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Showing posts from April, 2021

Creating audio files for

I've recently had a bit of fun creating text-to-speech audio files for some of the listening tasks on frenchteacher. Up to now, the listening materials on the site have come in three forms: Read aloud tasks from Y9 up to A-level. The Y9 tasks are in the form of narrow listening exercises, each with four short paragraphs featuring repeated language patterns 'input flood' style). Each task consists of a teacher sheet for reading aloud, and pupils worksheet. The Y10-11 tasks are passages to be read aloud by the teacher with accompanying worksheet exercises to print off. Some are pitched at Higher GCSE, some at Foundation. The A-level tasks have a passage to read aloud, with an accompanying worksheet. Topics are in line with exam board specifications. Audio listening. These are mainly exercises linked to Audio-Lingua listening clips are and free to use on the Samples page. Video listening. These are found largely from Y10 up to A-level and are worksheets linked to online video

What will the new GCSE speaking test look like in 2025?

 As you probably know, there is a consultation taking place at the moment about the proposals for the revised GCSE (first teaching September 2023, first exams June 2025). I have blogged about this a few times before, but in this post I'd like to look at the proposal for the speaking assessment. The key paragraph relating to this, from the subject content document (p.3) states that students will have to: Read aloud, using clear and comprehensible pronunciation, short sentences from the written form of the language and demonstrate understanding of them (for example by answering questions);  Undertake role play simulating a context such as a social conversation where instructions are unambiguous and there are no unexpected questions;  Answer questions about a visual stimulus such as a photograph.  For these activities students will have time for preparation (without access to reference materials), and vocabulary and grammar expected will be from the defined content for each t

A word about saliency

In this post I’m going to talk about the notion of saliency (aka salience) in language learning and why it’s important for language teachers to understand. First, the word ‘salient’ itself. When something is salient it  is noticeable, it stands out. It matters. When we hear or read language some language stands out more than other language; it’s more salient. Researchers tell us that, on the whole, words which carry obvious meaning (content words) stand out more than words which carry out a grammatical role (function words). In the sentence ‘An elephant is huge, but a mouse is tiny’, we are more likely to notice the word ‘elephant’ in a sentence, than the word ‘but’. In addition, by the way, we are more likely to notice words at the start of a sentence than than later and we tend to notice longer words more than shorter ones. As an exercise in thinking about saliency, I’m going to take the example of the word ‘que’ in French when it means ‘only’. For example you might hear or read: ‘El

A simple conversational starter or filler

Do you fancy a break from the normal theme-based work, translation practice, listening test? Simple conversation starters can promote communication, provide input and interaction, help you get to know your students even better. This is an old favourite which requires zero preparation and can take conversation in unpredictable directions. Just give a short sentence starter like the following: “I feel happy when...” “I feel sad when...” “I am scared when...” “I was amazed when...” “I hate it when...” “I love it when...” You could just say the sentence starter and see what responses you get, then react to answers to build interesting conversation. Or if the class is less forthcoming, you could give them a few minutes to think and jot down some ideas before hearing what they have to say, or getting them to share in pairs or small groups. The advantage of you taking part is that the students get to hear higher quality input and you can choose what you want them to hear. The advantage of the

Advanced communicative tasks on frenchteacher

Task-Based Language Teaching gets a lot of support from the research field. Communicative tasks with a real purpose to fulfil, maybe a purpose related to ‘real life’, are claimed to be an efficient and enjoyable way to promote language learning. I first discovered this type of activity back in the 1980s when they were sometimes called Task-Oriented Activities. They were common in the field of EFL/ESL, but less known in MFL classrooms. A classic book setting out their justification, with examples you could adapt for MFL, was Discussions that Work by Penny Ur, subsequently rewritten years later. It’s worth seeking out still. My experience with communicative tasks was positive, but like some other teachers, I found them most effective with advanced students who have a much greater stock of vocabulary and grammatical skill to call upon. The biggest supporters of task-based methodology argue that they can work fine with younger learners if the emphasis of the task is on input, not output. O

A low prep listening game

 As you know, I'm keen on activities which involve a good deal of listening input, preferably as comprehensible as possible so as to maximise acquisition and student self-efficacy. This simple, low-preparation activity is a one-way listening task (listening without interacting) and allows you to revisit lots of previously used words and phrases. This is the activity. Read a series of definitions of words. The first letters of each word form an anagram of a word the class should already know. You can scaffold the listening by using gesture, maybe the odd translated word, repetition and pausing. If a student cannot solve a particular word, this is not necessarily a problem, since they can still solve the anagram with the letters they have. So here's an example of a nine letter word. The solution is the word RECYCLAGE. The definitions are at a level a very good Y9/Y10 class might cope well with.  Possible definitions - remember that you would read this list in a different order to

A suggested sequence for teaching with a written text

  This sequence is an extract from Breaking the Sound Barrier: Teaching Language Learners How to Listen (Conti and Smith, 2019). It's not a prescriptive list, but does suggest a logical approach which you could use or adapt, especially if you are a teacher in training or have little experience. 1.        Pre-reading activity of some sort. This could be linguistic, e.g. a vocabulary brainstorm from the topic area, or non-linguistic, e.g. some taster questions in L2 or even L1 to stimulate some interest in the subject matter. In general it is not a great idea to go into a text ‘cold’. 2.        Read aloud the text . This helps ensure the class reads along at the pace you read and gets to hear sound-spelling relationships. To make sure every student is reading, use a trick such as warning that you will pause randomly and select a student to say the next word. Or tell the class you will make some deliberate mistakes they have to spot. Your intonation will also help students deciph

Vocabulary frequency: playing with the MultiLingProfiler tool

I thought I would try out the MultiLingProfiler tool linked from the website. You can find it here: The idea is that you can test a text you have sourced or written to see how many words fall outside the 2000 most frequent words NCELP use for their vocab frequency bank. I copied and pasted a French text from, one I wrote for Higher Tier GCSE pupils. It's an interview with a female astronaut, adapted from an online source somewhere. The tool highlights in orange any words which don't feature in the top 2000. Have a quick look at the text below. You'll note that the tool doesn't deal easily with verb chunks such as "avez-vous", so you can discount examples like that. Frequency counts (corpora) always produce surprising anomalies. So in the case below, words which you might be surprised to be in the top 2000 might include: formation, partenaire, exigences, recueillir, fonctionner, quotidiennes, s'