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My five most viewed blogs of 2016

It's gratifying to me that this blog has been read more and more this year with the total number of page views exceeding 1 million in December. Content has ranged from reviews, information and reflections to resources and marketing blogs. The blog has been a continued focus for me, along with frenchteacher.net, The Language Teacher Toolkit, my new soon-to-be-published handbook and the TES units of work co-written with Gianfranco Conti.

The five most read posts of 2016 are listed below.

1. Learning strategies.

This was actually the third in a series of five posts about Learning Strategies, based on material which we could not fit into The Language Teacher Toolkit. This post was shared by the British Council so picked up over 22,000 views.

2. What about natural aptitude for second language learning?

With over 14,000 views, this post looked at the background and history of research into language learning aptitude. All teachers know how much variation there is between pupils, but how much is down to ability, how much sheer hard work? Research into aptitude has become rather neglected, but occasionally surfaces, with some scholars even suggesting a strong genetic element in language learning capability.

3. What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit.

This was a marketing blog which listed many of the complimentary reviews Gianfranco and I have received about our handbook. We are delighted that the book has sold over 1500 copies around the world in nine months. If you haven't got it yet, check out the reviews!

4. Three AQA A-level courses compared.

This post combined three individual reviews of new A-level French courses from OUP, Hodder and Steve Glover (online). The two books are a good deal better than the previous crop of A-level courses, while more teachers have been moving to Steve's Attitudes 16 downloadable course. I enjoy reviewing text books and books on language teaching methodology.

5. New GCSE resources on frenchteacher.net.

This one had 4500 views and was just a summary of the resources I had written at that stage in the year for the new GCSE (intermediate) French course. This, along with A-level, was the main focus for the website this year. For GCSE I added my own example exam papers, speaking and translation material.

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What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

Three AQA A-level courses compared

I've put together my three reviews of worthy A-level courses which you might be considering for next September. They are all very useful courses, but with significant differences. The traditional Hodder and OUP book-based courses differ in that the former comes in one chunky two year book, whilst OUP's comes in two parts, the first for AS or the first year of an A-level course. The Attitudes16 course by Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri is based on an online platform from which you would download worksheets and share a logon with studenst who would do the interactive parts (Textivate and video work). The two text books are supported by interactive material (Kerboodle) or an e-text book.

Attitudes16





An excellent resource which should be competing for your attention at the moment is the Attitudes16 course which writers Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri have been working on for some time. You can find it here at dolanguages.com, along with his excellent resources for film and li…

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

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Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’(http://pdcinmfl.com). The point i…