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Showing posts from July, 2021

One way of teaching new grammatical patterns or vocabulary (via Boers, 2021)

 I’ve been reading and tweeting about the recently published book by Frank Boers called Evaluating Second Language Vocabulary and Grammar Instruction: a Synthesis of the Research on Teaching Words, Phrases and Patterns (published by Routledge).. I can recommend the book strongly to anyone interested in classroom second language acquisition research. It’s very clearly written, thorough and nuanced, notably in the way it evaluates research and draws tentative conclusions for the classroom. In the final section of the book, Boers draws together the findings of research into incidental (by which he doesn’t mean unconscious, but more like picking up new language when the focus is on content or meaning), and language-focused learning and suggests one possible way to organise teaching if the aim is to introduce new items. It’s important to emphasise that point - this is when the precise aim is to develop skill with particular words, phrases or patterns.This is by no means meant to be prescrip

A better way to learn vocabulary?

Vocabulary learning - setting words to memory at home using word lists or apps - is a staple of much language learning practice in schools. The advent of Google Translate has meant that teachers are even more likely to set vocab learning than they used too. When I was teaching it was a common rule of thumb homework policy to have two homeworks a week, with one devoted to learning words for a test. (I rarely stuck to this for three reasons: learning words is boring, running vocab tests is dull and I was aware that less conscientious students wouldn’t do the task well enough, if at all.) But the reality is that learning vocabulary is widespread and even gets official support from NCELP whose schemes of work and lessons include regular Quizlet exercises. Apps have made the process a little more palatable, and no doubt many students enjoy the routine and challenge of learning words. In addition, keeping a separate vocabulary book may be much rarer than it once was, but the practice still e

Euros football commentary task

 This is a new version of a blog I wrote in 2014. This could be a written task for Y12 French classes, or equivalent ( A2/B1). You'll find below a list of football commentary vocabulary, including quite advanced terms, which I originally put together in 2011 while watching a match on French TV. If I were to use it with a class I would suggest writing a report on a match, real or imaginary. A potentially more stimulating alternative would be to write or record an imaginary commentary to part of a match. Creative students could come up with some good stuff, I suspect. You could give them model extract along the lines below. The nice thing is that the commentary could be fairly random and they could make it amusing. You could ask students to include at least twenty expressions from the list. Coup d'envoi de Kane. Belle passe de l'extérieur du pied gauche de Rice, centre en retrait de Sterling. Bonne action devant la surface de réparation de la part de l'équipe anglaise. In

A comment on the Market Review Report on Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in England

Initial teacher training (ITT) market review report - GOV.UK ( I have been reading this recently published document on the subject of initial teacher training (ITT) in England. Anyone involved in teacher education should read it. The DfE have been analysing in detail the current patchwork of provision and have come up with recommendations for reform. Overall, I can see a lot of merit in simplifying the system of routes into teaching and no doubt provision varies a good deal in quality. Although there are existing standards needed for accreditation to train teachers, in practice there is inevitably variation in delivery and, as the review found out, some courses are out of date with regard to education theory.  Interestingly, I understand that every single Ofsted inspection of accredited training bodies has been graded Good or Outstanding. I'm not sure how reliable that it, and within every institution there will be stronger and weaker departments. Often they are likely t

A checklist of dictation activities

This list is taken from the book  Breaking the Sound Barrier (Conti and Smith, 2019).  You could try some of these to vary the way you do transcription or dictation exercises. Some are suitable for near beginners (A1), others for Y9 (low intermediate) and above (A1/A2).   Delayed dictation 1.  Say a sentence that students are familiar with, or containing at least 95% comprehensible input, and tell them to 'hold it inside their heads'. 2.  As they do this, make  funny noises or utter random French  words to distract them for a few seconds.  (Or just have silence.) 3.  Finally ask them to write the sentence on their mini-whiteboards and show you their answers.   Mad dictation Select a text containing familiar sentence patterns or highly comprehensible input.  1.  Tell students to listen to the text as you read it at near-natural speed and to note down key words. 2.  Tell them to pair up with another student and compare the key words they noted. Tell them they are going to work wi

The Ofsted curriculum research review: languages

  Curriculum research review series: languages - GOV.UK ( Many departments around England are looking at their curriculums at the moment, mainly because for some time Ofsted have put curriculum at the heart of their inspection guidance and because Ofsted recently published a review of research into classroom language learning (link above). This should be required reading for departments. This is one of those important documents that comes along every so often and which reflects the times. The current 'zeitgeist' is all about the knowledge curriculum and cognitive science. Gianfranco and I were aware of this when we wrote our book about memory last year. In that book we explained at the outset that models of learning and memory are useful to know when thinking about language learning, but they are only one part of the equation. Some would even say a small part, since much language learning happens 'implicitly', unconsciously as it were, by-passing working memo