Saturday, 29 December 2007

Critical Thinking and Deep Leaning

Paul Richard defines Critical Thinking in his preface for his Critical thinking Workshop Handbook, Winter/Spring 1996, as “the art of ensuring that you use the best thinking you are capable of , given set of circumstances and your present limited knowledge and skill”. However, to maximize the quality of your thinking, you must learn how to become a more effective "critic" of your thinking and make learning about thinking a priority. You must be willing to learn more about how thinking works and how to improve it.

“When students think poorly while learning, they learn poorly. When they think well while learning, they learn well. For example, every student comes into your classes with some habits of thinking. Without some encouragement and help in learning to think as a critic of their thinking, the students will simply process the content of your course through their typical thinking. If rote memorization is the process they have come to use to "learn" content in the past, then they will use rote memorization in your course”.

Paul Richard, with A. J. A. Binker. (1995). "Glossary: A guide to critical thinking terms and concepts;" in Critical thinking: How to prepare students for a rapidly changing world, define the qualities of a critical thinker:

INTELLECTUAL VIRTUES: They include: intellectual sense of justice, intellectual perseverance, intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual empathy, intellectual courage, (intellectual) confidence in reason, and intellectual autonomy.

INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY: A strong desire to deeply understand, to figure things out, to propose and assess useful and plausible hypotheses and explanations, to learn, to find out.

(INTELLECTUAL) CONFIDENCE OR FAITH IN REASON: Confidence that in the long run one's own higher interests and those of humankind at large will best be served by giving the freest play to reason -- by encouraging people to come to their own conclusions through a process of developing their own rational faculties; faith that (with proper encouragement and cultivation) people can learn to think for themselves, form rational viewpoints, draw reasonable conclusions, think coherently and logically, persuade each other by reason, and become reasonable, despite the deep-seated obstacles in the native character of the human mind and in society.

INTELLECTUAL EMPATHY: Understanding the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others to genuinely understand them. We must recognize our egocentric tendency to identify truth with our immediate perceptions or longstanding beliefs.

INTELLECTUAL COURAGE: The willingness to face and fairly assess ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints to which we have not given a serious hearing, regardless of our strong negative reactions to them.

INTELLECTUAL AUTONOMY: Having rational control of one’s beliefs, values and inferences. The ideal of critical thinking is to learn to think for oneself, to gain command over one's thought processes. Intellectual autonomy entails a commitment to analyzing and evaluating beliefs on the basis of reason and evidence.

INTELLECTUAL CIVILITY: A commitment to take others seriously as thinkers, to treat them as intellectual equals, to grant respect and full attention to their views

INTELLECTUAL HUMILITY: Awareness of the limits of one's knowledge, including sensitivity to circumstances in which one's native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity to bias and prejudice in, and limitations of one's viewpoint. Intellectual humility is based on the recognition that no one should claim more than he or she actually knows.

INTELLECTUAL INTEGRITY: Recognition of the need to be true to one's own thinking, to be consistent in the intellectual standards one applies, to hold oneself to the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof to which one holds one's antagonists, to practice what one advocates for others, and to honestly admit discrepancies and inconsistencies in one's own thought and action.

INTELLECTUAL DISCIPLINE: The trait of thinking in accordance with intellectual standards, intellectual rigor, carefulness, order, conscious control. Intellectual discipline is at the very heart of becoming a critical person. It takes discipline of mind to keep oneself focused on the intellectual task at hand, to locate and carefully assess needed evidence, to systematically analyze and address questions and problems, to hold one's thinking to sufficiently high standards of clarity, precision, completeness, consistency, etc.

INTELLECTUAL PERSEVERANCE: Willingness and consciousness of the need to pursue intellectual insights and truths despite difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations; firm adherence to rational principles despite irrational opposition of others; a sense of the need to struggle with confusion and unsettled questions over an extended period of time in order to achieve deeper understanding or insight.

INTELLECTUAL RESPONSIBILITY: The intellectually responsible person feels strongly obliged to achieve a high degree of precision and accuracy in his or her reasoning, is deeply committed to gathering complete, relevant and adequate evidence.

INTELLECTUAL SENSE OF JUSTICE: Willingness and consciousness of the need to entertain all viewpoints sympathetically and to assess them with the same intellectual standards, without reference to one's own feelings or vested interests, or the feelings or vested interests of one's friends, community, or nation.

Now we know what the outcome should be, how do we weave these through the curriculum?
Norman Pantling and his team have been offering an AS course in Critical Thinking at Taunton's College in Southampton since the OCR piloted it in 1999.
"You don't actually teach critical thinking skills, you unearth them," he says. "We start from where the students are thinking and then get them to respect each other's viewpoint. This kind of respect is the bloodstream of education."

The local education authority in Southampton has also recognised the need to promote critical thinking even earlier. As part of the city's Pathfinder programme, a government initiative that is part of raising standards in 14-19 education, Taunton's and other colleges have been offering master classes in critical thinking to year 10 pupils.
"We actually underestimated how quickly school students would grasp thinking skills," says Norman Pantling. "Not only does it give them a taste of college life, but it gives them a challenge."

After completing classes at college, students from Cantell School in Southampton decided to extend this challenge to their head teacher. They presented such a persuasive argument to him that he had no option but to allow them to enter the AS-level critical thinking exam. They all passed”.

Friday, 28 December 2007

The 5Rs of Lifelong Learning

The Learning to Learn project was originally conceived by the Campaign for Learning in 2000 in response to substantial changes in education and advances in the understanding of learning. Indeed, it does make sense for schools to develop confident, successful lifelong learners, who are ready to learn a wide range of contents and skills and have the flexibility to negotiate, manage and take up new challenges.

What makes a good learner? The Campaign has developed the 5Rs for lifelong learning model to establish what knowledge, skills and attitudes should be included in a learning to learn approach.

It is the Campaign’s belief that by using learning to learn approaches to develop the 5Rs in all their students, schools can achieve their core purpose, namely preparing young people so that they can and will continue learning effectively throughout their lives.

The 5 R are as follows:

Students know how:
to assess their own motivation
to set their own goals and connect to the learning
to achieve a positive learning state, including their preferred learning environment
to use a learning to learn language.

Students know how:
the mind works and how humans learn
to assess their own preferred learning style, including how to take in information
to seek out and use information, including through ICT
to communicate effectively in different ways
to use different approaches to learning.

Students know how:
to apply learned optimism and self-efficacy approaches
to empathise and use EQ approaches
to proceed when stuck
to ask(critical)questions.

Students know how:
to use different memory approaches
to make connections
to apply learning, including in different contexts.

Students know how:
to ask questions, observe, see patterns, experiment and evaluate learning.

Some of these 5R reminds me of Guy Claxton’s 4R of Building Learning Power. Same aim, same issues? These lifelong learning skills are essential and all we need to do now is challenge our own heavily subject-related learning experiences. Could subjects just be a mere vehicle for the teaching of these skills? With a less prescriptive curriculum in terms of contents ahead of us, this could be the perfect time to reconsider our teaching priorities…

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Thinking about Learning: Building Learning Power

Against a backdrop of constant pressure on schools to produce better and better results, there has been an on-going debate over the last ten years about what constitute effective teaching. Interestingly enough, the focus on teaching has shifted to learning, hence a multiplication of programmes aiming to develop independent learning skills. Amongst Thinking Skills, Learning To Learn and Critical Thinking programmes, Building Learning Power (BLP) has the appeal of the “let’s get back to basics” sort.

In the latest ATL Report, Guy Claxton, its creator, who is a professor of learning sciences at The University of Bristol Graduate School of Education and associate director (learning) for the Specialist School and Academies Trust, talks about Building Learning Power as “the tortoise rather than the hare” amongst such programmes, defined by a series of small achievable steps building towards deeper change in learning habits.

BLP has four clear aims:

· To raise standards of achievement
· To increase levels of student engagement
· To make teaching more satisfying
· To prepare young people to deal with out-of-school challenges by expanding their capacity and appetite for real-life learning

As students develop their skills, they become more willing and able to take on more responsibility for their own learning. As passivity decreases, off-task messing about is also reduced because students know how to cope when learning gets too challenging. As teaching is not interrupted by off-task behaviour, it becomes more effective and more gratifying and the results go up too.

According to Guy Claxton, “The trick is to put the development of those transferable habits of mind at the centre of everything a school does: then all else follows”. If it sounds easy to implement, don’t be deceived. Consistency is probably the hardest ideal to achieve in a large school, probably even more so in secondary schools where students can be taught by 5 different teachers in a day are more likely to be exposed to mixed messages. Linking the BLP concept therefore needs to be embedded in as many school activities as possible to be slowly absorbed into the school ethos.

As BLP is not just hints and tips to help learning taking place, nor a stand-alone course on “thinking skills” or “learning to learn”, it needs to be “ woven through normal lessons”, with the implication of massive buy-in from the teaching staff.

Guy Claxton justifies BLP’s cross-curricular rather than discreet approach by the fact that Research shows that discreet courses, “though they are well received students, often leave disappointing residues”.

BLP invites teachers to think about their regular lessons in “split-screen” terms. On one screen is the content (Ordering a meal at the restaurant) or specific skills (literacy) they want to develop in the lesson and on the other screen, there is the “general learning capacity” they want their students to think about and develop.

BLP can also be developed with the support of paper-based and DVD resources that can be bought. The resources document hundreds of such small-scale, manageable shifts to teaching methods aiming to develop strong learning approaches and habits.

As students are being coached in how to be usefully reflective about their own learning journeys, they are also developing collaboration skills and developing a richer language in which to talk, not just about the content of learning, but its process as well.

At the City of Bristol Academy the teachers include their termly reports a rating on students’ levels of resourcefulness, resilience, reflectiveness and learning relationships. They also need to mention an overall level reached by each student in their learning independence.

The academy’s percentage of A*-C grades at GCSE has tripled over the last five years, largely, says the deputy principal, as a result of coaching and rewarding students’ developing independence.

Easy? Simple in principle, but there is a tricky bit: Teachers will need to be learners too and change some of their teaching habits as well as challenge some of their perceptions about what is effective learning . I would call it simply challenging.

The 4 Rs and 17 Learning Muscles of BLP

Resilience-locking on to learning
· Perseverance: sticking with difficulty
· Absorption: becoming engrossed in learning
· Noticing: looking for patterns and clues
· Managing distractions: strengthening concentration

Resourcefulness-a flexible toolkit for learning
· Questioning: digging down into things
· Connecting: making links and metaphors
· Imagining: developing the mind’s eye
· Reasoning: disciplined thinking
· Capitalising: creating your own support

Reflection-being strategic and self-aware
· Planning: anticipating obstacles
· Revising: redrafting and self-evaluating
· Distilling: looking to apply what has been learned
· Meta-learning: thinking and talking like a learner

Reciprocity-the social side of learning
· Interdependence: giving and taking feedback
· Collaborating: being a good team player
· Empathy and Listening: seeing through other people’s eyes
· Imitation: learning new ways to think by watching others

Building Learning Power Home Page

Building Learning Power Powerpoint

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Test Your English and Feed The World

FreeRice is the invention of US online fundraising pioneer John Breen. The FreeRice game is at and tests the vocabulary of participants. For each click on a correct answer, the website donates money to buy 10 grains of rice for the developing world.

Companies advertising on the website provide the money to the WFP to buy and distribute the rice. FreeRice went online in early October and has now raised 1bn grains of rice, which is enough rice to feed 50,000 people for one day.

How does playing the vocabulary game at FreeRice can help your students?

· Formulate ideas better
· Write better papers, emails and business letters
· Speak more precisely and persuasively
· Understand what you read in more details
· Read faster because you understand better
· Get better grades in all subjects, as good literacy is essential across the curriculum
· Perform better at job interviews

The website even claims: “After you have done FreeRice for a couple of days, you may notice an odd phenomenon. Words that you have never consciously used before will begin to pop into your head while you are speaking or writing. You will feel yourself using and knowing more words.”

How does the FreeRice vocabulary program work?

FreeRice has a database containing thousands of words at varying degrees of difficulty. There are words appropriate for people just learning English and words that will even challenge academics.

FreeRice automatically adjusts to your level of vocabulary. It starts by giving you words at different levels of difficulty and then, based on how you do, assigns you an approximate starting level. You then determine a more exact level for yourself as you play. When you get a word wrong, you go to an easier level. When you get three words in a row right, you go to a harder level. This one-to-three ratio is best for keeping you at the “outer fringe” of your vocabulary, where learning can take place.

This certainly is a different way to develop literacy skills and the international dimension…

Friday, 16 November 2007

MFL Resources Launches New Wiki

Already a favourite with many MFL teachers, the MFL Resources Yahoo group is a useful resource moderated by Helen Meyers and a handful of helpful volunteers. It is a very busy-and friendly- forum where languages teachers from all over the world exchange ideas and materials to teach MFL in a creative manner.

For those of you who do not know Helen Myers, she is a MFL teacher & Assistant Head at The Ashcombe School in Dorking, Surrey. She is also the President of ALL (Association for Language Learning) and ALL London Branch Chair. Through her work at The Ashcombe School and ALL, she has inspired many teachers across the country to use ICT amongst other tools to motivate students and provided constant support to language teachers, in particular through her research and actions to raise awareness of the issues linked with Severity of Grading at GCSE in MFL.

The MFL Resources Yahoo group also has a website at
which houses resources kindly donated by members of the group.

Helen has now set up a Wiki for MFL Resources at

The idea is to use the Wiki initially as a way of sharing recommendations for 'published' resources so as to complement the resources created through the MFL Resources group. A few categories have already been set up and it is also a great way to develop “Wiki Skills” for all of us. I have added this link to my favourite Language Links as this project will no doubt grow bigger and bigger over the next few months.
Thank you, Helen!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Rt Hon John Redwood’s Diary: Learning Foreign Languages

I came across this article in via Joe Dale’s blog (see link in my favourite sites)

Rt Hon John Redwood’s article is interesting and relevant and I liked his comparison between compulsory Latin and the current situation in mfl. Those were different times and the main motivation was then to get into University, with languages recognised as a selection criteria.

“There is a case to say that children under 16 do not always make informed choices about what subjects are best for them, and that a modern language should be one of the elements of a balanced education. Making children study a language up to 16 gives them the option to develop this interest later in their academic careers if it works for them.”

Why later? This goes again all research that suggests that it is easier to learn a language at an early age.

Joe Dale’s answer focused on the following points:

· Compulsory languages at Primary level is a positive step although there are training issues.
· Sustainability and progression are key.
· KS4 uptake is affected by perceived difficulty of MFL compared to other subjects.
· This perception is backed up by data and a proven severity of grading at GCSE.
· Relevance is questioned and there is a lack of motivation.
· Languages are not necessarily a priority for schools’ Senior Management Teams, who prefer to concentrate on other subjects to achieve their 5 A*-C targets.
· We must find a way to reverse the downward trend and ICT may have a role to play.

I think you have said it all, Joe!

As regards Primary Language, I feel like you that good quality training is key as well as the co-ordination at LA level to ensure smooth transition between KS2 and KS3. Indeed, no single school can take this on-particularly if you happen to have 40-odd feeder primary schools.

If I remember well, it is the old transition chestnut that was so hard to crack in the previous PL experiment that it lead to its failure... However, I would argue that this should not be the role of Language Colleges only-it can also be a glimmer of hope and a breath of fresh of fresh air for all MFL colleagues.

Perceived difficulty is a tough one too. It is backed up by data and as much as I disagree with some decisions taken at Senior Management levels in schools, it is true that Languages for all is a luxury many schools cannot afford if they want to compete in leagues table.

Motivation is an issue, but that's when the wonderful creativity of so many of our colleagues comes into play. Anyway... are all our students motivated to study English, Maths or Science?

Equal opportunity of access to ICT for all MFL classes is one issue I want to look at to boost motivation. Why should only a few classes be allowed access, as is often the case, depending on random timetabling and staff ICT Training?

Maybe we should move from a plain "Languages for All" to a "Languages with ICT for All"...


Friday, 12 October 2007

Blogging to support Personal and Faculty Development

2006-2007 has been a very busy year in the world of language teaching. In fact, we all know it has been busy in general, with the new National Curriculum, GCSEs, A Levels and Diplomas looming ahead.

In Languages, with The Dearing Report published in March 2007, it was acknowledged for the first time that something had to be done to promote languages at national level. In parallel, the “English is not enough” campaign was launched to highlight languages and cultural awareness as the key to developing healthy international political and business relationships. As a result of the Report, a number of suggestions were made with lots of exciting new ideas to make our subject more attractive to the whole ability range.

How do you keep up with all this? Last April, as I was still on maternity leave, I started putting together a blog called “My Languages”. I used it mostly as an aide-memoire to enable me to keep up to date with all these developments.

Why a blog? Well, I thought, if it is useful to me, it might be to others too, and we might be able to share some ideas and information.

Since then, I have used in many different ways:

*to make a note a good resources for languages and other educational topics (see tags on the right-hand side, just click on key word to get an updated list of related links). The advantage of this rather than the links I used to provide in our Faculty bulletin is that the list is regularly updated and can be filtered by key words.

*as a training resource (links to training videos/ mfl videos to be found at the bottom)

*to keep the Faculty up to date with national developments, facts and figures (posts and links to articles)

*to help with display and creating resources (see graphics and software tags and posts about useful tools)

*to keep up-to-date with ICT/MFL good practice (links to resources, various networks and teachers' blogs)

*to exchange ideas with other people (there is also a "box" facility to upload resources)

*to provide links to enable mfl teachers to keep up to date with what is happening in French and Spanish-speaking countries and practise their languages.

I would also like to use it in the future to showcase what we do in the Faculty (from a teaching point of view).

I have also just set up a student site, that I would like to use for the following:

*to provide revision and extension materials accessible from home for KS4 students especially

*to get our parents to support what we do in school/be aware of this resource as extension homework

*to get students involved in reviewing languages sites to assess what online activities they enjoy the most

*to gather more systematic evidence for student/ parental voice (online surveys)

*to showcase students' work/ extracurricular activities

*to enable peer assessment through moderated comments

*to develop podcasting in mfl

*to further our links with foreign schools

*to be a resource to be developed as part of a lunchtime languages club

Since I have been involved in this project, I have had the opportunity to find out about the good practice happening in lots of different schools across the country and beyond. I have also been asked a lot of questions about what we are doing to promote languages, all of which was shared in an informal way through various networks and lists. This has been, without doubt, one of the best INSET I have ever been on.

This is official, Social Networking is the Future!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

European Support for Adult Language Learners

Don’t Give Up is a project funded by the European Union with the aim to reduce the large numbers of adult learners who drop out of language courses. The website is available in English, Spanish, Czech and Polish and the funding will come from the Socrates Lingua program that aims more generally to promote the learning of languages across Europe.

The project will investigate why adults drop-out and build up a knowledge base with strategies to prevent drop-outs.

The project will look at language courses on offer. It will examine the reasons for taking these courses, the structure and teaching of courses as well as the problems encountered by students.

The project will build the knowledge-base by carrying out surveys of language professionals and listening to their accumulated experience, creativity and ideas.

You can also contribute to the knowledge-base by visiting the Get Involved page. To directly download the questionnaire you can use this link:

The questionnaire includes many areas about language schools and learning, as we know the answer to motivating students is not simple.

Socrates is Europe’s education program and involves around 30 European countries.
“Its main objective is precisely to build up a Europe of knowledge and thus provide a better response to the major challenges of this new century: to promote lifelong learning, encourage access to education for everybody, and help people acquire recognised qualifications and skills. In more specific terms, Socrates seeks to promote language learning, and to encourage mobility and innovation.”

Similarly, the Lingua Action is designed to encourage and support linguistic diversity throughout the Union; contribute to an improvement in the quality of language teaching and learning and promote access to lifelong language learning opportunities appropriate to each individual’s needs.

More information can be found on the European Union websites at:

Details about the new action starting in 2007 can be found at :

A database of completed European projects can be found at:

Sunday, 19 August 2007

The Big Tagging Game

Looking at my network bookmarks the other day, I thought that Joe Dale was up to something.

All of the sudden, he had a long list of bookmarks referring to his blog. Good idea, I thought, they might come handy one day and they are eaasier to manage if they are all together in one place. Well, I thought, it must be the preparation for the impending Isle of Wight Conference 2007

Then I got the message from Lisa Stevens: I have been tagged!!

Joe’s idea is to start a meme called My online life where bloggers who are tagged can tag any posts that link back to their blog and bookmark them in so others with similar interests can subscribe to them and find out more about the extended communities their colleagues are part of.

Sorry Joe, but I decided to call this The Big Tagging Game in my title as calling it a “meme” was far too reminiscent of my lovely grand-mother (french joke-I know, not funny, lost in translation)

So I tagged some posts that link back to my blog and bookmarked them in my under the icpj tag so that others with similar interests can subscribe to them and find out about my various networks.

The rules of the Big Tagging Game are as follows:

1)Once you've been tagged, bookmark posts that link back to your blog or blogs in
2) Name the tag that you have used so others can access the links easily in a blog post
3) At the end of your post, tag 6 people and list their names, linking to them.
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged.

The people I would like to tag are:

Chris Fuller

Hans Feldmeier

Joe Dale

Miss Simmonds

Ms Whatsit

Senora Weldon

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Promoting Languages through the European Day of Languages (EDL)

CILT has just announced that resources for the European Day of Languages 2007 are now available to order in their on-line shop via the CILT website.
Free resource packs contain two posters featuring two EDL characters and four sheets of stickers with 'hellos' in over 30 languages. More resources such as badges and T-shirts with five different designs can be also be bought from the site.

The EDL web pages ( also include ideas and activities to help you celebrate on 26 September (
To order your EDL resources, go to

CILT also dedicates a specific page to resources and useful links to promote languages. (general promotion)

A number of language teachers associations worldwide also produce interesting resources to promote the study of foreign languages:

The MLA (US)

Founded in 1883, the Modern Language Association of America provides opportunities for its members to share their scholarly findings and teaching experiences with colleagues and to discuss trends in the academy. There are over 30 000 MLA members in 100 countries. The MLA hosts an annual convention and other meetings, works with related organizations, and also sustains a comprehensive publishing program aiming to strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature. It also publishes brochures and leaflets to make the case for languages.

Language Study In the Age of Globalization: The College-Level Experience

The brochure, Language Study In the Age of Globalization: The College-Level Experience, is directed primarily to college students. It argues that knowing other languages enriches students personal lives, expands their range of professional opportunities, and increases their power to act as citizens of the world. The brochure is intended for distribution by faculty members and departments, student advisors, and representatives of programs in international studies and study abroad.

Knowing Other Languages Brings Opportunities

The brochure, Knowing Other Languages Brings Opportunities, is directed primarily to high school students. It is intended for distribution by faculty members, advisers, and career officers in secondary schools.

The MLTAV (Australia)

The Modern Language Teachers' Association of Victoria, Australia (MLTAV Inc.) is a professional association for Languages teachers, and is the umbrella organisation for approximately twenty Single Language Associations (SLAs) in Victoria.
In cooperation with the SLAs and other partner organisations, MLTAV supports teachers and learners of Languages Other Than English (LOTE) throughout Victoria by providing services like CPD, student activities and consultancy. The MLTAV aims to encourage and promote the learning of Languages as an essential part of the school curriculum

Promotion brochures and links from New Zealand Association of Language Teachers (NZALT)

Why learn a foreign language?

Other resources can be found in my under the “promotion” tag.

Monday, 30 July 2007

ICT Tools for in and out of the classroom

There are quite a lot of new and not so new ICT tools that can be used in and out of the classroom.

Here are the favourite tools of a number of e-learning professionals-some working directly in education, some not. The tools they have selected could be used for their own personal working and learning or for teaching/ learning.

The most popular 100 sites have been listed here:

The following tools have caught my attention as particularly interesting for languages teachers: is a simple and free web application that lets you brainstorm online.
Because you can:
Create colorful mind maps online
Share and work with friends
Embed your mind map in your blog or website
Email and print your mind map
Save your mind map as an image
You can choose from over 1,000 add-ons at the Firefox Add-ons Web site. A Firefox add-on can help you comparison shop, share bookmarks with your friends, see the weather in a corner of your browser, write to your weblog, get news, listen to music.
Groups can either be public, public (invite only), or completely private. Every group has a pool for sharing photos and a discussion board for talking.
Picasa is a free software download from Google that helps you:
Locate and organise all the photos on your computer.
Edit and add effects to your photos with a few simple clicks.
Share your photos with others through email, prints and on the web: it’s fast, easy and free
Quick Doc ReviewSM gives you an instant private space for gathering comments on any HTML document (Microsoft Word documents too). Your group can comment on each paragraph, directly within the document, and you can also display, sort, and print the comments separately. Comments are all in one central place. This is true collaboration, much better than mailing documents around and having people make comments in isolation. And it's private, but still easy to access.

PollDaddy is an online tool, which allows you to create free polls and place them on your website, blog, MySpace, hi5, Friendster or Xanga account
A wiki is an easy-to-use web page that multiple people can edit. It's like a shared whiteboard online. Don't worry about getting IT support or installing any software. We handle all of that. You just start typing and get an online classroom in about 5 minutes. Create a syllabus, share it with your students, and let them write collaborative essays online. Create online Powerpoint-like presentations right from your wiki.
You know how useful conference calls can be. Now how about if you could do it with pictures? With Showtime, the free web conferencing service from Powwownow that's exactly what you get. A web conference that allows you to present your PDF or PowerPoint files to 5 participants, and even show whats on your screen to up to 2 participants and its all free.
Free features include:
Calling other people on Skype
Transfer Skype calls to other Skype contacts
Video calls on Skype
One-to-one and group chats
Conference calls with up to nine people
Forwarding calls to other Skype Names
Moodle is a course management system (CMS) - a free, Open Source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities. You can download and use it on any computer you have handy.
Diigo is about "Social Annotation": you can highlight, annotate, share & interact on any webpage.
Create simple web pages that groups, friends, & families can edit together.
to record a voice over pictures-great to develop speaking skills using personal topics and own pictures.
The Hot Potatoes suite includes six applications, enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web. Hot Potatoes is not freeware, but it is free of charge for those working for publicly-funded non-profit-making educational institutions, who make their pages available on the web. Other users must pay for a licence.
SlideShare is a place to host and share presentations. Upload all your slide decks, and find / download interesting presentations.
File Den's free file hosting and online storage service enable its users to direct link to their files also giving you the opportunity to embed your files into your web pages, myspace or other social networking profiles. Files stored on File Den are kept on secure systems in a secure data centre. You can access your files anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
Voki and WeeMee are two avatar sites. Design your own character, choose background and accessories and even add a voice for Voki. Great for practising personal identification in any language.
Search for and collect your favourite videos. Feed into other people’s vodpods and share your findings or put them on your website or blog.
The Text Tool is a Microsoft Word template that contains sets of instructions called 'macros':
Bingo Card Maker
Verb Tense Test Maker
Crossword Maker
Flashcard Maker
Sentence Breaker
Paragraph Breaker
Multi-word Maker
Multi-gap Maker
Multi-choice Question Maker
Synonym Question Maker
Antonym Question Maker
Word Mover
Word Remover
Punctuation Remover
Space Remover
Letter Remover
Letter Underliner
Word List Saver
Online Children's Dictionary Search
Online Dictionary Search
Online Thesaurus Search
Online Multi-word Dictionary Search
One of the most useful tools to share and find out about interesting links on the web.
The following article details its possible use-well worth a read.

Saturday, 28 July 2007 - A Working Example of Adaptive Bio Logic

Adaptive bio what? This web site is an experiment in “advanced adaptive automation techniques” developed by Cambridge Minds, a Cambridge software company.

Software robots manage the page :
*One robot is responsible for checking all the links and mailing a status report each day.
*A second robot is responsible for taking new entries from email messages and inserting them into an appropriate category on the page.
*A third robot is responsible for removing entries from the page, based upon a number of criteria.
*A fourth robot is responsible for periodically re-ordering the links within categories, according to the level of use by users.

Now the scary bit…
No human programmer can understand the code that makes these robots work - they are all the product of genetic programming.
Genetic programming is an advanced, automated method for creating working software objects from a high-level logic statement of a problem.

“As far as we are aware, apart from this example, TeacherXpress is the most advanced working example of this form of software development anywhere in the world” Anyway, it is what it says on the website!

From a more pragmatic point of view, it is a shame robots do not accept human feedback.

This site is HUGE, with lots of links, but the difference between this site and my collection is that the links are not there because somebody thought they might be interesting to a fellow teacher, but just because they exist. In short, it is a bit like trying to find a plumber in the yellow pages. There might be lots of them listed, but at first you have no way of knowing which one of them is actually any good.

On the plus side, the section headings are sensible:
Libraries, newspapers, reference, search engines, employment, museums, general info, books, magazine and equipment, educational software, government agencies, professional associations, hardware, teacher associations, LEA and Local Grid links, educational websites and a number of subject-specific sections e.g. Maths resources KS1 and 2.

On the minus side, there is no specific section for languages despite the fact that every other subject seems to have its own section. Is this a reflection of what some technical people think of foreign languages?? (hope not) However, no doubt that the LEA and Local Grid links section could be a source of very good links for mfl teachers.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Language Games and quizzes

There is quite a lot out there, from the very basic to the very sophisticated all singing and dancin, to get students to practise their vocabulary and grammar. A lot of these sites could be used for independent studies and/or homework. I have not listed any commercial sites and the sites are also referenced in my under the "games" tag.

Prescott School:
Drag and drop, match up, hangman, guess who for French.
Primary resources: games for French, German and Spanish (could be used for Y7).
Very basic multi-choice quizzes to practise vocabulary by topics.
Click and drag games to find out about France.

French extra:

Spanish Extra: (now paying site but a lot of materials are still in free access)
Lots of games and quizzes including half a minute, penalty shootout, grade or no grade, hoopshoot, wheel of fortune.

MFL Games: (for French)
Topic-based games including wheel of fortune, millionaire, wordsearches, scratchcard, flipword, hangman, codebreaker, anagrams, concentration, quizzes, mismatch.
Powerpoint templates to download including You Say We Pay, The Generation Game, Hunt the Treasure, Letter Investigator/I Spy, The Weakest Link.
Wordsearch and hangman by topic (Spanish).

Elma Eagles’ page:
Games and quizzes to practise Spanish grammar and vocabulary (levelled).

Languages online:
French, German, Spanish and Italian vocabulary games including jigsaw, pairs, speedword, wordweb and wordsearches.
This is a huge collection of basic games and quizzes covers themes from Animals to Weather including the Latin world as well as Spanish grammar.

Poliglot games for Spanish:
hangman, jigmatch, concentration, hungry frog, wheel of fortune, speedword, memorymatch, wordweb.

Spanish vocabulary games:

Colourful site with 16 different types of games (Spanish). Maybe more suitable for Primary mfl.

Cyber Juegos:
Juegos Juegos :
Traditional game sites with free downloads, multiplayer and single player games-probably best for personal use!

wizards to create web-based activities for language learning and practice.

Le jeu de l’oie:
Online classic boardgame to practise specific French grammar items.

Quia games: (French numbers) (spanish vocabulary)

Language games and games about languages.

Alien Language:
Practise the parts of the body in French, Spanish, German and English.
Downloadable word games in French, English and German.
French and German crosswords by topics (basic)
Spanish crosswords and puzzles with some downloadable activities.
Downloadable puzzles and games in French, German and Spanish.
Ideas for teacher-led language games.
Games for EFL students.

Children’s games in French (primary).

Colourful children’s sites with games in French (with audio).
French and German interactive quizzes for grammar revision (click on learning areas for access to French and German pages.

Children’s games in Spanish (primary).

Oscar l’escargot:
Game with audio on healthy living and food (French).
Games for French, Spanish, German GCSE.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Resources for French GCSE Applied to Leisure & Tourism

You will need to distinguish “raw resources” that need to be transformed into teaching materials from ready-to-teach resources that will still need adapting. The idea is that nobody starts from scratch and we can then start exchanging the materials produced to save everybody’s valuable time.

There is also a need for points of reference for leisure and tourism and more general business terminology. I know we are looking at GCSE, not degree level, but it is always nice to feel ahead of the students!

ABC de la terminologie touristique:
Glossary explaining a lot of the English terms used in the French tourist industry

Heinz Heigl's Home Page:
Home page with lots of links to do with the French language and culture. There is a special section about local, regional and international tourism.

Hans Le Roy homepage : FLE Tourisme
Lots of links to tourism-related website: hotels, weather, guides, transports, restaurants, regions in France and Belgium.

Le Français Commercial et Pratique et sa correspondence:
Business French textbooks with exercises

Webquest on how to organise a business trip :

RFI Langues:
Business French course with listening exercises-audio and transcripts provided

Franc-Parler: Français Commercial
Ressources pédagogiques:
Sites de référence
Lettres de diffusion
Compléments de méthodes de français des affaires
Cours de français des affaires
Textes, dialogues et exercices
Simulations globales

Franc-Parler: Français du tourisme et de l’ hôtellerie

Bonjour de France : Français des affaires links
Français des affaires : exercises (with audio)

AppuiFLE-Tourisme : Site de français du tourisme et de l'hôtellerie

Guide de l’utilisation des resources en ligne:
Links to sites for resources to be adapted

AF Toulouse net:
Activities to be downloaded (reading/ listening)

Alliance Française en Russie:
Links for Business French

Powerpoint including links about tourist industry training in France:,45,S%C3%A9minaire%20f%C3%A9d%C3%A9ral%20des%20professeurs%20de%20fran%C3%A7ais%20%20%C2%AB%C2%A0tourisme%20et%20h%C3%B4tellerie%C2%A0%C2%BB

Reading Comprehension exercises applied to tourism:

FLE Training for the Tourism Industry in Thailand:
Online activities can be adapted for reading and listening comprehension-audio and teacher/ student guide included.

Downloadable documents on written French applied to tourism

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

A Levels/ IGCSEs vs International Baccalaureate (IB)

In previous posts, I looked at the opportunities for linguists offered by the IB and the IGCSEs.

A current threat named “The A' level is dead...Long live the IB” on the TES staffroom forum urges teachers to get up to date with the IB developments. Is this the end of A Levels?

As you would expect from this kind of discussion, there is no clear winner, as the pros and cons have to be put into specific school contexts. However, some comments are very enlightening indeed…

“I have headed two IB Diploma schools and taught in two others and it is an interesting system but neither an ideal match for every situation nor for every student. There is also some movement away from IB. One of the IBs flagship schools in Santiago de Chile fairly recently reverted to A Levels and the best national school in Delhi went back to ICE. There are other examples I could cite. Of the three IB programmes the MYP is the poor relation and many parents shy away from such a loosely-defined programme with no 'real' examination to show for it in Year 11.” [whereas some high profile private schools seem to be going the other way, see previous post]

“The IB is an excellent programme but it's very academic and not for everyone. I understand the separate certificates (taken if you can't manage the full diploma) are no longer recognised by some Australian universities. … Interestingly, the most sought after International school here in Singapore does PYP, then GCSE then IB, leaving out the MYP altogether.”

“I agree about the MYP, it's a mess. Many schools just don't use it and start IB in Yr 12. They don't seem to be any less successful. “

“The confusion I have is with the tariff given by UCAS for IB for University entry in 2008. An 'A' at A level is 120 points - so obviously 3 x A = 360. Yet an IB diploma of 40 points is worth over 650 points which is just bizarre. Having taught both there are obviously pros and cons. I don't think for example that some IB courses are more academically demanding that the A level in that subject. I hear from some universities that they are simply discounting the UCAS ratings and are setting their own next year.”

“At my school, those students who it is believed would do better on the A levels are terms 'specialists' and those who would do better as 'generalists.' So in other words, people say, A levels are better for going deeper and IB is better for going broader.” [Some argue that the IB is both broad and deep…]

“I don't think the IB is only for "high flyers". I've seen very mediocre students pass the full diploma. Their points-score wasn't stellar, but they did end up with a diploma. The key factor isn't intellectual capacity but willingness to work hard... It seems to me that a student who could pass three A Levels ought to be able to pass the diploma as well. If they CAN'T do three A Levels, then their needs are unlikely to be catered to at the average international school anyway, regardless of which system it uses...” [So willingness to work hard does make a difference!]

Monday, 23 July 2007

New National Curriculum for Secondary Schools in England

QCA offficially launched the new secondary national curriculum on 12th July 2007. The new programmes of study (PoS) aim to give teachers a less prescriptive and more flexible framework for teaching, creating more scope to personalize the curriculum to meet the needs of individual students.

Ken Boston, Chief Executive of QCA said:

"QCA is pleased to be launching the new secondary curriculum. The consultation was widely supported by education professionals, parents, employers, industry experts - in fact, anyone with an interest in education. The opportunity to create an exciting and stimulating curriculum that includes classroom activities and out-of-hours learning, as well as a solid foundation in the basic subjects, has been greeted enthusiastically.

"Our aim has been to increase flexibility. The new curriculum builds on the best of the past by maintaining the discipline of subjects, but at the same time offering greater opportunities for personalised learning, addressing the major challenges that face society and equipping young people with the skills for life and work in the 21st Century.

"By mixing tradition with a more creative approach to the curriculum, we will achieve our objective of producing successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens."

The new programmes of study for all subjects can be downloaded from:

The specific links for the mfl PoS, also including level descriptors, are:

The programmes of study will be laid before Parliament and schools will receive them in September 2007 for teaching from September 2008. The new secondary curriculum website will be launched in September. There will then be a three-year period from 2008-2010 for schools to implement the new programmes of study.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Teaching Abroad: Facts and Figures

When the weather is at its worst, a teaching job and a new life in the sun do sound appealing. So, I decided to read up on the matter.

According to a post on the Times Educational Supplement website

89 % of the respondents of a survey into international teaching concluded that teaching abroad is good for developing your career.

The respondents included international teachers past and present who revealed that the experience had enriched them as a person. 66% had learned a new language during this time and 20% of these had become fluent speakers.

The research, by international recruiting specialists Teachers International Consultancy involved teachers of nine different nationalities and was conducted during the summer of 2006 with the support of Bath University summer school, Fieldwork Education summer school and the Overseas School of Colombo in Sri Lanka.

What did teachers like about teaching in international schools?
*the level of international awareness
*the behaviour of the children
*the curriculum.

Many teachers are tempted to stay abroad for longer than originally planned, with 57% of the respondents having already worked for five or more years in the international system.

68% of the teachers researched said their overseas teaching experience has significantly enhanced their overall teaching skills. How? The survey did not mention specific skills but problem-solving and communication skills must be in there somewhere, particularly in the case of teachers teaching in countries with a different language and culture to their own.

What makes a good international teacher?
The most important characteristic was flexibility, with being a good communicator and having an international outlook were two other valued qualities, well ahead of having a high quality education and knowledge of a foreign language [although I fail to see how you can communicate effectively with no knowledge of the language spoken in your host country].

More tips from the TES:
Overseas teaching
Where to teach overseas

“Red flags when looking into a school abroad” is a thread from the TES staffroom forum. It makes interesting reading as the red flags are from teachers already in post abroad as well as teachers with experience of working abroad.

*Flights at beginning and end of contract only, not each year*Contract only in local language and no English copy given and/or different wording in each.
*"Good Local Salary". Plus "average stay of staff is …" type details. It could be that apart from a few exceptions to the rule, the average is a lot less than the figure quoted.
*Shared accommodation.
*Interview costs paid by teacher
*Recently opened for profit schools

*Blinkered interviews that feel like a sales pitch with no balanced information.*Promises at interview not backed up by contract.
*Complicated pay structure with pay rates shownnot being “money in the bank” rates or salary given to include the cost of the rental of apartment provided by the school.
*Maximum allowance-usually about 5 days- for sick leave.
*Teachers on different salaries but hired at the same time with the same qualification.

*No teacher Induction programme at the start of the contract.
*Pay for your own work permits
*For teachers with family, look out for schools that are only interested in you and not your family e.g medical cover, school places for your kids, air tickets…
*Large number of SEN pupils (in a non-SEN specialist school)

After reading this thread, I felt that taking a post abroad was probably not that different from getting a new job in the UK: there is the official, the unofficial and what the organisation changes into as soon as you join it!

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Rationale for PMFL: Higher Levels in Year 7 or Increased Generic Language Awaress?

An article published in the Independent on 23 June 2007 presents a new plan piloted in Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Derbyshire to introduce primary school children from the age of nine to 6 foreign languages before they start secondary school.

The idea is to provide a taster and hopefully the basis for an informed choice when they transfer to secondary school. French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Punjabi and Latin will be studied for a term each before they leave primary school. The project is being evaluated by the University of Manchester and a report will be published by the end of the year.

With the 2010 deadline approaching, a lot of primary schools have introduced languages into their curriculum in many creative ways - leaving secondary schools having to deal with students very different linguistic profiles on entry.

“One school which has seized on the initiative is the 320-pupil Cavalry primary school in March, Cambridgeshire - in the largely white Fenlands. "We didn't have any language teacher here at all," said headteacher Val Spriggs. "The children really have taken to this. Our children in this area have very little experience of other cultures. It has been a lovely way of introducing them to different ways of doing things."

"Catherine White, the teacher in charge of delivering the project, admits to having had a sketchy knowledge of languages - especially Japanese - herself when she started the scheme.
"You don't have to be a linguist to teach it," she said. "After all, I gave up on art when I was 14 or 15 - but I still have to teach it."

Such project could have a massive impact in terms of students’ motivation but they should be supported by an element of choice offered at secondary school, which is often not possible due to staffing and other curriculum constraints.

The project also helps dealing with some of the transition issues, such as setting in Year 7 on the basis of previous language studies, which often gets too complicated in large secondary schools to be effective.

Fostering enthusiasm for languages through tasters or general language awareness programmes at LEA level could be a lot more effective than starting something that cannot be followed up at secondary level. Watch this space for the report…

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Foundation Certificate of Secondary Education (FCSE)

AQA is launching a new qualification for first teaching from September 2007: the FCSE

FCSE stands for Foundation Certificate of Secondary Education.

• FCSE tests may be taken by learners who have studied a course at National Curriculum Levels 4, 5 or 6.

• FCSEs are qualifications at Level 1 in the National Qualification Framework• FCSE assessments may be taken at anytime

• FCSEs are available only from AQA, in French, Spanish (2007 – restricted entry). German and Italian will be offered from 2008 onwards and open to all centres

• Pupils can progress from FCSE to GCSE.Assessment in FCSEs

• FCSEs are assessed by end-of-unit tests. Evidence from three of the twelve units must be submitted for moderation.

• Listening and Reading tests are externally-set and centre-assessed.

• Speaking and Writing tests are centre-set and centre-assessed.

• FCSE awards are graded Pass, Merit or Distinction.

Specification can downloaded from

• FCSE is suitable for a wide age range: primary, Key Stage 3 (years 7–9), Key Stage 4 (years 10–11) or adult learners.

• FCSE is available in French and Spanish (from September 2007 – first phase schools only) and French, Spanish, Italian and German (from September 2008 – for all).

•There is no prescribed content or vocabulary. Twelve units are arranged in four themes, corresponding to current GCSE themes.

• FCSE includes all four language skills: o listening o speaking o reading o writing.

• AQA provide externally-set, centre-assessed assignments in Listening and Reading and they plan to provide on-screen tests soon.

• Listening and Reading specimen materials in all four languages are available from the website:

Specimen listening in French

Specimen Reading

Speaking (non language specific)

Writing (non language-specific)

• Teachers set and mark the Speaking and Writing assignments. If teachers prefer not to set their own, they can use assignments supplied by us.

• There are three levels of award: o Pass o Merit o Distinction covering National Curriculum Levels 4, 5 and 6.

• Pupils attempt assignments when a topic has been covered, at different stages in the course, and can re-take if required.

• Teachers choose which units to cover and send us evidence from three of them for moderation. • AQA claims that the administrative procedures are kept simple: paperwork is minimal and under the teacher's control.

• Formal recognition of the achievement of individual units can be gained through the Unit Award Scheme.

The AQA Unit Award Scheme provides the opportunity to give students formal recognition of their success in short units of work. The Scheme promotes effective teaching and learning by ensuring that those writing and delivering units give careful consideration to learning outcomes, evidence and assessment and by setting down clear targets for students.

Success in each unit is recognised on an ongoing basis through the issue of a Unit Award Statement which details the outcomes demonstrated by the student in successfully completing the unit. This recognition of success has been shown to motivate students and improve their performance. Each student also receives a summary Letter of Credit which lists, by title, all the units he/she has completed.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

"Including languages in the Diplomas is a positive step"

This is the title of a recent article written by Isabella Moore, CILT director, for FE New.
Many arguments in the article can be used in our day-to-day promotion for Languages.
FE News specialise in providing up to the minute news and features about Further Education across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, including Colleges, Training Providers, Awarding Bodies, Funding Bodies, Apprenticeships and Inspections.

“Diplomas, the new qualifications for 14-19-year olds, herald the biggest change to the 14-19 curriculum for many years. Sitting alongside GCSEs and A Levels, they offer young people the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills within an applied, sector-focused context.

Employers have been actively involved in the development of the new qualifications, keen to ensure that young people gain not only knowledge of a particular sector/subject, but also vital skills for employment and higher education such as literacy, numeracy and IT skills, along with the ability to think, interact and communicate at a high level.

In our globally competitive employment market, no-one would dispute that all of these skills are vital for a good employee. Equally, who could dispute that language and intercultural skills are also essential for functioning effectively in this environment, or that the additional skills that language learning brings can be overlooked (confidence-building, problem-solving, developing a broader outlook etc)?

Although there is still some awareness-raising to be done in terms of overcoming the attitude of ‘everyone speaks English’ that languages will be available within the additional and specialist learning component of the Diploma is a positive step.

A selected number of schools and colleges will offer the first five of these Diplomas (Construction and Built Environment, Engineering, ICT, Society, Health & Development, and Creative & Media) from the next academic year with fourteen Diploma lines available from 2013. The inclusion of languages as an option within all of the first five Diplomas offers welcome opportunities for the growth of language learning for 14-19, including in further education.

From 2008 learners will be able to chose language qualifications for inclusion within additional and specialist learning, depending on what is available locally. Work will need to be done to raise the profile of languages within the Diploma and CILT’s latest Languages Work materials tie into the new Diploma lines and highlight the benefits of languages in the workplace.

The Diploma will include a minimum of ten days’ work experience at each level and students should be encourages to do this work experience either in an international company using languages, or even abroad. CILT’s newly-produced Work Placement Toolkit would provide a helpful aid in preparing students linguistically for such a placement

Only 13% of UK students go on international workplacements compared to 24% in Germany and 32% in France - the Diploma could be a fantastic opportunity for these students to experience work in an international environment.”

Isabella Moore, Director, CILT

Saturday, 14 July 2007

CILT Update on the 14-19 diploma

This updated page from the CILT website answers the most frequently asked questions in a clear and concise way.

“What is the place of languages in the new Diploma?
Diplomas are new qualifications for 14-19 year olds. They cover general knowledge and skills within an applied, sector-focused context. There will eventually be 14 Diploma subjects available, each currently known as a “line of learning”, offered at Levels 1, 2 and 3.

The Diplomas are divided into three components:
§ principal learning (learning relevant to a specific sector)
§ generic learning (learning for employment and personal development)
§ additional/specialist learning (a variety of options endorsed by employers in the sector concerned).

Full details of the Diploma subjects, the timetable for their delivery and the makeup of the Diplomas is available from the Diploma development partnerships and timetable page on the QCA website.

When and where will the Diplomas be available?
The first five 14-19 Diplomas (formerly called ‘specialised’ Diplomas) will be offered by a selected number of school and college consortia from September 2008 alongside the current offer of GCSEs, A Levels, etc. The consortia have passed successfully through the government’s Gateways Diploma process and as such have been selected to provide the first pilots.

What are the first five Diploma subjects?
Construction and Built Environment, Engineering, ICT, Society, Health & Development, and Creative & Media. These will be available for teaching from September 2008.

What are the opportunities for languages within the Diplomas?
Languages are to be an option within all of the first five Diplomas, sitting in the component of additional/specialist learning. For 2008, any qualification on the Section 96 Qualifications page of the Department of Children, Schools and Families website (formerly DfES) can be offered as an option, and that will include languages.

The number of Guided Learning Hours (GLH) for each Diploma varies according to component and level: there is time available at any level to teach a language. For example, in the Construction and Built Environment Diploma at Level 1, there are 120 GLH available within the additional/specialist component, which can be divided up between options with a minimum GLH of 30 hours per option. Optional units will be chosen by the consortia delivering the main Diploma.

For 2008, any language qualification which is on Section 96 can be offered for assessment of a language offered as part of a Diploma, for example, NVQ language units, Certificate in Business Language Competence (CBLC), Asset Languages, or indeed a GCSE or Applied French GCSE. QCA is currently deliberating on research to inform what the future language element of a Diploma might be.

What can language lecturers and managers be doing now to prepare?

§ Find out which consortium your college is in and which Diplomas your institution is intending to offer from 2008.
§ Make senior management aware that a language qualification can be offered as part of the additional/specialist component of the Diplomas
§ Highlight what kind of applied/vocational language teaching the college is already doing/has done in the past and raise awareness of the expertise which exists within your institution or consortium

You might also find it helpful to refresh your ideas on what content might be appropriate: start by reading the agreed statement in respect of the future development of common learning outcomes across lines of learning for the Diplomas (Languages and Customer Service). It can be found in the Diploma Content page of the Construction and Built Environment Diploma website.

You can get an overview of all of the language qualifications for post 14 by downloading the excel spreadsheet on the qualifications page. “

Friday, 13 July 2007

Asset Languages for the World of Work

In their Centre Support Update Special Edition: July 2007, Asset Languages made the following announcement:

"Now that Asset Languages is established in hundreds of centres with tens of thousands of students using the assessments each year, we have started to develop a new set of qualifications: Asset Languages for the World of Work.

In the past few months we have:

• surveyed centres
• held focus group meetings
• talked to experts
• worked with specialist consultants in order to create new qualifications that will meet the needs of centres and that students are going to find relevant and interesting.

As a result we are currently finalising proposals that we will put to QCA in the autumn.
It is too soon to give precise details, but we can say with confidence that:

• The Asset Languages philosophy including single skill testing will still apply
• Materials will be in French and Spanish
• The scheme will be sufficiently adaptable to fit a wide range of vocational pathways
External Assessments will be at Preliminary and Intermediate stages
Speaking tests will replicate workplace situations
Greater guidance will be given on the vocational topics and functions than in the current Asset Languages specifications.

We are aiming to have a draft specification on our website in October 2007 with full availability in 2008/09.
If you would be interested in trialling materials for the scheme please contact Caroline Cole, Centre Support Manager, Asset Languages at "

I am especially interested in how the scheme will fit into the vocational pathways, in the profile of the students it is aimed at-no breakthrough level external assessment?- and in the approaches used to make the speaking test replicate workplace situation.

After so many years dominated by GCSE, are we witnessing a real diversification of languages qualifications? More to the point, will schools use these qualifications to boost numbers at KS4 and the A-C and A-G pass rates soon to be published in the league tables?
Only time will tell...