Wednesday, 3 July 2013

You'd better shape up!

I popped into the Performing Arts department on Friday to drop off some work that had been left in my room. Imagine my delight to find two Year 9 groups (all of whom do French or German) working on routines to Summer Nights from Grease...

Now anyone who knows me knows absolutely that musicals and I go together like Porgy and Bess, and I said to one of the dance teachers that there is no reason why we can't use the idea in MFL.

Year 9s have finished the MFL course, and it is now a question of keeping them focused and entertained for 6 more lessons. All their levels are secured, which means we need to concentrate on fun, engagement and learning without assessment (thank goodness!!!). Our year 9 groups are large (31 and 32) and are very boisterous. They need constant monitoring - an "eyes of a hawk" class. 

So I sat, I pondered.

And I came up with a lesson that had the following shape:

The starter (below) was on the board already when they came in, and once they were all in, I popped to my office for my laptop cable. To my surprise, on my return, the class was silent and totally engaged. This bodes well...

Once we had gone through the answers, the first challenge was to translate the four song titles into German. What I asked them to think about was the restrictions of the dictionary (we use Collins Easy Learning), and asked them to think of other words in English to help them translate - e.g. blurred wasn't to be found, so they came up with smudged and dirty. We also talked about brand names, compound nouns and adjectival endings, so it was a very satisfying summary of ideas they have learnt over the 3 years.

The next task was a similar task, but with group names - I put this on Twitter at the weekend - and this went down so well!

This encouraged the students to consider synonyms - in English - which can only be good for their literacy! It was lovely to see the students so engaged and excited and PROUD of what they were doing.

For ten minutes after that students then read film descriptions and worked out which film was being described (more challenging) and translated film titles into German, which was very amusing!

Then came the second half of the lesson, the GREASE part! (I was most excited!). The task set was a hands-on, put-the-phrases-in-order. As they have been hearing the song Summer Nights every Dance lesson for a few lessons, I didn't put up the English translations, but they were asked to cut out and put into order the lines of the first verse:

Listening to them explain how they worked it out made me realise how much they have developed as language learners. The terminology they were using to explain was great, and they weren't afraid of the amount of writing given to them,. which they often are.

(To give you an idea of the group's progress this year, out of the 31 students, 15 ended Year 8 on a Level 3 or below. Thankfully, all but one has now reached Level 5 or above. This has made all the grey hair and exhaustion totally worth it.)

The best thing? As soon as they had the words in the right order, some pairs were already trying to work out the rhythm and sounds of the lines. Speaking/singing German without hesitancy. Brilliant!

The reward? The first 18 minutes of Grease, German subtitles, including Summer Nights, which half of the group tried to sing along to.

At the end I asked them, "Would you like me to prepare more lessons based on Grease?". A unanimous "YES PLEASE!" and "Can we sing more please?".

Love it!

So what this leads me to support and echo is the idea of JAILBREAKING! This lesson alone showed me that if you aim the lesson at the interest of the students, and make it relevant - either to their lives or their school life - it holds so much more weight than the constraints of the curriculum.

Break free, make your curriculum flexible and fun, win the kids round. I wish I had done this lesson at the start of Year 9!

Today's choon? My favourite karaoke choonage and totally relevant. Nice one Alf!

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