Thursday, 8 May 2014

New-look Curriculum

We had an Inset Day on Friday. Which means we have had 3 short weeks on the trot. They are far more exhausting than 3 normal weeks. Go figure!

Part of the day was set aside for department time (how we cherish that time!) and the planning of the new curriculum. Which seems quite a daunting prospect.

But then do we really have to change everything we do?

To give a quick idea of what we are delivering at KS3 at the moment may show the process we are going through:

Year 7s are all learning German. We use Echo 1 as a vague guide but we do not let it shape our Scheme of Work (SoW). It is restricting as far as levels and challenge are concerned, but we find it helps to have listening and reading tasks already made for us, should we need them.
Year 8s and 9s are all learning French. We use Studio 2 and 3 for material and vocab, but have started to shape the SoWs to suit the cohort each year. We have adapted the content from the Studio courses, added vocabulary and structures that we feel more appropriate to our classes. But as with the year 7s, we find it useful to have listening and reading tasks readily available. Especially as we have had non-specialists teaching both subjects this year.

By trialling and adapting SoWs this year, we have already created a much more appropriate course for our students. So we haven't started from scratch, and we certainly aren't having to update antiquated SoWs.

So what do we need to consider when we create our new SoWs?
  • It is essential that each unit of work is appropriate for our students. Some figures that were thrown our way last week was that we have 6.8% School Action students, 2.8% Statemented students and 22 students (1 in 36) with ASD.
  • We need to consider what the school's focus and priority are, with regards to the new curriculum. What is the school focusing on? Which skills in particular does the school want to develop in the students?
  • What is the starting point of our new cohort as far as MFL is concerned? Which languages will they have learnt?
  • What has worked this year?
  • What hasn't worked this year?
  • What language skills do we want them to learn and when?
  • What skills do we want the students showing and using by the end of each year?
  • What should an A*/A/B student at GCSE be able to do by the end of Year 7? Year 8? Year 9?
  • How will we help support the skills needed to succeed in end-of-course examinations?
So we, as a department, got together and spattered our ideas all over pieces of paper. We threw down as many ideas for topics as possible, and then what skills we wanted the students to be able to learn by the end of each year.

Ideas for the new year are:
  • Year 7 - they will start off with an Identity and Self unit, mirroring what they do in PSHE during the first term. We will also run a Family Album unit (which has proved popular over the last 2 years) but with a World War One focus, to compliment the whole-school programme of commemoration.
  • Year 8 - a lot of the SoW from this year has been really successful. We will keep the Fashion Show module, as well as the Talent and Media units. The Paris Project is what the students have enjoyed most of all, and we intend to tie that in with a trip to France.  
  • Year 9 - What didn't work was the Apprentice project. So we need to change that. But the Dream Date (Blind Date) module was very well received, as was the topic of holiday. But with fresh eyes and mind, we intend to change the outcome of this - students will be pretending to be holiday agents and putting together holiday packages to 'sell' to the rest of the class.
We are a team who believes in trial and error, and regular discussions over what is/isn't working. We would rather try something new than stay stuck in a rut of "we always do this".

Of course, one slight hindrance is that we are now advertising for a new member of the department, which will dictate how we deliver languages in Year 7. Do we just deliver French, or do we run a carousel and the students choose? What do you do?

On the other side of the coin, a new member of the department will bring with them new and different ideas, which can only be good.

I have sent out a questionnaire to our primary schools to find out their current structure of MFL provision, which language they teach and when, so we have an idea of the cohorts over the next few years. Good old Google Docs! (Thank you, #ililc4!).

All I know is that the new curriculum doesn't mean change everything. It means change what needs changing, leave what works.

And as all our schools are keeping NC Levels and waiting to see what everyone else does, I can only assume that NC Levels will be around for a while!

Any ideas, comments, feedback are welcome!