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Lovely low ability Y7s - need a new approach.

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by -myrtille-, Sep 22, 2015.

  1. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter


    I've got a really lovely bottom set Y7 group this year who are incredibly low ability.

    They're currently ever so motivated and hard-working, but some are struggling with tasks involving reading and writing because they find it difficult enough in English. This is an issue even at word level - I pointed at a word and asked a pupil what letter it ended in and they got it wrong. I spelled a place name out to another pupil and they wrote Q when I said K.

    They are good verbally and are absolutely delightful - Last lesson a pupil sneezed, so I said "a tes souhaits" and he responded "merci", completely naturally and unprompted. There are 3 bossy girls who like to get the class lined up for me by gesturing and shouting "les filles!", "les garcons!", "silence!".

    I want to harness this enthusiasm and avoid demoralising them with too much focus on the written word. I find it difficult to do that much speaking with most classes due to group sizes, but this class only has 16 pupils so it's a good starting point.

    I'm interested in the idea of storytelling, Q&A etc. (I have an American friend who is very into TPRS and it looks interesting, though I wouldn't want to do it with all groups all the time) but I don't really know where to get started, how to make it accessible and comprehensible.

    If anyone has any suggestions and resources I would be so grateful as I don't feel equipped to teach these kids properly but really don't want to let them down!
  2. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    Sounds like they are perfect candidates for an activities/games approach. There are hundreds of such activities out there and doubtless hundreds more waiting to be invented. Then, of course, there's...
  3. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    As a retired linguist and special educator I feel I ought to respond since nobody else has yet been forthcoming. You have reminded me how rewarding a good-spirited lower MFL set can be. My SEN training has instilled in me the necessity of everybody working together when teaching a lower set across the curriculum. I would thoroughly familiarise myself with the educational histories of all students in your class with SEN. The files in the SENCO's office should list effective strategies and strengths that you could harness, not just a morass of weaknesses and difficulties. You might also consult your colleagues who teach other subjects to these students. I'll bet at least a couple of them will have come up with some ideas and techniques that could be deployed cross-curricularly. Pay particular attention to what works in English and Maths. I can't comment on TPRS although I've spoken to American high school MFL teachers at conferences and their explanations of what TPRS involves have always left me a little bewildered and bemused.
  4. rosaespanola

    rosaespanola New commenter

    I've taught several groups like this and you can do some really good things with them...I had one group that I taught from Y7-Y9 and by the end of Y9 they were getting level 5a/6c in speaking and listening work. Not so much in reading and writing, but let's face it, if you're actually in the country then speaking and listening is what you mainly need!
    My groups loved playing games and making up games themselves - they were very creative and gave me ideas that I pinched for use in other classes!. We also wrote little plays together, based on characters they created and described, and made videos that they prepared and practised - things like news reports, weather, interviews etc. If you can get a link with a school in France, you could make video clips to send to them - my class loved doing this, we made all sorts of little video clips including a tour of the school with the pupils saying what things were and asking each other their opinions on different subjects, and our French partners did the same for us in English. Good luck and enjoy having such keen pupils!
  5. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    Thanks for your replies.

    Over the past couple of weeks I've got to know them better as individuals and am a bit less daunted by the whole situation. In reality there's a wide range of ability within the group and I was really focused on the few who can barely read and write. As it is, their reading ages range from 6 to 13!

    I've realised that some are more capable than I thought, they just have poor motor skills/handwriting. One who can barely write in his book was amazing during mini-whiteboard work the other day - including correctly translating sentences with a BAGS adjective and a normal adjective in the correct place in the sentence with the correct agreements!

    They're definitely making me think about the balance of skills in my lesson, which I know normally tends towards Reading and Writing because that's what's easiest. We had parents evening last week and I had no end of positive comments from parents saying their child is really enjoying French so I'm happy that we've got off to an OK start, I just need to keep the momentum going.

    We do have a link with a school in France (I'm in the process of organising an exchange for Years 8-10) and all of our pupils have iPads, so I'll definitely look at sending videos in the next term or so. It will hopefully make recruiting for the exchange much easier in the future too, if pupils have been in contact with the partner school since Y7.
  6. MrTeacher100

    MrTeacher100 New commenter

    How about trying to use a game based approach to distract them from the difficulty of it?
    They is loads of brilliant games around this site under GCSE Spanish but they could be easily adapted. One I particularly love is a murder mystery where the students have a text say 3 times over, but with a different number of errors in each one. The students then have to identify the murderer by looking at how many errors they make.
    To try and help the students become familiar with the language how about producing a sheet of basic classroom commands to stick on the desks?

    Just a few thoughts
  7. Random175

    Random175 New commenter

    Don't forget to teach them French phonics. Chances are they haven't been taught that very well in English. I am sure they will appreciate that sort of detail. Plenty of opportunity for games for that as well.

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