In order to support our professional development, each department at school goes through a 2 day OFSTED style inspection with a bought in inspector. In the languages inspection last year, the inspector raised a concern that the students found it difficult to manipulate the language when speaking spontaneously. Based on this, we set ourselves a target of researching methodology which would help us to achieve more spontaneous classroom talk.
I remember in the year leading up to my marriage with my beautiful French wife that my Dad got his hands on a copy of "Teach yourself French with Michel Thomas" in order to be able to converse with his future belle-famille. Being a French teacher in a school, I was sceptical about what my Dad could learn from a CD course where there is "no writing, no homework and absolutely no memorisation". I was impressed when after a few weeks my Dad said to me "Que pensez-vous de la situation économique et politique en Iraq?", of course, when I replied to him he struggled to understand I smuggly told him he should have tried harder in school. Nonetheless, my curiosity was pricked by this idea and this year year, we have bought in the Michel Thomas method for French as the first unit across Key Stage 3. The materials during the summer - a bulky folder of paper resources as well as listening materials and computer based games and I started putting lessons together in preparation for this week.
Yesterday was my first lesson using the materials with my year 9 classes and I must be honest, but I was blown away by the progress the students made in the lesson. I had year 9 boys wandering around the class and bumping into other students saying "au contraire, ce n'est pas possible pour moi" in a variety of styles from angry to whispered to being in love. I am not easily impressed but after one lesson, I found the methodology effective and the students challenged. If this continues, I will be delighted and maybe just have some spontaneous, relevant and genuine target language discussion with the students. We shall see...
You can see the materials for yourself by ordering a free sample here.