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Showing posts from September, 2016

Review of Teach Now! Modern Foreign Languages

Teach Now! Modern Foreign Languages (Becoming a Great Modern Foreign languages Teacher) is written by teacher Sally Allan and was published by Routledge in 2015. It's a practical handbook aimed fairly and squarely at MFL teacher trainees in England and Wales. It's one of the Teach Now series of handbooks edited by Geoff Barton. Sally is Assistant Head Teacher at the Forest Hall School, Stansted Mountfitchet, England. Chapter titles include curriculum (what are the key components and challenges in teaching MFL?), essentials of pedagogy, planning and assessing, differentiation chapters dedicated to behaviour, dealing with pressure and applying for a new post. At around 150 pages the book is brief and to the point. Experienced teachers would find it lacking in analytical detail, but for trainees it gives a decent account of major issues. The longest chapter is the first one about curriculum matters. It is sub-divided into sections on target language, the communicative appro

Question types and circling

In recent years there has been a focus in schools on using questioning effectively. In professional development sessions question types are analysed, teachers learn about interesting things such as Bloom’s taxonomy and teachers are urged to employ deeper levels of questioning whenever possible. In language lessons, however, questions are used in a different way. In most cases we don’t use questions to explore concepts and help students get to deeper levels of meaning. In our field questions and other interactions are used mainly as a device to provide TL input and opportunities to practise.  This means that questions may be quite shallow and even artificial ( where is the pen?), but have the important goal of getting students to learn and practise the language.   Exceptions to this might be when we question students about grammatical concepts in English or, with advanced students, when we talk about issues at a higher level, using the TL as a means of communication as we would in

My two favourite bloggers

I follow my Twitter timeline pretty religiously every day. When you follow over 5000 people (nearly all teachers, by the way) you have to be selective about which links you tap or click. The two blog links I almost always follow up are those written by (surprise,surprise) my co-author Gianfranco Conti and by headteacher Tom Sherrington, who works at Highbury Grove School in London. Here are the URLs: What's unique about Gianfranco's blog is its detailed level of analysis of research combined with classroom practice. Gianfranco is very knowledgeable about the scholarly field of second language acquisition and has a firm belief, based on his instincts and experience, in the skill acquisition model of language learning. Although a full-time teacher in Malaysia, he manages to be both a prolific writer of resources, most of which he shares freely on TES, an interactive website writer, as well as blogger. Gian seems to have a

French Playground

The French Playground is an original resource for French teachers and students. The site offers two different ways to engage students in authentic French activities and culture. 1. COIN CULTUREL: You choose from a calendar of free French cultural events where you and your students can participate in online French games, performances, interviews, class mystery meetings, meet-and-greets, co-teach lessons and engage in activities for authentic French interaction with other schools worldwide, at any date and time. 2. MISSIONS: Choose from dozens of pre-made authentic French challenges, tasks and dares (called Missions). French students can collect points and submit completed Missions to the French Playground for badges. Teacher Etienne Langlois wrote on Facebook: "I've been teaching French (all levels) for 24 years. This is by far the greatest thing I've ever done for my French students. Interacting on the French Playground is free and in one click you can be live, on

Listening tips from Penny Ur

I've been dipping into sections of Penny Ur's excellent little book 100 Teaching Tips which I have previously reviewed here . I find myself agreeing with nearly everything she writes. Although her background is teaching English as a foreign language, what she says is highly relevant to modern language teachers. So many excellent ideas have come form EFL over the years. Here are some points she makes about teaching listening , which she says is the most important skill - I agree. Most people spend more time listening, including in conversation, than they do reading, speaking or writing. I think it should be at the heart of our practice. Give the topic and task in advance Make sure you give the context of any listening task to students in advance. Never just play a recording and ask students to listen and understand. make sure they have an idea who is speaking, what the topic is, what the context may be and what precise task they will have to do. If they have a worksheet t

LIFT feedback technique

 Teachers may find this useful. My Language Teacher Toolkit partner-in-crime Gianfranco Conti makes use of a correction/feedback technique he calls L.I.F.T. (You can't beat a nifty acronym.) This is what Gianfranco has written on Facebook about it: "An example of a feedback technique I am currently using with my year 11 French students, which I call LIFT (Learner Initiated Teacher Feedback). They write an essay then ask questions about things they are unsure about. (You can see the questions in the right margin- I ask them to leave some space.) It gives the teacher a great insight into things students do not feel sure about and starts a learning conversation with the students whereby making the correction process more of a two way process than a unidirectional teacher prescription." The picture below gives you a good idea of what he's doing. I rather like this. I can see how it would encourage students to share their language issues and in so doing i

New Higher Tier GCSE units on TES

Updated 12th October 2016 Gianfranco Conti and I have been working on a set of resources for GCSE French. There is some emphasis on translation which, as you know, now features in the exam specifications. The first three are now available on the TES site. We have adapted the model of the A-level resources which have been selling well. Here is where you can find our shop:   Here is the description of the first unit we wrote.there are two further units now posted, on volunteering and holidays. More will appear soon. "This is a densely packed eight page unit of work with a focus on reading and translation into French. The theme is healthy living. The level is Higher Tier GCSE. You will find pre-reading tasks, a set of reading comprehension paragraphs, pre-translation activities and short, graded passages for translation into French. These tasks enable students to build up their skills by recycling language in various way

Great starters for advanced students

Lateral thinking stories You present a scenario and the students have to find out what happened only using yes/no questions. Here are three examples: 1.    When Jack comes home he finds Mandy is dead, lying in a pool of water and Tom is sitting quietly on the armchair. There is some broken glass on the floor. Tom won’t be charged with murder. Why not? Answer: Mandy is a fish and Tom is a cat. Mandy was swimming in her bowl. Tom started playing with it and knocked it over. 2.    A woman lives on the 30th floor of a building. When she gets home from work, she usually takes the lift as far as the 21st floor and then climbs the stairs to the 30th. However when it’s raining, she’ll always take the lift to the 30th floor. What explains this strange behaviour? Answer: She is of small stature and cannot reach the top button unless she is carrying an umbrella. 3.    A man sprints up some stairs, desperately turns on a light switch, looks out the window and sees dead p