I am Steve Smith and I taught French for over 30 years in English secondary schools. I did my first degree in French and Linguistics at the University of Reading (UK), my PGCE at the west London Institute of Higher Education (University of London), later an MA at the Institute of Education in London. I was trained in the London University "oral approach" (once described as "death by question and answer") which goes back to Henry Sweet. I wrote my MA dissertation on conscious and unconscious second language learning, with a particular focus on the work of Stephen Krashen.
I began my career at Tiffin School for boys in Kingston upon Thames. I then worked at Hampton School before becoming a Head of Modern Languages at Ripon Grammar School in North Yorkshire where I worked until I retired in 2012.
I began frenchteacher.net in 2002 as a means of sharing worksheets and links with colleagues around the world. Before retiring I had decided to turn the site into a low price subscription service so that I could continue making resources, something I enjoy doing very much.
The resources reflect my belief in a structured oral approach to language teaching based on considerable, if not exclusive, use of the target language. I have long believed in a combination of the "comprehension" approach espoused by writers such as Stephen Krashen and a commitment to structured grammar teaching through presentation and controlled practice. I have always believed that teachers can combine a communicative approach with explicit grammar teaching. The amount of grammar would depend on the class and the goals of the course. In recent years I have been drawn to the benefits, in secondary school settings, of a lexicogrammatical, “chunking” approach as developed by Gianfranco Conti.
But I also try at all costs not to be dogmatic about "what works" in language teaching. Research in this field is young and needs to be reviewed critically. Research does not tell you how to teach, but can provide useful insights.
Subscribers to frenchteacher.net come from all over the world, although mainly from British secondary schools. If you are new to the site, do have a look at the many free samples, teacher's guide, blog, testimonials and links pages.
Apart from writing frenchteacher.net and blogging, I have worked with AQA presenting and writing, speak at occasional MFL teacher events, provide in-school CPD, I help moderate the GILT Facebook forum and am subject lead tutor for the PGCE and IPGCE students at Buckingham University. In 2019 I created a research links website at informedlanguageteacher.com and in 2020 I set up a YouTube channel where I share screencasts about language teaching.
Since ‘retirement’ I have authored, or co-authored with Gianfranco Conti, five books.
The Language Teacher Toolkit (Smith and Conti, 2016)
Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher (Smith, 2017)
Breaking the Sound Barrier: Teaching Language Learners How to Listen (Conti and Smith, 2019)
50 Lesson Plans for French Teachers (Smith, 2020)
Memory: What Every Language Teacher Should Know (Smith and Conti, 2021)
A second edition of Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher is due in mid 2022.
I am married to Elspeth Jones, Emerita Professor of Internationalisation in Higher Education and have a son, Joel, a physics graduate from Manchester University and now a Post Doc at Oxford University in the field of solar energy. In my spare time I sing in a barbershop chorus, listen to prog rock music and play the drums for fun. We travel a good deal and make regular visits to our house in the Charente Maritime département in France.