Skip to main content

Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

I was prompted to write this just having produced for 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 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 sports. (A simple objective clearly laid out with success criteria.)

2. Show the first 10-20 slides, depending on the class, and speak each sentence. Let the class just listen. (On balance I would still favour letting students hear before seeing the words. They have the images to hold interest and establish meaning. This also allows you to do a second pass in a moment with the words visible - providing a twist and sense of progression in the lesson.)

3. Show the same slides with the caption, but with no repetition. (This gives more time for the students to get to grips with sounds and meanings without putting pressure on to perform. Sound spelling links are getting established and you could emphasise certain sounds, e.g. the "ou" of joue.)

4. Do step (3) but adding individual repetition (hands up or no hands up). (This is another recycling opportunity allowing students to gain confidence and familiarity.)

5. Using slide 43 (the grid with all the images), point at images and elicit individual responses, followed by choral repetition. Insist on accuracy. (This synthesises the earlier work.)

6. Ask if any students can out together at least two, then three, then four etc responses to produce longer utterances. (This offers a challenge to rise to and allows some to shine.)

7. Use slide 44 for oral translation, either teacher-led or in pairs, depending on the mood and the class. (How well the class handles this gives you good feedback about their understanding at this point.)

8. Play "guess the sport". tell the class you are thinking of a sentence and they have to say the sentence. (Classes enjoy such guessing games.)

9. You can then try some simple transcription/dictation. With weaker classes this could be with gapped sentences. You could use mini-whiteboards for this. (This provides a quiet, settled time for reflection and to focus on sound-spelling links.)

10. That may be enough for the first pass at this topic, but there is a slide at the end if you think the class is ready to see a whole verb paradigm. You could offer a little grammar explanation at this point, what the researchers call "focus on form".

I was not one for plenaries, to be honest, but you could get every pupil to say at least one sentence as they leave the room.

To sum up, the above sequence is very much in keeping with the direct method or oral approach where the focus is on TL use. To make this kind of sequence work I found you had to work at pace and with some humour, then follow up the work in the next lesson or two (even using part of the same sequence - let pupils show off what they have remembered).

Is this approach open to criticism? Well, some readers may be less than keen by all the "forced output" and artificial nature of the exchanges. There is little communication going on. Others may find it too teacher-centred and regimental. My response would be that this is just one lesson among many, others of which would feature listening and reading input and other forms of communication. My experience was that if you don't put in the disciplined choral, individual, reading and writing work, including the phonics, you are less likely to produce competent linguists in the end.

But that cat can be skinned in many a way.

PS I am a cat-lover and have a sweet 18 year-old called Cosmo.



  1. Love the progression that you laid out. I also favor exposing oral forms before written ones. It helps avoid spelling pronunciations. My own middle school French teacher favored doing six weeks of only oral French. I think this is too much but I get her point!

    1. Thanks for commenting. I don’t think it's a major deal either way regarding showing the written word initially, but, as I mentioned, it does allow for another variation in the sequence. You could also show each pic twice at a time, once with the written word.


Post a Comment

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…

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…

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…

Five great advanced level French listening sites

If your A-level students would like opportunities to practise listening there are plenty of sources you can recommend for accessible, largely comprehensible and interesting material. Here are some I have come across while searching for resources over recent years.

Daily Geek Show

I love this site. It's fresh, youthful and full of really interesting material. They have an archive of videos, both short and long, from various sources, grouped under a range of themes: insolite (weird news items), science, discovery, technology, ecology and lifestyle. There should be something there to interest all your students while adding to their broader education. Here is one I enjoyed (I shall seriously think about buying tomatoes in winter now):

France Bienvenue

This site has been around for years and is the work of a university team in Marseilles. You get a mixture of audio and video material complete with transcripts and explanations.This is much more about the personal lives of the students …

Responsive teaching

Dylan Wiliam, the academic most associated with Assessment for Learning (AfL), aka formative assessment, has stated that these labels have not been the most helpful to teachers. He believes that they have been partly responsible for poor implementation of AfL and the fact that AfL has not led to the improved outcomes originally intended.

Wiliam wrote on Twitter in 2013:

“Example of really big mistake: calling formative assessment formative assessment rather than something like "responsive teaching".”

For the record he subsequently added:

“The point I was making—years ago now—is that it would have been much easier if we had called formative assessment "responsive teaching". However, I now realize that this wouldn't have helped since it would have given many people the idea that it was all about the teacher's role.”

I suspect he’s right about the appellation and its consequences. As a teacher I found it hard to get my head around the terms AfL and formative assess…