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Showing posts from February, 2019

Language Latte podcasts

Happy to share this with you all. After recently plugging the #MFLTwitteratiPodcast from Joe Dale and Noah Geisel, here's another one I've come across: Language Latte from Becky Morales. The topics have an American bias to them, but UK teachers should get lots of ideas from the wide range of topics covered. Each episode of around 30 minutes has a theme and an interview with a teacher. The podcasts are accompanied by quite detailed show notes with references for further follow-up.

Recent episodes have looked at: using video for creating lessons with lots of comprehensible input, using photos and video in class, classroom management tips and strategies, the role of reading, recommendations and tips on using tech. Some topics have a distinctly American flavour, with references not all UK teachers will be aware of.

I had a listen to the Episode 19 about creating your own videos for CI (sponsored by Quizlet, by the way - sounds weird having a teacher doing a commercial at the start…

Interaction in second language learning (Part 2)

This is the follow-up blog to my previous one summarising Chapter 6 of the book Second language Learning Theories by Mitchell, Myles and Marsden (2013).

So where were we?

The authors go on to look at the Output Hypothesis (Swain) and the role of prompts in corrective feedback. This hypothesis from Merril Swain's work with Canadian students learning L2 French through content-based teaching. Although these students developed comprehension abilities close to their native speaker counterparts, their productive abilities were less convincing. Swain assumed this was because they were largely listening and reading, not so much speaking and writing to a high level. Swain believed students were comprehending speech, but only partly processing it, i.e. focusing only on meaning, not form. She thought that only through output did learners carry out complete grammatical processing, leading to improved morphology and syntax. The Output Hypothesis makes these claims about the function of output:

Students' perceptions of the motivational pull of TPRS

Spanish teacher Liam Printer, a keen practitioner of the TPRS approach, kindly sent me a copy of a paper he has had published in The Language Learning Journal (January, 2019). Liam works at an international, English-medium secondary school in Switzerland and he carried out his research with his own pupils. He wanted to focus on the motivational nature of TPRS, seen through the prism of a particular model of motivation called SDT (Self-Determination Theory). Let me concisely summarise his very clearly written paper, then add one or two reflections of my own.

To teachers with little or no knowledge of TPRS, Liam explains how it works. (He focuses on the story-asking aspect of the approach, although TPRS teachers also use a range of other strategies which are easy to find online.) TPRS stands for Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. It was developed by Blaine Ray in 1997 and focuses on acquiring language through storytelling, reading and personalisation of themes. It…

Interaction in second language learning (Part 1)

This is the first of two posts summarising Chapter 6 of the book Second Language Learning Theories, by Mitchell, Myles and Marsden (Routledge, 3rd edition, 2013).

The authors begin by reminding us of the obvious fact using a second language is beneficial for learning it. Yet some people who are exposed for many years to a second language still make mistakes when using it. In the late 1970s Krashen hypothesised that receiving comprehensible input is all you need to acquire a language (the “Input Hypothesis”). Subsequently in the 1980s Michael Long, while accepting Stephen Krashen’s basic premiss and the existence of a “language acquisition device” in the brain (Chomsky), turned the focus towards interaction (the “Interaction Hypothesis”) suggesting that input alone is not enough and that interaction with the input is needed to learn.

Long argued that for learners to obtain input and repetition at the right level they need to take part in conversation. His early research indicated that…

Instant 30 minute advanced listening

This is a resource from aimed at Y13 students (second year of the A-level course). It’s one of several tasks of this type, along with the many other audio and video listening activities on the site. As well as practising advanced listening, it builds students’ knowledge of one of the AQA sub-themes. You could read it as many times as you need, or record it to be made available to students on an individual basis. If you have a language assistant or native speaker in the department, why not ask them to record it?

I’ve added an optional paraphrase task with a model answer.

L’engagement des jeunes dans la politique

Text to be read or recorded by the teacher

Selon un sondage effectué en 2017 plus d'un jeune sur deux considère la politique comme étant importante. 63% des jeunes entre 18 et 24 ans s'informent régulièrement (tous les jours ou 2 à 3 fois par semaine) par la télévision. Seulement 32% le font régulièrement par la radio, 33% par les réseaux sociaux et 36% en…

The curse of single word vocab learning

I’m not generally one to go around criticising what teachers do. If you read my blogs you’ll know that I believe many things work if they’re done well. Success is often in the quality of delivery. But one thing which gives me repeated cause for concern is the time pupils spend on learning individual words. This can be in the form of traditional printed book lists or by the slightly snazzier means of apps such as Memrise, Vocab Express or Quizlet.

You see, the research on vocabulary acquisition suggests to us that, while explicitly learning islated words can be useful, it’s not the MOST useful thing to be doing with limited time. If you read the scholars Paul Nation or Joe Barcroft on vocabulary acquisition, they will tell you that “knowing” a word is complex. It’s not just about recognising and being able to say and recall that word, it’s about, among other things, picking it out in a stream of sound, knowing the company that word keeps and the various morphological forms the word ap…

Exploiting listening texts with modelling in mind, not testing

One of the staples of language lessons is the listening lesson based around an extract of audio or video text. With a focus on comprehension, common ways of exploiting such material are by setting tasks such as:

- True/false/not mentioned
- Tick the correct statements
- Multiple choice questions in L1 or L2
- Questions in L1 or L2

These are all well and good if the focus is on testing comprehension. Such activities can be frequently found in text books which are often written with a particular assessment regime in mind, e.g. the GCSE examination in parts of the UK. But if you would like to design your worksheets with a greater focus on intensive listening and “listening as modelling” you can consider a different range of exercises. Here are some, along with a justification for their use.

Classic gap-fill

This requires closer listening than that which may involve mere word spotting for comprehension. Gaps can be chosen with different goals in mind. If you wish the focus to be on phonics, then…