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Frenchteacher updates

This is one of my regular updates to blatantly promote my website to new users and remind existing users of what has been added in recent weeks. Fans of parallel texts may appreciate some of the new additions. I am always on the look-out for interesting reading material for intermediate level.

Since the middle of July:
  • Parallel reading texts on migrants to Europe. With true/false/not mentioned and retranslation sentences. Low intermediate level. 
  • A text with questions in English about migrant smugglers working in Calais. Apparently most of the trafficking networks are British and are thought to launder their earnings through night-clubs, for example. This could be used with a good Y11 class or for AS-level (high intermediate).
  • Parallel texts and exercises on fair trade. Easy text, true/false and vocabulary to complete. Could be used from Y8 to Y10, depending on ability. 
  • Four new parallel reading texts with exercises: the first about a girl left behind at the motorway services, the second about a drunken man who falls from a third floor balcony as he tries to spit on a police van, the third about a heroic charity walk, and the fourth (in Y10-11 section) on dogs who can detect cancer. All texts have true/false/not mentioned exercises and other comprehension. Good for Y9-10 (low intermediate) 
  • A-level text and exercises on refugees. Article, vocab to complete, questions for discussion on the text, fluency task and translation into French. (Advanced)
  • Parallel reading for intermediate (GCSE) level. A heroic deed. This one is based on an authentic article about a 13 year-old who takes the wheel of a bus when the driver has a heart attack. I sometimes imagined that scenario on school trips to France. Never happened fortunately. Anyway, there are parallel texts, true/false/not mentioned and a gap fill summary to do. You could exploit this in other ways too. (Intermediate) 
  • Parallel texts on the Tour de France. Comes with correct sentences in French to identify and gapped sentences. This adds to the stock of parallel texts in Y7 and Y8. 
  • A parallel text/gapped French-English translation about Minecraft. Each gap has the starting letter of the missing English word. Text with questions in English. "An act of heroism." Optional oral or written extension task. Based on an authentic magazine article. 
  • Text and exercises about the impressive and popular Taylor Swift. Text, vocabulary to complete, true/false/not mentioned, translation into English. (Intermediate) 
  • Parallel reading about Maglev trains (magnetically suspended trains or trains à sustension magnétique in French. Parallel texts, true/false/not mentioned and a gapfill text in French. You could give this to a good Y9 class. 
  • Parallel text about robots for near beginners/low intermediate. Texts in French and English with correct French statements to identify, general discussion points (in English) and sentence completion in French. (Very low intermediate)


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Tell stories


How can we make listening more enjoyable and effective for pupils? How can we turn it from a potential chore to something more memorable (and therefore more likely to stick in their long term memories)? I am of the opinion that since humans are "wired" to engage in personal listening and speaking (the expression "social brain" has been used in this context), they may be more interested and attentive when the message comes from a real person rather than a disembodied audio source. (This may or may not be relevant, but research has been carried out which demonstrates that babies pick up phonological patterns better when they listen to a caregiver rather than listen to a tape or watch a video - see here for summaries of research into this area by Patricia Kuhl.)

One easy way to make listening stimulating for pupils is to tell them easy stories in the target language. I was reminded of this while reading Penny Ur's book 100 Teaching Tips (reviewed here

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’( The point i…

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…