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Showing posts from December, 2016

Talking about how The Language Teacher Toolkit came into being

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, 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…

Book progress report

I blogged a while ago about the book I'm working on for Routledge. It's to be called Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. Following the success of The Language Teacher Toolkit written with Gianfranco, Routledge approached me out of the blue to write a book in their series "Becoming an Outstanding...". I had not been intending to write a second handbook, but on reflection I did see how I could put together something which would be distinctive from the first book and original in its own way. The target readership is teacher trainees and other interested teachers aiming to refine their practice. Since most of the examples I use are in English, so as not to confuse teachers of particular languages, the book may appeal to ESL/EFL teachers too.

The typescript is almost complete now. There are fourteen chapters covering areas such as running a classroom, teaching texts, listening, vocabulary, task-based teaching, writing and speaking, as well as a final chapter featuri…

Which skill is most neglected in languages classrooms?

Out of interest I posted a poll on Twitter with the question "Which skill do you think is most neglected in MFL/WL classrooms?" The four options were listening, reading, speaking and writing.

The responses (320 of them) were interesting and as follows:

Listening 47%
Reading 7%
Speaking 40%
Writing 6%

I have usually written that listening is the most neglected skill and this accords with what the respondents to the poll thought. I wonder if this is because of the way we perceive "listening" in language teaching and the way it is assessed.

One of the unfortunate by-products of the GCSE exam system in England and Wales, introduced around 1987, is that listening is seen as a separate skill, assessed separately and therefore to be taught separately. (For readers outside England and Wales, about half of our 15-16 year-olds do a high-stakes, national exam called GCSE which has always assessed (reasonably discretely) listening, reading, speaking and writing.)

This had tended to en…

Peppa Pig - la Visite du Père Noël

Here is a nice video listening task from The video lasts just over 5 minutes. You could use this with a very good Y9 class, or more likely a Y10-ll group for a bit of useful listening fun and vocabulary building. The class could do the task independently in a computer room or on tablets (if you have the bandwidth).

The URL of the video is below, but you can find it elsewhere, e.g. on Dailymotion, with a Google video search.

Apologies for any formatting issues - you could copy and paste into Word.

Regardez, écoutez et complétez cette liste de vocabulaire que vous entendez

Christmas Day - __ _____ __ ____              nanny and grandad - ______ __ ______
Father Christmas has been! - __ ____ _____ ___ p_____
bubbles - b_____ (f)                                      cartoon book - b____ d________ (f)
too early - t___ t__                            all hands on deck! – t___ __ m____ s_ __ p__
plate - a________ (f)                   …

The immersion effect

Apart from being very well taught at school for seven years, three formative experiences stand out in my mind when I recall my own experience of learning French as a young person.

The first was doing an exchange aged 16 with a lad called Eric, the son of a solicitor. Quite at the last minute, when the local girls' grammar school needed a boy to make up the numbers, I dashed over on a train and boat from my terraced house in not-so-well-off Gillingham to the rather grand home of my partner in Solesmes, near Cambrai, northern France. I just about recall ivy on the walls, high ceilings and the unfamiliar odour of green beans cooked in garlic and butter. After a week in Solesmes we spent a week at their beach house in Brittany.

The second experience was a immersion course in rural Sussex, where about 30 sixth-formers gathered in an enormous house for an intensive weekend of French language with a virtual "no English" rule. Immediately after I had a practice oral exam and my te…

Using literary texts at KS3

I have been reading a brand new book called Success Stories from Secondary Foreign Languages Classrooms (Models from London school partnerships with universities). It is edited by Colin Christie and Caroline Conlon and published by UCL/IoE Press. The book consists of eight chapters written by various academics and teacher trainers working on PGCE courses in the London area.

I'll blog a bit more about it in due course, but here I'll focus on one chapter written by Fotini Diamantidaki and entitled Using literature in the key stage 3 modern foreign languages classroom.

Fotini begins by putting the topic in context, referring to the latest DfE national curriculum for MFL and its inclusion of the directive that pupils should "read literary texts in the language... to stimulate ideas, develop creative expression andf expand understanding of the language and culture."

A general justification is then provided for teaching literature. Fotini says that literary texts

1. are au…