Day 3 – the new cohort

Friday February 9th

Following on from my colleague’s lesson on communicative language teaching (CLT) last Monday with the group we devoted today’s lesson to ‘visions on MFL’.  My objectives for the students at the end of the lesson were as follows:

  •  Be able to explain your choice of profession
  • Be able to explain your choice of subject
  • Be able to explain what your vision is on good language teachers based on your opinions of your own teachers

We started by watching a clip of the wonderful Herbert Puchta talking about speaking in the language classroom (

) and discussed the implications of this for our own teaching.

Then we moved on to linking the anecdote from last week’s lesson to what they had heard from my colleague on Monday with regards to CLT and what they had read in the literature (Brown + Kwakernaak). Because we’re still in the start block (first four weeks), as it’s called, the students currently have classes on Monday and Friday. After this period we go on to the ‘normal’ structure of classes on Mondays only and placements the rest of the week. On Monday they normally start with an introductory MFL class (all MFL students together) to whatever topic we’re dealing with (in this case CLT), then they are sent off to read the literature and the English students fill in a Systematic Review Tool (SRT)Systematic Review Toolkit which they then mail to me by Thursday 5pm so that I can use their questions on Friday when preparing my subject-specific class on CLT for the Monday. Because of the start block we have to adapt things, so I spent all Thursday evening madly replying individually to the SRT and integrating what I could into my plans for the next day – aaahh the joys of teaching a pre-determined curriculum.

I then presented the students with the two transcribed lessons from an article by Kumaravadivelu and asked them which of the two lessons seemed the most communicative to them and why that was the case. After a brief discussion they then also tried to link this to their ideal teacher profile they made last week and the competence scales set out by the Dutch Government.

Then it was time to set the students off into pairs to get them to build a pyramid! No, seriously, the assignment is one whereby the students are given an envelope full of bits of paper with sentences on them. They have to try and create a pyramid shape whereby the most important things are at the top and the least important at the bottom and they are allowed to place certain things ‘in the bin’. The discussions between the pairs was interesting (imagine this is your colleague and together you have to determine the school MFL curriculum) and the things thrown ‘in the bin’ are so varied it amazes me every time! I always have one spare piece of paper in case they want to write something themselves which they miss in the papers – but this time nobody added anything. Would you be able to create an education pyramid with this?

To wrap things up I gave them a quick pop-quiz (true/false) and discussion of the answers.

  • Adolescents and adults learn second languages more quickly and easily than young children
  • The more time English Language Learners (ELLs) spend soaking up English in the classroom, the more quickly they will learn the language
  • When ELLs can speak English outside the classroom on holiday, with friends etc, they should be able to master their school work.
  • Literacy in the native language contributes to more rapid acquisition of the L2?
  • The emotional state of the learner can interfere with his acquisition of English?

This was then followed with the advice to read and sign up for updates of Ken Wilson’s blog on his German language lessons – it’s ideal for teacher trainees to see what it’s like to be a language learner with some prior knowledge of teaching techniques. Next week I’ll ask them if any of them has read the blog!

Today (Monday, 13th) the students had an introductory class on grammar and Friday I see them again for the subject-specific class on grammar.


  • Brown, H.D. (2007) ‘A “Methodical” History of Language Teaching’, Chapter 2, pp. 13-39, en ‘The postmethod era: toward informed approaches’, Chapter 3, pp. 40-61. In: Teaching by principles. An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. White Plains, NY:  Pearson Education.
  • Kumaravadivelu, B. (1993). Maximising learning potential in the communicative classroom. ELT Journal. 47 (1), 12-21.
  • Kwakernaak, E. (2009) Didactiek van het vreemdetalenonderwijs, chapter 2, ‘Vreemdetalenonderwijs en natuurlijke vreemdetalenverwerving’, pp. 29-49, en hoofdstuk 7, ‘Het VTO in maatschappelijk perspectief’, pp. 123-136.

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