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Showing posts from 2021

An 'Ask the experts' task-based lesson

Image: Here is an example of a lesson from, following the 'Ask the experts' format, based on an activity called 'Ask and move' which Paul Nation has written about. the level here is CEFR A2, so about right for a good Y10-11 class in England. It has a cultural knowledge component, being about the rising star of French Formula 1, Charles Leclerc. Find out about F1 driver Charles Leclerc Time : 30 minutes. Preparation : print off the 4 short paragraphs on Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc (below). You can adapt this for any topic. Together these four paragraphs form a general description of Charles Leclerc. Secondly, write and print off the 12 questions about the topic. Task: 1.     Explain the activity in L1. Four volunteers are ‘experts’ on Charles Leclerc. Each expert has one of the four paragraphs you printed off. The remainder of the class works in pairs, with each pair having a set of questions. One partner is a scribe, the o

The five most viewed posts on my blog from 2021

Hi all. I often do an end-of-year round up of posts from my blog. It's useful for me to see what interests MFL teachers and which blogs attract most views. I'm also vain enough to be pleased when I get lots of readers! That said, I've actually been writing fewer posts this year. Maybe I'm running out of stuff to write about! Anyway, if you are looking at this, thanks. Below are the five posts which attracted most views this year, with the most viewed first. 1.  The new MFL GCSE consultation In this post I summarised and commented on the ideas put forward by a panel for a revised GCSE, to make the syllabus more attractive and accessible to students. It's fair to say that there were a lot of objections to the proposals and my take at the time was more generous than most. Since the consultation, a couple of key areas have attracted most attention. First, the vocabulary lists which are feared to be too short and based on corpora which may be not ideally suited to teenag

A sentence swapping memory game

This is taken from the Y8 page of You might find it a useful alternative to the Sentence Stealer game, if you are familiar with that. This game requires some serious memory work and repetition. Before playing it you'll need to ensure the class has good reading aloud/phonics skills. There's no point in doing games like this badly. I nstructions Hand out a slip of paper, each one with a sentence on. See below. Students move around the class. On approaching a partner they swap sentences, practise saying their partner’s sentence aloud several times, trying to memorise them. They move on to another person and repeat the process. Allow about 10-15 minutes of this, then pupils sit down and try to write out as many sentences as they can from memory. A good amount may be 5, but it depends on the class. Alternatively, write up about 15 sentences on the board from which pupils select one each to write on their own piece of paper. Once they have done so, remove the

What should trainee teachers have to learn?

In this post I want to summarise what I believe MFL teachers in England should learn about during their initial teacher training (ITT). As a starting point, I'm going to use the points suggested in the TSC Pedagogy Review (Bauckham, 2016). This can be found here . If you are not familiar with the review, I recommend reading it, since it remains the starting-point for the work of NCELP ( and the changes to GCSE which are coming soon. Among the key recommendations of the TSC Review is the following: Mentors should focus on the systematic development of trainees’ subject-specific knowledge and expertise in language teaching. Where schools have complete or shared responsibility for the initial training of modern language teachers, they should ensure that a clearly worked out curriculum is in place, which should include areas covered by this report, in particular the specific pedagogical knowledge and expertise required by language teachers  (p.3-4). In detail, according to th

A zero prep game: ‘“I have never…”

This is a simple ‘true-false’ game which I’ve adapted from Jackie Bolen’s ESL book called 39 Speaking Activities. (The book contains mainly well known communicative games, often suitable for intermediate level and above.)  The aim is to get students to practise hearing, seeing and using ‘never’ with past tense verbs. So in French you would be repeatedly hearing and using patterns like “Je n’ai jamais visité la France” or “Je n’ai jamais joué au golf”.   Model and write up some examples of your own. Translate if necessary. Explain what is happening structurally you think this is useful (or do it later). Students must guess (e.g. show on mini-whiteboards or by a show of hands) whether what you say is true or false. Choose examples from your own life to add interest, e.g. “Je n’ai jamais mangé de la viande.” (‘I have never eaten meat’.) If you can think of surprising ones, so much the better. Absurd ones are good too: “ Je n’ai jamais visité l’Antarctique.” ( ‘I have never visited the Ant

GCSE exam prep resources on frenchteacher

For your information and to unashamedly promote my website, below are the resources on the Y10-11 page which aim to help specifically with GCSE exam preparation. They are divided into two groups, the first Foundation Tier, the second Higher Tier. The most recent additions are two sets of sentence builder frames which students could use to revise for the speaking and writing components of papers. There is a bias towards AQA-style questions since AQA is by far the most popular board in England, though in reality the differences between the various awarding bodies are not great, so teachers using WJEC or Pearson/Edexcel will find the resources very useful. "Why reinvent the wheel?" so the old saying goes. I know hundreds of schools and teachers make use of these materials.  To continue my pitch, these are just a few of the 1900-ish resources on the site. My surveys of members regularly show that the A-level and Y10-11 pages of the site are the most used. They are also the riches

Who's coming to dinner?

I am grateful to Florencia Henshaw for reminding me in a recent webinar she took part in with Joe Dale of this communicative task, which is a variation on the classic balloon debate. You might be able to come up with other variations or twists. Below is how I describe it (taken from a document on The task is really aimed at advanced level students, but might work with very high-performing GCSE students (CEFR level A2/B1). Do go and check out Florencia's YouTube channel, by the way. Here is the link to the webinar: Remember that a key aspect of this type of task is to create a need to communicate and collaborate, to use language for a purpose and prioritise meaning over focus on accurate form. As a teacher, therefore, your role would be to offer support, help with vocabulary and grammar where requested, and provide correction only where error seriously hampers meaning. Who’s coming to dinner? This is a co

Review: This is Language

As part of my research for the second edition of Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher, I have been researching all sorts of digital technology tools for language teachers. As part of this fact-finding mission, I asked  This is Language if they would let me try out the site. I have known about This is Language for a few years, but understood that some new functionality had been added and was interested to see what's it's all about in more detail. Anna from This is Language kindly gave me a run-through of the site via Zoom and has let me try it out the French material for a few days. Other available languages are Spanish, German, Italian and English (this is not clear on the website, as far as I can make out). As well as the authentic short video interviews, for which the site is best known, there are other very useful and fun activities. Here is a screenshot from the homepage to show you what's available. The foundation of This is Language is its archive of thousands of

The latest from frenchteacher HQ

I’ve been a bit quiet in the blog for a while, but have been busy in various ways. My main project in recent weeks has been working on a second edition of my book with Routledge called Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher . The book was published in 2017, has sold well, but needed some updates. In particular, the sections on ‘tech tips’ have already dated in just four years and I want to make sure they don’t spoil the book. So for this second edition, I have been looking into what teachers have been using in terms of tech tools. I am very grateful to Joe Dale for his webinars which I have been watching with interest. In addition, I have been reading blogs and asking the odd question on Twitter and Facebook to see what is ‘en vogue’ at the moment. I have also been rewriting sections of the text to take account of the growing interest in lexicogrammar and Gianfranco’s EPI method. I have also tried to focus more tightly on teachers in training. I have kept an emphasis on practical id

Advanced level texts with exercises on frenchteacher

Ever since I set up in 2002, one of the staple resources of the site has been advanced level texts with exercises. I've always written texts, usually heavily reworked from authentic sources, then added a range of exercises to exploit them: typically vocab to find, lexical work (focused on morphology), questions, true/false, gap-fill, translation, summary, oral discussion and compositional writing.  The subject matter is usually chosen to align with exam specifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not always. And in any case, I try to write texts which are inherently interesting for students at that level. I write texts at what I consider to be the right level of comprehensibility - broadly at least 90% known words, though this is impossible to gauge accurately. In addition, the vocab-finding exercises add a degree of scaffolding which aids understanding. Below is an example of a text I uploaded quite recently. It comes with model answers for the ben