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MFL Improvement

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by amd26, Jun 27, 2017.

  1. amd26

    amd26 New commenter

    Hi all,

    The MFL department in our school is currently viewed extremely low in the eyes of the students and the community. As a result of this, students are not opting to study it for GCSE.

    Does anyone have any ideas on how to lift the subject, it is extremely rough for the staff who are doing all they can to raise attainment as well as how the subject is viewed. They are an incredible team and it is very frustrating to see them feeling down about it.

    We currently do French and Spanish, I am a non specialist HOD who has been asked to support where I can.

    Any ideas would be brilliant,

  2. Williams_a_mfl

    Williams_a_mfl New commenter

    Hi, here are some ideas … I’ve written them in a rush so I hope they make sense!

    Introduce / revamp KS3 topics – Make topics fun and engaging for pupils. The classic example is introducing a media topic at the end of Year 9, then showing pupils a film in the target language at the end of the unit, e.g. Taxi or Les Choristes (French), Good Bye Lenin! (German), La lengua de las mariposas (Spanish). There are lots of free workbooks available in the TES resource section, so this could be an easy option.

    Ask yourself: at Key Stage 3 are lessons taught dynamically? Do all students take an active part? Are teaching methods varied? Are lessons death by PowerPoint?

    Are topics taught relevant? Do you have any topics about the life in the target language’s country? Pen Pal links or links with other schools?

    Trips – Personally I feel this is the best way to engage students and get them to love languages. Students can practise the target language in a genuine setting, i.e. buying things at a market, giving them a sense of achievement, that they have progressed.

    Remember, trips don’t have to be uber expensive – for German, a trip to a Christmas market in the UK is accessible, or a trip to Lille in France can be an accessible place to visit with the Channel Tunnel etc. Obviously fun trips are very fun for the pupils, and trips in KS4 or KS5 usually spur pupils on to take a language!

    Trips can also raise the department’s profile within the school with cross-curricular activities or learning outcomes. For example, a trip to Belgium could be run with the history department. The trip could give students an understanding of the culture of a French-speaking country (MFL), WWII in Europe (History), the French language (MFL) and the importance of peace (Citizenship/Religious Studies).

    Activities such as going to as a technical museum (STEM) or doing some sort of sports activity (P.E.) can make a trip very cross- curricular, ticking all the boxes for an inspection, while engaging pupils through subjects they may prefer, over MFL.

    Outside speakers – Do you have any former pupils who are doing or have done a languages degree? Could they speak to Year 9 groups about their fantastic and interesting experiences learning a foreign language and doing a year abroad? Do any universities in your area offer any talks or workshops for secondary school pupils about the importance of languages in today’s society?

    Hope this could be some help?
    Thanks / Merci / Danke / Gracias / Diolch!
    Dodros likes this.
  3. Eirianedd

    Eirianedd New commenter

    How can a non-specialist be a HOD?
  4. amd26

    amd26 New commenter

    I said 'I am a non-specialist who has been asked to support not a non-specialist HOD' very different things.

    It is about helping the dept out not taking over!
  5. lifereallyistooshort

    lifereallyistooshort New commenter

    So, is there a specialist HOD in place? If not, that would be a good starting point. That way, the school would be showing that it values MFL
  6. Eirianedd

    Eirianedd New commenter

    Absolutely! A non-specialist in charge is a little Govian, wouldn't you say?
  7. amd26

    amd26 New commenter

    Yes a specialist HOD is in place. Having a rough time of it hence why I am hoping to support and the reason why I turned to TES for experienced MFL staff.

    Was hoping for more than just criticism or political hinted comments or complaints.

    Thank you williams-a-mfl. Your ideas have been recieved well and we are putting the wheels in motion.

    Hoped the teaching community would help me support our department and have staff viewed them as the hardworking, dedicated and great teachers that they are instead of faults with the school's approach to supporting them. I see why many suffer in silence and do not reach out to others for help!
    Williams_a_mfl and Dodros like this.
  8. Dodros

    Dodros Lead commenter

    Williams-a-mfl has given you some great ideas and I hope they help you get the MFL department on a more even keel. And to continue the nautical metaphor a little further, we who are, or have been, in MFL are all in the same boat and need to support one another when things go awry. Nothing is gained by negative or unconstructive comments.

    I would just like to add that there is a great and supportive bunch of MFLers on the discussion group MFL Resources, whose joining details can be found at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/mflresources/info. You will find the forum both welcoming and well moderated and I recommend that you ask for help there too. I choose to continue contributing to MFL Resources even though I retired from French and German teaching almost ten years ago. The Association for Language learning is another excellent source of support and inspiration. They have an annual national conference and run local meetings as well where ideas can be exchanged and problems shared and solved.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2017
    amd26 and Williams_a_mfl like this.
  9. hs9981

    hs9981 Established commenter

    The problem with MFL is when you teach in a tough or deprived school catchment areas, lots of the children struggle with their FIRST language. (English!)

    They quit before they even step foot in the nicely decorated MFL classroom!

    I was sent to observe the MFL department at my second PGCE placement school. My mentor without a hint of a smile told me to be 'careful' as the MFL corridor was like Beirut.

    It was! The poor guy I observed walked out after 20 minutes. The classroom was like fight club. Funny how they can always swear in several languages though :)
    amd26 and Williams_a_mfl like this.
  10. Landofla

    Landofla Established commenter

    The suggestion of films is a very good one but please choose films which are relevent and current! Those films are sooooooo old. I've only seen the last two and they are amazing but they are old. There are many more current films to show. Volver in Spanish is one or Intouchables in French. Even showing something dubbed, like The Simpsons or Modern Family provides an interesting teaching point.

    Spanish music is filling up the charts so I would be using those lyrics to teach grammar and vocab. Set up a class spotify list with songs for them to listen to at home and write reviews about. Perhaps make their own dances to if you want to get cross-curriculur. As a teen, I listened to lots of foreign music, even in languages I didn't speak, and it really sticks. Many children will know lyrics already but not what they mean. They will be so keen to learn. It also helps with pronunciation.

    Many footballers are also Spanish/French speakers. Perhaps contact your local footie club to arrange a visit and if they could provide a talk on how the non-English speakers integrate, i.e. the lessons they receive and how speaking a foreign language helps in that area. This will have kids signing up for language! Perhaps even arrange for fan mail to be passed on if the children write it in the appropriate language.

    Contact independent cinemas near you who show current foreign language films. Sometimes they have directors in who give talks. It would be an interesting experience and a perfect way to practise skills.

    Arrange restaurant visits where the children try the foods and need to practice language. Menus could be translated. They could even make their own suggestions. It is surprising what restaurant managers are willing to do once you ask. I had a restaurant chain offer me bread making workshops for free because the manager was even more enthusiastic than I am! People love getting involved and most companies have a budget for things like this.

    I avoid ready made resources where possible as they are usually pretty old and it won't help capture the minds of the young. I would also lead with a film or shorts rather than saving it till the end.

    Those are just a few things which I would do. The most important thing though, is the enthusiasm of the teachg staff. Ask them what they would love to share with the children. If they are enthusiastic, the kids will love it. Good luck & enjoy!
    Dodros and Williams_a_mfl like this.
  11. Landofla

    Landofla Established commenter

    @hs9981 you don't need to speak English to learn a foreign language. I would expect the EAL children to be better at the foreign language than the rest. Awful experience you had.
  12. Williams_a_mfl

    Williams_a_mfl New commenter

    Yes, I agree with @Landofla, if you're going to show a film, only choose relevant films that will appeal to the pupils, although ‘Good Bye Lenin!’ does fit well with learning about Germany’s history and political knowledge, for example. English-language films or television programmes dubbed into the target language are always well received too.

    If pupils are not staying focused or behavior is an issue, you could play a song in the target language at the end of the lesson as a reward for good behavior. Chose a relevant song in the target language that is currently in the charts (e.g. ‘Despacito’ which is currently in the charts in Spanish and English, which features Justin Bieber!).

    You could play an English song translated in to the target language (e.g. search ‘Adele Hello, French cover’ into YouTube) – this always goes down well, with some students even taking it upon themselves to learn the song in French etc! You could even link this to a grammar lesson.

    You could even run some sort of Eurovision-style contest between groups of willing pupils or classes which would be great fun (this could be an activity for European Languages Day in September or an Eisteddfod competition).

    I’ve attached a You Tube link. It is a little old but is about a school who did different initiatives to raise results and uptake for MFL. I would recommend watching it!

    Obviously remember music and film is only one element of making MFL relevant to students … everything in moderation, right!?

    I hope this all could help you!

    Good luck! Bonne chance ! Viel Glück! ¡Buena suerte! Pob lwc!
    Dodros likes this.
  13. Landofla

    Landofla Established commenter

    OP, please don't use songs as a reward!!! Children all have phones and can listen to these whenever they want. It won't encourage them to behave. Plus if they behave badly, they will miss out on a key teaching experience. Start with them and the children will get hooked.

    I don't agree with the "everything in moderation" point made. Bring the language to life and the children will demand more! I loved my language lessons at school because they were different to the other lessons. We lived the language. We would come ready to learn knowing that we were learning Shakira lyrics and we would leave, eager to get home and do more. Homework was never a chore and we always did more. It was relevant to us and inspiring.
  14. Williams_a_mfl

    Williams_a_mfl New commenter

    The song reward point is aimed at SEN / Year 7 groups - I should have made that more clear !

    The "everything in moderation" point means not to turn MFL lessons into music lessons! MFL lessons should be fun and relevant while teaching students about the target language country's culture etc through forms such as the example of music. There are other ways to make MFL relevant, not just through music as mentioned earlier. Some MFL teachers use lots of games in lessons while others teach 'traditionally' with language drills for example. Personal teaching styles I suppose :) Sorry for the misunderstanding!
    Dodros likes this.
  15. Landofla

    Landofla Established commenter

    A music lesson wouldn't be learning lyrics. It would be about pitch and notes and loads of other stuff I don't know about. I never said to just teach through music.

    OP, have you thought about joining an online network for sch video exchanges with other countries? I have done this before but using my own personal links & the children loved it! They saw their differences and similiarities first hand and really led their own learning.
  16. hs9981

    hs9981 Established commenter

    I'm fully aware that you don't need English to learn a foreign language. I was talking about a cohort which was 99.9% white English 'born and bred'. They could barely communicate with each other in English!

    Later that day there was a frozen food truck at the school, delivering some food. I stood there on break duty with the PE teacher. We saw one of the 'cheeky' kids crawl into the back of the truck (one of those freezer trucks) as the delivery guy was away. He came back and shut the door and was about to drive away!

    It took us both at least 15 seconds to decide if we'd seen it or not! :D
    Dodros likes this.
  17. bishoph

    bishoph New commenter

    Hello amd26.
    Do you know why the pupils don't regard the MFL dept very highly? I have started running focus groups of students this year in response to pupil surveys that the school runs at 2 points during the school year. Just looking at a bar graph to tell me what % of pupils agree that they enjoy lessons, doesn't tell me why they enjoy them. My dept in not in the same position as the one you are working with but possibly you could do something similar. Delving into the thoughts of pupils has really helped me to understand what we are doing well at & what positive experiences pupils have in their learning with us and also where my dept needs to improve. Findings from the questions I ask the pupils is reported to staff anonymously and then we work together as a dept to make the relevant adaptations to what we are doing. If you would like some more information just let me know.
    Landofla and Williams_a_mfl like this.

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