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Showing posts from May, 2021

A question-answer fluency activity

Image by ijmaki from Gianfranco and I have been starting to work on a book to be published next year. The plan is to put the focus on fluency building from input - from input to fluency is the general idea. It's early days, but this is the follow-up to our memory book and may strongly feature the EPI methodology. The word fluency is used in different ways, as I described in a previous blog post here , but we are using it as second language acquisition researchers use the term. So fluency can mean, by one classification (Segalowitz) utterance fluency (spoken speed and flow), cognitive fluency (efficiency of retrieval from memory) or perceived fluency (how a third person gauges your fluency). We start from the idea that fluency can be developed, for individual skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing), by targeted activities and games. These would typically involve repetition and some time pressure to encourage quick retrieval and production. You don't need a m

Les trois principes de la laïcité

Image: This is a resource from the A-level page of It's a useful introduction for students (and teachers) about the main principles of French  laïcité.  In English it is  usually translated as 'secularism'. In brief, it's the principle that everyone in France has the freedom to worship as they choose – but the state itself remains strictly neutral and does not take part in any religious practices. The murder of teacher Samuel Paty in 2020 brought the issue to the fore once again. To what extent can people employed by the state (in this case a teacher) get involved with issues to do with Islamic beliefs? The resource consists of a text (reworked from an authentic source) followed by a vocabulary glossary to complete and questions to answer. It would suit students in their second year of A-level. If you don't already subscribe to, feel free to copy and paste this lesson resource.  En 2020 le meurtre d’un prof

On grammar teaching

This blog is an adapted section of our book Breaking the Sound Barrier: Teaching Language Learners How to Listen (Conti and Smith, 2019). We wanted to povide some background about grammar for teachers, before explaining how you can develop the ability for learners to 'parse' utterances they hear, i.e. use their knowledge of grammar (morphology and syntax) to make meaning. If you don't know much about what researchers think about this, you should pick up some useful mew knowledge here. I haven't provided the references in this post, but they would be easy enough to seek out. A brief summary of the research A few questions to begin with. Can teaching grammar explicitly help students comprehend and use a language more proficiently? Does learning develop primarily through explicit teaching and conscious manipulation of structures, or merely through unconscious processes when people have extensive exposure to meaningful input (known as implicit learning )? Or is it a mix

What did you do last weekend?

A language teacher staple for a Monday lesson is to ask students “What did you do last weekend?” It’s fine. Conversation is generated, you get to know the class better, there is target language input and output. Hopefully you would ask follow-up questions and show a genuine interest in the answers. Maybe you’ll get some new vocabulary out of it. All good. Let it go on as long as students are interested. You probably wouldn’t do it every week in that way because it would become too routine and predictable.  So here are some low-prep variations you could use. I’m sure you have others! To get the most students involved they would use notepaper or mini-whiteboards. For instance, every student would have to write down three things they did. (You could scaffold this with some verbs on the board.) You could then just ask around the class (hands up or not), or get the class into pairs and ask them to guess what their partner did. Alternatively, with some classes you could put them in pairs and

The role of phonics teaching

You must be aware by now that phonics (sound-spelling correspondences) is very much to the fore these days, both in primary L1 education and L2 (second language) learning. It's interesting. When you go back a fairly long way, as I do, we never really used to speak or read about 'phonics', but we did talk about pronunciation. So the holy trinity of language learning has moved from vocab/grammar/pronunciation to vocab/grammar/phonics (à la NCELP and TSC Review (2016)). Part of this change is down to new research and part of it is, no doubt, down to politics and fashion. When Gianfranco and I did our research for Breaking the Sound Barrier (2019) we considered the issue of phonics, as well as 'phonological awareness' (just sounds, as opposed to sound-spelling). I have patched together two sections from Chapter 3 of the book to help you understand more about this area, if you wish to! ....................................................................................

Simple pairwork verb retrieval tests

I've just uploaded to frenchteacher a set of five sheets the aim of which is to get students to practice of retrieving (buzzword alert!) verb forms. I have these in mind as a revision resource to help students internalise common verb forms in the perfect tense. I have focused mainly on first and third person. I added a few notes to advise teachers how they could be used. (UPDATE: I have now uploaded pairwork tests for five different tenses.) Basically students are given a list of verb phrases in English which have to be translated into French by their partner. Each partner has a different set of verbs. Students take turns to ask the give the English, then the partner attempts an answer. If they get it right they get one point. The correct answers can be seen on the 'tester's' sheet. You can see an example below. It's the first of five sheets, with many verbs being recycled across the five sheets. If you find this a bit too mechanical for your taste, you could sugge