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Showing posts from September, 2013

Languages are more useful than science

There was a time when Latin ruled the roost in the school curriculum. Maths was always up there too, then science came along. In recent times STEM subjects have been carrying the highest prestige, partly because there is a shortage of mathematicians, scientists and engineers, partly because they are hard subjects and partly because, well, they just are - it's a fashion. I used to tell my classes that for most of them it was far more likely that would use their French sometimes in the future than they would use their maths (anything, that is, beyond basic arithmetic, fractions, percentages and graphs), science, history or geogrpahy. So I was glad to read that Gary Lineker (never had a yellow card) himself is saying the very same thing. This is what he said to the TES:  “Personally, I look at what we have to study at school and some subjects like science might help at some point in your life for a percentage of people, but the learning of languages, for me, will always be helpf

How to provide the best for a bilingual child in your class

You, like me, may have had to handle the situation where you have a bilingual child in your MFL class. They are probably fluent orally, have excellent listening and reading skills, but varying degrees of written skill. What can you do to make the most of their existing aptitude? If they are there from the start of Y7 (first year of secondary schooling), then it may be wise to keep them in the classroom with their peers. They are settling in socially, making friends and may feel cut off if you send them elsewhere to study. If they are already established at the school, it may make sense to have them do the work you set elsewhere, as they may prefer silence, access to books or a computer. You could have a weekly meeting time, perhaps with the regular class to keep tabs on their work. Most students are enthused by the prospect of taking exams early. Consult with the child and his or her parents to see if this will be motivational. GCSE could be done by the end of Y8, with the prospect

So what about iPads for MFL?

Ipads are being deployed in vast numbers, it seems, across the nation's schools. How useful are they to MFL learners and teachers? The first question to ask is what do we need our technology for? In MFL we are aiming to improve the four skills. Anything which can aid us in developing pupils' comprehension, grammatical command, vocabulary knowledge and oral proficiency should be welcomed if it can be afforded. An ICT room of PCs fulfills many needs and can even be turned into a language lab for oral practice, but in schools it is not always easy to book time when you want it and you have to move classes around. The enormous attraction of the tablet is its portability, so there are certainly advantages to having it handy for instant listening/streamed video work, interactive grammar and vocabulary work. There's no need to book a room, no need to compete with other subjects for computer time. One issue with the iPad, of course, is that it will not display any content in

European Day of Languages assembly talk

I did this assembly talk a few years ago. Feel free to use it or adapt it. Today is officially the European Day of Languages. Here is a poem by Olivia McMahon Learning a language Is like doing a jigsaw puzzle Of a million pieces With a picture that keeps changing. It's like getting lost in a foreign city without a map. It's like playing tennis without a ball, like being an ant in a field of grasshoppers. It's like being an acrobat with a broken leg, An actor without a script, A carpenter without a saw, A storyteller without a middle or an end.   But then gradually It's like being out in the early morning with the mists lifting. It's like a chink of light under a door, like finding the glove you were looking for, Catching the train you thought you were going to miss, Getting an unlooked-for present, Exchanging

Online shopping for vocabulary acquisition

A sure fire winner of a lesson is when you take a class into the computer room to do an online shopping exercise. Our approach was to give our Year 8s (near beginners) a grocery shopping list in English, with a column to complete in French, a quantity to buy and the cost to find. We would use this task near the end of a sequence on food shopping so that pupils are already quite familiar with the vocabulary. You can tell the class to find the best match possible (because you can never guarantee your worksheet will be up to date) and to get the best value produce. Tell the class to open a second window with a dictionary like so they can look up meanings quickly. Depending on the speed of your class, this exercise could take between 40 and 90 minutes. Faster workers can spend more time browsing and you can add an element of competition by giving individuals the challenge of producing the cheapest bill. Incidentally, I would set this as an individual task if facili