1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

SEN MFL: Spanish

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by zoegilb, Jan 7, 2016.

  1. zoegilb

    zoegilb New commenter

    I've just started at a new school in September and I have a really low ability year 8 class. I have never met a class like them, behaviour is poor as well which doesn't help matters. I have totally abandoned the year 8 curriculum now and gone back to year 7 work but as hard as I try, these kids literally retain nothing. I can go over vocab and 5 mins later, they have no idea what it means. I can't get them to do practical stuff - giving them glue and scissors just distracts them more, some of them do have tablet they can use, but not all of them. They are all incapable of doing anything independently. There are 16 in the class, has anyone got any advice?
  2. eljefeb90

    eljefeb90 Senior commenter

    Firstly, how much autonomy do you have with this group? Are you a HoD ?If you're not, the first port of call would be to consult with your line manager. Presuming you have, these are the things I'd suggest:
    • Ditch the rehash of Year 7 and cover the bare bones of the Year 8 topics
    • Do you have Linguascope or Task Magic-These are great for interactive games. Spend 15-25 mins on these as whole class activities, backed up by the accompanying worksheets
    • Introduce more drawing when seeking responses-ideally using mini-whiteboards. Blindfold drawing (in which they draw what you say with blazers over their heads) also works well. Not all will like drawing, but most will prefer it to writing
    • If you have time, draw simple symbols which show key phrases (max of 4) on the board and get individuals to play 'coconut shy' by saying and hitting each picture. I use suction balls for this game. the rest of the class copy down the key phrases while most have a go at saying and hitting the correct symbol.
    • Use music and have a 'pausa musical', getting the class to react in Spanish to a Spanish video (even if only 'me gusta/ no me gusta').I like Kevin, Karla Y La Banda who are chilenos and do cover versions of English language songs. Enrique Iglesias, Calle 13 , Mana, and Chico y Nacho are artists who have gone down well but check out the videos first!
    Dodros and never_expect_anything like this.
  3. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    You haven't explained your setting, so I'm assuming you're in a mainstream school within an MFL department. I agree with eljefeb90: your first port of call should be to speak to HoD/line manager, and don't just ditch Y8 curriculum for Y7 unless given the go ahead. Apart from anything else, they'll be even more bored if they're covering vocab they've done before (even if their recall is poor, they'll know what topics they've done). Do you have any TA / LSA support (either in class or within the department)?

    Not sure about eljefeb90's 'coconut shy' idea - sounds like great fun, but perhaps not advisable with a group whose behaviour is poor and who get 'distracted' by sciessors and glue... at least not yet. I'd stick to 'splat' (same kind of thing, but two individuals against each other standing at the board.)

    Try not to rule out 'cut & stick' completely, as the work produced can be used to your advantage. Remember: if the students' SEN include short-term & long-term memory difficulties, then you can't expect them to remember vocab from one lesson to the next, they need to develop the skills of knowing how to help themselves; and if their SEN include literacy difficulties, then cut & stick can be a good way to ensure they have the correct spellings and avoid inaccurate / illegible coping. (I'm not saying use it all the time; lots of Speaking, Listening & interactive / online learning is good for repetition to aid memorisation, as well as motivating, but you also want them to be able to produce their own spoken/written work.) Why not try: 1) preparing cut & stick type tasks in advance by having pre-cut sets of sheets, so they only need glue (not scissors); or 2) printing/photocopying on A4 pages of stickers/labels, so they just need to peel and match up. Then allow the students to refer to the vocab / work done when doing other games / activities.

    Finally, perhaps try posting in the MFL / SEN forums.
    Dodros likes this.
  4. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    You have received excellent advice. I too would suggest adapting the Year 8 curriculum to meet your students' needs rather than rehashing units intended for younger students. Students with SEN tend to react negatively when presented with subject matter that is inappropriately age-related.

    My research and teaching interests are in teaching MFL to learners with SEN. I share my MFL for SEN presentations, publications and resources on my website at
    When I talk to audiences of student MFL teachers on the subject of SEN, I usually recommend integrating the following techniques into classroom practice:
    • Multisensory approaches
    • Structured/Explicit presentation
    • Slower learning steps
    • Overlearning opportunities
    • Memory strategies
    • Allow for short concentration spans
    • Sensitivity when eliciting student responses
    • Thinking skills and other metacognitive strategies
    • Praise and reward!
    • Be a reflective practitioner

    Knowledge is power too. I would recommend consulting the special educational needs coordinator as well as your subject leader because (s)he will have information about the educational histories of every student with SEN in your school. You can learn not only about such students' weaknesses but also, more importantly, about their strengths and what triggers their challenging behaviour. Keep in mind that SEN comes with plenty of subcategories: general learning difficulties; specific learning difficulties (dyslexia); social, emotional and mental health; autistic spectrum disorders; speech, language and communication needs; hearing impairment; visual impairment; physical disabilities. There's no panacea, no one-size-fits-all strategy for meeting the needs of everybody with SEN. And a diagnosis of SEN doesn't mean that the student necessarily lacks ability across the curriculum or in MFL in particular.

    You may find that some students have been included in your low-ability group just because they are disaffected. They would be better off in a higher set that is more appropriate to their talents. Leaving them where they are will simply add to the sense of frustration they are experiencing with the level of the work they have been given. Ask your head of department to consider promoting these students, which will lead you to have a more homogeneous group whose needs are easier to manage.

    Speak to any colleagues in other subject departments who also teach the students in your group. You probably have the class for just a couple of lessons each week, and that brief contact time only gives you a narrow view of how they behave and what they can do. You can learn a lot from any methods successfully deployed in, say, Maths, History, Science etc and transfer them to your delivery of MFL. Rest assured that most SEN-specific problems can be solved through workarounds as well as complete cures.

    And finally, it may of interest to know that a previous SENCo at my own secondary school once conducted a survey of the school's SEN population, only to discover from the results that the students who responded set highest value on the ability of their teachers to explain difficult concepts in simple terms. Their teachers' "edutainment" skills were prized much less highly.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2016

Share This Page