Skip to main content

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 build a strong link between sound and grammar.

So first, here is part of the sheet (imagine a total of about 20 cues):

1.                  Aujourd’hui je joue au football. (Hier j’ai joué…)
2.                 Aujourd’hui je voyage en train.
3.                 Aujourd’hui je finis mes devoirs.                   
4.                 Aujourd’hui je choisis un biscuit.
5.                 Aujourd’hui je vends mon CD.
6.                 Aujourd’hui je perds mon cartable.
7.                 Aujourd’hui il écoute le prof.
8.                 Aujourd’hui elle chante dans la chorale.
9.                 Aujourd’hui on finit à trois heures trente.
10.               Aujourd’hui nous dansons dans la rue.

Here is a possible sequence of tasks:

1.  Teacher reads a cue and gives an example answer (as in No. 1 above).
2.  Teacher reads a few cues and pupils answer (hands up and no hands up), then choral repetition aftre each response so all are involved).
3.  Pupils work in pairs. One reads the cue, the other gives an answer. Most pupils should be able to work confidently having heard the responses already.
4.  Now the teacher goes through the cues again and this term asks pupils to change another element in the sentence too, e.g. in No. 1 the answer may be Hier j'ai joué au tennis.
5. Then the pupils have to hide the sheet (or you hide it if you have been displaying it from the front) and you do some of the same examples requiring pupils to just listen and respond. (This raises the challenge level and adds a twist to the lesson.)
6. Then make up some new examples with the sheet still hidden.
7. Reveal the original sheet and get students to write out their answers with one changed element. (This allows for a degree of creativity and differentiation.)
8. Finally, as a fluency task, in pairs each student has to give as many past tense examples as possible without stopping. the partner could time them to see how long they can go. This could be done competitively.


You can imagine how many repetitions you get from a sequence like this. A bit boring? It depends how you deliver it and remember that each activity would be seen as a variation by the pupils. And don't forget this would be just one sequence in a whole series of lesson activities, some less structured than this. Note that you have been working in TL nearly all the time, using high frequency vocab and structures in a meaningful way. True, this is not highly interesting comprehensible input, but as part of a unit it should help embed a key area of grammar. Long term memory (acquisition?) is the aim.



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…

Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

I was prompted to write this just having produced for frenchteacher.net three separate PowerPoint presentations using the same set of 20 pictures (sports). A very good way for you to save time is to reuse the same resource in a number of different ways.

I chose 20 clear, simple, clear and copyright-free images from pixabay.com to produce three presentations on present tense (beginners), near future (post beginner) and perfect tense (post-beginner/low intermediate). Here is one of them:





Below is how I would have taught using this presentation - it won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially of you are not big on choral repetition and PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production), but I'll justify my choice in the plan at each stage. For some readers this will be standard practice.

1. Explain in English that you are going to teach the class how to talk about and understand people talking about sport. By the end of the lesson they will be able to say and understand 20 different sport…

Designing a plan to improve listening skills

Read many books and articles about listening and you’ll see it described as the forgotten skill. It certainly seems to be the one which causes anxiety for both teachers and students. The reasons are clear: you only get a very few chances to hear the material, exercises feel like tests and listening is, well, hard. Just think of the complex processes involved: segmenting the sound stream, knowing lots of words and phrases, using grammatical knowledge to make meaning, coping with a new sound system and more. Add to this the fact that in England they have recently decided to make listening tests harder (too hard) and many teachers are wondering what else they can do to help their classes.

For students to become good listeners takes lots of time and practice, so there are no quick fixes. However, I’m going to suggest, very concisely, what principles could be the basis of an overall plan of action. These could be the basis of a useful departmental discussion or day-to-day chats about meth…

Delayed dictation

What is “delayed dictation”?

Instead of getting students to transcribe immediately what you say, or what a partner says, you can enforce a 10 second delay so that students have to keep running over in their heads what they have heard. Some teachers have even used the delay time to try to distract students with music.

It’s an added challenge for students but has significant value, I think. It reminds me of a phenomenon in music called audiation. I use it frequently as a singer and I bet you do too.

Audiation is thought to be the foundation of musicianship. It takes place when we hear and comprehend music for which the sound is no longer or may never have been present. You can audiate when listening to music, performing from notation, playing “by ear,” improvising, composing, or notating music. When we have a song going round in our mind we are audiating. When we are deliberately learning a song we are audiating.

In our language teaching case, though, the earworm is a word, chunk of l…

GCSE and IGCSE revision links 2018

It's coming up to that time of year again. In England and Wales. Here is a handy list of some good interactive revision links for this level. These links are also good for intermediate exams in Scotland, Ireland and other English-speaking countries. You could copy and paste this to print off for students.

Don't forget the GCSE revision material on frenchteacher.net of course! How could you?

As far as apps for students are concerned, I would suggest the Cramit one, Memrise and Learn French which is pretty good for vocabulary. For Android devices try the Learn French Vocabulary Free. For listening, you could suggest Coffee Break French from Radio Lingua Network (iTunes podcasts).

Listening
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/french/ (Foundation/Higher) http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/ (Foundation/Higher)
http://www.audio-lingua.eu/spip.php?rubrique1&lang=fr (Foundation/Higher) http://www.ashcombe.surrey.sch.uk/07-langcoll/MFL-resources/french/fr-video-index.shtml