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Showing posts from September, 2012

Create your own crosswords

I have to recommend this site by Dave Regan. There are quite a few online "make your own crossword" sites, but I particularly like this one. It is free, unless you want to access your crosswords from multiple computers or mobile devices, in which case you pay an annual $10. Dave allows you to use the crosswords for any reasonable purpose, including commercially. Plus it's very easy indeed to use.

You simply set up your parameters - colour of grid (grey or black, grey uses less ink), font and page size (American letter or A4). You enter your answers and clues, click and in very little time the crossword is made. You can go back if you discover you have made a mistake and then save the document as a pdf or HTML file. You can also leave your completed crossword available for others to use. They stay there for a limited period of about two months.

Here is the current list of ready-made puzzles:…

Word wheel">

Here's a nifty little idea for playing with vocabulary. The word wheel could work well with advanced learners. Here it is:

This is how the activity was described:

"Get kids interacting and improving their language skills with this fun game!  For the activity, I tossed vocabulary words in a lunch bag. Kids flicked the game spinner, then pulled out a word. Once they had their word, the fun began! 

Students act, draw, rhyme, or define their word. They might also have to put it in a sentence, name what part of speech it is, or give a synonym or antonym for it. It's a game of chance! Below is a tally sheet I made for kids to keep score.

To make a spinner, you simply print design on card stock and laminate. Then, you add a paper clip and insert it in your spinner."

I'm sure you could make further adaptations to this. I would suggest putting t…

ALF by Steve Glover (2)

In my last post I reviewed a unit from the A*ttitudes online AS French course by Steve Glover. Today I'm going to review one of his A2 film packs designed to support the work of teachers and students studying A-level cultural topics.

I've chosen to look at La nuit américaine, one of my favourite Truffaut films and one which I taught a couple of years ago alongside three other Truffaut pictures.

The first resource is a lengthy plot summary of the film with verbs in brackets to put in the present tense. The grammar task is easy for A2 level, but probably worthwhile in as much as it gets students to read the summary very carefully. These summaries are very useful for a medium where it is difficult, unlike with a novel, to situate events easily.

There is then a clever exercise aimed at building skill with adjectives when drawing up character descriptions. This suits a film with very distinct and interesting characters very well. I liked the matching task where students have to mat…

ALF by Steve Glover (1)

ALF stands for A-level French. It's Steve Glover's site which contains a wealth of top quality resources to support AS and A2 level French teachers and students. Resources can be accessed directly online or can be ordered on CDs. Steve will even accept commissions for specific resources from busy teachers.

I took a careful look at one unit of his A*ttitudes AS level resources (la santé) and one of his sets of resources on a French film, Truffaut's La nuit américaine. In this review I'll focus on the AS material.

The unit on health comprises a good range of tasks, including some Taskmagic 3 games. To start with there is a partial vocab list which students can supplement. This is reinforced with some Taskmagic games. Then there is a lengthy text with pictures on various aspects of healthy living. Verbs are left in the infinitive and have to be put into the present tense, a worthwhile task at AS level, as many students are still insecure with t…

Exploiting Google Art Project pictures

I came across the amazing Google Art Project some time ago. It's an easy way to look at famous artworks from around the world.

It struck me that language teachers could make use of this resource to generate discussion at advanced level. The best pictures for this are ones which do not rely on simple description, but where students can let their imaginations run riot with their own invented back-stories.

How about this work by Van Gogh (Agostina Segatori dans le Café du Tambourin):

You could get the ball rolling with questions like:

What's her name? How old is she? Where is she? What's she wearing? Why is she there? Why is she alone?
What's she drinking? Does she usually drink this?
Is she waiting for someone? Who? How is she feeling?
What's happened? What's going to happen? etc etc

The students will go where they want with this. They could then write something up based on their own ideas. Give the students free rein and just nudg…

Chansons FLE

Abel Carballiño vient de me signaler son blog où il poste des vidéoclips de chansons avec les paroles (prises sur Youtube). Vous n'avez qu'à cliquer sur la chanson dans la mosaïque. On peut écouter la chanson, regarder la vidéo et les paroles. Ça serait bien à condition que le site ne soit pas bloqué dans votre établissement.

Bonne idée, bien réalisée. Le format "mosaic" de Blogger est bien choisi.

Voici Mylène Farmer avec "C'est une belle journée".

Et les paroles:

Allongé le corps est mort
Pour des milliers
C'est un homme qui dort...
A moitié pleine est l'amphore
C'est à moitié vide
Qu'on la voit sans effort
Voir la vie, son côté pile
Oh philosophie,
dis-moi des élégies
Le bonheur
Lui me fait peur
D'avoir tant d'envies
Moi j'ai un souffle à cœur

C'est une belle journée
Je vais me coucher
Une si belle journée
qui s'achève
donne l'envie d'aimer,
mais je vais me c…

Summary of "Gove-levels"

I'm posting a very clear summary of the new proposals which are out for consultation, emailed by Philip Collie, the editor of Schoolzone.

As far as languages are concerned, it will be a major challenge to produce a non-tiered examination which is both challenging enough and accessible to a wide ability range. I do not think it is feasible and I will be interested to see what emerges after consultation. I welcome the end of controlled assessment which is cumbersome to administer, open to abuse and too dependent on learning by heart.

Here is that summary:
Removing controlled assessment and course from the six EBacc subjects (though "practical" subjects such as art will retain them)No teacher assessment in these subjects at all: 100% externally marked exams.No separate higher and foundation tier papers - everyone sits exams with all level questions included.One board for each EBacc subject - awarded by tender - the most ambitious courses to be awarded the franchise.New quali…

Will it all end in tiers?

Michael Gove has said that he is unhappy with the idea of different tiers in GCSE examinations*. He argues that the Foundation tier limits aspiration.

It is easy to see where his argument fits within the agenda of raising aspirations for all but we need to look at this carefully.

Although the GCSE was set up in 1987 to be an exam aimed at nearly the whole ability range and to replace the discredited sheep/goats O-levels and CSE, it was immediately obvious that a one-exam-fits-all would not work in practice. Tiers (they were called levels then, with Foundation tier originally called Basic level) were set up to deal with this issue, with most exams having two tiers, maths even having three tiers in early incarnations of the system.

The fact of the matter is that the range of pupil aptitude is so wide that, for the most able, an all-encompassing exam would have sections which are far too easy, and for the least able, much of the exam would be beyond their capability. This is not a questi…

What can we learn from the GCSE English debacle?

I watched some of the Education Select Committee hearing with Glenys Stacey this morning, having followed this story with great interest from the night before grades were originally released. There was already a storm brewing on Twitter when Heads had their sneak preview of results.

Ofqual have changed their policy on grading. After years of undoubted grade inflation they have decided to impose a policy of "comparable outcomes". In practice what this means is that Ofqual look at prior attainment data (KS2 SATS performance) and other factors to do with the cohort for that year and pretty much predetermine what the grades will be. They make a prediction which exam boards have to stick closely to. If the boards disagree with Ofqual, as Edexcel clearly did, they have to tow the Ofqual line.

This year, for English, Ofqual took into account KS2 data and, importantly, the lower number of candidates from schools who had entered students for the IGCSE - principally independent school…

What went wrong with Asset Languages?

In the news recently has been the fact that OCR, who run the Asset Languages scheme (part of what was at one time called the languages ladder), have decided to cut down on the number of languages it offers. The Asset Languages courses will be scaled back to just French, German, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin, with the cutbacks hitting less popular languages, including community languages.

This is the current list of languages offered:  Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Cornish, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Panjabi, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu, Welsh and Yoruba.

Helen Ward, writing in the TES, records the following entry figures for some of the languages in 2012:
13,887 French6,940 Spanish241 Arabic24 Turkish13 Greek These figures are not very high and suggest that the whole languages ladder idea has not really caught on. Let's recall that it was originally set up to allow students and adul…

Le show de Bradley Wiggins

J'ai aimé cette vidéo de Bradley Wiggins qui parle français et qui taquine les journalistes.

Cool dude en français?


I wonder if you already know the excellent language game called Alibi. I've used it many times with intermediate and advanced level groups and it has always been enjoyed and produced lots of good language.

This is how it works:

You tell your class in English - in your best dead-pan and convincing fashion -  (or in French if they are really good) that a crime was committed last night at 8.00 p.m. (I would usually say an old lady was mugged on the town square.) You then explain that the police suspect a pair of young people. You then say that they are suspected to come from your school. (Class still looking concerned.) You then say that the two suspects are thought to come from this very class. (A few will look quizzical, a few will cotton on that you are joking.)

You then confess that you have made up the crime and then explain that you need two volunteers to leave the room to work out an alibi between them. They should agree on something they did together, such as a trip to the ci…