IWB-supported video communication in primary ELF

My colleague Euline Cutrim Schmid at the University of Education Schwäbisch Gmünd and I have been working on task-based telecollaborative projects with primary school teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL) for a number of years. We have used IWB technology to allow live exchanges between pupils in French and German primary school classes in English as a lingua franca (ELF). Learners use an audio-video link and screensharing to complete information gap tasks in groups or in front of the whole class in the local classroom. Some children move objects on a page in a shared IWB file in response to information provided orally by remote speakers. A German learner may describe a funny animal with a crocodile’s head and an elephant’s body, while French listeners drag and drop the appropriate body parts to create the animal, for example, or a French “shopkeeper” will collect items from supermarket shelves to serve a German “customer.”

A task-based approach to video communication with the IWB

myles-tan-84040Myles Tan

In our first study, we asked:

  • How can an IWB support VC exchange between remote partners involving young learners?
  • What types of materials, activities and teaching techniques seem to
    promote effective learner–learner exchanges?
  • What light is shed on this communicative situation by teachers’ and learners’ views?

And we concluded:

This study has shown that it is both possible and worthwhile for young beginners to engage in live peer communication, and that IWB-supported VC interaction offers a promising platform for this type of exchange. The analysis of transcripts of video extracts provides an impressive picture of how the teachers were able to orchestrate an extremely complex set of interactions to support their learners in the planned tasks. Each of the three examples examined in the study shows how many different local interactions were required in each classroom in order for the central dialogue between French and German learners to unfold in ways that were useful for both the active learners and those observing. Even in this first familiarization session, the teachers were able to manage the technology, both the VC equipment and the IWB software, the different configurations of learners, and the ID card task itself. In so doing, they never intervened directly in interactions and rarely provided models or translated for their learners. It is remarkable that, even in these initial exchanges with so many other concerns, there are examples of learner–learner interaction supported only by the task materials.

This leads us to the second research question concerning materials and activities. This study suggests that while the design of task-based activities is important, balancing Cameron’s cognitive and language demands with appropriate support, her third aspect, interactional demand, may require more attention. The learners in the study seemed to lack communication strategies for dealing with interactional breakdowns, and the participants in general needed to focus on the task itself and collaboration with their interlocutor, rather than on other issues such as a language learning point or a technical detail. Nevertheless, the participants were positive about the experience.

Investigation of the third research question revealed that both teachers and learners found the exchange motivating and useful, with both groups also providing ideas and goals for future sessions.

Regarding technology, it is common in ICT studies to call for more technical support, teacher training, and familiarization sessions with technology in order to iron out recurring technical problems, and help teachers to implement effective learning activities that exploit the most appropriate affordances of our ever-evolving technological environment. Such measures are clearly helpful, if not always forthcoming. It is worth considering, however, whether this understandable desire to master the technological context and make the most of its potential to support learning might not lead teachers to overorganize and micromanage interactions, to the detriment of learner autonomy.

Whyte, S., & Cutrim Schmid, E. (2014). A task-based approach to video communication with the IWB: a French-German primary EFL class exchange. In Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (Eds.). Teaching languages with technology: communicative approaches to interactive whiteboard use. A resource book for teacher development. London: Bloomsbury.

Teaching young learners with technology

biegun-wschodni-8636Biegun Wschodni

In the next iteration, we focused on both design and implementation of tasks with the aim of balancing support for learners to complete activities with space for spontaneous language production.

This chapter has shown that new technologies can offer opportunities for meaningful language-learning experiences through authentic tasks.The various task-based activities described here illustrate the potential of technology to allow interaction with speakers who do not share a native language and to provide scaffolding to support this interaction. However, the chapter has also demonstrated that simply using new technologies does not guarantee, or even enhance, new meaning making. Our analysis of classroom interaction and teachers’ and learners’ perspectives has shed some light on a number of important aspects of technology use with young learners.

First, while the project tasks were perceived as more authentic and interactive than traditional activities, teachers and learners also expressed the desire for even greater learner-centredness, allowing opportunities for pupils to use language creatively and experiment with language. The majority of project tasks imposed a tight framework that often prevented this type of language interaction, suggesting that an important challenge with young learners is the balance between adequate linguistic and emotional support and space for learners to create. Second, in early sessions, the unfamiliar environment and technological limitations led to greater teacher mediation; by later stages of the project, the learners developed communication strategies and skills which allowed them to act more autonomously. This pattern corresponds to the implementation dip (Fullan 2001) noted earlier, and may reflect a positive effect of the teacher support in context and over time also reported in previous studies (Hennessy and London 2013, Whyte et al. 2013).

This chapter has discussed various advantages of using new technologies with young learners in the FL classroom, through the description and evaluation of technology-enhanced activities that were perceived as motivating, meaningful and productive. It calls for a stronger focus on task design and task implementation in technology-rich learning environments. Further research needs to be done on the design of technology-enhanced tasks that provide a framework for supporting young learners’ language production, while at the same creating room for the development of learner autonomy and self-directed learning.

Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (2015). Teaching young learners with technology. In Bland, J. (Ed.). Teaching English to Young Learners. Critical Issues in Language Teaching with 3-12 year olds. Bloomsbury.

Classroom technology for young learners

Annie Spratt

We later summarised our experience with these exchanges as follows:

Primary pupils aged 7 to 9 in Germany and France used English as lingua franca to interact with the remote class in three collaborative tasks: making ID cards, a supermarket exchange, and a breakfast invitation. Participants saw the tasks as authentic and relevant in design, but in early stages of the project, the actual implementation of these tasks did not sufficiently encourage learners to use their own resources. Transcriptions of the first CMC interactions showed high levels of teacher mediation in learner-learner exchanges. In later phases, the teachers made efforts to help learners develop communication strategies to negotiate meaning and repair communication breakdowns on their own.

Similarly, both teachers and pupils felt the planned tasks imposed a tight framework which prevented spontaneous use of language, and so later phases of the project aimed to allow more open activities. Thus, in preparation for one of the supermarket sessions, 15 German learners showed and described the content of their lunch boxes without preparation, using any linguistic resources at their disposal. Since the learners had not prepared or practiced in advance for the activity, they could not rely on memorized chunks, but had to adapt language on-line during interaction. An important challenge with YELLs is thus the balance between adequate linguistic and emotional support, on one hand, and space to create on the other.

Whyte, S., & Cutrim Schmid, E. (in press). Classroom technology for young learners. In Garton, S., & Copland, F. (Eds.) Routledge Handbook of Teaching English to Young Learners. Routledge. 2018.


English Wordlists for teaching and learning EFL/ESL

On his Wordlists page, @muranava has a curated selection of English wordlists, both general and subject-specific. Find information about the General Service Word List, the Academic Word List, as well as specific corpora and recent updates to available resources.


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@muranava teaches EFL in higher education (engineering, business) in Paris, so some lists reflect that teaching context. He also runs a corpus linguistics community on Google+ with references, advice and updates on research and tools.


Masters in Teaching English: research project topics

This week our second-year Masters students in the English teaching programme at the University of Nice presented their end-of-year classroom research projects to an audience of university and secondary school teachers and their peers. We heard thirty presentations on different dimensions of teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in French secondary schools, which include both lower secondary (collège, 11-15 years) and upper secondary (lycée, 16-18 years). The students are pre-service teachers; the majority have passed national competitive teacher entrance exams and have taught part-time through this school year, with support from mentor teachers and university tutors. Some have yet to pass the exams and had shorter school placements under the direct supervision of a school tutor.

This word cloud generated from the paper titles and abstracts gives an idea of the main concerns: language (English and French), teaching and teachers, class and classroom, pupils/students/learners, and … motivation.


The options and guidelines for these research papers can be accessed from this link, (2015 edition) and this one (2016/17). Below I have grouped the 2015-6 papers thematically. This overview gives some insight into what interests and concerns new teachers and teacher educators in French secondary EFL within the framework established by my guidelines and our school requirements.

Designing task-based activities, lessons, and units

  1. Fostering Students’ Interaction In ESL Classrooms: An Emphasis on Learning to Communicate through Interaction in the Target Language
  2. The Use of Games in French secondary EFL classrooms
  3. Reflection on Task-based Language Teaching in Lower Secondary School Through the Analysis of a Teaching Unit
  4. Material design: Secondary school EFL teaching unit on Global Warming

Most of the options for this project involved task-based language teaching, but some students were particularly interested either in preparing materials based on this approach, implementing activities, or evaluating their own lessons and units from this perspective. Some students felt they fell short in this respect: real-world constraints with respect to pupils’ age or proficiency, curricular requirements, or other expectations seemed to militate against a strong TBLT approach.

Teaching and evaluating speaking

  1. Different activities implemented in class to help pupils to speak
  2. Making technology programmes pupils in upper secondary willingly communicate in EFL and be ready for the oral expression evaluation of the Baccalauréat.
  3. How to generate and facilitate Speaking in E.F.L. classes ?
  4. A comparative case study in French upper secondary education – combining fluency and traditional TBLT with accuracy and corrective feedback

A number of students chose to focus on speaking skills, an often neglected aspect of secondary school EFL in our contexts due to large classes (often thirty pupils or more in upper secondary) and to a traditional focus on (authentic) texts. Some students focused on analysing learner production (e.g., fluency and accuracy) while others sought to create opportunities for less proficient and often less motivated learners to improve their spoken language through a combination of live and recorded presentations.

Investigating classroom interaction: teacher and learner participation

  1. Impact of Role-plays in EFL class on Student Talking Time and Teacher Talking Time Balance
  2. Strengthening the development of Student Talking Time (STT) in the EFL secondary classroom: student-centered activities and differentiated instructions

Two students were concerned about achieving a balance between teacher and pupil participation in classroom interaction. They recorded themselves teaching a lesson, and compared talk times for teachers and pupils, with reassuring results in both cases.

Differentiation: addressing diverse learner needs

  1. Working with different proficiency levels in the French EFL classroom: out-of-class activities
  2. Benefits & Limits of a Differentiated Instruction in an English Class
  3. Impact of Differentiated Pedagogy on Pupil’s Motivation
  4. Differentiating reading and listening comprehension activities in a mixed- ability class.

Another common area of focus for these novice teachers was differentiation, a popular topic in language teaching and indeed other disciplines in French education at present. Students investigated different approaches to accommodating different learner needs, from mixed-ability pair work or grouping by proficiency, to separate tasks for different groups. There was some overlap between these projects and others focusing explicitly on pupil motivation, since techniques for increasing motivation often included differentiated instruction.


  1. Enhancing Learners’ Motivation and Interest in EFL Classrooms
  2. Arousing Students’ Motivation In ESL Classrooms: Increasing And Enhancing Participation, Interaction And Production.
  3. Implementing Ideal Future Selves in the Second Language Classroom
  4. Group work as a potential source of motivation

Approaches to the topic of motivation varied from the psychological (Dörnyei and colleagues) to the practical (Rivoire). A number of students and teachers in our schools have recently begun implementing Rivoire’s approach to classroom management via a “group work system.” It’s a somewhat controversial approach; see Puren et al and links on my wiki for criticism.

Teaching content: history, geography, art, literature

  1. CLIL in French schools:meaning-focused or form-focused?
  2. ‘Soft’ CLIL in French Lower Secondary School: the Benefits of Teaching Geography in English Classes
  3. Art in English classes or How to integrate art notions in upper-secondary EFL classes
  4. Access to Culture in Classes of 6ème Between Motivation and Adaptation
  5. Teaching Literature in Middle School: Benefits and challenges
  6. Reading in English : How to introduce literature in language teaching class in lower secondary school
  7. How to develop pupils’ taste for reading through extracts from Roald Dahl

In French universities and secondary schools, the study of English is situated within the field of anglistics, which views language and culture as indissociable, and the (written) text as the prime vehicle for conveying meaning (cf Angles). “Culture” is thus an important component of English programmes and, I have argued, can be considered as separate content just like other disciplines which are taught through the medium of a foreign language as Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). Students this year focused on teaching history and geography, modern art, and different forms of literature to upper and lower secondary classes.

Tools for teaching

  1. Using the dictionary Inside and Outside The Classroom
  2. Integrating Web Online Mapping Services in the Teaching of EFL
  3. Teaching Vocabulary & the use of flashcards.

Three students focused on particular tools for language teaching, two using paper-based materials such as dictionaries and flashcards to aid comprehension and retention of lexical items, and perhaps encourage learner autonomy. A third demonstrated the more complex affordances of Google applications such as maps and street view, and how these might be exploited for learning about the culture of English-speaking countries.

Classroom language: native versus target language use

  1. Perceptions of French students in regard to native and non native speaking teachers
  2. EFL teaching: Questioning L2 exclusivity and its effects on learners and teachers in a Lower Secondary school

Finally, two students focused on questions surrounding classroom language, including the native-nonnative debate and the use of the L1 in classroom.

These, then, are the topics selected and researched by our thirty masters students this year, written up and defended in English over five days last week before peers, university tutors and school teacher mentors.


Angles: French perspectives on the Anglophone world. http://angles.edel.univ-poitiers.fr
Dörnyei, Z., & Ushioda, E. (2013). Teaching and researching: Motivation. Routledge.
Puren, C.,  Médioni, M-A.,  & Sebahi, E. (2013). Le système des ilôts bonifiés : de fausses bonnes solutions à de vrais problèmes. meirieu.com

Rivoire, M. (2012). Travailler en “ilôts bonifiés” pour la réussite de tous, Chambéry, Génération 5.
Whyte, S. (2014). Research project topics 2014-15. Weebly


CrowdWish lesson plan (Rachael Roberts)

A great example of a communicative lesson plan, using authentic resources to stimulate discussion. There is a grammar focus, but it comes from the topic and activities, rather than constituting the starting point of the lesson. Link to video and transcript provided, CC licence – what more could we ask?



A free downloadable lesson, about a new online service, CrowdWish, which invites people to post their wishes on their website. Every day people vote on the most popular wish, and CrowdWish will grant it!  Students start by discussing some wishes taken from the site, then read a short text about what the site aims to do (so don’t tell them at the start of the lesson!)  There is then a focus on some useful idioms, before going on to watch a video in which the founder of the site, ‘pitches’ his idea. Students then look at the grammar used with ‘wish’, particularly at the use of ‘would’ when you want someone else to change their behaviour. Finally the students come up with their own wishes and vote on them, like on the site. You could even try and grant the top wish if you’re feeling creative..

The lesson would be…

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