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Showing posts from September, 2023

Using AI tools to practise summarising

 In the UK, apart from Scotland, summary of an aural and a written text is part of the advanced level exam (GCSE A-level) taken by A-Level languages students. It is arguably one of the more challenging tasks to be done in exam conditions and requires a good deal of practice during the course. the task requires students to get across key comprehension points, whie manipulating and altering the language of the source text. This is particularly hard with the audio text.  In general, it's a skill which can be gradually built over the course, just like the film and literature essays, through 'micro-skill' exercises which contribute to the final 'macro-skill'. Much better to do this, of course, than to throw students into the deep end by just giving them a summary to do with no preparation. For example, students can do exercises such as: Paraphrasing single sentences. Doing morphology exercises (relating nouns to verbs, verbs to nouns, adjectives to adverbs, etc). Asking

All the starters on frenchteacher

 Mainly during 2022, but with some new additions this year (2023), I built up a pretty large bank of starters for French lessons, nearly all of which can be adapted for other languages.  I've always said that you don't have to begin every lesson with a 'starter' (or 'warmer', as they are often called in the TEFL/TESL world). But they can provide a snappy beginning to a lesson, ideally involving retrieval from previous lessons and making a link with the lesson to come. (I actually think that latter point is not crucial, since in all learning there is good evidence that spacing out and interweaving different activities can be beneficial for learning. So having a contrast between the starter and the 'main course' of the lesson can be justified.) The list below comprises activities I designed for learners in their first three years of study. So I first list the Y7 (beginner) starters, then the Y8, then the Y9 starters. This means all the activities are broad

Milking a text to the max

With classes at any level, it's good to have a wide range of ways to exploit a written text. With beginners, you might argue it's even more important as we try to recycle words, chunks and structures as much as possible in the hope they will stick. For me, a well-chosen or written text, at the right level of comprehensibility ('comprehensible input' remember?) and appropriate to the course and learners provides you with the basis of a whole lesson plan. "The resource is the lesson plan", as we put it in The Language Teacher Toolkit (2nd ed.). So, especially if you are learning or improving your craft, below is an example of a simple French text for near-neginners with a range of activities which build in difficulty and which provide masses of recycling of simple language. The topic is "My school". The source text is accompanied by a parallel translation. You may or may not want to include this. there are good reasons for doing so, since, as with a se

Class surveys: task-based methodology for beginners

Getting beginners or near-beginners to carry out surveys with their classmates is a stock-in-trade for language teachers. It's also a great way to incorporate some task-based, communicative methodology into lessons (more of a challenge with beginners than older students). Students get to mill around, talk to their peers in a very structured way and use repetitive comprehensible input.  In the best cases, they should also have a genuine interest in what their peers say. In terms of class management, just ensure that the task is crystal-clear and modelled, behaviour is fine and that the target language is used nearly all the time. Otherwise, stand back and enjoy the students communicating in the language. On my website I have a good few examples of such surveys, with instructions on how to carry them out. The latest one I just uploaded also has some nice cultural input, since students get to learn about some classic French desserts. (And yes, rum baba is the best). Here is the slide

Developing fluency in our learners

This post is lightly adapted from the first part of Chapter 7 of The Language Teacher Toolkit (Second Edition) (Smith and Conti, 2023). References are provided in the book. Charles Fillmore described one of four types of fluency as the "ability to talk at length with few pauses" (Fillmore, 2000, p.51). This is what many of us think when we describe what it means to be fluent. We have the idea of someone who can speak rather like a first language user. To be ‘fluent in Spanish’ is to be able to speak quite fast, without too much hesitation and with some accuracy . Research into fluency tends to focus on temporal measures of L2 production - syllables per second, number and length of pauses and mean ‘length of run’ - the number of syllables between pauses, rather than general proficiency. It is about how well speech flows. But there is more to fluency than that. As Segalowitz (2010) explains, when looked at from a psycholinguistic perspective, we can define three types of f