Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2018

Post-method principles

This is the third and last in this short series of blogs about the so-called post-method era, based on Part 3 of B. Kumaravadivelu’s 2006 book. In the first two blogs I summarised points he made regarding the inadequacy of using a method to teach a language, myths surrounding methods and some general parameters he suggests for making teachers autonomous creators of their own, principled approach, based less on a “top-down” view of teacher education (teacher as consumer) and more on a “bottom-up” view (teacher as self-developer).

I should stress that I am being very selective in the material I use from the book, as Kumaravidelu goes into a considerable level of detail about how he views the “post-method teacher”. I have chosen what stands out for me and what I think might appeal to you.

In this post I’m going to look at some more specific principles Kumaravidelu suggests which might guide your teaching and methodological outlook.

In Chapter 9 of his book, after examining post-method mo…

The Death of Method

This is the second blog in this little series drawing on Chapter 8 of B. Kumaravadivelu’s book entitled Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod (2006).

In the previous post I summarised his view that methods are an inadequate basis on which to build a language teaching methodology, that the search for a best method is futile, and listed a number of myths surrounding methods.

Let’s suppose you sometimes feel annoyed or frustrated when urged to use 90% target language, not do drills, avoid using vocabulary lists, do lots of work on phonics, avoid group work, play lots of games, don’t play games etc. You may find Kumaravadivelu’s discussion of what he calls the post-method condition quite refreshing and even a little reassuring.

So in this post I summarise what else he has to say about what British applied linguist Allwright called in 1991 The Death of the Method.

Kumaravadivelu enumerates Allwright’s six reasons for the Death of the Method. I’ll summarise them as concis…

The Myth of Method

This is the first of a short series of blog posts about what has been called the “post method” era of language teaching. This first post is a summary of part of Chapter 8 of B. Kumaravadivelu’s 2006 book about language learning and teaching entitled Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod (ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series).

Kumaravadivelu’s main point is that language teaching has largely moved beyond an attachment to any one method and he aims to examine what a post-method era might mean. This general point of view appeals to me as someone who is suspicious of “methods” and who believes that effective delivery of an eclectic approach probably makes sense in most contexts.

In his chapter, from Part 3 of the book, having made the distinction between “method” (“an expert’s notion derived from an understanding of the theories of language, of language learning, and of language teaching”) and “methodology” (what the teacher actually does in the classroom …

What can you do with films in MFL lessons?

Here are just some of the many activities you can use when teaching a film with more advanced students. This is adapted from the Teacher’s Guide of

Use still images as a basis for oral description and try to predict storyline.
Show the first scene - what came before?
Show the video without sound or just listen with no visual.
Tick boxes to check comprehension in target language while watching film.
Play soundtrack & have a tick list for moods: e.g. in French “joyeux/terrifiant/angoissant.”
Provide True/false comprehension tasks.
Provide worksheets with questions in L2.
Examine a scene in detail. How did the director achieve the effect on the viewer he was aiming for.
Cut off final few frames for prediction.
Re-ordering the plot for jigsaw reading.
Who said what? – match the characters and the quotations. Also, who could have said what?
Open dialogues – imagine the other character (e.g. dialogue on the telephone) or imagine what the people in the scene are thinking.
Rewrite …

Teaching task-based lessons

Do you know much about task-based language teaching (TBLT)?  I've added a new page on this topic to the Teacher's Guide of It suggests some practical ideas you could use which exploit this dimension of language teaching. I'm not convinced it's a valid methodology for secondary MFL/WL classrooms overall, given all the syllabus and examination restrictions placed upon teachers, nor do I think it's an entirely valid methodology full-stop, but there are certainly worthwhile language tasks with a real purpose which can help bring lessons to life and increase pupil progress by building their vocabulary, grammar, comprehension and fluency.

For a rationale behind task-based teaching look at my review of Bill VanPatten's book While We're on the Topic.

Here is the link to my new page which includes practical classroom ideas:

The page is an adapted version of a chapter on my handbook…

Updates to A-level vocab and oral booklets

This is to mention that I've made significant changes to the AS-level (first year of A-level) vocabulary and oral booklets on One teacher pointed out to me that the questions were not focused tightly enough on the new requirement for cultural knowledge. As a result I have updated these booklets to include the new style of questions teachers or examiners might ask.

The A-level (Year 2) booklets are fine and do not need changing. these booklets are designed to help teachers and students prepare for the sub-theme cards.

For teacher-examiners the new paper 3 oral poses new challenges and there is a danger that some teachers may not focus tightly enough on the culture of the TL country. Although it's not expected that candidates will be quizzed on specific factual details, the type of open-ended question teachers might ask should encourage students to show off what they know. If they do these successfully they will score well for AO4 in the mark scheme.

Good tech…

GCSE and IGCSE revision links 2018

It's coming up to that time of year again. In England and Wales. Here is a handy list of some good interactive revision links for this level. These links are also good for intermediate exams in Scotland, Ireland and other English-speaking countries. You could copy and paste this to print off for students.

Don't forget the GCSE revision material on of course! How could you?

As far as apps for students are concerned, I would suggest the Cramit one, Memrise and Learn French which is pretty good for vocabulary. For Android devices try the Learn French Vocabulary Free. For listening, you could suggest Coffee Break French from Radio Lingua Network (iTunes podcasts).

Listening (Foundation/Higher) (Foundation/Higher) (Foundation/Higher)

GCSE resources on frenchteacher

Here is the list of resources specifically designed to support teachers and pupils preparing for the GCSE exams in England and Wales. The newest resource, uploaded yesterday, is a 15 page listening revision booklet which pupils could take away and use on their own.

Foundation Tier

Knowledge organiser (for speaking and writing)
AQA-style role-plays
AQA-style photo card conversations (2 sets)
Photo card conversation mat
AQA general conversation questions
AQA conversation questions as boardgames
100 translation sentences into French(with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
10 translations into English (with answers)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier

Listening revision booklet
Knowledge organiser (for speaking and writing)
AQA-style role-plays
AQA-style photo card conversations (Higher tier) - 2 sets
AQA general conversation questions
AQA conversation questions as boardgames
20 Higher Tier translations into French (with answers)

New A-level revision booklets on frenchteacher

This is just to make you aware of a resource which A-level French teachers might find very useful for students.

I have posted an 82 page revision booklet covering the first six AQA sub-themes (AS-level or the first year of the A-level course). These are:

FamilyCyber-societyCinemaContemporary musicVolunteeringCultural heritage
The booklet is in effect a compendium of listening and reading worksheets which you can already find on the site, some of which you may have used. I have provided nearly all the answers at the back of the booklet, with a few exceptions - notably song lyrics (copyright) and a very few older sheets for which I never produced answers in the first place.

I would anticipate this booklet being handed out for revision in the run-up to exams or being used in class, led by the teacher from the front.

The listening material is mostly in the form of video listening sheets linked to online sources, but there are a couple of audio worksheets (using Audio Lingua authentic reco…

Ways to help your students in the run-up to A-level orals

Once again in late April the orals season will be upon you and this will be the first year of the new A-level specification with its stimulus card conversation (AQA) and Individual Research Project (IRP) presentation and discussion. I have presented 10 courses for AQA, part of which have been devoted to orals, so I thought I would share some ideas of my own and others I have picked up from the many A-level teachers I have met.

1. Stimulus cards (AQA)

Train up students in using their 5 minute preparation time by using practice cards or just very short paragraphs in class. Get students working alone or in pairs for 5 minutes, producing bullet points for their answers, then modelling answers to questions on the board. Students could record your model answers on their phones.

Play “Just a minute” in small groups to encourage fluency, keeping the focus on knowledge of the TL country (AO4). Again could record these games.

In pairs play the game in which one person has to make a point about a su…

A task-based lesson plan

This is for an intermediate class (Y9-11 in England and Wales) and is closely based on an idea in Bill VanPatten's book While We're on the Topic, which I recently reviewed. It's far from original in concept but is a nice low preparation activity which would take about 25 minutes and which features many repetitions of perfect tense verbs.