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Showing posts from January, 2012

Three interesting reports

https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DFE-RB184a.pdf

https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DFE-RB184b.pdf

https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DFE-RB184c.pdf

Dylan Wiliam tweeted these three studies about performance at KS3. I only have time to note a few points from the abstracts. You might find them interesting, particularly the reference to modern languages.

One finding:

Students were generally confident about their overall ability in Year 9 although there was some variation between subjects, with students being more confident of their ability in maths, science, sports and the arts than other subjects. They were least confident about their ability in modern languages. Boredom in lessons was reported by a substantial minority.

This does not surprise me and may simply reflect that language learning is inherently difficult given the demands it places on memory, attention to detail, mastery of grammatical patterns and oral…

Back to the A* issue

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-24031437-pupils-say-non-to-languages-because-its-too-hard-to-get-an-a.do

Clare Seccombe kindly tweeted a link to the above article in the Evening Standard. It's the severe grading issue raising its head again, but especially the question of A* grades. We have known for a long time that at GCSE modern languages are the hardest subjects to achieve high grades in. At A-level the picture is similar, but with a particular issue with regard to A* grades. I won't go over old ground here, as I have blogged about this before, but I was browsing an old Ofsted report from our school the other day. It dated from 2000 and referred to GCSE results from the year before. French results were particularly good, with a third of our cohort of about 120 students getting A* grades (about 40 A* grades). Last year the equivalent figure was 12.

I find it surprising that the claim is made that standards have remained the same. It is not true. Because the n…

Fischer's Ghost in Saltaire

A picture from our last gig at the Countess of Rosse in Saltaire, near Bradford. Strat on bass, me on drums, Dot on vocals, Ged on vocals and rhythm guitar, Mick on lead guitar.



Rehearsal at Follifoot Towers:


http://www.myspace.com/fischersghost

Pourquoi les Anglais ont gardé le triple A

Je reproduis un article d'Eric le Boucher paru sur slate.fr. Il s'intitule Leçons Anglaises et il explique très clairement les avantages et les bémols de la politique d'austérité (relative) menée par la coalition de David Cameron.


"Du Royaume-Uni, il est possible de répondre à deux questions posées dans le contexte de l'élection présidentielle en France.
1. Est-il intéressant de quitter l'euro et de dévaluer de 25% sa monnaie, comme l'a été la livre sterling? La réponse est non.
2. Concernant l'austérité, faut-il agir très vite et très fort ou mieux vaut-il attendre, comme le suggèrent les keynésiens, que la conjoncture soit meilleure? La réponse, dans le contexte européen, est que l'austérité immédiate est meilleure.
David Cameron fait mieux que Nicolas Sarkozy. Accessoirement, cela explique pourquoi la Grande-Bretagne a conservé son triple A, contrairement à la France, malgré des résultats aussi mauvais dans les deux pays.

Lors des élections l…

The simplest no-preparation lesson in the world

Tell the class you are going to do a huge vocab quiz with 100 questions. You then, at some speed, read to them items of vocabulary they have covered in the last, say, four weeks. You pitch the vocab so that some is very easy, some is harder and a few are more obscure. Say each word twice and tell the class that if they cannot get any, not to worry, just wait for the next word. They write down the meanings in English. Top three scores get merits.

The task takes about 30 minutes with corrections.

Part of me feels guilty at even suggesting that this might be a good lesson. All I can say is that pupils concentrate very hard, are listening to French non-stop for nearly half an hour and are made to recall a wide range of vocab which you can adjust to their level. They say they like it too. It's interesting how results correlate well with general ability at MFL, showing how important memory is in second language learning.

I welcome comments. Tell me why this is not a good, very occasion…

Jeu de mots

Philippe Watrelot, dans son excellent blog sur l'éducation, raconte les progrès d'un projet de loi sur l'enseignement de l'abstinence dans les écoles anglaises. Il faut son post lire jusqu'au dernier mot.....

"Tintin en Angleterre
Le Parlement britannique examine vendredi un projet de loi visant à imposer des cours sur l'abstinence aux jeunes filles de 13 à 16 ans nous apprend la rubrique Big Browser du site Le Monde.fr La députée conservatrice qui mène cette proposition, Nadine Dorries, une élue conservatrice du Mid Bedfordshire, a expliqué en mai vouloir lutter contre les dérives d'une société "saturée de sexe", et aider les jeunes filles à considérer que l'abstinence peut être "cool".
Pour Mme Dorries, citée par le Guardian, il s'agit de gagner un "combat permanent" contre "le taux incroyablement élevé d'activité sexuelle et de natalité chez les adolescents." Sa solution, "c'est d'…

A case for some grammar-translation

It's a curiosity that translation from English into French remains part of the GCE A2 level examination, but has not ever featured at GCSE. I am one of those teachers, like most I imagine, who practises the translation of sentences or passages in class. I have plenty of examples of such sentences on the frenchteacher.net site and I believe they are used a good deal. How useful is prose translation and what do students think of it?

I asked my AS group of 17 students what they thought of some work we did today, translating sentences into French to practise reflexive verbs in various tenses. Almost to a person, they were enthusiastic about it and told me why. They said:
It helps you perfect your grammarIt makes you think about the details of the written languageIt builds up your vocabularyIt makes you analyse the language I agree with them and would add, on reflection, that it also appeals to the puzzle-solving side of our brains. We had a discussion about the pros and cons of transla…

Formative assessment and language teaching

Our department has been buzzing a bit more than usual following our training with Dylan Wiliam last week. Most of us have been trying out a few techniques or tweaking our practice a little to make sure all students are positively engaged. I'd like to make one or two observations about AfL (otherwise known as formative assessment), however.

The "no hands up" approach poses problems for us. True, if you impose no hands-up, you are likely to engage a wider range of pupils, but this comes at the cost of pace and at the cost of stretching the most able in the class, who enjoy putting themselves forward and who benefit from doing so. I would argue for compromise in this area, by judiciously allowing hands up, but having sections of lessons with no hands up. Interestingly, Professor Wiliam pointed out to us that the act of raising your hand to answer makes you smarter. Interesting.

Another approach which was recommended to us, and which makes some sense, is allowing students lo…

Frenchteacher updates

The main additions to the site are to be found on the A-Level page. I have made a few minor changes to the AS oral booklet to take account of recent technological changes. I have posted a few more gap fill and matching tasks to existing resources, using Taskmagic 3, which I continue to find extremely useful. There is a brand new text and activities on computer games, plus some grammar sheets on the subjunctive.

I have also posted a simple information gap task focusing on the perfect tense and aimed primarily at Y9 pupils (though it could be used with Y8 or Y10 too).

I endeavour to keep the links pages up to date, but welcome any additions which I may have missed.

I have an A-Level student redesigning the frenchteacher.net site at the moment and I intend for parts of it to be accessible by subscription in May. My aim will be to charge a relatively small amount for an annual subscription with a commitment on my part to regularly add new resources whilst updating existing ones. I hope u…

Dernières nouvelles de l'Hermione

 Depuis plusieurs années nous suivons la construction de l'Hermione à Rochefort avec intérêt. Voici les toutes dernières nouvelles selon Sud Ouest:

"À Rochefort, l'immense chantier de « L'Hermione » va bon train. Ici, chacun attend d'apercevoir le grand navire en bois qui, en 1780, permit à La Fayette de traverser l'Atlantique pour rejoindre l'Amérique. Cette reconstruction à l'identique était jusqu'alors dissimulée sous un chapiteau immense, recouvrant la forme de radoub - pour l'heure asséchée - où se trouve le bateau. Le 3 janvier, l'effeuillage a donc commencé. Il s'achèvera le 11 février, date à laquelle le chapiteau aura entièrement disparu au profit d'un chantier à ciel ouvert. Cela fait, les visites pourront reprendre.
Après avoir posé et peint la figure de proue en décembre, les artisans poursuivent leur œuvre. Ils tâcheront de la rendre élégante pour la grande fête des 6, 7 et 8 juillet, qui correspondra à la mise…

Dylan Wiliam

I enjoyed one of the best training days in my career yesterday. Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, did a lengthy presentation which had the following structure: firstly, he laid out a wide range of research evidence which leads to the firm conclusion that to raise standards you should focus on improving individual teachers, rather than schools. Secondly, he arued that teachers get better by using assessment for learning more effectively. He prefers the term formative assessment. Thirdly, he went on to present a range of ideas or tricks which can improve formative assessment and therefore pupil achievement.

Much of this will be familiar to those who have read any of Dylan Wiliams' articles or books. It was nonetheless a convincing argument which chimes with a gut feeling I have held for years, namely that it is not systems, organisation, academies, selection and the like which hold the key to improvement; it is getting teachers to be more e…

Paris

We just got back from our short trip to Paris. We stayed in a pretty little apartment in Montmartre just off the Rue Abbesses. We seemed to get through a lot in two and a half days: the Musée de l'Orangerie with Monet's water lilies was the highlight, but we also took in the Père Lachaise cemetery, the Quartier Latin, the Eiffel Tower and two lovely movies about movies which I thoroughly recommend: The Artist and Hugo (called Hugo Cabret in French). If you are at all a film buff see these films! Okay, if you are a film buff you've probably seen them already. The first picture is from the top of the Eiffel Tower. It looks like the Earth is being phasered from space, but it's just the projector from the top of the tower pointing towards the Sacré Coeur. the second shows yours truly with wife and son.



Now, here's an odd one. The film Hugo Cabret is really all about Georges Méliès, the pioneer of Frenchcinema (think of that image of a rocket stuck in the moon) . We subs…

The longest day?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8993039/Labour-call-for-a-longer-school-day-in-education-overhaul.html

Labour's shadow education minister Stephen Twigg is reported to be in favour of lengthening the school day. Some Free Schools and academies are said to be doing the same, or experimenting with the school week in other ways. Michael Gove would seem to be in favour, or at least in favour of experimentation.

http://www.inca.org.uk/documents/Table15Organisationofschoolyearandschoolday.pdf

When you look at international comparisons, England and Wales are not out of the mainstream. We do a higher than average number of days and a school day of probably about average length. (We are talking averages here: in my area schools finish as early as about 2.30 and as late as nearly 4.00.) The Germans are unusual in that they start very early at 7.30 and finish very early at 1.30. The French and Spanish finish quite late, which may be explained in part by their latitude and cl…