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Showing posts from July, 2013

Cultural topics on

Some teachers may be in the process of thinking about what cultural topics they intend to teach with their advanced level students next year or beyond. I thought I'd just remind you about some of the areas covered quite well on

In literature there are worksheets, exercises and links for Les Mains Sales by Sartre, L'Etranger and La Peste by Camus, Germinal by Zola, Jules et Jim by Henri-Pierre Roché (a brilliant novel written in a charmingly simple style) and Les Petits Enfants du Siècle by Christiane Rochefort. The latter were produced by my brilliant former colleague Anne Swainston.

Films covered to varying extents are Les 400 Coups, Jules et Jim, Le Dernier Métro, La Nuit Américaine, all by François Truffaut. You will also find four films by Claude Berri:Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources, Germinal andLucie Aubrac.

All of these resources were written for A-level classes at Ripon Grammar School. They were all appreciated and, I believe, enjoyed! Worksheet…

Ten ways to exploit a grammar drill worksheet

A worksheet either printed off for students or displayed from the board may seem a dull prospect for a lesson, but if we accept the old adage that "practice makes perfect" they are usually a necessary part of a modern language teacher's armoury. In my experience course books and other resources are often short of examples and do not allow enough opportunities for repetitiver practice. How can we exploit worksheets to the best effect? Here are some approaches, from the blindingly obvious to the more imaginative.

This sort of thing is the "nitty-gritty" of language teaching and is definitely worth thinking through.

1.Teacher-led approach: teacher reads out prompt, gets an individual to answer, then gets other individuals to repeat, then the whole class to repeat. can be done with hands-up or no hands-up. Former approach allows teacher to pick quicker students as a good role models before weaker ones have a go. Strengths: this approach is very "old-school&quo…

Listening is the key

I see that in the government's latest version of GCSE modern languages we are returning to an assessment regime based on 25% of marks awarded to each of the four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. I really do not know why each skill is valued the same; it has that suspicious look of a government target like the one which aimed for 50% of young people going to university.

Although 4 x 25% is better than the current regime it still seriously overvalues writing and undervalues listening. In my perception of language learning (everyone is entitled to their own since science cannot tell us what works best for every person or teacher), listening is at the heart of everything. When we learn our first language we do so by listening and are spared preparing for vocabulary tests, writing essays and doing translation (which would be a bit tricky). When we learn a second language I am happy to go along with the simple and appealing notion that it is a lot like first language ac…

Retirement one year on

Wow! That year went by quickly. One year ago it was goodbye speeches, presents, emotional farewells and the prospect of being on permanent holiday. What's it been like since then?
I've missed the company of my former colleagues and students and there is no doubt that teaching is one of those jobs which defines you as a person, an activity which furnishes a sense of self-worth, so for me it has been important to continue to keep in touch with education and to be productive. My website and blog have kept me thinking and sharing ideas and resources and these have been default retirement pastimes for me. 
There is a degree of website management needed, dealing with queries and subscriptions. When I was a young teacher I had thought of eventually going into teacher education after being a Head of Department. (Senior management was never of great interest to me.) Sharing ideas and advice through blogging, writing and tweeting has certainly satisfied a need. I really should spend a bit…

Task-centred discussions

The communicative movement taught us one very useful thing: if you give students a real reason to talk, they generally will. Whilst structured, controlled question-answer and pair work have a deserved place, especially at the presentation and practice stage of acquiring new language, they are not what one would call authentic communication. They represent a stylised, artificial form of interchange, a kind of game playing which most students will go along with, though not all.

Pair work activities based on the information gap are a great way of getting learners to talk at any level. With groups it is also possible to use what are called "task-centred" or "task-oriented" discussions, where a pair or group is given a problem to solve, a task to achieve, through the medium of the target language. Penny Ur's book Discussions That Work provided a range of examples of such oral activities.

Here is one which I adapted from her book a long time ago and which works well …

The new KS2/3 MFL curriculum

The KS2/3 MFL curriculum was published this morning after a consultation period.

The key document is here. See page 213 onwards.

Clare Seccombe has done a summary of some key issues

The only significant change to the document I summarised and commented on here is that there will be a free choice of modern or ancient language at KS2 and a free choice of modern language at KS3. This seems to be in response to criticism that the original draft may have been unfair to non-native English speakers, minority languages and other modern languages which had not featured in the original list of seven. It remains a curiosity that ancient languages are acceptable at KS2, but not KS3. I would have been happier to see them out of the equation completely as they usually occupy a place in the timetable where children could be learning a modern language.

So, in essence, we still have a slim document, short on content (in striking contrast to the "pub quiz" style lists of other subjects) and e…

frenchteacher updates

This is one of my regular updates so you know what's been happening at Frenchteacher Towers recently.

Although I never used dominoes as an activity as a teacher, I am told that pupils and teachers enjoy the game so I have started to produce some sets of dominoes at various levels. So far, you'll find three sets in the Y10-11 section (health, holidays and free time) and three sets in the Y7 (beginners) section (classroom objects, family and numbers). If you haven't done the activity before, you need to cut out the dominoes and then pupils work in pairs or small groups, following the usual rules.

In the A-level section there are three new resources since my last update. The first is based on a leaflet we got through our letter box in France about how the local village is applying the new school week in France. The phrase rythmes scolaires is not easy to render in English, but it is about how the week is organised in terms of days and hours. The authentic resource has text, t…