I joined my current employ in April 2012, and at first, I broke a lot of the rules that can be seen (or at least could be seen in the 80s!) at the side of any swimming pool... There was plenty of bombing (when tried and tested lessons failed), plenty of times when I wanted to run, and there was plenty of pushing - of colleagues and students alike.
In the first term, I had quite a challenge, but was told by my line manager "Do what you need to do, and change it". I was more or less given free reign. It was scary at first, but I didn't have time to be overwhelmed.
My objectives were:
And ultimately I wanted to see the transition shown below:
There was a lot of things that needed to be done, but ultimately, the one thing that was very clear, was a lot needed changing. The reality check was that a lot was missing:
- No Head of Department
- No Schemes of Work
- No means of assessing
- Unreliable data
- Totally disengaged cohort of students
Changing the Schemes of Work
My first one, which ticked the Engagement and Project-Based SoW, was the Britain's Got Talent Project. The language skill that we were teaching the students was the Imperative. It was the week after the BGT final on tv.
So the way it works is (and the delegates attending the presentation took part in this exercise):
1. Show the students the footage of Ashleigh and Pudsey, and they write down all the commands that Ashleigh would have been saying to Pudsey. It may help if students work in pairs, with one saying the command and the other writing.
2. They then assign commands in French (or whichever language you are teaching!) in the order that they have written the English in. How the students do this depends completely on their ability, how you differentiate it, whether or not you have taught the imperative before.
3. You then play the clip again, and the students then shout the commands at the screen, as they have written them down, to pre-empt each manoeuvre that Pudsey makes.
Dare I say that the students enjoyed a French lesson? That was the first breakthrough.
Assessment and Assessment Data
Tracking the progress of the students was essential. Not only did it track how the students were doing, but it was also the best measure to see if the changes I was introducing were having any impact.
So we used the text book assessments as a standard control, because it meant not overburdening the work load.
I also introduced data spread sheets to the department, and a standard way of working out sub-levels, based on the four skills.
We also had tracking sheets and assessed (alternating formal and informal assessing) each half term.
Anyone wanting to see what the tracking sheets look like, please feel free to email me!
But I needed reliable, standardised testing for each year group, which would offer true and reflecting data.
Students' progress is also shared in the MFL corridor, with all students' names on the level ladders, and they are moved after assessments.
Breakthrough 2 = Grease
Performing Arts is massive at our school. I went on a walkabout in the summer term, and came across Year 9s working on dance routines to the Grease medley. They were loving it. We were working on the topic of Media at the time in MFL. So I knew we could link into this to increase engagement.
So I then had to find a way to justify showing Grease to the students. We did a film review, character analysis, film posters. I also wanted the students not to be afraid of the subtitles. So I switched the subtitles to German, and gave the students the bingo grids I had created, using the words from the subtitles from a 2 minute bite of the film. It was a great game, and again, students could work in pairs, with one student relaying the words from the screen, while the other crosses the words off.
What was most important was to lead a department that was in turmoil. It was about trusting colleagues when they worked on SoWs or resources. It was about challenging the behaviour and supporting colleagues on an hourly basis.
While I haven't found the magic wand, we have a large number of students coming to the MFL corridor smiling, asking "What are we doing today, Miss?", which for me is a massive step forward.
While this isn't the complete presentation, it has covered an awful lot of what was discussed/delivered. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below and I will gladly get back to you.