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Showing posts from January, 2016

Example of an easy literary text

One of the requirements of the new GCSE specifications is the inclusion of literary texts (adapted and or abridged). Here is an example of an accessible little text + exercise, adapted slightly (mainly from passé simple to present tense).

Le petit prince fait un grand voyage et découvre beaucoup de choses sur l’humanité.
La planète suivante est habitée par un buveur. Cette visite est très courte, mais elle plonge le petit prince dans une grande mélancolie:
- Que fais-tu là ? dit-il au buveur, qu'il trouve installé en silence devant une collection de bouteilles de vin vides et une collection de bouteilles pleines.- Je bois, répond le buveur, d'un air triste.- Pourquoi bois-tu ? lui demande le petit prince.- Pour oublier, répond le buveur.- Pour oublier quoi ? demande le petit prince qui déjà le plaint.- Pour oublier que j'ai honte*, avoue le buveur en baissant la tête.- Honte de quoi ? demande le petit prince qui désire l’aider.- Honte de boire ! répond le buveur qui s'enf…

Intermediate parallel reading on frenchteacher

I've been building up the number of parallel reading texts at intermediate level on my Y10-11 page of frenchteacher.net. Topics covered so far are: zombies (added today), online media habits, superheroes, weird hotel complaints, phobias, Islamic State (ISIL), Maglev trains, dogs who can detect cancer, the amazing story of the rescued Mexican fishermen and "a heroic deed".

As with the parallel reading texts in the Y7 section of the site, you could put these together into the form of a stapled booklet for students to do as independent reading or an an extension task for more able students. Answers to the exercises are given.

I am am always on the look-out for interesting topics for students to read about, so if you have any bright ideas do let me know. My friend Gianfranco Conti recently blogged about how uninteresting much text book material is and I have to agree. I sympathise to some extent with text book writers who are slaves (in the UK) to the demands of public exami…

The "oral approach"

Henry Sweet was one of the founders of a new way of teaching modern languages early in the twentieth century, a century littered with methodological alternatives to the grammar-translation approach. Sweet, like Gouin in France, believed that speech was more important than the written word and that languages should be taught primarily using the spoken word.

The approach which subsequently developed was not a "direct method" as such since the oral approach assumed careful selection and gradation of target language input. It was strongly teacher-led, discouraged formal teaching of grammatical structures, preferring the notion that students would pick up rules from the skilled presentation and practice provided by the teacher. The approach was also situational in that structures would be practised within a meaningful situational context, for example, family life.

Central to the approach is the use of repetition and question and answer in the classroom, along with contextual clue…

The spacing effect and its implications

Research - what there is of it - shows that humans tend to retain information better when they learn in short bursts at intervals rather in one big chunk. This approach has been a mainstay of advice for students revising for examinations for many years, in fact. You may like to reflect on the fact that when you are learning something by heart you are more successful when you spent frequent short amounts at the task, rather than approaching it in one long session.The phenomenon of the spacing effect, as it is called, was first identified by Hermann Ebbinghaus in an 1885 book Über das Gedächtnis. Untersuchungen zur experimentellen Psychologie (Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology). It is the phenomenon whereby animals (including humans) more easily remember or learn items when they are studied a few times spaced over a long time span rather than repeatedly studied in a short span of time (what is called ‘massed presentation’). In practice, the effect suggests that intense, …

Does practice make perfect?

A reflective, speculative piece...

There is a general principle in teaching and learning that you tend to get better at what you practice. In language learning, if you do lots of listening, you become a better listener. If you read a lot, you become a better reader, and so on. By this token, it would seem logical to assume that if you practise speaking, you will become a better speaker. But is this the case?

If you accept the claims made by proponents of the comprehension hypothesis, first elaborated by Stephen Krashen back in around 1980 and still exerting considerable influence today, you would say that you do not get better at speaking by speaking, but by doing more listening and reading. This claim is based on the assumption that acquisition only occurs through receiving comprehensible input and, as far as acquisition is concerned, speaking just performs the role of getting more input from interlocutors. You could put it this way: you cannot become more proficient without getting …

AQA's new GCSE role plays

In a recent blog I looked at the Photo card question in the recently accredited AQA GCSE Speaking tests. This time, I'll review the role-plays.

The source for these is here:

http://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/languages/gcse/french-8658/assessment-resources

Foundation tier

This is the format, the example taken from the AQA site:

Instructions to candidates 
Your teacher will play the part of your French friend and will speak first.
You should address your friend as tu.
When you see this – ! – you will have to respond to something you have not prepared.
When you see this – ? – you will have to ask a question.

Tu parles de ton collège avec ton ami(e) français(e). 
• Ton collège – description (deux détails).
• ! Sciences –ton opinion et une raison.
• Projet – septembre (un détail).
• ? Matière favorite.

Comments

This marks a return to a format we used to see at GCSE, with the notable difference that the cues for pupils are now in the target language. This was at the insistence of Ofqual/DfE and…

Easy scaffolded translations for beginners

A while ago I produced a set of seven scaffolded translations from French into English for beginners. The format is as below, with a text in French, followed by a gapped translation into English. This sort of task might fit well towards the end of a sequence of work on the relevant topic. In the case below the topic would be pets. You could, of course, use the source text separately for other types of work such as reading aloud, true/false, questions in French and so on. As a follow-up task pupils could write their own paragraph based on the source material. You can find all seven texts on frenchteacher.net.

Here is the example:


A problem with authenticity

Few language teachers would argue with the desirability of using, whenever appropriate, authentic or lightly adapted authentic listening and reading resources. In theory, they should give students an experience of hearing and seeing the language as it is actually used by native speakers and provide students with interesting materials to listen to and read. In addition, students should get less of a shock when they encounter native speaker language "in the field".

One problem which is rarely mentioned, however (apart from the obvious one, namely that authentic resources are often too difficult, therefore inappropriate), is that copyright issues mean that text books and exam boards have great difficulty sourcing them. If you have ever wondered why listening and reading texts in exam papers usually have an air of anaemic artificiality about them, it is primarily because it is really hard to get authorisation to use authentic sources. Occasionally permission is granted, but in mo…

Photo card questions in GCSE Speaking

Now that the AQA GCSE is accredited we have a very good idea of what the new exam and exam questions will look like when they are first sat in 2018. I have made a little start on one aspect of the papers for frenchteacher.net: the Photo card part of the Foundation and Higher Speaking tests.

You can see the AQA specimens by using this link:

http://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/languages/gcse/french-8658/assessment-resources

What strikes me, having done GCSE for many years, is that the standard is slightly tougher than what we have been used to. The Foundation Photo card questions are notably more demanding that the type of material weaker candidates had to cope with in the past. I also note that in the specimens at least, the gap between Foundation and Higher is by no means a chasm. When I wrote my own examples (see below), this presented a minor challenge.

Anyway, I did ten Foundation and ten Higher examples, using the same pictures I got from pixabay.com (a source of royalty free images, av…

2016 here we go!

For my first blog of the new year, I am going to think aloud about plans for the year.

The book I have been working on with the indefatigable Gianfranco Conti is now all but finished and we hope to get it out via Amazon in the next few weeks. Our title is The Language Teacher Toolkit and it contains 24 chapters covering methods, target language teaching, developing spontaneous talk, classroom oral techniques, teaching grammar, vocabulary, listening, reading and writing. We also have chapters on motivation, behaviour management, technology, advanced level teaching, assessment/feedback/marking and differentiated teaching. Towards the end of the book we have done a chapter on evaluating and writing resources, along with a number of model lesson plans. We are really grateful to Steve Glover of dolanguages.com who has done a very thorough edit for us.

It's been a tricky balancing act selecting and recording research findings whilst offering loads of classroom ideas, but we hope we have…