there is no preview facility. However, there is a rating system and buyers can leave comments on the quality of the resources. Resources include card games, powerpoint presentations, activities, worksheets, mini-lessons and posters. Most resources cost between $1 and $5. Some are free. Although many teachers would question why they should bother paying for powerpoints and workbooks when they can get them for nothing on a site like TES, this online marketplace concept is a good one and an easy way for teachers to make a small income from resources made in their

OpenExam This is an interesting and potentially extremely useful initiative for language teachers and students. OpenExam is a "teacher-led, non-profit, charitable foundation of schools, colleges and universities" which aims to provide a bank of examination papers which can done on computers, tablets and phones, and self-assessed online. Exams will include GCSE, IGCSE, A-level, IB, AP (USA), Matric (South Africa) and SSCE (Australia). These are the stated objectives of the charity: 1. to encourage the teaching and learning of modern, foreign and endangered  languages, thereby promoting international relations and mutual understanding between cultures. 2. to facilitate the acquisition of foreign languages by providing teachers and students with online access to exam-style resources. 3. to provide a mechanism for formative assessment and internationally recognisable records of achievem

How about an immersion week?

We all know that the best way to boost the linguistic progress of students is to get them in an immersion situation for as long as possible. At Ripon Grammar we could measure the improvements in listening and oral skills made by those who did the exchange. Teachers are always striving to increase motivation and skill in all sorts of ways: games, using new technologies, looking for new ways to practise grammar and vocabulary. However, I would suggest the best single thing we could do, if an immersion stay abroad is impossible, is to organise an immersion period in school. How could this work? You could first persuade your senior leadership that the benefits would be worthwhile - improved results, higher motivation, personal and intercultural benefits, higher take-up for A-level. You could even present the equal opportunities case, as there are always pupils who are unable to do exchange visits. You could request a week, probably after exams in the summer term when teachers of ot

Lessons from abroad

Lessons from abroad: International review of primary languages is a research report from the CfBT published this year and written by Teresa Tinsley and Therese Comfort. It looks at practice in a number of overseas countries, some of them Anglophone, for example the USA and Australia, others including Asian countries, France, Spain and Scandinavian nations. It is a very lucid and interesting review. The clear executive summary is worth reading and in a sense it says nothing very surprising, but delving into the detail a bit more I was more persuaded a little than before about the value of second language learning at primary level, though remain as sceptical as ever given the challenges it presents to Anglophone countries. To sum up, research is pretty clear that there are significant benefits to children in learning another language whilst young. The younger you can go, the more likely you will be able to tap into the natural acquisition capabilities of the under 6s. In addition, t

Médecins Sans Frontières resources

Some time ago Médecins sans Frontières placed some excellent French resources on their British site. The themes covered, unsurprisingly, are the causes of poverty, the work of humanitarian associations, immigration and medical research. They say: "The films illustrate challenges facing the global community and encourage the discussion of wider social issues. The resources can be used by schools wishing to promote cross curricular collaboration since there are links to Science, Geography, Maths, RE, English and ICT. Our aim is to provide authentic sources which will be engaging for students. We would also like to raise awareness of MSF’s work in the field and show young people the circumstances and challenges faced by their contemporaries in the wider world." There nine short videos in all, each one accompanied by a transcript and exercise. I had a look at one on AIDS. The images are accompanied by a voice-off narrative, spoken in very clear French read at a p

Rote learning

My name is Steve and I am a barbershop singer... I mention this because when we barbershoppers learn songs we generally do so by ear. We are provided with learning tracks on CD or MP3, play them on our iPod or in the car and set our parts to memory. For me it would take, say, 100 listens of a short song to memorise my baritone part (often the hardest). This is a good case of learning by rote. You do repeated practice to set something to memory. My earliest memory of rote learning, forced on me by teachers, would be learning times tables. This was useful and has served me ever since. Another memory I have of rote learning is learning the Greek alphabet from one of those yellow and black "Teach Yourself" books. This has served me little, though oddly I still remember chunks of it showing how effective it can be long term. For O-level Latin we learned by heart enormous sections of Verres in Sicily for the translation paper so that you did not even have to think of the transl

New franglais

The French have pretty much gave up defending their language from the influx of English. It amused me to learn in the early 1990s that the Minister of Culture Jacques Toubon, in his failed attempts to stop anglicisms, became known to some as Jacques Allgood. Even so, I continue to enjoy the range of neologisms, many of which spring up in the fields of new technology and entertainment. Some are French adaptations of English terms, such as réseauter (to network), most just English terms used because they are fashionable in some circles. I often find the latter in a blog I look at from entitled Têtes de Séries by Pierre Langlais (yes, Langlais). Pierre writes about all the latest news of TV series, especially American and British. In recent blogs I have found pour le fun , difficile d'en parler sans spoiler, les deux épisodes suivants étaient meilleurs que le trailer, Yahoo lance... une webséries (avec un s), les champions du buzz, le post  (continues to be used despi

Cheating, bending rules or optimistic marking?

I read chunks of the recent Ofqual report on the English GCSE debacle. The media focused largely on the observation that teachers had a tendency to overmark controlled assessments and to try and get their students just over the C grade borderline. There were some persuasive graphs to demonstrate this. Some talked of cheating, others talked of bending rules and Glenys Stacey herself used the phrase "optimistic marking". In passing, commentators did point out the obvious fact that it is the exam boards' job to moderate teachers' marking effectively and that over-generous marking should not affect grade outcomes. Picture: Microsoft Office In fact, the detailed and, I thought, balanced Ofqual analysis probably emphasised a different point entirely: namely that the whole English assessment regime was flawed and that accountability measures put so much pressure on teachers that they felt almost obliged to mark generously. Evidence from the TES forum was used in the

Independent learning in MFL

I must admit that I have never got my head around "independent learning" when it comes to language learning. As a Head of Department I was encouraged, along with other departments and teachers, to incorporate as much independent learning as possible in lessons. An underlying assumption, I assume, was that students would be less bored when working on their own, more challenged and that knowledge and skills acquired in this fashion would be better embedded. Trouble is, language teachers know that to get their pupils to acquire language successfully they need to supply lots of language input which means talking to them, asking them questions, playing them CDs or videos. This is the best quality listening input, although we are, for very good reasons, happy to let them work in pairs and groups when the quality of input will be less good. All this listening means it is harder for the language teacher to create the conditions for independent learning, unless we just mean that t

What's new on

I've added a testimonials page to the site if anyone is interested to read what some teachers think of the resources. I'll add more comments as I receive them. To accommodate this on the home page contents bar, I've shifted the Spanish resources into the "free resources" menu, so Spanish has not disappeared, it's just elsewhere. I've also decided to place a few small Google ads on American and Canadian sites as the large majority of my subscribers are British and I am not so sure Americans, Canadians, plus teachers down under, are so aware of the resources. Most of the resources on the site are not aimed specifically at British teachers, although I am conscious of the fact that some of the acronyms for assessments look alien to non-British teachers. As for new resources on the site, I've added a few more crosswords for KS3 and KS4 (low intermediate), plus a crossword on the subjunctive for advanced students. I have also made a resource about Bonf