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Showing posts from August, 2014


Nicolas Rochas sent me a link to this free service which looks very interesting indeed if you are interested in establishing links with other schools, teachers, classes or students. Your school leadership may be keen if they are interested in the global dimension or world citizenship. At its most basic level it may be an opportunity for pupils to communicate with other young people from a different background. They say:

Skolinks est unportail destiné aux jeunes de 8 à 21 ans et aux enseignants du monde entierqui souhaitent nouer des relations et développer des échanges dans unesprit amical et partenarial.
Skolinks is a project from Skolidarité, a non-profit organisation which supports schooling in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its stated aims are:

- promouvoir la fraternité et la solidarité entre les jeunes
- lutter contre le racisme et les discriminations- sensibiliser sur les Droits de l'Enfant
It began with correspondence in 1999 between a young French person and young Congo…

Peppa Pig on frenchteacher

For me, listening is the number one language learning skill and should be at the heart of everything. I'm a bit of a "comprehensible input" fan and do believe that, in the longer term, for pupils studying a language over at least five years, a big diet of listening input is crucial. So I am always on the look-out for stimulating listening material for

Finding advanced level material is easy, but sources of authentic near beginner and intermediate level French listening are harder to locate.

For intermediate listening, the Peppa Pig videos in French work well and I know that teachers out there have been using my worksheets on these.

Not all the Peppa Pig videos work, though. You have to be selective and choose ones where the range and speed of language are approachable. It helps that many students are already familiar with Peppa Pig, so they should be well disposed to tackling a listening task based on it.

The episodes I have designed worksheets for so …

Guessing games

One of the best things to come out of the communicative movement in language teaching was the notion of the "information gap". Give pupils a reason to communicate and they will, the theory goes. So if you design a task for pairs where one person has information the other needs to find out, you should get communication. The best books to exploit this idea in French were the Tu Parles and Tu Parles Encore by Vee Harris and Liz Roselman. Alas they are no longer in print, but should be slightly updated and reprinted.

A really simple way to set up minimal preparation information gap tasks is to do guessing games. We know how much children of all ages like these - just think how much mileage you can get out of "guess the flashcard" routines and "battleships". Here are five reinforcing/revision guessing games for pairs.

1.  Weekend dernier

For low intermediates. Get each partner to write down five invented activities they did over the last weekend. Each partner …

Teaching school subjects to near beginners

Here is an easy and familiar lesson plan for teaching school subjects, along with practising je préfère and some simple question variations (inversion and word order variations). There is a cross-curricular aspect in that the students may make easy use of Excel. You may have taught and practised school subjects in a similar way.

1.  Teach the school subjects using a simple powerpoint with pictures, flashcards or just an English-TL list on the board. Use group repetition. If you have a list on the board in two columns, at some point hide the TL words and test memory from the English words. Perhaps use the "I'm thinking of a subject - which one?" guessing game. (10 minutes)

2.  Write up these three variations of a simple question. In French:

Quelles matières préfères -tu?
     Tu préfères quelles matières?
     Quelles matières tu préfères?

If you are working in another language these variations may not apply and you could just skip this.
Do group repetition and explain how t…

GCSE results and entries 1993-2014

Source: A* A B C D E F G U A*-C A*-U French 2014 9.6 14.2 19.3 26.6 19.5 7.3 2.5 0.8 0.2 69.7 168042 2013 9.8 15.0 19.8 25.6 18.3 7.3 2.9 1.0 0.3 70.2 177288 2012 10.7 15.6 20.9 24.5 17.1 7.2 2.9 0.8 0.3 71.7 153436 2011 10.2 16.6 21.9 23.8 15.9 7.4 2.9 1.0 0.3 72.5 154221 2010 10.9 15.8 20.1 25.1 16.6 7.3 3.0 1.0 0.2 71.9 177618 2009 11.2 15.1 19.2 24.6 16.8 8.1 3.5 1.2 0.3 70.1 188688 2008 10.3 14.7 18.8 24.5 17.3 8.7 3.9 1.5 0.3 68.3 201940 2007 9.7 13.5 18.6 24.7 17.2 9.1 4.7 2.0 0.5 66.5 216718 2006 9.6 13.2 17.7 24.2 17.5 9.7 5.1 2.4 0.6 64.7 236189 2005 8.5 12.3 16.3 23.2 17.9 11.1 6.7 3.1 0.9 60.3 272140 2004 7.4 10.7 14.5 21.1 18.1 13.0 8.9 4.9 1.4 53.7 318095 2003 6.6 11.3 12.7 20.6 20.1 13.7 8.8 4.7 1.5 51.2 331089 2002 7…

Does progressive mean communicative?

I was reading a very politicised article by John Bald who is an experienced languages and literacy consultant who writes a blog, has advised the DfE and who writes for the Conservativehome website. He was arguing that the new national curriculum offers a fresh start and a chance to reject the "progressive" view of language teaching - what he also calls "left" language teaching. By progressive I take John to mean "communicative" or "naturalistic" i.e. the general approach wherby target language dominates and which, in his view, literacy is relegated to a secondary role. I hope I have not misrepresented John too much.

I must confess that I had not really made the link between the communicative approach and "progressivism" in language teaching. Perhaps I should have.

John wrote:

I’ve seen the results of the progressive approach at first hand and discussed them with pupils.
Almost all dislike it and many hate it. It involves equal confusion …

Reading aloud

Do you ever get pupils to read aloud in class? In font of the whole class? Or in pairs or groups?

Does reading aloud have any value as an activity in the ML classroom?

I occasionally got students of all ages to read aloud in front of the class, but I confess that my reasons for doing so may not have been as clear as they should have been. What are the pros and cons of reading aloud to the whole class?

It's a scary activity for most pupils and may put undue pressure on them. It is often claimed that we learn a language (or anything for that matter) best when we are comfortable and not under threat.It may open a pupil to ridicule from their peers.When one pupil is reading the rest of the class may be doing nothing. This becomes apparent when you ask questions after someone has read. I found that the person quickest to respond was the student who had just read. Their mind was more focused than the that of the rest of the classIt provides an inferior model to the rest of the cla…

General studies in the target language

Spoiler alert: this is about A-levels! Please read on.

Back in the early 1970s an evolutionary new textbook called Actualités Françaises changed the way we taught French. Firmly rooted in the structural, audio-lingual approach, it took texts about contemporary French culture and exploited them with questions, copious grammar drills for oral and written practice and some translation. It was quite a contrast to the books which had preceded it, notably those by Whitmarsh and collaborators which took texts, often literary, and exploited them with some comprehension questions, grammar explanations and lots of translation both ways. The newer course shifted the emphasis strongly towards topic-based oral work within a strong grammatical framework.

I wrote evolutionary above rather than revolutionary, because the newer course still placed the emphasis on grammar and, at the very least, paid lip service to translation (partly because translation featured in A-level exams, as it still does).


No preparation multi-skill lesson

As a teacher I liked effective lessons which took me little or no time to prepare. Here is one I would use with pupils from Y8 to Y10 (low intermediate).

When teaching the topic of "en ville" I would at some point near the end of the teaching sequence spend a lesson preparing pupils for a piece of connected writing called Ma ville.

The lesson would mainly consist of my asking easy questions in the TL about where the pupils live. We would focus on "il y a" and "il n'y a pas".

Il y a une gare?
Il y a des écoles? Combien?
Il y a des magasins? Quelle sorte?
Qu'est-ce qu'il y a pour les visiteurs?
Quels services est-ce qu'il y a?
Il y a un camping? Oui ou non?
Il n'a pas d'hôpital. Vrai ou faux?

On eliciting answers I would write up partial answers on the board while students took notes. You can write incomplete words or sentences which students can complete either immediately or at home. This part is crucial as it keeps all students en…

Response to ALL on new MFL A-levels

For readers outside the UK the ALL is the Association for Language Learning.

After blogging several times on the issue of the new A-levels being proposed by Ofqual, based on the ALCAB report carried out by a panel of Russell Group university academics, this is my feedback to the ALL. It partly draws on the ALCAB report and partly on the recently published report by the JCQ into why fewer and fewer students are choosing languages at A-level in England and Wales.


This is a more considered response to your invitation for feedback on the new MFL A-levels. I sent a brief response about three weeks ago, before I had seen the JCQ report. Here are my observations on what is being proposed by Ofqual:

The ALCAB report states that it is in the context of falling numbers at A-level that they produced their recommendations. The JCQ report (Chapter 2) notes that one reason given by teachers for students rejecting langu…

How could the exam boards make the new A-levels palatable?

Soon after this post was written I saw that Labour have said they would put A-level reform on hold if they came to power in 2015.... They have the reform of AS level particularly in their sights, but this would inevitably make intended changes to subject content unworkable.


If you have followed my series of blogs about the new MFL A-levels to be taught from September 2016, you will know the three categories on which exam boards must select their themes for study. At AS level three themes must be covered, one from each category. At A-level six must be done (two from each category?). The ALCAB report designed their syllabus so that AS and A-level may be taught concurrently.

Here are the three general categories again:
social issues and phenomenapolitics, current affairs and historyintellectual culture, past and present Now, once the consultation is over in September and once the final guidance emerges (I would…