Greg Horton Special Mk III – Group Talk

December 1, 2013

Group Talk phrasesThe London Branch of the Association for Language Learning hosted another Greg Horton Special yesterday, inviting Greg to speak about his inspirational and award winning project for getting pupils to use the target language spontaneously and in an authentic way – Group Talk.

Following his previous visit about 18 months ago I got together with our lovely Hanban teacher and put together the following presentation to teach pupils the key phrases for introducing the first stage of Group Talk to the my Year 12 learners.  They responded incredibly well and with great enthusiasm;  they were able to see how the core phrases could be used across a range of topics.

To begin with we gave them the following sheet of these core Group Talk phrases laminated for reference on the desk, but as they grew more familiar with them the support became less necessary.  What is particularly gratifying is the fact that they will now come out with some of the core phrases at an appropriate moment during the normal course of a lesson.  For example, I might make a statement about something and they comment with 真的吗?! (really?!) or 我不同意 (I don’t agree) off their own bat.


Did you know……..?

March 2, 2013

Did you know that Regional TV programmes are the second most popular type of TV programme that Germans like to watch?  In the number one slot come news programmes with sport at number 3.  Crime and detective series are number 4 followed by programmes about politics and economics.

All this is according to the statistics put out by Statista.de and comes from a section entitled Toplisten.  This section of the website includes picture galleries of favourite snacks (fruit and raw food comes in at number 1), the most annoying things that women say (!), the actual most watched TV programmes in Germany, what Germans like to do in their free time and the most popular uses of a mobile phone amongst other things.

Statistics are an example of an authentic resource that can easily be exploited in the classroom:

  • For giving a cultural angle to whatever topic is being studied.
  • In a Group talk type speaking scenario;  if pupils have been learning the vocabulary for food and snacks they could be shown pictures of Germans’ favourite snacks and ask to speculate which they think comes top and why and compare it to their own favourites.
  • For practising numbers.
  • As a comparison to the results of surveys that they carry out in the classroom.
  • The short text that accompanies the pictures in the “Top lists” mentioned above could be used for introducing language and/or helping pupils develop strategies for working out the meaning of new words.

This website also has infographics which are ideal for use with KS5 classes, although some like this one on fast food could easily be used at KS3 and KS4 as well.

Sites that have statistics relating to France include Statistique publique   and Insee, although neither of these present the information in quite such a user friendly way as Statista.de….


An Inspector calls

July 5, 2012

I had a great day down in Croydon yesterday at the Exploring Excellence in MFL conference.  As promised I have uploaded the slides from my keynote address An Inspector calls.

In my talk I referred to the subject specific guidance for Ofsted inspectors making subject survey visits;  the full document can be downloaded here and the information about changes to the inspection framework from September onwards is here.  I also referred to the Ofsted report Modern Languages:  achievement and challenge 2007 -2010.

I have written in previous posts about some of the things covered in my talk, such as making the most of occasions like Mother’s day to develop intercultural understanding and the use of Wordles.  I also referred briefly to Greg Horton’s group talk project and gave an example of a joke as an authentic resource.

When it comes to using video clips and audio clips there are a couple of useful tools that can help you make the resources more accessible to your learners.  Many video clips, such as those from Youtube can be downloaded using Realplayer and then converted using Realplayer software to other formats including .wmv (to play using Windows media player) and .mp3 audio files.  Audacity is a very useful free recording and editing tool which can be used to slow down the speed of an audio track;  I have written about how to do that here.


Group talk – ALL London Greg Horton special

March 12, 2012

It was great to see so many people give up their Saturday morning to hear Greg give us the follow up session to his talk at the ALL London January event.  A report of the event has been posted on the ALL London website together with photos and the progression chart he showed us.


ALL London – Greg Horton special

February 29, 2012

Those of you who came to the ALL London branch January event will have heard Greg Horton talk about his amazing project Group Talk.  He has agreed to come back and give us part 2 of his talk which goes more into the nuts and bolts of delivering Group Talk on the morning of Saturday March 10th at Westminster Academy (near Royal Oak tube station).

He will deliver Part 1 of his talk again first, for anyone who missed it in January or who wants a refresher, and then do the second part.

Full details of the event and a booking form are available on the ALL London blog.


Pinyin perfect with New Concept Mandarin – best online resources for learning Chinese #5

February 28, 2012

Getting the tone correct is one of the challenges of learning Mandarin. Get it wrong and you could unwittingly be saying something offensive or simply talking about sugar rather than soup – could be interesting in a restaurant!

Sound discrimination exercises can be helpful but if they are only done in a whole class situation there will be some learners who still don’t “get it”.  Some, but not all, textbooks come with a CD of audio files – this is particularly useful as it’s only by doing a lot of listening that you can really get to grips with the sound of Mandarin and the various tones.  Finding an audio file for a specific pinyin sound however, is not always easy and that’s where the guide to Chinese pronunciation on a site like New Concept Mandarin comes into its own.

This guide explains what pinyin is and about the tones, and has a clickable pronunciation table with sound files.   You can click on a sound and then compare that with the same sound but a different tone;  the movement in the tone is also represented visually.  For those pupils who find some combinations of initials and finals tricky, such as words beginning with x, q and zh this can be a really useful tool, and ultimately it can help them along the way to becoming independent language learners.


Picasso and the art of dictation

September 16, 2011


When I wrote about dictation I suggested that whilst dictation in the past may have had a bad press there are ways in which it can be done which can be more engaging.

One way is to do a “Picasso dictation” whereby the pupils show their understanding of what they have heard not by reproducing the text but by drawing a picture.  This can start as a whole class activity with the teacher describing a picture, e.g:

  • Dessinez un grand rectangle horizontal.
  • Divisez le rectangle en trois bandes égales verticales.
  • La bande verticale à gauche est verte, la bande verticale à droite est rouge et la bande au milieu est jaune.
  • Il y a une étoile jaune au milieu de la bande jaune.

At the end of this the teacher shows the picture of what has been dictated (in this case the Senegalese flag) so that the pupils can check whether they have understood correctly

This particular example is linked to a unit of work looking at countries, flags and international events and can be preceded by a collective memory exercise to teach the core high frequency vocabulary needed to be able to describe flags e.g. à gauche/droite, au centre/milieu, en haut/bas etc and the shapes that can be found in flags e.g. un carré, une bande verticale/horizontale, une étoile etc.

In a collective memory exercise the pupils work in groups.

  1. Each group has an unannotated plan or image.
  2. One member of each group comes up to the front of the class and is shown the annotated  image/plan.  He/she studies it for a short period (e.g. 10/20/30 seconds) and tries to memorise as much as possible.
  3. He/she returns to the group and dictates/spells out the words he/she can remember and where they are located on the plan.
  4. The next member of the group comes up and stages 2 and 3 are repeated until the group has managed to replicate the image/plan that the teacher has.
  5. They then discuss the strategies they used to complete the task.

Once the pupils have some sort of grasp of this core vocabulary they are ready to do a Picasso dictation which then can lead on to pupils “dictating” descriptions of a flag or other image to his/her partner.

Any image (photograph/painting etc) can be used as a stimulus for Picasso dictation but there are some which have the scope to introduce some intercultural understanding to a topic such as “ma chambre”, “ma ville” as well e.g. Van Gogh’s room in Arles, Monet’s Rue Montorgueil, Matisse’s Ma chambre à BeaurivageThere is also scope for pupils be creative and to describe images they themselves have produced/photographed.