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Showing posts from August, 2015

A weekly online reading or listening task

You know how we often ask A-level students to "read around" the subject? And you know how many don't do it? How about this for your AS-level and A-level groups this year? Each week you ask students to read a target language article online. They can choose any topic they like. You could suggest some useful sites to get them going. There are plenty of suggestions for French on the links pages of It could work like this : you tell your students to copy and paste the piece on to a sheet of A4 and get them to add a 15 word bilingual glossary (words they did not know before) and a short summary in English. They hand in the sheet on a set day each week. You simply read, tick and hand back the sheet. This is to check that students have done the task. You do not need to mark it, that's not the point. In any case, you have more than enough marking already. You could leave a comment if you wish. Students could do all this electronically if you and they prefe

Choral repetition from pictures. Is it useless?

I had a little Twitter disagreement with a couple of colleagues today regarding the common use of PowerPoint pictures for choral repetition. The teachers in question described such practice as "mad" and "useless". I must be mad, therefore, and wasted my time waving flashcards or showing images on the board with my classes for many years. Actually, however, I think I had some justifiable methodological reasons for presenting single word vocabulary with flashcards or PowerPoint minus spellings. Namely... Research and common sense suggest that images are an aid to memory so I see good sense in presenting new words along with a simple, memorable visual aid. This could be in the form of a flashcard or with a picture displayed on the board with a slide show or on a simple Word doc. You can quickly move from simple repetition (using normal voice, whispering, singing and even shouting) to easy guessing games, picture hiding, gradual reveal and so on. These techniques a

Migrant traffickers in Calais

Here is a text I put together based on a TV5monde report on migrant traffickers in Calais. I had not realised how much British criminal interests were involved. On I added some questions to go with this text which is aimed at Y11-12 (high intermediate). Parfois en réseaux structurées, parfois opérant à titre individuel, les passeurs de Calais dictent tous les mêmes règles aux migrants vers la Grande-Bretagne: des prix qui n’arrêtent pas d'augmenter, pour rétribuer les risques liés au renforcement constant des mesures de sécurité sur ce site-frontière. Le combat contre ces filières criminelles de passeurs est un des objectifs de l’accord signé entre le ministre de l’Intérieur Bernard Cazeneuve et son homologue britannique Theresa May en août 2015. Mais ces passeurs, il faut d’abord les identifier. « Nous avons le plus grand mal à faire la différence entre un migrant et un passeur. Ils se fondent parfaitement dans la masse », confie une source polici

A modern language teacher toolkit

Gianfranco Conti, who writes the blog The Language Gym, and I have decided to put together a handbook/toolkit for modern language teachers. Gianfranco teaches languages at the Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur, previously worked in the UK and has spent a good deal of time studying second language acquisition research. My background is teaching in the UK, some research and a long-term interest in pedagogy. Why are we doing this? Not for financial gain! We both wonder whether language teachers coming into the profession, or even existing teachers, are well informed about the best research we have into what works. We also wonder if, in this "post methods" era of what has been called "principled eclecticism" (Pachler et al, from their useful and widely used book for PGCE students) how clear the "principles" are. We feel that many teachers are unclear about their principles with regard to language teaching and learning and that they may, therefore, en

Pros and cons of being a native speaker MFL teacher

As the supply of "home grown" language teachers continues to dry up the UK is depending more and more, as in other fields of employment, on imported labour. I don't know if anyone keeps records on these things, but it is fair to say that a very significant and increasing minority of our French, German and Spanish teachers were born outside the UK. Although not a new phenomenon, free movement of labour in the EU guarantees a reasonable supply of native speaker teachers and in general this is to be welcomed. Native speakers have the enormous and obvious advantage of being fluent speakers and writers. This should not be under-estimated. Fluency makes the job of language teaching easier and students are exposed to excellent models of language. At A-level in particular, where great exposure to comprehensible input becomes possible, native speakers really come into their own. Fluency also encourages a teacher not to rely excessively on teaching about the language rather than th

Parallel texts on fair trade

Here is a parallel text exercise I put together with Y8 or Y9 in mind. Remember that the thought here is that parallel texts are a way of dealing with the disconnect with students' reading interests and their linguistic skill. By offering a translation in English alongside the French passage you are allowing students an easy route in to the content. You can then use other exercises to reinforce the target language input and build vocabulary. This one is about fair trade. It could be further exploited, for example, via gapped translation or a part of a CLIL project on fair trade. French text Le commerce équitable Beaucoup des petits producteurs et ouvriers des pays du Sud ne peuvent pas vivre dignement de leur travail car ils sont exploités ou pas suffisamment payés. Le  commerce équitable  est une forme de commerce mondial qui assure aux producteurs des prix justes et des meilleures conditions de travail , tout en garantissant aux consommateurs des produits de bonn

A-level French entries and results

Here are grades and entry numbers for A-level French from 1993 to 2014. Source:  and JCQ figures for 2014 and  2015 ( French entries A* A B C D E N Entries  2015 8.1 29.2 10328 2014 6.6 31.0 10433 2013 6.5 32.0 30.3 17.9 9.1 3.4 11272 2012 6.8 32.6 29.4 18.5 8.8 3.1 12511 2011 7.7 32.4 29.3 18.0 8.7 3.0 13196 2010 7.7 31.4 28.5 18.2 9.6 3.7 13850 2009 38.6 27.6 18.3 10.5 4.1 14333 2008 37.3 27.7 18.9 10.6 4.3 14885 2007 36.3 28.0 18.2 11.6 4.6 14477 2006 34.7 27.4 19.5 11.8 5.3 14650 2005 32.9 27.5 20.0 12.4 5.6 14484 2004 33.4 26.8 19.8 12.6 5.8 15149 2003 31.4 26.4 20.0 13

Dolanguages by Steve Glover

Image: Steve Glover has been producing super web resources for language teachers for many years. In the relatively early days of the internet he produced the interactive Really Useful French Teaching Site, unusually good for its time, before going on to write online resources for Digitalbrain. In more recent times Steve has focused on writing A-level and GCSE resources.I blogged nearly three years ago about Steve's A-level site called ALF (A-Level French). Since then he has been working on more resources for GCSE and A-level, covering French, German and Spanish. His most recent project is Dolanguages , a really useful source for A-level French, German and Spanish film and literature. Teachers preparing for the new courses starting in September 2016 would do well to bookmark this site whether they be experienced practitioners or new to teaching film and literature. The site is still in development, though existing resources are already available from his

The MFL Teacher review The MFL Teacher is a new subscription site for teachers of French and German written by Kirsten Ross and Sally Barfoot, with the help of other experienced contributors. They write: Our team of contributors are all very experienced MFL teachers (Lead Practitioners, SLEs and former ASTs) with a proven track record for achieving outstanding results in the classroom. They also deliver regular CPD sessions both locally and nationally. We hope that this website will become a place where fellow language teachers, who are just as passionate about teaching as we are, will gather resources, access CPD training and use the 'Member Support' page to share and discuss ideas, thoughts and concerns.  This is a new site, which will be evolving rapidly over the next few months and we would welcome ideas and suggestions, which would help us meet your needs. The site has over 1500 resources as well as training materials, with more being added all the time. I can

Gianfranco's recommendations for teaching listening

Like some of you I have enjoyed Gianfranco Conti's blogposts in recent weeks. His blog is, a far as I know, unique the MFL world in presenting a mixture of detailed research findings and practical implications for the languages classroom. I suggested he might do a compendium of his classroom advice, divorced from the research, but he is too busy writing interesting new blogs so with his permission to quote I am doing it myself! The following are very slightly adapted extracts taken from Gianfranco's blog. The focus is in LISTENING. Gianfranco believes that listening in classrooms too often takes the form of comprehension tests from an audio sources, divorced from a teaching sequence and during which students do not get the opportunity to develop detailed listening skills by doing "top-down" and especially "bottom-up" processing activities. I think he may be right. This is what he has written. You'll see some very good ideas, some of which you probab

The pros and cons of teacher-led question and answer

I am returning to an issue I have blogged about previously, but one which merits careful consideration by young teachers since it is such an integral part of teaching and can reflect a teacher's views on language learning and teaching pedagogy. Some teachers make great use of whole class questioning, others try to move away from it as soon as possible. What issues are involved in our choice of oral dialogues in the classroom? In favour of question-answer It allows the teacher to carefully control the input students receive. It provides a lot of listening input, released in small manageable chunks. So question-answer should not just be seen as oral activity, but, more importantly, a listening activity. It is part of a whole pedagogical approach which assumes grammar and vocabulary can be internalised by controlled practice. It can be effective as a class-controlling activity. The teacher controls the pace and is the only person talking. It can be entertaining and motivati

What is CLIL?

This post is about CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). The information here comes partly from Learning to Teach Foreign Languages in the Secondary School by N. Pachler, M. Evans, A. Redondo and L. Fisher (Routledge, 2014). CLIL is defined by Coyle et al (2010)* as follows: A dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language. When you think about it, it's what you often do when you teach A-level MFL, where the language becomes little more than the medium through which you teach about a topic, film or literary text for example. I often thought of A-level as "general studies through the target language". So, with that in mind, many language teachers are already familiar with CLIL. With younger classes, at KS2,3 and 4, the CLIL approach is used more rarely, but does have its fans. How does it work and what are the implications of the approach? Firstly, CLIL is attracti