Download A Practial Guide to Teaching Modern Foreign Languages in the Secondary School (Routledge Teaching PDF

TitleA Practial Guide to Teaching Modern Foreign Languages in the Secondary School (Routledge Teaching
File Size1.7 MB
Total Pages148
Table of Contents
                            Book Cover
Series Editors' Introduction
Part 1: Key Pedagogical Issues and Planning
	1. Communicative Approaches to Modern Foreign Language Teaching and Using the Target Language
	2. Planning Modern Foreign Language Lessons
	3. Presenting New Vocabulary and Structures
	4. Developing Modern Foreign Language Skills Through Formative Assessment
Part 2: Developing Key Skills, Knowledge and Understanding
	5. Developing Listening Skills in the Modern Foreign Language
	6. Developing Speaking Skills in the Modern Foreign Language
	7. Use of Sterylines to Develop and Writing Skills in the Modern Language
	8. Grammar in the Modern Foreign Language Classroom
	9. Cultural Awareness and Visits Abroad
	10. Internet-based Approaches to Modern Foreign Language Teaching and Learning
Part 3: Broadening Your Perspective
	11. KS2-KS3 Transfer
	12. Working With Other Adults
	13. Reflective Practice Through Teacher Research
Document Text Contents
Page 2

A Practical Guide to Teaching
Modern Foreign Languages in
the Secondary School

A Practical Guide to Teaching Modern Foreign Languages in the Secondary School offers valuable
support for student teachers and teachers in their early professional development. It
complements and extends the successful companion to school experience, Learning to Teach
MFL in the Secondary School, and covers a wide range of topics of direct relevance to foreign
language education including:

• dominant methodological approaches to foreign language teaching;
• how best to use the target language as a medium for instruction and interaction;
• planning and assessment;
• teaching the four language skills - listening, speaking, reading and writing;
• practical approaches to the teaching of grammar, and the role of cultural awareness;
• building on the foundations laid in primary schools;
• working with other adults in the classroom;
• your own professional development through teacher research.

The chapters illustrate good practice and provide detailed guidance on everyday pedagogical
challenges; importantly, they are also grounded in the latest professional writing in the field.

Working through the material presented here will enable you to reach specific objectives in
relation to teaching modern foreign languages in the secondary school, by engaging with
specific aspects of subject knowledge and pedagogical practice at a conceptual level, as well
as with tasks designed to support your learning. In this way the book introduces a range of
tried and tested approaches, designed to support your development in MFL teaching.

Norbert Pachler is Associate Dean: Initial and Continuing Professional Development and
Co-Director of the Centre for Excellence in Work-based Learning for Education Professionals
at the Institute of Education, University of London. He was previously Subject Leader for the
Secondary PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages and Course Leader for the MA in Modern
Languages in Education.

Ana Redondo is Lecturer in Education in the School of Culture, Language and
Communication at the Institute of Education, University of London. She is currently a part-
time tutor on the Secondary PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages, and is also a part-time
Head of Modern Languages and Senior Teacher at a London secondary school.

Page 74

From your observations you have probably concluded that most learners feel less comfortable
when speaking in a whole-class situation than when discussing in a pair or small group.
Even adults find the second situation the least anxiety-inducing and the most conducive to
the free expression of opinions. This is equally true, if not more so, for those whom Chambers
(1999: 127) calls ‘image-conscious teenagers’, who need to be ‘spared the potential perceived
humiliation of speaking in a strange tongue before an audience of 25+ peers’.

As well as lowering pupil anxiety, speaking activities that involve pair or small group
work have another big advantage over whole-class work – they increase the amount of time
that each learner spends speaking the target language. Choral repetition does allow lots of
learners to speak at once, but rarely involves learners using the language in anything but an
imitative and rather narrow way. In question-and-answer work, open-ended questions give
pupils some opportunities to speak at greater length.

Another benefit of pair/group speaking activities is the impact that interaction and nego-
tiation of meaning can have on language acquisition (Lightbown, 2003). Beginning teachers
often worry that by working with peers, learners will somehow ‘catch’ each others’ errors.
As Lightbown points out, there is very little research evidence to support this view. Indeed,
if learners are to be encouraged to take risks with their speaking, the teacher needs to promote
a classroom environment in which errors are regarded as part of the learning process and are
corrected with sensitivity.


Unfortunately, not all learners will value a speaking activity for its own sake, for the good
that it might do their oral skills. Most will need an additional reason for completing a task,



• What kind of language are pupils producing in whole-class situations? Single
words, sentences?

• Where pupils produce more extended answers, what kinds of questions have
prompted these responses?

• How are errors in whole-class oral work dealt with by the teacher? Are any of
the following used?

✔ Recast, where the teacher repeats what the pupil has said but corrects the
error (with or without emphasis on the corrected part).

✔ The teacher tells the learner that an error has been made and asks him/her
for a corrected version.

✔ The teacher tells the learner that an error has been made and asks the rest
of the class for a corrected version.

✔ Errors made by individuals are not dealt with at the time but at a later point
the teacher draws the attention of the whole class to errors which are
common to many in the group.

• Which of these techniques seem to be the most effective in terms of a)
protecting learners’ confidence in speaking, b) actually helping learners to
avoid the error another time?

• When learners are engaged in pair or group speaking activities, do they make
more or fewer errors than in whole-class speaking situations?

• Does the teacher do anything to correct any errors made in pair or group

Activity 6.4 continued

Page 75

over and above the fact that you, the teacher, have asked them to complete it and told them
that it would be useful for them to do so. In other words, the task needs to have a purpose.
It also needs to have an end-goal, so that learners are encouraged to carry it through and not
drift into off-task behaviour. In terms of ‘purpose’, one of the most important attributes of a
motivating speaking task is the incorporation of an ‘information-gap element’. This means
that real information is being exchanged by learners, they are communicating in order to
find out something that they need to know. Therefore, in the following activity, learners have
to ask questions and give responses in order to determine on which day and at which time
they are both free to meet to go out. A separate sheet gives details of possible activities (e.g.
films at the cinema, with showing times). At the end of the activity, each pair reports back
on when they are meeting and what they are going to do when they meet.

Partenaire A Partenaire B
LUNDI Jean ici 20.00 LUNDI ‘Superman’ télé 20.15
MARDI Maison des Jeunes 19.00 MARDI
MERCREDI MERCREDI Cinéma avec Alain 20.45
JEUDI M. Bizet dîner chez nous JEUDI football télé 19.30
SAMEDI barbecue chez Paul 19.00 SAMEDI
DIMANCHE DIMANCHE chez grands-parents

Reporting back is important for increasing the purpose of activities. Not only do speaking
activities need to have a clear end-goal, but learners should also be aware at the start of the
activity that the teacher will require some kind of feedback from them (preferably at the
end of a predetermined time-limit). This helps to ensure that they actually finish the task
and gives it a sense of completeness. Speaking activities that end abruptly, with no follow-
up from the teacher or the rest of the class, fail to give such activities the importance that they
deserve. Follow-up can take many forms; for example, some pupils might be asked to
perform certain aspects of the task to the rest of the class. However, given what was said
earlier about how anxiety can inhibit speaking, this should be handled carefully, with clear
ground rules established about not laughing at or making fun of the ‘performers’. Similarly,
for other ‘non-performing’ learners to listen attentively, the feedback session needs to have
a clearly stated purpose. This may be an evaluative one, with the teacher assessing how well
learners have dealt with the speaking task. In addition, the class as a whole needs to be aware
of the criteria by which the teacher is judging them – are they looking for fluency, accuracy?
Furthermore, feedback of this kind is made more effective and perhaps less threatening if it
is given not only by the teacher but also by other learners, who might be asked to make
suggestions about how the ‘performers’ could improve what they said, perhaps by paying
attention to intonation in question forms (for French), thinking about correct word order (for

Clarity and appropriate level of difficulty

One reason that learners stray off-task in speaking activities, perhaps falling back into the
mother tongue, is a speaking activity that does not clearly set out what they are expected to
do, is not clearly explained by the teacher and requires language beyond their current
capability. Take, for example, the following activity, from a published German pairwork
resource. Partners A and B both have pictures of four people, but only some of these appear
on both partners’ sheet. Although the task has a strong information gap element and humour
that on the surface makes it a good task, it is not clear what exactly learners have to say, other
than that one learner in the pair has to give a description of people met at a party. How the
other learner is to react and with what language would need to be explained by the teacher,
who would also probably have to pre-teach a number of new phrases to allow learners to
respond appropriately.



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