Friday, 26 July 2013

Bike test

Today I went for a small bike ride. 45 mile loop. In readiness for France. And with that I test the new blog app, so I can blog in France :-)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Narrowing the Gap

For the #MFLTwitterati requesting Narrowing the Gap feedback, please find my handout below. I shall endeavour to let you have the ideas from other departments by email, as you request!

Having read through the Narrowing the Gap document, we have recognised 5 areas that we will implement in our Schemes of Work, our policies and our ethos from September 2013 to enhance learning and secure progress for all students. This has come as a result of feedback from students, learning walks, observations and book trawls throughout the year.

·         Reflection and redrafting post-marking

·         Consistency within in the department (specifically with a non-UK teacher starting in September)

·         Use of data and accountability, with a focus on progress

·         A further understanding and collating of data regarding Student Progress v KS2 data

·         Development of Homework Tasks 

What have we done this half term?

·         All students in KS3 were given preparation time for their answers on the writing and speaking papers. This is rather than expecting spontaneous responses, as the students still do not have the confidence to succeed in this. The huge majority did this well and took the opportunity.

(My concern is that our student cohort does not know how to learn off-by-heart or really know how to revise, but that has to be a whole-school approach and initiative – and early!)

·         All students have completed an end-of-year questionnaire, and the results are being compared to last summer’s, to see how the changes have worked. Feedback will also be used to inform planning for September 2013.

·         The structure of the last 4 weeks following exam week have been changed completely, and as we are not constrained by monitoring levels, the entire focus is on engagement, enrichment and enjoyment. Most French groups are being taught a start course of German, which has been incredibly well received, and the attitudes of the students have been very positive, on the whole.  Year 9s (ELA and LJM) are working on a Grease project, to overlap with their work in Dance. This has been incredibly well received, which is brilliant
A specific group was targeted this half term, based on concerns at the start of the year regarding baselines.

8U3 began Year 8 on a wide range of levels: Level 1 (9%), Level 2 (27%), Level 3 (50%) and Level 4 (14%). I would expect students to end Year 7 on level 3 or 4. In the group, there are 3 FSM, 2EAL and 13 SEN students. The concern with the group was behaviour and engagement, as well as a number of students already below target. The group was also a split group, shared between LJM and LCA. The SoW had to be adapted to the needs of the group, and to support LCA, as a non-specialist. This half term we have supported the group with revision and preparation for the exams. It was also essential that the majority of students made as much progress as possible to ready them for Year 9. The results are clear to see: Level 2 (4%), Level 3 (42%), Level 4 (54%). On average, the students made 3 sub-levels of progress this year. Only one student did not make progress, that is due to an absolute lack of engagement and behaviour concerns.

What are we doing in readiness for next year?

·         Reflection and redrafting post-marking

The MFL Marking Policy (attached) has been written for September, with improvement and reflection as a main focus, for all members of the department to follow.

·         Consistency within in the department

Luke and I have worked hard this year to make sure that the non-specialists delivering MFL are completely supported regarding levels, progression, challenge, resources, reporting and delivery. New policies will be written in time for September, so that Geraldine has a ‘bible’ of expectations and understanding.

·         Use of data and accountability, with a focus on progress

KS3 Students will continue to monitor their levels on a half-termly basis by using the Level Tracker Graphs in the front of their books, which they use to good effect.

·         A further understanding and collating of data regarding Student Progress v KS2 data
  •     Development of Homework Tasks  


Thursday, 11 July 2013

What is Language?

So we crash into the time of year when we are entertaining students who are ready for the summer holiday meltdown, and I am trying to save my energy and time by manipulating resources that already exist.

As I was teaching a French group the German alphabet (end of term treat!), an old friend (a resource...!) came into my mind, and I thought it would be the perfect time to resurrect it. It is and has been on the TES for a while, but I whipped it down to size for the sake of what I wanted it for. 

The starter task was the hieroglyphics slide, with questions on it for them to consider. The second think bubble is the next step, once you have gone through the answers and discussed their ideas about language. In the feedback from the starter, I would expect students to use words like communication, symbols, story, and we then talk about languages across the world, different types of language and how human beings communicate.

They then write a definition of "Language", which they then feedback on. We then look at the dictionary definition of "Language", and discuss any thoughts that are raised.

After that, we discussed what languages have in common (also a slide for this) and then we set about the fun part of the lesson.

  • Students were asked to write down the alphabet, one letter per line, and then they were asked to create their own alphabet using symbols and shapes.
  • Once they had done that, they had to create a sound for the letter and write it down, a bit like they did when learning the German or French alphabet pronunciations, e.g. A = (ah).
  • They then wrote their name using their new symbols, wrote out the pronunciation and practised saying it.
  • They also used their new alphabet to write secret messages to each other.
  • We also offered them the lyrics to a song for them to write bits out in their new alphabet.

What was noticeable is that the EAL students thrived in the task, using some of the sounds of their mother tongue in their sounds. Students liked the creativity of the task, and it was great wandering around the room watching their alphabets develop, and the excitement they had when trying to pronounce their names in their new language!

I will definitely be making this the very first lesson that Year 7s do in September, because it gives reason and purpose to language learning, and it is a great foundation to students understanding of language learning.

In the meantime, I have a collection of new alphabets on a large piece of sugar paper that is going to form some of the display for September. Lovely.

And now which choon? Body Language by Queen, of course!

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!