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My five most viewed blog posts of 2017



I've been blogging since 2009 and usually post about 130 - 150 times a year. I sometimes wonder if I'll run out of topics to write about but, as you can see,  I haven't done so far. It seems that in semi-retirement I can't stop thinking about language teaching. I've got two handbooks under my belt, with another one in preparation with Gianfranco Conti (about teaching listening), umpteen blogs, Facebook and Twitter posts and a steady flow of new resources on frenchteacher.net. No doubt I shall slow down at some point, but not quite yet.

En passant  Facebook is definitely the place to be for support and ideas from fellow professionals. You could try GILT (Global Innovative Language Teachers), Secondary MFL Matters or MFL Teachers Lounge. The first of these is a bit more focused on theoretical, pedagogical issues in general while the others are more parochial and a bit more centered on day to day issues of interest to British teachers. My favourite language teacher blog remains Gianfranco's The Language Gym where you get a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical classroom ideas.

As well as writing this year I have been presenting for AQA, teaching PGCE trainees at Buckingham University and doing occasional talks at at language teacher events such as ISMLA conferences (Taunton and London) and ResearchEd in Oxford. I've posted 122 times this year on this blog about a range of topics including A-level, GCSE and  methodological issues. I've written website and book reviews, suggested lesson ideas and discussed reports and language teaching news. In addition I sometimes share free resources I have written for frenchteacher.

This is my final post of 2017 and it lists the five most viewed posts from this year.

Wishing you the compliments of the festive season!

1.  Tell stories

This post was about one way to foster listening skills, namely by telling stories. I describe three particular, low preparation activities you could do.

2. Worried about the new GCSEs?

This post addressed the most concerning issue for many English and welsh language teachers this year, the pending first batch of new style GCSE exams. I was trying to calm anxieties to some extent, knowing that these curriculum changes are rarely revolutionary, and suggested some specific activities which may be useful to help pupils prepare for these new, undoubtedly harder exams. As I write I know many colleagues are worried about mock exam results and what they signify in terms of grades. my usual message, for what it's worth, is that the "comparable outcomes" policy will ensure that the spread of grades will be similar to before, so don't panic!

3. My new book

This was about the publication of my Routledge book Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. In this post I summarised the content of the book. I am pleased to say that the book has been selling very well so far and received some excellent reviews, including in the latest edition of Languages Today from the ALL. Thank you to anyone who has bought the book and feedback is always welcome.

Incidentally The Language Teacher Toolkit is still a best-selling 5 star reviewed handbook and widely used by trainees learning their craft.

4.  GCSE reading: a Syrian refugee family

This was just an example of an intermediate level reading text with exercises. It was about a Syrian refugee family who find refuge in Belgium. It would make a ready-made lesson for a good GCSE class.

5. The Google Translate problem

Google Translate is a fabulous tool, one I use to save time when writing resources. But many teachers have abandoned setting written homework because it's used so much by pupils who cheat. I find this a great shame since I believe home is the best place for most writing if you want to maximise classroom time for listening and speaking. Apart from suggesting that sanctions are needed for pupils who cheat, in this post I suggest some tasks you could do which would obviate the written homework problem.

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Popular posts from this blog

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


English 

_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

Preparing for GCSE speaking: building a repertoire

As your Y11 classes start their final year of GCSE, one potential danger of moving from Controlled Assessment to terminal assessment of speaking is to believe that in this new regime there will be little place for the rote learning or memorisation of language. While it is true that the amount of learning by heart is likely to go down and that greater use of unrehearsed (spontaneous) should be encouraged, there are undoubtedly some good techniques to help your pupils perform well on the day.

I clearly recall, when I marked speaking tests for AQA 15-20 years ago, that schools whose candidates performed the best were often those who had prepared their students with ready-made short paragraphs of language. Candidates who didn't sound particularly like "natural linguists" (e.g. displaying poor accents) nevertheless got high marks. As far as an examiner is concerned is doesn't matter if every single candidate says that last weekend they went to the cinema, saw a James Bond…

Worried about the new GCSEs?

Twitter and MFL Facebook groups are replete with posts expressing concerns about the new GCSEs and, in particular, the difficulty of the exam, grades and tiers. I can only comment from a distance since I am no longer in the classroom, but I have been through a number of sea changes in assessment over the years so may have something useful to say.

Firstly, as far as general difficulty of papers is concerned, I think it’s fair to say that the new assessment is harder (not necessarily in terms of grades though). This is particularly evident in the writing tasks and speaking test. Although it will still be possible to work in some memorised material in these parts of the exam, there is no doubt that weaker candidates will have more problems coping with the greater requirement for unrehearsed language. Past experience working with average to very able students tells me some, even those with reasonable attainment, will flounder on the written questions in the heat of the moment. Others will…

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