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How can we improve modern languages uptake?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by CMcIvor19, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. Hi everyone,
    I have heard through the grapevine at our school that so far we have a poor uptake for modern languages [​IMG] I am utterly annoyed/upset/confused by this as our department works hard throughout the year to do interdisciplinary projects and things to motivate pupils. Can anyone send us some ideas to try to hopefully build up the reputation this year? We have done European Day of Languages games and prizes last year etc.

    Thanks so much [​IMG]

  2. Very sorry to hear that uptake is not what you'd hoped for.
    In my experience the single biggest factor affecting uptake is what happens in the classroom. Yes trips and other things extra-curricular are important too, but it's what happens on a day-to-day basis that will have th biggest impact.
    Generally (and of course there are exceptions) pupils want to do well and see that they can access the language and make good progress.
    I would suggest reviewing your schemes of work to ensure that pupils are being suitbaly challenged and that lots of AFL opportunities are being built in to allow pupils to see the progress they are making. Oh, and remember that in effect the options process in Y7 - they need to have a positive experience throughout KS3.
  3. kittylion

    kittylion Senior commenter

    I think one reason might be what it is up against in the option blocks. If they have to choose either a language or one of the "sexy" popular subjects like Media Studies, they will choose the latter. If it is up against other more "ordinary" subjects like History/Geog etc you might have a better chance.

    Also, dare I say it, some children don't opt because they perceive it as a difficult one to pass. They prefer PE or Drama because they think that they will run round a field for a couple of years, or act in a couple of funny sketches and then get a GCSE.

    TBH there are still kids who opt for what their friends are doing ;)
  4. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    We have compulsory French to GCSE, but are keen to get as many dual linguists as possible. The key factor is the quality/popularity of the teacher(s) in Y9. There are other factors, and Spanish is more popular than German in general, but teacher quality is the key. At our school, one subject has become really popular almost overnight as a result of a teacher change.
  5. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Yes, but that doesn't tell us WHAT that amazing teacher does to get the uptake. I used to have a colleague who managed to get eniire classes opting for her subject, and she really got the kids to believe in themselves, I think. She was one of those people who made you feel important and clever.
  6. desibelle

    desibelle New commenter

    I think you've already identified the secret musiclover. Kids need to believe they can achieve. We try to show KS3 how easy the GCSE is by giving them Foundation Level reading questions to answer and explaining how KS3 speaking and writing assessments mirror GCSE controlled assessments. We also go on and on about the importance of language learning in this day and age, university entrance requirements and job adverts for all sorts of things that mention "knowledge of another European language an advantage" ( Never seen an advert with "knowledge of Media Studies an advantage".) We mention in Year 7 reports to parents how we look forward to seeing whatisname gaining a grade A at GCSE in a few years time and don'e stop banging on about it until they opt. I teach in a "bog-standard comprehensive" in Wales where Welsh is compulsory to Year 11, but more than 50% of the current Year 9 have opted for French or Spanish (some both), so something's working.
  7. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    What a good idea to give them bits of GCSE work. I tend to be quite demanding of my pupils (expecting them to understand cases etc) - not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't encourage high uptake. I get average uptake compared to the other teachers, but then I've only just joined the school. About 50% of my year 9 have opted for German, the other 50 are either dropping languages entirely or doing Spanish. And this is a grammar school.
  8. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    That sounds very good, musiclover. At my grammar school we are doing well next year with about 45 dual linguists out of 120 - about 35 for Spanish, 10 for German. Depends on the option system, of course.
  9. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    A few years ago, an MA student wanted to do some research into this very problem and conducted interviews with some year 10 pupils at my school. He interviewed those who were continuing with a language as well as some who'd dropped it. His conclusion was that pupils asked themselves the following questions:
    <ol>[*]Am I any good at French/German/Spanish?[*]Will dropping it harm me, professionally speaking?</ol>I wasn't convinced that that those who answered "no" to question 1 necessarily went on to ask themselves question 2, particularly if their aptitude for MFL study was in doubt, but it did bring home to me that all the marketing, arm twisting, glossy brochures and displays, and smiling through clenched teeth at open evenings counted for nothing if key stage 3 hadn't been a success.
    I know that isn't the whole answer as parental influence and what we would consider to be softer options (dance, photography) also had their part to play in the child's decision.
  10. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Established commenter

    The main FLs taught have suffered since the inauguration of the National Curriculum.

    The NC for languages has never sought to define a sensible, minimum defined content vocabulary, drafted by knowledgeable practitioners, which would ensure that learners acquire an acceptable amount of vocabulary, and a vocabulary aimed at enabling them to 'perform' in their FL.
    The lack of defined content has meant that schools have been free to 'teach' a woefully small amount of vocabulary over the years to GCSE, amounting maybe to an absorption rate of about 1 word per hour of study over the 11 - 16 years of age. Work it out for yourself.
    The lack of defined content has also meant that schools have not necessarily enabled learners to feel that they have acquired the vocabulary required for them to approach a FL speaker and engage them in talk. It is not an uncommon experience for FL learners to 'study' a foreign language for years, without feeling able to use it meaningfully.

    I feel that FLs are going to remain at best 'becalmed' until serious thought is given to WHAT FL content is taught, and WHY. For years real FL course content has been masked behind a list of pathetic 'can do' statements, translated into worthless NC Levels, which has all choked the the development of worthwhile FL provision.
    If learners feel that what they are being taught is not enabling them to use a foreign language, it is no wonder that they drop it.
  11. Random175

    Random175 New commenter

    I think students also think about whether they think teachers will 'get them a good grade'. I know my son at the moment is thinking about A levels and who is going to teach him is important when it comes to narrowing his choices down from all the subjects he enjoys at the moment.
  12. Thanks to all of you who replied to this thread. I have some great ideas to try out with classes especially bringing in foundation level questions to let them see what they can achieve already. [​IMG] Regarding how many words per hour of study, I am very interested in this point and think we will try a vocabulary building competition each month to see if we can get them to revise properly and maybe even introduce a few 'spelling bee' type questions. Great feedback from all of you, thanks so much!

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