Title: Stories from Secondary Foreign Languages Classrooms
By: Colin Christie and Caroline Conlon, Trentham Books
This compendium of initial teacher training (ITT) research projects in language teaching and learning is a good example of partnership working amongst four London providers. There are messages here however, for teachers, trainee teachers and ITT providers anywhere in the country.
The up-beat title of the book is seductive for teachers looking for solutions to the day-to-day challenges of teaching languages. Indeed, it contains a number of ‘nuggets’ of interesting practice for teachers to explore and detailed insights into serious and systematic academic research. However, it demands that teachers or researchers allocate time for serious reading and reflection on their own practice and therefore this book may be of particular interest to ITT providers and schools who work in close partnership.
Chapters of this book will have different resonances for individual teachers so I would encourage you to make your own selections. However, one of my personal ‘must reads’ is definitely Jane Jones’ Teachers as emergent critical researchers of practice. She makes a convincing case for bringing theory and reflective practice into the work of language teachers as a matter of routine.
If you read nothing else in this book, do not miss Caroline Conlon’s Making the most of the mixed-experience Year 7 classroom. There is plenty of food for thought here for language teachers who are grappling with the challenges of preparing pupils for secondary school or receiving a ‘mixed bag’ of experience at the start of Year 7. Caroline’s research demonstrates the impact of delivering a curriculum based on building language learning skills and knowledge about language.
A final recommendation would be to put Caroline’s chapter together with Breaking out: The use of film in the MFL classroom (Colin Christie and Shirley Lawes). We are in for exciting times if teachers
“regenerate the curriculum content, develop a distinctive cultural focus and above all…encourage learners to see [language] learning as an important part of their education.” (Christie, Lawes. P 101)
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