Skip to main content

Chris Lowe's "stretch and challenge" idea

Chris teachers at an independent school in north-west London and my attention was drawn to an excellent idea he has had for stretching the most able students in his school.

Here is his blog together with the resources needed.

http://chrislowemfl.wordpress.com

He has provided a menu of challenges for students from Y9 to Y13. The focus of these challenges is on cultural awareness, or intercultural understanding, if you prefer that term. Students may choose from the list for their year group, produce a well-documented project in English and present it for evaluation. As they complete each task they get a stamp on their Costa coffee-style reward card. When they get five stamps they receive a special Headteacher's award. I suppose alternatives to that might be house points or certificates, depending on what reward system your school has in place.

Here are some examples of the challenges for Y10 pupils:

1. Is the Eiffel Tower a cultural icon?
2. Is there a reason why romance is so often attributed to Paris?
3. To what extent are French stereotypes true?
4. Is France a centre of culinary excellence?
5. Create a profile of a Francophone country.
6. To what extent is it easy to travel to France from London?

They are clearly challenging topics, but within the range of some students. By the way, these tasks are not limited to a chosen few - all students are entitled to try them.

I like this idea very much. If teachers preferred the challenges to be focused on language rather than culture it would be easy to come up with suitable ideas. For good to excellent Y10s they might do a recorded speaking task, or a writing task, on topics such as these:

1. Interview avec un Français/une Française (e.g. a language assistant, teacher or other French speaker)
2. Mon journal oral/écrit de la semaine.
3. Le journal de mon échange/ma visite en France.
4. Le portrait d'un personnage que j'admire (sport, cinéma, personnage historique, musicien etc)
5. Compte-rendu d'un film français que j'ai vu.
6. Création d'un blog avec au moins cinq billets de blog.

Check out Chris's blog at the address above for the complete list of tasks and his Costa reward card.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The latest research on teaching vocabulary

I've been dipping into The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition (2017) edited by Loewen and Sato. This blog is a succinct summary of Chapter 16 by Beatriz González-Fernández and Norbert Schmitt on the topic of teaching vocabulary. I hope you find it useful.

1.  Background

The authors begin by outlining the clear importance of vocabulary knowledge in language acquisition, stating that it's a key predictor of overall language proficiency (e.g. Alderson, 2007). Students often say that their lack of vocabulary is the main reason for their difficulty understanding and using the language (e.g. Nation, 2012). Historically vocabulary has been neglected when compared to grammar, notably in the grammar-translation and audio-lingual traditions as well as  communicative language teaching.

(My note: this is also true, to an extent, of the oral-situational approach which I was trained in where most vocabulary is learned incidentally as part of question-answer sequence…

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


English 

_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

Preparing for GCSE speaking: building a repertoire

As your Y11 classes start their final year of GCSE, one potential danger of moving from Controlled Assessment to terminal assessment of speaking is to believe that in this new regime there will be little place for the rote learning or memorisation of language. While it is true that the amount of learning by heart is likely to go down and that greater use of unrehearsed (spontaneous) should be encouraged, there are undoubtedly some good techniques to help your pupils perform well on the day.

I clearly recall, when I marked speaking tests for AQA 15-20 years ago, that schools whose candidates performed the best were often those who had prepared their students with ready-made short paragraphs of language. Candidates who didn't sound particularly like "natural linguists" (e.g. displaying poor accents) nevertheless got high marks. As far as an examiner is concerned is doesn't matter if every single candidate says that last weekend they went to the cinema, saw a James Bond…

Worried about the new GCSEs?

Twitter and MFL Facebook groups are replete with posts expressing concerns about the new GCSEs and, in particular, the difficulty of the exam, grades and tiers. I can only comment from a distance since I am no longer in the classroom, but I have been through a number of sea changes in assessment over the years so may have something useful to say.

Firstly, as far as general difficulty of papers is concerned, I think it’s fair to say that the new assessment is harder (not necessarily in terms of grades though). This is particularly evident in the writing tasks and speaking test. Although it will still be possible to work in some memorised material in these parts of the exam, there is no doubt that weaker candidates will have more problems coping with the greater requirement for unrehearsed language. Past experience working with average to very able students tells me some, even those with reasonable attainment, will flounder on the written questions in the heat of the moment. Others will…