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Showing posts from November, 2016

Responses to my blog on teaching lower-achieving pupils

I have put together the responses I've received so far about how to get the best from lower-achieving students. These were posted on Twitter and Facebook and are, by the way, an example of how you can crowd-source ideas. Many thanks to those who responded. See what you think of them.



Make sure they're listening carefully when reading a text in TL by getting then to do actions (apologies for my shocking handwriting here đŸ˜¶)

Shared aim, short varied tasks practicing same in different ways using different media.accountability with recording all marks publicly. Tests at beginning of each lesson to show that effort = progress. Nowhere to hide, use sticks in pot to choose students to answer the questions. Pair, think, share. Seating plans changed until get the best fit. Not easy and I don't profess to hold answer but that's what I do. Will you do mixed ability teaching next as seems new fad... Grrr…

Phobias - parallel reading task

This is an activity from You could copy and paste this on to a sheet of A4 (landscape) with the French text on one side, English on the other. The subject matter should be iteresting for pupils.


Dans un sondage rĂ©cent on a demandĂ© Ă  2000 personnes de quoi ils avaient le plus peur. Il semble qu’il y ait des diffĂ©rences non seulement entre les rĂ©ponses des hommes et celles des femmes, mais aussi entre les diffĂ©rentes gĂ©nĂ©rations.
En tĂȘte de la liste, beaucoup de gens ont peur des hauteurs (58%). En deuxiĂšme place vient parler en public, suivi de prĂšs par la peur des serpents (52%).
Ensuite viennent les araignĂ©es, les souris, les piqĂ»res, l’avion, les grandes foules, les clowns, l’obscuritĂ©, le sang et les chiens (14%). A noter que le dentiste n’Ă©tait pas sur la liste de phobies prĂ©sentĂ©es aux sondĂ©s.
Il est intĂ©ressant de constater aussi que les femmes craignent davantage les araignĂ©es et les souris que les hommes. En gĂ©nĂ©ral, Ă  l’exception des piqĂ»res, les femm…

Teaching lower-attaining pupils

I would really welcome any comments or suggestions on this blog. Tweet me or send comments to my email which is public at During my career I mainly taught pupils of above average ability, so I am writing partly from my own experience, partly based on what I have read and what other teachers have told me. This post is not about SEN pupils.

I’m going to start by saying that the general principles of language learning apply to nearly all students: exposure to understandable TL, practice, four skills, interaction and recycling. When time is limited with less able students, however, you have to restrict the diet, sometimes quite a lot. The reality is that many pupils do not have great memories.

It is quite likely that classes with more lower ability pupils will take more managing than others. If you are new to teaching, I'd recommend you read Bill Rogers. Doug Lemov or Tom Bennett on classroom behaviour. Good behaviour is the bedrock of learning and pedagogically sound…

The TSC view of second language acquisition

As I said in my previous blog, there is much to like in the Teaching Schools Council review of MFL pedagogy, but one aspect stood out to me and I'd like to say a bit more about this. The review argues strongly for a skill-acquisition model of second language acquisition: presentation and practice lead to automaticity and long-term acquisition. For many teachers this will make sense since they were usually taught within that general paradigm.

Here is the link to the review once again:

Note this important paragraph about automaticity from the review:

"Automaticity means that, through regular, meaningful practice, learning becomes stored in long-term memory (sometimes known as procedural memory) and can be accessed without conscious thought. Developing automaticity in a language can enable pupils to devote working memory resources to the meaning being conveyed or on noticing or mastering new or more…

The Teaching Schools Council MFL pedagogy review

The Teaching Schools Council (TSC) is not well known in the teaching profession. The government established the body in 2011. It co-ordinates Teaching Schools and their alliances. Its nine-member board has a mix of elected and co-opted members. Today the body published a review on MFL pedagogy, presided over by linguist and executive head teacher Ian Baulkham.

The review panel talked to teachers, heads, pupils, parents and researchers and emerged with fifteen recommendations. The ones I would like to pick out are as follows (with my gloss added):

The vast majority of pupils should do a language to 16.
(This is in line with government Ebacc policy. I still have my doubts.)

Grammar, vocabulary and phonics should be explicitly taught in a structured fashion. Practice and skill-building are recommended.
(The pedagogical bias in the review is clear and would suit those who favour a skill-acquisition view of se…

Vocab apps and opportunity cost

Opportunity cost is a term from economics. It refers to the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

In every lesson you plan and teach there are numerous options. They are not all equal in terms of their learning value, that much we can agree on. I'd like to question the value of vocab learning websites/apps.

Now, I must make it clear that isolated word vocab learning can have a place and apps, from what teachers write, suit some pupils well. Teachers report productive lessons and homework using Quizlet and Memrise, for example. One teacher wrote on social media that almost all the homework she sets is based on Quizlet. Quizlet Live (where pupils can compete with each other in class to win vocab games) is getting good reports too.

If you are not familiar with Quizlet or need a reminder here is an example for advanced students doing A-level French.Have a quick look and try the Gravity game.

Perhaps because of my own methodological journey which began with the TL …

Latest from frenchteacher

Here are the resources I've added to the site in the last month:

Vocabulary booklets for the second year of the new AQA, Eduqas/WJEC and Edexcel A-level. Word lists for each of the sub-themes. These can be added to the existing ones for Year 1 (A-level).Low intermediate video listening. Trotro part en vacances. Vocab search, true-false and gap-fill. You could exploit this further too with dictation, story re-telling, translation etc. Free sample (see Samples page). (Low intermediate/Y9)yEasy video listening for near beginners. Trotro a un beau cartable. Short video with French subtitles featuring your favourite donkey-small boy hybrid, French to English matching exercises and true/false. (Near beginners/Y7)Four short and very simple gapped dictations for beginners. Introductions, town, home, pastimes. Individual letters are indicated in the gaps. (Near beginners/Y7).Text and exercises on Peppa Pig, her family and friend Suzy. Text, tick off correct statements, questions in French, …

Becoming an outstanding language teacher

i've been working on a book which will be published by Routledge in the first half of next year (all being well). It's provisionally titled "Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher". The book is aimed at trainee and experienced teachers around the world who aspire to the magic "outstanding" epithet, that piece of English inspection-speak (which I never liked). It's hard to define precisely what excellence means in teaching, of course, yet we have a pretty good idea who the excellent teachers in our schools are. The book tries to unpick aspects if what "outstanding" might look like. What do you have to do for pupils to hold you in the highest regard?

The book is pretty much written and will be around 200 pages long. Its "unique selling point" will be the level of detail in which it analyses individual lessons. There are four chapters which analyse in detail lessons and lesson sequences centred on speaking, reading texts, visuals and…

Making words memorable

Most teachers and researchers would agree that knowing words is even more important than knowing grammar if you wish to be proficient in a language. As linguist David Wilkins wrote in 1972: "Without grammar little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed."One of the frustrations for teachers is pupils' inability to retain vocabulary for productive use. A good deal of research has been done over the years into how pupils might better keep words in memory. Two concepts which have come to the fore are spacing and interleaving.

Spaced practice

A 2003 review of the literature by P.Y. Gu reported that most studies show that students frequently forget words after learning them just once.  Anderson and Jordan (1928) discovered that after initial learning, then one week, three weeks and eight weeks thereafter, the recall success was 66%, 48%, 39% and 37% respectively. Other studies have produced similar results. Unsurprisingly, these researchers recommend, space…

Video listening: Trotro part en vacances

Here's another example of the type of video listening worksheets I have on Trotro is a popular young children's show in France. Videos like this are great for classes: they amuse, they are clear and not too long and the language is fairly restricted to quite high frequency language. I hope this video displays in your territory! Apologies for any slight formatting issues.

1. tout Ă  l’heure              a. toys
2. j’ai sommeil                b. big waves
3. faire ma valise           c. net
4. les jouets                   d. sand
5. emporter                    e. later
6. des grosses vagues    f. I’m sleepy
7. du sable                     g. to pack my case
8. un filet                        h. to take
9. des crevettes              i. spade
10. une pelle                   j. armbands 11. un seau                     k. teddy 12. un rateau                  l. shrimps 13. la baignoire              m. full 14. mes …

What do TPRS lessons look like?

Please note that I have made a couple of changes to this post after receiving a message from Martina Bex. The original video I had posted was also incorrect.


TPRS stands for Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. Little known in the UK, it's the most common approach associated with the second language learning hypotheses of Stephen Krashen. These, in a nutshell, claim that the only way to develop proficiency in a second language is through comprehension, not explicitly teaching grammar and vocabulary. For more background try:

Many teachers, largely in the USA, have taken on board the TPRS methodology to produce excellent, engaging lessons for their classes. In essence the starting point of the approach is that students become proficient by being exposed to meaningful, ‘compelling’ listening and reading input. Grammar is usually taught in &qu…