Skip to main content

My five most viewed blog posts of 2014

I write a blog every two or three days. I keep wondering if I'll run out of things to go on about, but up to now I have not. Semi retirement gives you more time to reflect and offer free advice! Blogger conveniently supplies information on page hits, so I am able to note which of my posts gets read (or at least glanced at).

I am sometimes surprised which posts get more attention than others. It can be a more profound reflection on teaching methodology, an exam-related or simply a very simple idea for the classroom. Anyway, for the record these are the five most viewed posts this year, in order of popularity:

1. http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/draft-content-and-assessment-for-new.html

The clear winner, with 1496 page views. This was my take on the draft content of the proposed new MFL A-levels, the fruit of ALCAB's deliberations. We eagerly await the feedback from Ofqual on this. Rumour has it teachers were, like me, much less than impressed. I mean MUCH less. Essay in English? Boring topics? Translation reaffirmed? No thanks.

2. http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/dans-ma-trousse.html

In second place with 1283 page views is the post entitled "dans ma trousse". I was having a little go at those who argue that using the pencil case in the classroom is dull. I try to make the "case" for using the "trousse" in all sorts of ways.

3. http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/gcse-intermediate-revision-resources.html

In a solid third spot with 931 views comes my annual post offering my favourite GCSE revision links. I understand why teachers latch on to anything which they might supply to their students in the run-up to exams. I have been there.

4. http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/implications-of-topics-to-be-covered-in.html

In fourth place on 801 views comes my blog about the implications of ALCAB's indicative topics for new A-levels. I was getting a bit hot under the collar about this during the summer holidays. Why? I could not believe what I was reading from ALCAB. Nor could the exam boards, as I understand it. My argument was that A-levels are not the same as an undergrad course and that Russell Group professors do not really understand what makes a good A-level lesson and what motivates 17-18 year-olds. My views remain precisely the same.

5. http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/mfl-gcse-subject-content-april-2014.html

In fifth spot with a respectable 730 page views comes my review of the draft GCSE MFL subject content. Exam boards are now working on specs based on this. I worry less about this than A-level, though continue to regret the inclusion of translation. Michael Gove left his fingerprints on GCSE too. At least controlled assessments are gone and I welcome that.

Bubbling under were posts on the imperfect tense (basically a lesson plan based on a text), a World Cup football task and a post on flipping the classroom.

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…