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Showing posts from September, 2015

Parallel reading for low intermediates

This is taken from (Y9 page). The parallel text principle means that you can use a text of higher complexity and maturity level than usual. There are other exercise types you could use with the source material, but not translation! answers are given at the end of the post.
Une fillette abandonnée sur une aire d’autoroute
Une famille se trouvait dimanche midi sur le chemin des vacances, lorsqu'elle s'est arrêtée quelques instants sur une aire d'autoroute près de Loriol, dans la Drôme.

Ensuite les parents sont repartis en voiture, en oubliant que leur fille de trois ans était toujours là.

Un couple de vacanciers, intrigués de voir une petite fille toute seule, a fini par donner l'alerte à la police après avoir observé pendant une heure que les parents ne revenaient pas.

L'enfant a dit aux gendarmes qu'elle "allait à la mer" et qu'elle avait "vu la voiture de papa partir".

Pendant ce temps, la famille avait dépassé Aix-en-Pr…

Managing classroom oral work

This is a short extract in draft form from the forthcoming Language Teacher Handbook being co-authored with Gianfranco Conti.

One of your most important skills as a language teacher is the ability to interact orally with your class, largely in L2. This chapter examines the many ways you can develop a dialogue, sometimes artificial, sometimes authentic, with your students. This skill allows you develop multi-skill lessons where students listen, respond, then go on to read and write.
Questioning techniques
Questioning in language lessons is not usually the same as in other subjects. We use it mainly as a device to develop acquisition. In the early stages of language learning especially, questioning is only sometimes used in a genuinely communicative way. “What TV programmes do you like?” is a genuine question which elicits an unknown response. Asking a student “Is the book on the table or on the chair?” is silly, in a way, because both you and the student can see very well where the book i…

Ways of doing controlled practice

This is a short extract from some draft work I have been putting together for the language teacher handbook which Gianfranco Conti and I are working on. We are looking at doing a chapter on what it means to 'teach grammar'. As part of this, here are some ideas for doing controlled practice of grammar as part of the traditional 'presentation-practice-production' model.

We often talk about controlled practice and free practice. The received wisdom on this is that you begin with controlled practice before moving to free practice. Controlled practice is often done by drilling style tasks using worksheets or exercises from a text book. Worksheets can be printed or displayed on the board.
Controlled practice
An example of such aiming to practise the future tense with low intermediate students might be:
Example cue:Today I am playing tennis with my dad.Example answer:Tomorrow I’m going to play football with my friends. 

Below we present ways you can exploit exercises of …

You say tomato, I say tomato.

By following many teachers on Twitter from around the world, I find myself interested in the different perspectives on language teaching and, in particular, the use of different language to describe similar issues. The difference between the jargon of North American and British language teachers is notable.

In the USA much use is made of the word proficiency whereas, my feeling is, we tend to talk more about fluency or attainment on this side of the Atlantic. In the States the word foreign still has a a tighter grip than over here. Many of the state subject associations in the USA (no doubt owing to tradition) still carry the word foreign in their title, e.g. The Foreign Language Association of Georgia, the Maryland Foreign Language Association and the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association, to name but three of many. The more "enlightened" have moved over to talking about World Languages, a term barely used at all in the UK where we agonise over whether to say Modern La…

Saving time on planning

I understand that many schools ask teachers to produce a written lesson plan for every lesson on a standard proforma. I would have hated that. It takes up teachers' valuable and limited time.

I am happy to share the fact that, once I had been teaching for a couple of years, my written lesson plans usually consisted of a few lines at most in my A4 planner and I only wrote more detailed plans when there was an official lesson observation from my line manager or Ofsted. (Ofsted do not requite this any more.) Our schemes of work were shared and familiar to us all, mainly consisting of a mix of text book resources and our "in house" resources. I made good use of our effective text book, Tricolore, and spent some time finding or writing good new resources.

Back in the day resources were much scarcer - I fondly (?) remember recording and transcribing long wave French radio broadcasts for listening exercises. Enough with the nostalgia!

If a language teacher has good subject know…

Alan Kurdi, le petit Syrien rejeté sur une plage
Pré-écoutePourquoi y-a-t-il tant de réfugiés et migrants en Europe ?Quelle est la différence entre un migrant et un réfugié ?Pourquoi cet épisode du petit Aylan a suscité tant d’intérêt ?
Regardez, écoutez et répondez
1.         Quel âge avait Alan ?2.         Où est-ce que le bateau sur lequel il se trouvait a coulé ?3.         Qu’est-ce que le capitaine du bateau a fait quand la mer est devenue trop             agitée?4.         Qu’est-ce que le père a essayé de faire ?5.         Qu’est-ce qui est arrivé à sa famille ?6.         Quand est-ce que les membres de la famille ont fui Damas ? Où sont-ils             allés?7.         Pourquoi est-ce qu’ils ont dû quitter Kobane ?8.         Où voulaient-ils aller ? Pourquoi ?9.         Pourquoi, selon la tante, est-ce que la famille ne pouvait pas aller dans             son pays?10.       A quelle ville allaient-ils quand leur embarcation a coulé ?
Ecoutez encore. Faites des pauses. Comment dit-on ?

Do you need an A-level French text book?

This blog post is a promotion for

When I was a Head of department I became increasingly unimpressed by the quality of A-level textbooks. Having made good use in previous years of books such as Actualités Françaises (Nott and Trickey), Signes du temps, Vécu (Ralph Gaiskell) and Objectif Bac (Martine Pillette), I found that the most recent offerings, tied as they have been to exam board specifications, thin, unstimulating and difficult to use.

This was largely why I chose to write my own resources which other teachers also find invaluable for their A-level classes.

So do A-level teachers actually need a text book at all?

I have nothing against text books per se. I have no strong opinion about the text book/worksheet debate. To me it's all about quality and usability. Is a text book good? Are worksheets good?

If I were still teaching I would want to weigh up very carefully the value of buying text books and their accompanying ICT packages. has all…

Frenchteacher updates

This is one of my regular updates to blatantly promote my website to new users and remind existing users of what has been added in recent weeks. Fans of parallel texts may appreciate some of the new additions. I am always on the look-out for interesting reading material for intermediate level.

Since the middle of July:
Parallel reading texts on migrants to Europe. With true/false/not mentioned and retranslation sentences. Low intermediate level. A text with questions in English about migrant smugglers working in Calais. Apparently most of the trafficking networks are British and are thought to launder their earnings through night-clubs, for example. This could be used with a good Y11 class or for AS-level (high intermediate).Parallel texts and exercises on fair trade. Easy text, true/false and vocabulary to complete. Could be used from Y8 to Y10, depending on ability. Four new parallel reading texts with exercises: the first about a girl left behind at the motorway services, the second…