Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Vocabulaire idiot

Robert De Niro made a memorable video during the US presidential election in which he found a large number of nouns to describe Donald Trump. Here it is:

So in honour of the US president here is a French vocab list for you.

faible d'esprit
roi des cons
dépassé par sa situation

That'll do for now. You may have others.

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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Review: Ilini videos



This is a promising new site, currently in Beta, which features regularly updated, advanced level French videos, complete with sub-titles, downloadable, translated transcripts and optional English translations.

The content so far would suit adult learners and advanced level students. Each authentic video lasts under two minutes and topics available so far include:
  • A glass wall to protect the Eiffel Tower
  • A French woman crowned Miss Universe (oh dear!)
  • A record year for French car-maker Renault
  • Emmanuel Macron's supporters
  • Women in cinema
  • A farmer gettinga suspended sentence for helping migrants
  • The François Fillon scandal
  • The presidential election
  • The 2015 Paris climate conference

The videos are sourced from the likes of France 24, BFM and Euronews (copyright?). For each video you can download a pdf with the transcript and its translation, along with a second sheet on which you can record any vocabulary you wish.

The most useful aspect for teachers is the transcript from which you could design exercises such as gap-fill. The fact they are in pdf makes this more fiddly, but still feasible.

A free sign-up is required.

The webmasters say:

"We help you learn languages the natural way We bring you short, real-life videos in French and English with interactive subtitles and an integrated dictionary. In one click, you can save lists of vocabulary in your personal space. You can then come back later, rehearse or print them out.

We are currently in beta! This means that we are intensively working on the website and gathering feedback. We aspire to become the best place to improve your vocabulary with no pain. Join us, if you haven't done so already! Ilini is also available for French speakers learning English on fr.ilini.com."

One might assume that at some point they will monetise the site in some form or other, but for now A-level teachers might get some use out of the material.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Buckingham University PGCE and IPGCE presentations

I used these presentations as a basis for discussion with the PGCE and IPGCE students based at the University of Buckingham.

New book update

Just to let you know that the typescript of my new book Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher is at Routledge and I'm hoping it will be available very soon. It's one of a series of books covering different subject areas. Maths and English are already published.

There will be around 200 pages and this is what what the Contents page looks like:


1. Running a room
2. Dissecting a lesson: visuals
3. Dissecting a lesson: using written texts
4. Dissecting a lesson: task-based lessons
5. Enjoying sounds
6. Great games
7. Getting grammatical
8. Words and chunks
9. Dissecting a lesson: speaking
10. Dissecting a lesson: writing
11. Teaching all abilities
12. Pace, questioning and other interactions
13. Moving them forwards
14. What makes an outstanding language teacher?


What is a bit different about this book, I think, is the focus on detailed analyses of classroom interactions - notably typical question-answer sequences and the subtleties of running them. I hope these will be of particular use to brand new teachers or others who feel uncertain about how to run lessons primarily in the target language. It really does deal with the nuts and bolts of teaching languages in schools.

There is almost no theory in this book, just plenty of practical ideas and descriptions of possible lessons. I try not to be too prescriptive. Indeed my final chapter includes "case studies" of unusual teaching approaches, including what I've called the bilingual approach used at the Michaela Community School where pupils seem to be making outstanding progress. I also look at the TPRS method which is particularly popular in the USA and AIMlang, used in Canada.

I do try to stick to some principles I am fond of: the importance of meaningful input and interaction, along with the rigorous practice of skills, including explicit grammar. I have also included "tech tips" at the end of most chapters, focusing on tools which maximise input and practice, not time-consuming creative tasks.

I have written a chapter on purposeful games, repeating very little of what we published in The Language Teacher Toolkit. I think of games just as enjoyable purposeful tasks which successfully recycle language.

The first chapter called "Running a Room" (a phrase I pinched from Tom Bennett) deals with generic language teaching skills including entry routines, starters, plenaries and skilled interactions with pupils.

My examples are largely, though not entirely, in English so as not to put off teachers of any particular language. I have also avoided referring specifically to the English education system as I would like the book to appeal (sell) to readers outside the UK.

Finally I have had really useful input from a number of teachers, notably Gianfranco Conti, Martina Bex and Carrie Toth from the USA, SEND specialist David Wilson, Pauline Galea from Canada, and Jess Lund and Barry Smith from Michaela in London. My former brilliant colleague Anne Swainston, whom I observed many times, also gave me useful insights.

In sum, I hope the book helps teachers build their personalised repertoire of successful techniques based on sound principles.

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Monday, 6 February 2017

Five ways to help your students prepare for the new GCSE Speaking Tests

So Controlled Assessments are on the way out and we essentially.return to the form of oral assessment which preceded them. From May 2018 pupils will do a role play, discuss a photo and have a conversation based on the prescribed topics or "sub-themes". This applies to both Foundation and Higher Tier.

What can teachers do to help pupils score well? I may have some useful ideas for you after many years of preparing pupils and a few years of marking oral exams for AQA during the previous regime.

1. Rote learning is still important

While it's true that CAs encouraged learning whole talks by heart (though it was never meant that way - unintended consequences), don't think for a moment that the learning by heart won't play a role in the new format. I recall very clearly, when I marked for AQA at least 15 years ago, listening to the candidates of one school who all produced very similar answers. For example, when asked to describe a recent meal every candidate had coincidentally eaten chicken and chips with ice cream for dessert. They all had plenty to say, with dubious accents, and scored very well. My feeling at the time was that these teachers had got some average candidates to perform very creditably by giving them lists of answers to memorise. I could only reward what I heard each candidate say.

So, my first point is this: whatever the ability profile or prior attainment of your students, give them lists of common questions with model answers which they can learn by rote or add to if they are smart enough. Remember that many of these answers will be usable in all three parts of the test, unless the role play happens to be a situational-style one. (AQA offers a mix of situational and conversational ones.) For weaker students give them short responses, for the most able give them as much as you want because they will devour it with relish.

As a young teacher I felt this sort of preparation went against my principles, but over time I compromised and did whatever would help to get those high grades.

2. Do fluency activities

Saying a lot still trumps (sorry) by far accuracy so anything you can do to help students maintain the flow is worthwhile. Fluency will stem from effective memory work and sound methodology (input and practice) over several years, but you can still exploit some handy task types in the run-up to oral exams.

"Just a minute" (mentioned in my previous blog) is one such activity. Along similar lines get pairs of students to time each other as they try to talk non-stop for chunks of time (say 30 seconds, one minute or more, depending on the class). Alternatively play speed-dating, changing pairs every two minutes. If you do this, I recommend you pause the lesson every ten minutes to model good answers yourself. This provides more useful input and adds variety of focus to the lesson.

3. Focus on tense

Jess Lund from Michaela Community School mentions this in a recent blog (https://jlmfl.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/gcse-french-the-michaela-way/) and provides an example of a learning sheet to help pupils with tenses. With weaker pupils focus on no more than past, present and future. Some pupils will have trouble doing any tense accurately.

In French, above all, try to train out of pupils the dreaded "je joué" hybrid tense which loses marks owing to the ambiguity of meaning it creates. This can be especially costly in the role plays (see below). Even excellent candidates can carelessly let this slip in.

With higher-attaining students make sure they pre-learn examples of other tenses (present conditional, imperfect and pluperfect) and modal verbs in different tenses.

4. Teach technique

Make sure you share the mark schemes with pupils stressing, above all, that you get the best marks by saying a lot. However, with the role play the opposite may be true. Some responses may require no more than a word or phrase to pick up all the marks. In French, for example, if the question is "Qu'est-que tu as acheté?" if a candidate says "poulet" this is likely to score higher than "J'acheté du poulet". The first answer is inaccurate but unambiguous, the second is ambiguous because of the verb error.

Practising the technique of producing minimalist answers will pay dividends. Even very good candidates lose marks carelessly by saying too much.

The photo card question needs some specific work on technique, notably the first question where a basic description of the picture is required.

5. Do lots of examples

The research is clear and chimes with common sense: students do better at assessment tasks when they are familiar with the test format. As I have blogged before, I favour leaving such practice reasonably late (during Y11). Why? Later practice will be better retained and since these assessment tasks are pretty boring why spend much time on them lower down the school?

I would use the specimens of your exam boards, plus those of other awarding bodies. You can then make up your own or find examples of materials online, including from my site. In the three weeks or so before the tests, do nothing else apart from oral practice. Give the practice as many twists as possible to make it enjoyable: change partners, get pairs to grade each other, model good responses, get students to model good answers, encourage pupils to record themselves, possibly sharing their work via digital platforms, display mark schemes or simplified versions thereof.

Give students written models of answers, matched to their abilities, to help them memorise.


Effective performance in the oral depends primarily on four or five years of good teaching and effort on the part of students, but you can help students achieve their potential through specific planning. Stress to students that all parts of the oral are interlinked. What's more, much of the oral practice will pay dividends in the writing paper students will do later.

If you are fortunate to have a language assistant perhaps you can get them to do practice tests just before their official test; this may help with nerves too. A-level students may be able to help with this too.

Assure your very weakest students that with good technique and a smallish repertoire of verbs and other vocab they can still do well. In addition, make sure you do all you can (within the rules) to help them on the day, with a smiling face, familiar question forms and encouraging students to extend answers where there are more marks for doing so. Don't feel bad if you hear many of the same answers repeated - this shows you and the pupils have both done your job.

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Friday, 3 February 2017

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 true/false statements. This can be further extended by getting students in pairs to recount your weekend from their notes and/or their own weekend.

2. Just a minute

Pupils work in small groups. Individuals try to talk for a minute without hesitating (i.e. drying up), repeating or deviating from the topic. This works well with good intermediate and advanced level students. You can give easy topics to intermediates and harder ones to advanced level students. This can be great preparation for an oral exam. I'd begin by improvising an example of your own to demonstrate as a model.

This is definitely an "output" task but one which can encourage students to speak fearlessly with an ear on fluency rather than accuracy.

3. Would I lie?

For intermediate to advanced level. Students try to work out which three of six statements are not true by asking you questions. You prepare five statements about yourself, three true and two false, and write them on the board. For example:

• My brother has twin sons.
• I have three cats.
• If I’d been a boy, I would’ve been called George.
• My family was brought up in Spain.
• My favourite movie is The Sound of Music.
• My father was an extra in Star Wars.

You can ask the class how many of the statements they think are false. Then tell them there are three. Tell them they have to work out which by asking you questions, listening to your answers and watching your reaction. You can embroider your answers as much as possible, giving the right number of hints depending on how fast you think your class is.

Let the students ask questions until they have decided which ones they believe (by a show of hands). Give them the real answer. You could add an element of competition by putting the class into pairs or small groups, with each grouping coming up with their chosen two false statements.

An extension to this task is to ask students to write down similar statements for themselves – three true and three false. Divide them into groups and repeat as above with one person from the group being questioned by the others.

4. Exploiting a simple picture

This is an extremely simple, zero preparation and fun idea for creating conversation lessons with high intermediate or advanced level classes. You take a simple picture featuring a couple of people and use it as the basis for some imaginative storytelling.

What's her name?
What's his name?
Where are they? What country? What town?
What's their relationship?
Did they meet recently?
Are they work colleagues?
How old are they?
What are they eating?
What are they talking about?
What is she like as a person? What's he like?
What are their interests?
Why do they look so happy?
How did they meet? When? Long ago?
If they are married, have they been married before?
What were they doing before they met at the restaurant?
What are they going to do next?
What do they do for a living?
What do they think of their jobs?
Have they always done that?
What did they used to do?

Now, how the conversation develops depends on just how imaginative your students are. You would do well to tell the students at the outset to be as daring as possible. They may take you in some interesting directions; or you may need to prompt them to use their imaginations a bit more by suggesting some more outrageous ideas, e.g. he has two wives, she is a spy, he is an ex convict, they are having an affair, and so on.

I would probably do this a teacher-led task, but with some classes you hand out a list of suggested questions and get the students to work in pairs or small groups. This would lead to a variety of stories which can be compared later on.

When you do this type of activity students come up with different scenarios. This can generate further debate. If you are leading the lesson, you may have to lead them along what seems like the most fruitful linguistic and creative path.

It's easy to encourage the use of different time frames - past, present and future - and to go on from speaking to writing or more listening. For example, you could make up your own back story to the couple, describe it in TL to the class, whilst they take notes, then feed back the account to a partner or the whole class.

How about getting them to write an imagined dialogue between the couple, once their story is established? Or how about getting the students to find their own picture and build an imaginative story around it, either spoken, written or both.

5. Word association

Give an example of how it works, then do it as a whole class activity, either working round in order or moving randomly from pupil to pupil. Stress that students should not plan words in advance and that they are allowed to pass. With the right class they can do it in small groups or pairs. This works at all levels.

You can use the game to develop quick vocabulary retrieval reflexes and to illustrate how humans organise words in the brain.

A similar and effective alternative is to build silly stories one word at a time, moving around the class. Sentences need to be grammatical, so in this case the task develops both meaning and syntactic and morphological skills. Tell students they can say "full stop" (period) if the sentence comes to a natural end.

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Monday, 30 January 2017

Book review: Teach Like a Champion 2.0

Let me sum up this review in two points right from the start:

1. All teachers would benefit from reading this outstanding book about how to run successful classrooms.
2. Language teachers will find some of the recommended classroom techniques less relevant.

If you don't already know of him, Doug Lemov is a leading expert in the field of describing successful classroom management. He is the Managing Director of the US group of urban Charter Schools Uncommon Schools’ "Teach Like a Champion" team. His book Teach Like a Champion 1.0, has sold nearly 1,000,000 copies and been translated into eight languages. This revised and upgraded Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College is the subject of this review. The book can be read in association with videos of teachers in action (referenced in the text) and a dedicated website.

When I began teaching in 1980, I wish there'd been a book like this. I would have made far fewer mistakes! Doug's book gives the lie to the notion that you cannot teach teachers to teach. Whilst he acknowledges in Part 4 that some teachers seem to have a natural poise and presence, this very detailed and readable book, punctuated here and there with personal anecdote, demonstrates that there is a whole host of specific techniques which teachers can apply to improve their craft. All of these are described with admirable clarity by referring to a considerable number of teachers Doug has carefully observed and recorded.

Let me pick out a few of his techniques and reflect on them from a language teacher's perspective.

His "Do Now" technique is to always have a 3-5 minute task as pupils enter with no need for teacher support. This is part of his "Strong Start" technique which he correctly claims is vital for effective lessons. Do Now aims to build habit of independence and make sure "Every Minute Counts". Pen and paper should be used to show evidence and the task needs to be corrected quickly. Many language teachers adopt this technique, although I find it a little too prescriptive and preferred my flying starts to be oral warm-ups (drills and the like).

His Technique 33 "Cold Call" is a key one, in Doug's opinion. It's what many of us know as "no hands-up" or even "hands-down". Doug considers this to be the single most transformative technique for involving all pupils and raising standards. I'm glad he doesn't argue that it should be the sole way of running question-answer sessions. Typically he describes in the variations on hands-up, hands-down and mixtures thereof. What's great about this book is how forensically he analyses every detail and consequence of teacher-student interaction. For instance, he mentions how, when you cold call a question, you should not name the student before the question in order that all students give thought to an answer.

Technique 43 "Turn and Talk" is one which is very familiar to language teachers. After some teacher-led work/interaction you get pupils to turn to. a partner and work orally to a very specific time limit. Doug puts this in the context of discussion (e.g. in an English lesson) whereas we language teachers would use it usually for more structured pair-work tasks with a focus on a structure or area of vocabulary.

One point he makes which I have seen elsewhere and used myself is that you should give very specific time limits, say four minutes, rather than rounded numbers like five or ten. This adds urgency and sends the message that you are precise in your time management. In fact, managing time and pace through effective transitions and mileposts during lessons to make every second count is a significant theme of the book. His Technique 27 "Change the Pace" includes advice on when to excite a class and when to calm them. Old hands know this well.

Doug argues quite strongly for forward-facing seating which has long made sense to me. How else can you effectively scan and track what pupils are doing and insist that they track you? On this point, I like his STAR/SLANT acronyms from Chapter 10. STAR: Sit up, Track the Speaker, Ask and answer questions like a scholar, Respect those around you. SLANT: Sit up, Listen, Ask and answer questions, Nod your head, Track the speaker. He recommends using the acronyms as useful, time-saving shorthand.

Part 4 of the book focuses on behaviour management. These are Techniques 51-57 - how to best manage behaviour through vigilance, calm finesse, the least invasive interventions, "art of the consequence", a strong voice and positive instructions - telling students what to do, not what not to do. Doug stresses how pupils need to be trained into good procedures and routines. He writes: "the more natural and routinised your classroom systems become, the less they feel like restrictions". This is partly in response to potential critics who may argue that his recommendations come across as repressive or undemocratic. Doug is unapologetic about teachers needing to exercise authority effectively.

On the value of quick interventions to manage behaviour Doug writes "if you're mad you've waited too long". He cites this as a useful piece of advice for teachers and he's right. He says that interventions should be quick, incremental, consistent and depersonalised, e.g. when when a class enters too boisterously, get them to do it again immediately. I cannot emphasise enough how much good detailed guidance there is in this book!

Observations of language teaching are absent, which is a slight pity. Some of Doug's analysis does not match so well with the practice of MFL/WL teachers who work within the communicative or TPRS paradigm where question-answer has a specific purpose in developing proficiency rather than developing concepts. Some of the recommended interactions would relate well to discussion of grammar or the teaching of topics, film or literature at advanced level, but less well with younger classes. "Call and Response", however, is widely used by language teachers who tend to refer to one type of it as choral repetition.

Technique 38 "Art of the Sentence" is interesting, since we language teachers often insist on whole sentences to help develop control of syntax. Doug's focus is however more on developing rich vocabulary, complex ideas and clarity of academic discourse, speaking in a scholarly way, if you like.

I could add a good deal more from the notes I took, but I hope you've got my drift by now! Doug Lemov and his colleagues who have contributed through their ideas and classroom practice have done teachers a great service by writing this new edition of Teach Like a Champion. Every department, whatever the school, would do well to get hold of a copy.

Teach Like a Champion 2.0 costs about £17 and is published by Jossey Bass.

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Thursday, 26 January 2017

The latest from frenchteacher

I've been busier on the site recently now I've got the typescript finished for my next book with Routledge called Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. I've been looking for a fresh idea for the site and come up with the concept "Instant 30 minute listening". If you think listening is the neglected skill, this resource may help.

The idea with these is to give teachers a script to read aloud, record or have recorded by a native speaker. This is accompanied by a couple of exercises, usually true/false or true/false/not mentioned and gap-fill. Teachers can decide how many times they want to read the text and at what pace, depending on their class. the exercises are all in target language to reinforce the language they hear and to improve reading skills.

All of these tasks are pretty much zero preparation as far as the teacher is concerned and should take about 30 minutes to do. You can correct them in class with the answers provided. Just give students the A4 worksheet and off you go!

I have focused mainly on GCSE Higher (intermediate) and done the following topics so far:

  • Sport (horse-riding)
  • Environment
  • Family
  • Volunteering
  • Healthy living
  • Cinema
  • Television

For AS/A-level (advanced) I have done:

  • Volunteering
  • Mobile phones

All topics tie in with common GCSE and A-level topics.

I shall be adding more of these in due course.

It's true that read-aloud texts based on written sources lack authenticity, but so do nearly all audio sources used in course books. On the plus side, the teacher can tailor the delivery of the text to their own class, even making the activity interactive if they want. In addition, manufactured texts of this type cover the key vocabulary and structures you want pupils to hear, read and practise.

If you want more authentic sources, then just use the many video listening exercises on the site.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

At what point should you start practising exam-style tasks?

The latest version of GCSE MFL features a number of quite specific test types, two of which we haven't seen before. The first is the "photo card" test which forms part of the speaking assessment; the second is the translation into target language, marking a very watered-down return to O-level-style assessment. When should teachers prepare their pupils for these questions?

I see from social media that some teachers are beginning to work on photo cards, as well as role-plays (which have previously featured in GCSE) from Y7. Others are spending a good deal more time on translation into the target language than they did before. Are they right to be doing this?

On the one hand we know from research that being familiar with a test type and practising it in advance will help you achieve better results. Pupils will learn certain techniques, know how the mark scheme works and generally know what to expect. They will even be able to predict to some degree what language will come up. This clearly means that teachers would be wise to give pupils plenty of practice at photo cards, role-play and translation.

On the other hand, we also know that in an ideal world question types would mirror the type of activity you would like to do in class anyway. A good exam would feature questions which reflect sound methodology. So, if you take the view that, in general, translating is not the best way to spend valuable class time, then matching classroom tasks to the exam will involve a degree of compromise. (I would have very rarely done translation at A-level had it not been in the exam.)

How much actual practice is needed? As far as the photo card is concerned, there is not a great deal of technique involved since most of the task is just an extension of the general conversation pupils will have prepared anyway. (Only the first question asks about the content of the photo.)

The role-play does require a bit more technique, notably involving simplifying answers as much as possible to avoid errors which cause ambiguity. Some role-plays are, as with the photo-card, an extension of general conversation, others are more based on alleged real-life situations. The specimen examples are quite unrealistic, in fact, in terms of when a teenager might use their language in another country.

As for translation, yes, a good deal of practice and modelling from the teacher will yield better results as pupils come to anticipate the common traps and favoured grammatical structures.

But when should all this practice be started? My own view is that you could leave the role-play and photo card until quite late in the day, say at some point in Year 11. These tasks are not inherently interesting and there are many more stimulating, input-focused things you can do in lessons.

Translation may be worth touching on from an earlier stage, at the very least because it can reinforce grammatical accuracy and because many pupils enjoy doing it. Even so, I would not work on it systematically until Y11. Remember too that not many marks are allocated to translation, so you may feel that it should not be a priority. Just think: every 20 minutes spent translating is time which could be used developing listening, reading, written composition and speaking skills.

So my gut feeling is that some teachers may be giving in too easily to the "backwash effect" where the test type dictates the teaching. I would suggest sticking to your methodological principles, whatever they may be, and do not be panicked into doing activities just because they are in the exam.

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Monday, 23 January 2017

Intermediate reading text - Lions

This is from the free samples page of frenchteacher.net and would suit GCSE (Higher) pupils. The text contains a high number of cognates.


Le lion (Panthera leo) est l'un des quatre grands félins du genre Panthea. Avec quelques mâles de plus de 250 kg, c'est le chat vivant le deuxième plus grand après le tigre. Les lions sauvages existent aujourd’hui en Afrique sub-saharienne et en Inde (où la population menacée habite dans le parc national de Gir Forest ). Jusqu'à il y a environ 10.000 ans, le lion était le mammifère le plus répandu sur la Terre après l'homme.

Le lion est une espèce vulnérable, ayant connu une baisse de population de 30-50% au cours des deux dernières décennies. Bien qu’on ne comprenne pas la cause exacte de cette baisse, la perte d'habitat et les conflits avec les humains sont les principales causes de préoccupation.

Les lions vivent pendant 10-14 ans dans la nature, mais en captivité ils peuvent vivre plus de 20 ans. Dans la nature, les mâles vivent rarement plus de 10 ans, car les blessures subies par les combats avec des mâles rivaux continuent de réduire considérablement leur longévité.

En général, ils habitent la savane et les prairies, mais on peut les trouver dans la brousse et en forêt. Les lions sont relativement sociables par rapport à d'autres chats. Un groupe de lions se compose de femelles apparentées et de leurs descendants et un petit nombre de mâles adultes. Des groupes de lionnes chassent généralement ensemble.

Les lions sont des prédateurs. Leur proie se compose principalement de grands mammifères, avec une préférence pour les gnous, les impalas, les zèbres, les buffles et les phacochères et en Afrique. Les lionnes sont plus agressifs que les lions. Alors que les lions ne chassent pas les humains en général, certains le font. Les lions sont essentiellement nocturnes ; ils dorment principalement au cours de la journée.

Très distinctif, le lion est facilement reconnaissable par sa crinière, et son visage est l'un des symboles les plus reconnus des animaux dans la culture humaine. Les représentations existent depuis la période paléolithique supérieur, avec des sculptures et des peintures dans les grottes de Lascaux en France. Les lions sont conservés dans des collections d’animaux depuis l'époque de l'Empire romain, et sont exposés dans des zoos à travers le monde depuis la fin du 18e siècle.


sauvage = wild​mammifère = mammal​baisse = fall​décennie = decade
blessure = wound​brousse = bush​proie = prey​phacochère = warthog
chasser = to hunt​crinière = mane​grotte = cave​époque = era

Can you guess the meaning of these words ?

menacé - ___________​répandu - _____________​espèce - ___________

combat - _________​longévité - ____________​par rapport à - _________ ____

ensemble - ____________​reconnaissable - _________________

(A) Compréhension : vrai, faux ou pas mentionné (PM) ?

1.​Le tigre est plus lourd (heavy) que le lion. _____
2.​Les lions habitent seulement en Afrique. _____
3.​Il y a 10 000 ans il y avait des tigres en Afrique. _____
4.​Le lion est une espèce menacée aujourd’hui. _____
5.​On sait exactement pourquoi les lions sont à risque. _____
6.​Les lions vivent plus longtemps en captivité. _____
7.​Il y a des combats entre lionnes (femelles). _____
8.​Les lions n’habitent pas dans les forêts. _____
9.​Dans un groupe il y a plus de femelles que de mâles. _____
10.​Les lions mangent d’autres mammifères. _____
11.​Les lions n’attaquent jamais les humains. _____
12.​On a trouvé des images de lions en Afrique. _____
13.​Les Romains ont gardé des lions en captivité. _____

(B) Production écrite : corrigez ces phrases fausses

1.​Les mâles pèsent moins de 250kg. …………………………………………………………
2.​Le lion n’est pas une espèce vulnérable. …………………………………………………..
3.​Dans la nature les lions vivent souvent plus de 10 ans. …………………………………..
4.​Les lions sont moins sociables que les autres félins. ……………………………………..
5.​Les lionnes chassent individuellement . …………………………………………………….
6.​Les lions dorment la nuit. ……………………………………………………………………

(C) Pair work : without looking at the text each person has to say something about lions in French. The first who cannot say something loses.

(D) EITHER In English, write down 15 things you know about lions from this article.
OR From memory, write down ten things you know about lions in French.

Friday, 20 January 2017

GCSE Higher Tier reading gap-fills

Among the many free samples I have on the frenchteacher site there's one you may have overlooked and which you might find very useful when revising for reading exams. This is a set of nine cloze tasks, each of which consists of an adapted authentic text with gaps to be filled. Pupils can choose words from a box which makes the task similar in style to many you see on GCSE papers.

You can find them here (scroll down, bottom left-hand column).

You could copy them and make a booklet for use in class or at home.

Here's an example:

Les ados accros aux écrans

Remplir les blancs en utilisant les mots dans la case

console                 parisiens              projeté                  dire

facile                    collégiens             temps                   devant

quotidienne          passé                    aucun                            demandé

Les ados sont accros aux écrans : une étude réalisée auprès de 8000

_________ parisiens fait le point sur le comportement des jeunes dans

leur vie __________.

3 heures : voilà le temps passé chaque jour par les ados devant un écran

d’ordinateur, de télé ou de _______ ... Résultat, le lendemain matin, en

ils s’endorment en cours. Car ce temps devant l’écran est souvent

pris sur le ________ de sommeil. Ces résultats sont tout droits sortis

d’un questionnaire* adressé à 8000 collégiens_________. Il en ressort

que l’addiction aux écrans est le problème n°1 pour les collégiens,

________ l’alcool ou le tabac.  Les adultes se demandent quoi faire face

à cette situation. Car ________ aux ados « Vous passez trop de temps

sur un écran, ce n’est pas bon pour vous !" n’ a _______ effet ! Les

médecins qui ont piloté l’étude ont alors _________ à certains ados de

plancher sur un scénario puis de tourner un film ou ils se mettraient en

scène face à leurs écrans. Le film est destiné à être _________ pour

lancer la discussion... et ça marche!  Cet effet miroir aide à réaliser le

temps ________ devant la télé, l’ordi, ou la console… Une fois qu’on a

réalisé c’est plus ________ d’agir de manière à s’en passer !


le sommeil – sleep          accro à – addicted to      un écran - screen

plancher – (slang) to work         se passer de – to do without

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

France Bienvenue revisited


This is in the way of a reminder about an excellent website I haven't blogged about for a long time. I'm always impressed when teachers maintain something of a high standard over a long period and this is a good example.

France Bienvenue, with its strapline De vraies conversations pour apprendre le français comme on le parle et tout pour les comprendre is well worth a visit if you teach advanced level French.

The recipe has always been the same. Teacher Anne from the IUT Marseille has, each year since 2008, got a small team of her students to record weekly conversations for the benefit of French learners around the world. Each conversation is accompanied by some sort of video (sometimes just slides which illustrate the topic), a transcript of the conversation and a glossary of language used with explanations in French. The conversations often have a distinct cultural element and give a nice flavour of student life in the Marseilles area.

Anne writes:

Comprendre une langue telle qu’on la parle au quotidien, ce n’est pas toujours facile, surtout si on ne vit pas dans le pays où on parle cette langue!
Alors, nous avons envie de partager avec vous ces petites conversations authentiques que nous enregistrons avec nos amis, nos proches ou d’autres pour que vous puissiez entendre le français tel qu’on le parle ici en France, à Marseille et ailleurs.
Vos suggestions ou vos questions sont les bienvenues. Vous pouvez nous laisser vos commentaires, en français ou dans une autre langue ! (Si c’est en espagnol, en italien ou en allemand, nous nous débrouillerons pour comprendre !)

She also presents the site here.

The topics covered are wide-ranging and, in recent times, have included: holidays, dance, Christmas, horse-riding, food, living together at 19, work placements and the Stade Vélodrome in Marseilles.

The language used is authentic, of course, usually well-paced for A-level and the presence of the transcripts means you can design effective multi-skill lessons centred on listening. You could copy and paste the scripts, creating gap-fills, reading comprehension tasks or retranslation tasks. It's refreshing to have material which isn't textbook-style, artificial-sounding material, necessary though that is. Sound quality is good and the content often interesting.

You could use the recordings from the front of the class or have students listen and read on tablets, laptops or in a computer room. It is possible to listen with only the beginning of the transcript visible. I have over the years designed occasional worksheets for frenchteacher.net to go with France Bienvenue material.

Do let me know if you know of anything else similar.