Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2017

How useful is it to correct written errors?

I was prompted to write this blog after reading two research-based blogs about correcting students' written errors. The first, typically provocative in its title,  is one by Gianfranco Conti here . the second, in response to Gianfranco's post is here by Russell Mayne on the blog Evidence based EFL. I recommend both blogs. The introduction of Gianfranco's blog post (one of a number he has written on error correction) puts the issue of error correction into context: "Most secondary school MFL teachers correct their student writers’ mistakes. But does error correction ACTUALLY enhance L2-writing proficiency development? A large number of scholars who espouse Cognitive theories of L2-acquisition (e.g. McLaughlin, 1987; Johnson, 1988, 1996), the vast majority of teachers (Applebee, 1984; Zamel, 1985) and most L2-learners (Ferris and Hedgcock, 1998) think so. However, many language educators working in the Nativist paradigm oppose this view. Believing that L2-acq

Les origines de Noël

Here is a text from with some exercises about Christmas. It's pitched at advanced students, but could be used with a really good Y11 class (high intermediate). Feel free to copy and paste. Noël est la célébration de la naissance de Jésus Christ pour l'ensemble du monde chrétien. Mais pourquoi a-t-on choisi la date du 25 décembre? En fait les premières fêtes de Noël ne se déroulaient pas sur un seul jour mais sur plusieurs jours dans une période allant du mois de novembre au mois de janvier. Le choix de cette période était un choix stratégique de l'Eglise qui permettait de faire disparaître d'anciennes coutumes et traditions païennes en y substituant l'une des fêtes les plus importantes de la chrétienté : la nativité . Les saturnales romaines  Bien avant la naissance du Christ, les romains célébraient les saturnales du 17 au 24 décembre. Les saturnales étaient les fêtes célébrées en l'honneur de Saturne , dieu des semailles et d

Beginner's guide to exploiting a written text

I thought some teachers or trainees would find instructive this example of how you might deal with a written text in class. I'm going to use an English example so as not to exclude teachers of any particular language. You could apply the same principles to any language if you like them. The fundamental principles underlying this teaching sequence are; Making the language comprehensible and interesting. Scaffolding activities, building from easier to harder. Building in repetition. Varying the task. Varying the skill mode (listening, reading, speaking, writing). Allowing each skill to reinforce the others. Here is the text - pitched at intermediate level (e.g. Higher Tier GCSE): A new survey in France reveals that young people spend more than 27 hours per week online. This figure has tripled over the last decade. The opinion pollster IPSOS carried out the study based on thousands of young 16-24 year-olds as part of its report in 2017 about media usage and attitudes t

The problem with authentic resources

Authentic resources in language teaching are usually defined as ones written or recorded for a native speaker readership or audience. There has been a long debate in language teaching circles about the value of such resources. Those who argue strongly for using authentic resources usually make the following points: They are more motivating than dry text book materials. They show language as it is really used so are a better preparation for real world language use. When they seem too difficult for the class you can adjust the task to fit them. "Alter the task, not the text." Arguments presented against authentic materials include: It is hard to find sources which match the attainment level of the class. They often contain low frequency language which may not be usefully transferable to other contexts for students. There are copyright issues with using authentic resources. My own view is clear on this. Written and spoken texts for classroom use are best when they

The latest from frenchteacher

This is one of my regular updates to let you know what new resources I have been adding to over the last month. Key Stage 3 A simple word ordering worksheet to practise the verb parler in the present tense. This is for near beginners and is an addition to a few others which use the same format. A new Peppa Pig video listening worksheet for Y9 (low intermediate). You could use it with Y10 or 11. This one asks pupils to spot correct sentences then has a short drill on il ne faut pas que... An adjective agreement crossword for near-beginners. For intermediate level (GCSE) Two grammar practice worksheets, one on using si clauses with the imperfect and conditional tenses, the other about using the avant de  + infinitive structure. the exercises types I have used are sentence combining are translation into French. Both sheets get students to add complexity to their spoken and written language. Two sets of four GCSE conversation questions presented in a di

Breaking the Sound Barrier

Here are the slides I used for my presentation to the ISMLA French day at Queen's College, London. ISMLA stands for Independent Schools Modern Languages Association. The general theme of the talk was how we might teach the neglected skill of listening in a structured, research-informed way and provided practical classroom examples of bottom-up skill practice (including phonics tasks) and two-way listening, including activities such as "whole body listening", question-answer and specific games where the focus is on developing listening skill. Gianfranco Conti and I are together working on a book with the working title Breaking the Sound Barrier. Ismla London November 18th from Steve Smith

An hour of language teaching chat

Last Sunday evening I was the guest on Etienne Langlois’s webinar show Shop Talk. Etienne is a Canadian teacher and DJ who runs the French Playground site which organises live, online French activities and events including interviews, French class meet and greets, games of "Devinez le dessin", "Triva", and Kahoot. Etienne nad I talked for an hour about my work and about language teaching in general. I am grateful to Etienne for setting up the interview.

Exploiting a simple drill worksheet

One type of activity which I found useful to do from time to time with students was audio-lingual style grammar drills. A simple cue and response style drill can be exploited in a number of ways. In the example below the exercise is designed to practise perfect tense verbs ( avoir auxiliary, regular past participles). So as not to overload pupils with too much other distracting information, all the (high frequency) vocabulary should already be known to the class so that students are encouraged to notice and focus on the contrast between present and perfect tense. First of all, the worksheet is meant to be used primarily for whole class and paired oral work so that pupils get to hear multiple uses of the two tenses. Assume that these exercises come late in a sequence of work focusing on the perfect tense with avoir verbs, i.e. pupils already have a good understanding of how the grammar works and the phonology associated with the two tenses. This stress on listening should help buil

Games or purposeful tasks?

Game a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules. synonyms:   match  ·  contest  ·  tournament  ·  meeting  ·  sports meeting  ·  meet  ·  event  ·  an activity that one engages in for amusement: "a computer game" synonyms:   pastime  ·  diversion  ·  entertainment  ·  amusement  ·  distraction   a complete episode or period of play, ending in a final result: "a baseball game" a type of activity or business regarded as a game: "he was in the restaurant game for the glamour" There’s a good deal of debate around the value of games in the languages classroom. Inexperienced trainees I meet are often strongly encouraged to use games, while others feel "gamification" may devalue the subject and contribute too little to learning. I wonder how you see the role of games... My own feeling on this is if a game is a purposeful task which enhances learning at least as well as any ot