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Showing posts from January, 2022

An amazing Tongan tsunami survival story

I like to use genuinely interesting stories from time to time on my website. In January 2022 an undersea volcano erupted not far from the islands making up the nation of Tonga. Reports were slow to emerge owing to broken undersea cable links and the layer of ash deposited on the island, making it hard for aircraft to land. The story below was reported in various outlets. I saw it in The Guradian, then sought other versions of the story. I put together this text, together with some vocabulary to find, and a choice of two written tasks. This would suit a very high-achieving Y11 class (four years minimum, CEFR level B2) or an advanced level group. I would happily have set it for my top set Y11 classes (aiming for GCSE Levels 8-9). You'll see that I have scaffolded the vocabulary-finding exercise since there is a fair amount of new vocabulary. You may be interested to read that when I tested this on the NCELP MultiLingProfiler tool , 85.5% of the words come in the top 2000 frequency li

Reflections on the GCSE MFL reform

As they say in Dragon’s Den, this is where I am. There were two drivers for this reform: 1. A desire to make GCSE more ‘accessible’ (easier) for students to help raise uptake at KS4 and help the government get closer to its eventual aim of 90% of students doing the whole Ebacc suite. At the moment we are at about 50%, which in recent history is where KS4 uptake seems to settle without compulsion (Dobson, 2018). The attempt to increase accessibility is exemplified by the changes in question rubrics (making more use of English to reduce ambiguity) and limiting the range of vocabulary which can be used in papers (1200 word families for Foundation Tier and 1700 for Higher). Another example is the insistence that listening texts be delivered at a moderate pace. These changes have been made in response to frequent complaints about unclear question prompts and unfairly hard listening papers. 2. An ideological wish to encourage teachers to adopt any methodology which focuses very explicitly on

What are MFL teachers doing in their classrooms?

This is the follow-up post to my one the other day, in which I wrote about the Twitter polls I posted about common MFL teacher procedures and practices. Totally unscientific, but the results are in. So this is what teachers said, with responses ranging from around 100 votes up to 347, depending on the question. I'll summarise the scores and add a few comments here and there. I altered a very few questions from my original list. Digital apps for vocab learning 153 votes. 83% said often or occasionally. Yes, Quizlet, Memrise and others are basic tools for language teachers and students these days. My usual line on this is: fine, but don't overdo isolated words at the expense of chunks or connected language. I remain concerned that written homework has been sidelined because of Google Translate use. Sentence builders (substitution tables) 347 votes (!). Only 13% said rarely/never, with 64% saying often. This is surely a major change brought about by the 'Contification' of

The 2026 GCSE subject content is published!

Two DfE documents were published today. The first was the response to the consultation about the proposed new GCSE (originally due in October 2021) and the second is the subject content document which, ultimately, is of most interest to MFL teachers in England. Here is the link  to the document.  We are talking about an exam to be done from 2026 (current Y7s). There is always a tendency for sceptical teachers to think that consultations are a bit of a sham and that the DfE will just go ahead and do what they want when it comes to exam reform. In this case, the responses to the original proposals were mixed, and most certainly hostile as far as exam boards and professional associations representing the MFL community, universities, head teachers and awarding bodies are concerned. What has emerged does reveal some significant changes which take account of a number of criticisms levelled at the proposals. As I read it, the most important changes relate to vocabulary and the issue of topics

A survey of MFL teachers’ classroom procedures and tools

NOTE Please see my Twitter profile to find the poll tweets. You can respond there. @spsmith45 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….  For my own interest, and perhaps that of MFL (World Language) teachers, I’m going to do some Twitter polls on what types of classroom procedures and tools teachers commonly use. Totally unscientific, of course, but with enough responses it should give some indication of what teachers are up to in their classrooms. I want to find out how much MFL teachers are using the following: Digital apps for vocab learning Sentence builders (substitution tables) Choral repetition Pupils reading aloud Language learning games Teacher-led question and answer (‘circling’) Translating sentences or paragraphs into L1 and L2 Dictation or transcription tasks Narrow reading or listening tasks Information gap tasks Task-based activities (eg class surveys) Choral reading aloud Audiolingual-style (mechanical) drills (eg ‘change one element in my sentence’j Group work Story c

New dialogues on frenchteacher

Image: In recent days I have uploaded over a dozen new dialogue resources to my site. You can find them on the Y10-11 page and would suit classes working at Higher Tier GCSE. I'll share an example below in a second. I already had a set of situational dialogues on the Y8 and Adult Learners pages, but these are more in the way of general conversation. I think they would help students prepare for the conversation and role-play sections of the GCSE, but whatever course students are doing, they are a handy way to practise everyday conversation. You'll see the format below, but basically there is a short dialogue on a page of A4. Phrases marked in bold can be replaced by alternatives shown on a second page. faster classes might be able to make up their own and improvise to a greater degree. there is a third page which has a translation of the dialogue. This would help more mixed ability classes. High-performing classes may not need this. This is how I'd envisage the d