|updated: 20/08/2012 08:30:00|
The Modern foreign Languages Department has five qualified MFL teachers (three full time and two part time). We are supported by three part time assistants, who are native speakers. All language lessons are taught in dedicated teaching rooms, each with a fitted digital projector and interactive white boards. Teaching groups also visit the Learning Resources Centre to give them a hands-on experience of the various web-sites, which we encourage them to use for independent study.
All pupils study French for five hours a fortnight in Year 7, followed by three hours in Year 8 and three hours in Year 9. In Years 8 and 9, they have four hours a fortnight of second language lessons, either Spanish or German. All three languages are currently taught in form groups.
In all three languages, we seek to balance our work between the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. In Key Stage 3 gone are the days when we have to stick to boring, dry text books and wrap grammar and vocabulary in dull, meaningless topics, instead, we work from an inspiring scheme of work in which we aim to deliver our lessons a little bit differently and inspire our pupils. By making the strange familiar and the familiar strange, we can capture the attention and imagination of our students and breathe new life into the learning of languages. Pupils like to see a purpose to learning, they want to feel they are doing something real and meaningful and the topics we use to teach our languages do just that.
Topics include: Art, sport, chocolate, storytelling and fair trade, spooky tales, football, secret agents, fashion, space and water. Within these innovative topics we teach topics that reflect those needed for GCSE. We teach “the usual” just in an unusual way!
From an early stage, pupils are taught to become more independent in their approach to language learning. There is no substitute for rote learning of basic vocabulary and verb conjugations, so we encourage them to think about different ways of learning, in order to support them. We expect pupils to find the strategies which best suit them, so that they can take responsibility for their own learning. This will often include the use of certain web-sites and other ICT based methods. In the second year of study (Year 8 French and Year 9 German/Spanish), pupils become more familiar with grammatical concepts, with a particular emphasis on verbs and tenses. We usually insist on the use of grammatical terms, so that pupils become more confident in their grasp of structures and concepts. By the end of Y9, they should be confident in their understanding and use of verbs in past, present and future tenses.
Throughout Key Stage 3 we share National Curriculum assessment criteria with all pupils, encouraging them to analyse their own work, in order to identify strengths, weaknesses and ways they can improve.
All pupils are required to study at least one of their languages up to GCSE. We believe that learning another language will give our boys a valuable asset and source of satisfaction in later life. It is an important component of a full academic education, upon which many top universities and employers insist, even where languages are not directly relevant to the chosen course or job. Our keenest linguists often continue with both languages in Key Stage 4. For those who find languages challenging, we generally advise them to take French, since they have an extra year of study behind them in this language.
Our chosen Examination board is OCR (full specifications can be found at their website (www.ocr.org.uk). Pupils attend five lessons a fortnight. The course content is largely a continuation of what we have studied in Key Stage 3. There is a big emphasis placed upon the teaching of clever grammatical structures and on a greater understanding of the language in order to enable pupils to better manipulate language to their own ends and communicate their interests. Pupils must complete at least 3 controlled speaking assessments and 3 controlled written assessments over the course of the 2 years and these count towards 60% of their overall GCSE grade. Pupils also continue to perfect their reading and listening skills. As well as using the OCR specific text books as a tool for language learning and teaching, the Languages Department is well equipped with additional materials created by staff to aid pupils’ preparation for the examinations. Every pupil in years 10 and 11 also have contact time with the Foreign Language Assistant at least once every fortnight for intensive speaking practice.
Sixth form students have the opportunity to take any of our three languages, provided they have secured a high grade at GCSE. AS/A2 Spanish and German courses are currently offered in collaboration with St George’s Academy and French is currently offered at St George’s. There is a huge emphasis placed upon the importance of independent working and research. Students are expected to manage their time effectively and take advantage of the departments’ resources in order to further their understanding and knowledge. There is a 6th form workroom with internet access and audio facilities available for private study. The departments subscribe to a range of authentic reading and listening material which the students can make use of in their private study time.
Lunchtime support sessions are frequently available for anyone who has missed work and needs to catch up, or is struggling with some aspect of his language learning. These are staffed voluntarily by a qualified teacher or by one of our assistant native speakers.
For our most talented linguists, there is a session each week for extension projects, which currently include the study of Mandarin Chinese and Latin.
We consider visits abroad to be an important motivator in language learning. We therefore encourage parents to take their sons to the relevant country, if at all possible. We also play a part at Carre’s, by providing opportunities for language based residential visits. We aim to offer each pupil an opportunity to visit the relevant country, for each of his languages, at some stage in his school career. Trips that we currently offer include our successful Exchanges to Spain and France and residential trips to France, Spain, Austria, Germany, China and Senegal.