Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Are 100 words enough?

Apparently, the current England football manager and Postman Pat's stunt double, Fabio Capello, whose name literally translates into English as "fabulous hair", (I may have just made that up!) has claimed that he needs only a vocabulary of 100 words to manage his squad of players.

There has been a number of complaints in the British press that, because of this, he can not be taking the job seriously. If he were he would have taken time to learn our wonderful language.

Now, I feel that I must defend Mr Capello. To me he is a bit of a hero.

His name gets me out of some tricky situations with some of my more difficult students.

Student: Why do we have to learn a language when everyone speaks English?
Me: Fabio Capello doesn't.

I wonder how many of our tabloid journalists know 100 words of Italian? Anyway, Capello did not say that he didn't need to learn English, but that he needed only 100 words to manage his squad. This is not the same thing. He is a football manager. He gives instructions. He is not a professor of nuclear physics, nor is he directing the Royal Shakespeare Company. The mischievous side of me wonders how many of the current England squad know more than 100 words in English. ?

This got me thinking: Do I use more than 100 words when giving instructions to students in my class? Honestly, I don't think I do. I use the same phrases over and over. It doesn't mean that my students aren't learning or that I'm not doing my job properly, does it?

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Some more resources...

Here is another post linking to some very good resources.
This time it's the Sutton Academy.

These resources are mainly online games and activities for individual students to practise key vocabulary and links to other useful sites, too.

They range from the basics in Keystage 2 to A level standard at Keystage 5 and are in 4 different languages: French, German, Spanish and Russian.

I was particularly interested in the French A level resources and noticed that they are following the same course as my students. There are some topics they haven't got around to yet but all of the AS level French topics appear to be there.

Although I will not have time to use the site in class, I shall be recommending that my year12 students, in particular, use this site for revision purposes.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

French listening resources.

When I started blogging a couple of years ago, my intention was that my blog would be a sort of online catalogue/review of the best resources and web content available to improve teaching of MFL.

The Panda Pops version of what Joe Dale does, if you will. The Home Bargains (cheap and cheerful) equivalent of his John Lewis like blog.

Unfortunately, this page has become more a place for the rantings of a grumpy old man than for sharing good practice and ideas.

Today is different. I am going back to basics and getting all serious and recommending a very good resource.

It's the free language tutorials from

In particular, the French listening resource podcasts.

They are completely free to download as mp3 files and etremely useful for anyone studying French, especially as exam season is almost upon us. I recommend them to my year 11 French class and to you.

Go on.

Try them.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Remote controlled assessments.

In the olden days, in times of yore, when I was a child, we did exams called "O Levels" and we had to learn stuff and revise for them. They were hard.

In French, we had to write a story in the past historic tense (!) and we didn't get to prepare our writing and speaking work in advance.

There was even a dictation paper!

Nowadays, in the world of glorious technicolor, mobile phones, long trousers, HD and 3D, students of modern languages GCSEs get the title of their assignment, a couple of weeks to prepare using dictionaries, textbooks, the internet, etc. (but mainly google translate) and then all they have to do is remember it with the help of a sheet containing 30 key words of their choice. And, because they produce the assessment under exam conditions - they can't be accused of cheating.

They don't have to learn anything.

So, what is the point of teaching them anything?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Using mobile phones in school.

Almost a year ago I changed jobs. My "new" school doesn't allow mobile phones (yet) but I am working on a presentation to argue a case for allowing them in school.

At my previous school when I used mobile phones with my students, they really enjoyed the activities and seemed to be much better motivated.

Today I read an excellent blog post by Gemma Dobson, a languages teacher in Devon, who has been using mobile phones with her Year 8 class. She appears to be doing some excellent work with the students and getting them really motivated.

Last week I mentioned the possibility of using phones in class to some of my own students and they seemed genuinely enthusiastic. That is, until one of my brighter students said, "That would be great and, if we got bored, we could text our friends."


Saturday, 5 March 2011

Final exams or continuous assessment?

The coalition government in the UK wants to ditch continuous assessment and go back to the old system of sitting examinations in the final year of compulsory schooling.
The reasoning behind this is that the government thinks students should not be able to keep retaking modules or submitting endless pieces of continued assessment in order to achieve the best grades in their GCSE exams. Students should have one chance at the exam and that is it.
Many people would agree with this after all, the whole point of exams is that some people get good grades and others fail, isn't it?
Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned (in an article written by himself) that Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education passed his driving test on his SEVENTH attempt.