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Showing posts from April, 2019

Qui est Greta Thunberg?

Here’s a quick reading comprehension for your students about young climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg.

 Greta Thunberg est née le 3 janvier 2003.  Sa mère est la chanteuse d'opéra suédoise Malena Ernman et son père est l'acteur Svante Thunberg, du nom de son lointain parent Svante Arrhenius. Son grand-père est acteur et directeur Olof Thunberg.

Lors d'une conférence TED en novembre 2018, Mme Thunberg a déclaré qu'elle avait entendu parler du changement climatique pour la première fois à l'âge de huit ans, mais qu'elle ne comprenait pas pourquoi si peu était fait à ce sujet. À l'âge de 11 ans, elle est devenue déprimée et a cessé de parler. Plus tard, on lui a diagnostiqué le syndrome d'Asperger, le trouble obsessionnel-compulsif (TOC) et le mutisme sélectif. Elle a dit que le mutisme sélectif signifiait qu'elle ne parlait que quand elle en avait besoin et que " maintenant, c’est un de ces moments " ; et qu'être sur le " spectr…

Listening book progress

As you may know, Gianfranco and I have been working for many months on a book about teaching listening skills. Our title is now looking like: Breaking the Sound Barrier: Teaching Language Learners How to Listen.

We’re aiming to put make the final product available on Amazon by late June or early July once our editing, formatting  and proofing is done with the help of my wife Professor Elspeth Jones. The book will be self-published on Amazon. 
The book will have around 12 chapters covering the principles of “listening as modelling”, phonology, vocabulary, grammar, interpersonal listening,task-based listening, assessment and strategies. The large majority of the text is written so we’re now re-reading, tweaking and proofing. There is always more to add, but we want to keep the book a reasonable length.
As with The Language Teacher Toolkit there is reference to research, but the main emphasis is onpractical ideas for the classroom. We want the book to be interesting and very useful. In f…

Deepl versus Google Translate

Online translators are the curse of language teachers, but of huge benefit to most of the world. You may not have heard of Deepl yet, but some say it translates better than Google, so I thought I'd give it a try on a piece of advanced French into English, then some advanced English to French. So here is my French passage from France Info today (12th April 2019):

"Il compte parmi les pires zoos au monde. Situé à Rafah dans la bande de Gaza, le zoo est impacté par les conflits réguliers qui ont lieu dans les zones environnantes. Certains animaux ont succombé à des explosions d'obus mais aussi à la malnutrition et aux maladies. En effet, les éleveurs ont des pratiques particulièrement répréhensibles à l'égard des animaux. Ceux-ci vivent en captivité dans de petites cages insalubres et sont victimes de maltraitances. En février 2019, la vidéo d'une jeune lionne se faisant arracher les ongles avec une pince avait été diffusée, alarmant les internautes.

Après …


TeachVid is the latest online project from Martin Lapworth, who brought you Taskmagic and Textivate. The general principle here is the same: self-authored or uploaded language material, in this case video, which can the form the basis for a range of text reconstruction and quiz-style interactive tasks. Teachers will find some things in common between TeachVid and Ilini, which appeared a year or two ago. TeachVid, however, offers more interactivity and some original features which are of particular interest to teaches and learners.

So, in essence, you upload a video from an online source and the programme creates  range of interactive tasks for you. There are some ready-made "featured videos" for you to use too. Videos can be in any language you choose.

Most resources are based on a video transcript. To create a resource you type or paste in the transcript or use the YouTube caption search to look for automatically generated captions. (Careful! These can be inaccurate, so co…

Dissecting a lesson: using the relative pronoun "que"

Here is a lesson sequence based on a PowerPoint presentation. The aim is to get students to practise using que as a relative pronoun, e.g. Les livres que j'ai achetés. This piece of grammar is tricky because in English we commonly use no word at all where French has to use que, e.g. compare with the books I bought. You will probably want to mention the PDO agreement issue here, but with many classes that won't be a priority.

The aim of the lesson is to generate LOTS of meaningful repetitions of que used as a relative pronoun. Students are encouraged to invent their own examples as part of the lesson plan.

So this sequence uses a sentence builder frame, a game (devised by Gianfranco Conti), paired practice and translations. I have included a set of instructions for the teacher, but you could adapt it as you please. the original PowerPoint is on the Y10-11 page of

Using the preposition que from Steve Smith

Using pictures for listening and creative storytelling (TEFL version)

I've blogged before about the value of a picture in generating lots of interesting language in a communicative way. In the example below a picture of a car crash can be used to create a story involving the background to the event, what happened and the people involved. Possibilities are numerous and allow students to come up with their own angles. There are no right or wrong factual answers. Different time frames can be used, including future.

My approach would be to display the picture, possibly describe it, then do a teacher-led lesson where the main goal is listening to comprehensible input, but with additional focus on speaking, reading and writing. You would ask questions, elicit answers and write them up in full or partial form on the board. In this way students get to see the language they are hearing and use it to help generate further answers. Once there is a full set of notes on the board these can then be hidden or gapped (e.g. using the "disppearing text" tec…