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Showing posts from September, 2018

Frenchteacher survey results

Every few months I carry our a Surveymonkey survey of my subscribers to check on which parts of the site are being used most and to get feedback, including ideas for improving the site. Thank you to the 98 respondents (out of around 1450 subscribers). Here are the the questions and the responses:

1.  Which sections of the site do you use most; A-level, GCSE or KS3?

Just over 53% said A-level, 37% said GCSE and 9% said KS3. Compared with previous surveys I see that rather more subscribers seem to be using the GCSE and KS3 sections. This may be because I have made a conscious attempt for the site not to be seen as for A-level only. Although I keep adding new A-level resources, I have made a particular attempt to beef up the KS3 section with PowerPoints and other resources.

2. Do you make regular or occasional use of the KS3 PowerPoints?

35% said yes. I'm pleased that these newer additions are being used. I have written a lot of largely vocab-based presentations, including Kim's G…

The echoing technique. Yes or no?

In case you don’t know, the so-called echoing technique is when, while leading whole class oral work, you instantly translate into English (or L1) a word, phrase or sentence you have just uttered.

Teachers have traditionally been trained, I believe.”, to avoid this technique in general since, the argument goes, if the class knows you’ll use English why should they try to understand the target language? It’s certainly something I say to trainees.
In addition, the echoing technique has been discouraged since in general it runs counter to the prevailing preference for TL use as far as possible. Near total scaffolded TL use, it is argued, is more likely to allow the natural processes of acquisition to occur.
Now, I have the impression from social media that a growing number of teachers in England are using translation, and by extension echoing (since the latter is instant translation), partly owing to changes at GCSE and partly for methodological reasons. In parallel, teachers using the T…

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 …

Using short cartoons for listening practice

Finding authentic listening material at the right level is a challenge for teachers. Text book listening material is studio-recorded, often well-matched to the teaching sequence, but is not, by most definitions, authentic and frequently not that interesting either. The trouble is, video material online is usually too difficult for beginners and intermediate learners.

One solution I have found for frenchteacher.net is to make use of short, relatively easy cartoon clips. My go-to's have been Peppa pig, Trotro and Petit ours brun. They have a number of advantages for classroom use:
They are short, usually under five minutes long.They are visually attractive so draw pupils' attention.The language they use is pared down to a good degree since they are written for very young children. In the jargon they are a good source of comprehensible input.The stories have a degree of humour in them. Pupils are sometimes already familiar with the characters so are predisposed to enjoying the co…

CCT Events this year

The Chartered College of Teaching has lots of teacher-led networks around the country. Dan MacPherson, a teacher in London, does great work organising a programme of events during the year, both live and by webinar. I've had the pleasure of presenting a couple of times for the CCT. This year I'll be doing a webinar on teaching reading. You can obtain the very low-cost tickets for these events here.

Here is the whole programme for the year:




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…

Latest updates to frenchteacher

After a long stay in our French house this summer when my work was limited to writing for the listening book Breaking the Sound Barrier we hope to publish by February (with Gianfranco Conti), I've turned my attention back to writing resources for frenchteacher.net. In the last week I've added eight new resources at all levels.

As always I'm very grateful to the hundreds of schools and teachers who subscribe and often resubscribe to the site. There are now well over 1400 resources on the site for a fee of £25. Do take a look at the many testimonial messages I have received over the years. Here are last week's new resources:

Beginner and near-beginner

Beginner alphabet fun. Two resources: (1) a list of games to practise the alphabet (2) an alphabet grid game in which you read out letter coordinates on a grid while pupils shade in boxes to create a picture. (Thanks to a teacher on the GILT Facebook group for that idea.)

Three Kim's Game PowerPoints. This is the classic…

Grammar teaching in MFL lessons in England

This is a summary part of an interesting study carried out by Sara Liviero (a former MFL teacher, I believe) for The Language Learning Journal in January 2017. This journal is the organ of the Association for Language Learning, the leading UK professional association for MFL teachers. The study's full title is Grammar teaching in secondary school foreign language learning in England: teachers' reported beliefs and observed practices. It can be accessed here:

"How should I teach grammar?" is a question often asked by new teachers. The abstract of this article mentions that teachers may find themselves pulled in different directions in this regard, given that research supports that focus on grammatical form is useful in classrooms, whereas the GCSE exam (taken by 15/16 year-olds in England and Wales) is more focused on communicative, skill-focused criteria. (Note that this study was focused on the old, pre-2018 GCSE with Controlled Assessment.) The study looked at eig…

Alphabet fun

When I first began teaching back in 1485* I never taught the alphabet to classes. My thinking at the time was that memorising the letters of French in order was not much use when it came to developing proficiency. To start with it's not a skill you ever need, unless someone asks you to read out the letters of the alphabet in order. That doesn't happen too often. I changed my mind over the years and saw chanting the alphabet as a first, fun step towards learning the practical skill of spelling out words, for example one's own name. That's a useful real-life skill. What I failed to explicitly realise is that using the letters of the alphabet is a good way to help pupils develop phonological skill. (I think I probably realised it implicitly because I always hated it when I heard other classes pronouncing the letters poorly.)

So most teachers teach the alphabet early on to beginners since spelling out words is a useful real-life skill, but it also serves to practise the n…

Kim's Game

Kim's Game is the language teacher classic where you show students a set of items, then remove one at a time as the students close their eyes. The class has to remember which item you removed. Beginners love this game and it's a decent vocabulary builder since it involves many repetitions of words or chunks. It works well with PowerPoint since the items are easily visible to the whole class and there is no need to close eyes.

Here is one I just made for frenchteacher.net. It teaches 12 items of fruit and veg which a hungry rabbit has its eyes on. The idea came to me when i thought back to something similar on Esther Mercier's excellent Atantôt site (which requires Flash). My presentation is more rudimentary but effective.

I've shared it using Slideshare here. It is better when viewed in PowerPoint. Y7kimsgame from Steve Smith