Patience and Balance


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In amongst all the pressures, problems, difficulties, workload and aspirations, I feel it’s time to take a moment to reflect on two key aspects of being an effective teacher – patience and balance.

Effective teachers have a burning desire within them – to see each and every student they have in their charge succeed. Now this idea of success looks very different for each student. With so many students in our charge, it’s very difficult to balance their ranges of ability, motivation, engagement, well-being and day to day stresses and strains of being a youngster in the digital age with the demands for standards and self-evaluation procedures. An effective teacher will always strive, in my opinion, to shield the students from the cognitive load demanded by the continuous drive for academic improvement but not neglect the most important fact that the best gift we can give to our students is the best possible set of examination results that we can.

On the other hand, without some pressure and element of demanding academic growth, whatever that looks like in our subject areas, students can become lazy and lose focus on attention to detail and accuracy. Getting the balance right is a constant weighing up of many factors and often leads to lots of frustration and sometimes conflict with the student’s attitudes, aspirations and their value of learning. All in all, the learning zone is a multi faceted place where the student and teacher dance around in pursuit of the goal – growth in learning, confidence and outcomes. In addition to this, getting the lessons in the stretch zone where the growth is made involves delicately balancing the challenge against the skill acquisition of the students.

My desire is to see lasting and meaningful growth and there is a danger that this desire can lead to over balancing the level of challenge and desired outcome without a focus on developing the skills needed to meet the challenge. Pushing too hard and too fast can be counterproductive and even create a negative rather than positive tension within lessons.

Like many things, learning a language is difficult – fact! To be lasting and meaningful, learning a language is a long journey and by its very nature – time. Repetition and recycling of acquired language in a strategic approach is difficult to manage and even more so where the range of literacy standards within individual classes is often very wide. Breaking the language items down to the most effective level to drive acquisition for each individual student and going slow enough to allow time for the acquisition to occur does not balance well with the demands of examination performance and assessment demands.

In conclusion, the key is patience! Patience with ourselves and not feeling like we’re failing as teachers when the outcomes do not reach the level of our desires. Patience with the students who always want to do well but are constantly fighting with their own self-esteem and difficulties in staying focussed for long periods of time where the cognitive demand is very high. Patience with our managers who need to demonstrate they are responding to the demands of an ever demanding system for data, progress and outcomes. Patience with our workload and being confident in prioritising the most important aspects of our work – planning, teaching, two-way feedback and responding to the outcomes for individual students.

Yes – Patience and balance are the keys.


What are the teaching and learning interests of Global Innovative Language Teachers?

Areas of interest to language teachers.

Global Innovative Language Teachers


In an attempt to better plan the professional development content of the Global Innovative Language Teachers group’s Facebook page, upon joining the GILT group, I (Barri Mock -admin and moderator of G.I.L.T.) put a simple survey together to collect information using the following questions:

  • What language/languages do you teach?

  • What age group/range do you teach?
  • What specific areas of teaching and learning are you most interested in learning more about?

There have been 117 responses from teachers around the globe. This post reports a short summary of the outcomes.

Summary of findings

1. Languages taught: English, Spanish, French, Welsh, Polish, German, Russian, Indonesian, Latin, Italian, Japanese.

2. Age groups taughtAll age ranges from 4 years old to adult learners with the majority of responses for 11-18 years old.

3. Areas of interest mentioned by respondents:

Top 5 (in no particular order):

  • Developing the use of target language (TL) in…

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Tempus fugit – Four strategies to maximise MFL curriculum time

Making the most of contact time – combining implicit and explicit approaches. Another thought provoking post by Dr Conti.

The Language Gym


In view of the small amount of curriculum time allocated to MFL teaching in many secondary schools, finding ways to maximise teaching and learning time is crucial in order to ensure retention is long-lasting and horizontal progression (the accurate routinization of the target items) happens.

In this article, I set out to discuss a set of strategies I have been using over the years to address the constraints posed on learning by the very limited contact time I have with my classes (1 hour 50 minutes a week). In my daily fight against time, I have had to make every single minute count. This has entailed:

(1)    effective classroom and learning management, so as to keep students focused and ensure transition from one activity to the next is seamless;

(2)    ensuring long-term retention through impactful teaching strategies;

(3)    smart curriculum design which allows for effective recycling and horizontal progression whilst maximizing…

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Wales: Britain’s Hidden Corner of Bilingualism


The Memrise Blog

Tucked away in the corner of the UK, one of the world’s most monolingual countries, you’ll find a beacon of bilingualism for the rest of the world: Wales. Out of the four home nations that make up the United Kingdom, Wales has led the way in its efforts to revive and promote the Welsh language, and has set a precedent for other countries all over the world. What makes this more impressive, is that it has managed to do so while living side-by-side with global giant English.

But only fifty years ago, it looked like the Welsh language was dying out. It was only spoken in remote, rural regions by mainly older speakers. But since 1999, when learning Welsh was made compulsory in schools up to the age of 16, things have started to change.

“I can’t go five meters out my door without knowing that Welsh is around…

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Why you should change your approach to Grammar Instruction

Comprehensive analysis of approaches to grammar instruction. More superb insights from Gianfrancoconti.

The Language Gym


In most MFL and ELT classrooms grammar is usually taught deductively following a PPP (presentation, practice, production) model. A typical PPP sequence unfolds as follows:  (1) the target grammar rule is explained through a few examples (Presentation); then, (2) the structure is practised in a controlled manner, e.g. through gap fill exercises, substitution drills, sentence transformations, reordering sentences, or matching a picture to a sentence (Practice); finally, (3) students engage in controlled activities such as, surveys, interviews and other information gap activities which will elicit the application of the target structure in real time. During this process, the instructor provides the learner with one or more grammar rules, occasionally supplemented with a heuristic (a rule of thumb), which will guide them in the application of the related structure in tasks that require increasingly higher level of processing.

In this post, I will argue that such model should be abandoned…

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Is it really a low stakes quiz?

Low-stakes quizzes and getting the right balance for their effective use. Diolch yn fawr. Great insight and thought provoking.

Class Teaching

Tonight’s 15 Minute Forum was led by English teacher, Tod Brennan and focussed on the concept of low stakes quizzes. There were two aspects of Tod’s presentation; the value of low stakes quizzes for memory recall but also the importance of managing the stress levels of our students.

Picture1.pngMemory can be defined as ‘learning that has persisted over time – information that has been stored and can be recalled’. In order to remember a fact, our brains have to process information or encode it from the point at which that information was learnt, into our short-term (working) memories and then into our long-term memories. In order, to reuse that information (or memory) we have to retrieve the information. It is at this retrieval point, where low stakes quizzes can play an effective role. Low stakes quizzes can be used as a quick and effective activity at the beginning of lessons…

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