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Showing posts from September, 2022

Identifying and supporting high-achieving students

My previous blog was about working memory, and how to identify and support students who may be struggling because of working memory deficits. In contrast, this post is about high-achieving students. It may be that this is a school or departmental issue or priority for you. The text here is taken from the new edition of my book Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher (Smith, 2023). (Yes, 2023. Although the book is already out, its official publication year is apparently 2023.) I taught for well over 30 years in schools with, on the whole, quite high-aptitude pupils, so the text here is based partly on my own experience. I wonder if it squares with your own feelings. Here is the section from the book. Apologies for the errors in formatting, which happen in Blogger when you copy in a text in Word. Stretch and challenge So-called gifted and talented students have a special need of their own, you can argue. I spent my career teaching students of above average aptitude in three schools in

Identifying and supporting students with poorer working memory

In the second language acquisition research literature, some scholars believe that a key factor in language learning aptitude is working memory. Working memory, you may recall, is our so-called mental workspace where we hold things in our conscious attention. Working memory span, or capacity, varies somewhat between individuals and may, or may not, be subject to alteration through specific exercises. In typical memory models (e.g. the famous Baddeley model), by rehearsing things in working memory, e.g. practising silently or saying things out loud, we can help information pass into long-term memory, where we need it to be. Think, for example, how you say out loud a telephone number to help it stick in your memory. As a reminder, here is the general model of memory often shared with teachers these days. For language teachers, phonological working memory is of particular interest, since we depend so much on students listening to language. Phonological working memory, in the Baddeley mode

10 more nifty starters for language lessons

My previous post 10 nifty starters for language lessons was popular, with a few thousand views. Since I have been focusing on starters on my site, I thought I’d share another 10 starters I would happily use with classes at various levels. You might find something new here. Or you might not! 1. Guess what I did last weekend We often ask students what they did last weekend, and I blogged about variations on this theme some time ago here . For this starter, just turn things round and get students to guess what you did. For some languages this is an opportunity for students to use the formal ‘you’ form, which can be tricky to work into lesson plans. So students make guesses about what you did and you reply yes or no, or give a whole sentence answer - positive or negative -  to provide more listening input. As soon as they guess, say, five correct things, the starter is over.  2. Number sequence One for near beginners who can count to about 50. Read out a sequence of numbers and students m

Advanced listening: a teen at a Montreal high school

One of the staples of my frenchteacher site is 'video listening'. These resources are worksheets linked to online video clips from various sources. I look for short clips of up to about 3-4 minutes, clear language and relevant content. The exercise I design for each video depends somewhat on the content, but in the example below I went for the simple 'questions in French' approach. An advantage of this is that it not only requires comprehension, but the ability to transcribe and adapt the language students here. (In contrast, questions in English require comprehension and translation/summary only.) For the hardest texts I might avoid QA in French since more effort is needed in the processing, so adding the burden of writing in French may overload students. It depends on the student, of course. Below is an example, unusually long in this case, but manageable, given the speed and level of language. I like this source since it relates to a francophone country outside mainl