Every fortnight, one of our NQTs will write a reflective blog post focusing on issues raised in our professional development sessions. This is the fifth in the series, by MFL NQT Céline Cesbron (@CCesbron), on the challenge of engaging students in studying a language.
After having taught in different contexts in the UK, I have noticed a huge lack of confidence from British students towards languages. Not only I am always hearing ‘Seriously, I will never use Spanish in my life!’ but also, ‘Who care about languages? Nobody speaks French in Manchester!’. As a native speaker, I found myself in the situation where I felt I needed to DO something to make pupils enjoy languages in a different way. Here are my three trial strategies, inspired by a BBC article on bringing languages to life:
Strategy 1: Make languages more concrete with E-twinning for KS3 and KS4, encouraging global citizenship
Writing a paragraph in a book does not make any sense to some students. However, to do it in order to communicate a real message to someone in particular changes its purpose. For this reason, through the e-twinning project I linked Wellacre Academy to three schools in France and Spain.
For le collège Plaisance, France, I chose a Year 8 class where the behaviour and quality of work produced in class is often insufficient. With the exchange, I plan to give them a goal to improve their work and to listen to my advice which would hopefully improve students’ focus. The first task they will have to do is to write a short paragraph about Manchester.
For le collège République, France, I chose to involve my Year 11 class to in a bid to improve their confidence, as they think they can’t speak or write French. But this is not true! GCSE exams don’t help students to gain much confidence at this stage as they are often stressed or disappointed and their self-esteem just drops dramatically. If they realise that the main communicated message is understood, they will hopefully try harder and their self-esteem will then grow! After receiving the first information about their pen friend, a student came to see me and said ‘Miss, are they real people? Because mine wants to be a psychologist! It is mad!’ After this reflection I had an interesting conversation with students about having high aspirations and expectations for themselves. I noticed that so many students are lacking self-confidence and high career aspirations. I believe this project will be an excellent tool to change their self-perception, as this example of Callum’s work shows:
For el institut Carles Vallbona, Spain, I chose a year 10 class preparing GCSE. At this stage, pupils are not really confident with the language and need to practise. To practise with native speakers is the best way to learn authentic language. For this project, I will also involve students from Year 9 who are interested in taking Spanish next year. Hopefully more students will be attracted to the project and will choose GCSE Spanish.
Strategy 2: Competition with the Modern Languages Spelling Bee Competition for year 7 !
The aim of the Spelling Bee is for students in Year 7 who are beginners in a foreign language to practise and improve their vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation and memory skills in the target language (French and Spanish). This competition is an excellent way to motivate students and as the language is new to all of them, they all have a fair chance to win.
Strategy 3: Multicultural Awareness in KS3 and KS4
‘Learning a language isn’t an end in itself – it’s the key to understanding another culture and building important relationships with the rest of the world’ mentioned Mrs McCabe on the BBC (2014). For this reason, I believe it is important to help students to reflect on traditions and events happening abroad. I use the following mindmap template to help students to organise their ideas, which enable them to better understand the topic and to give a critical opinion at the end of the lesson.
Donwload: cultural topic worksheet
This fits perfectly with Ben Hill‘s recently-blogged ‘lesson on a page‘ strategy as pupils will fill in the page at different stages during the lesson without needing to have their books around. I was particularly pleased when we recently debated the vote for the independence of Catalonia in Spain (Year 10 Spanish), which later led to a better understanding of the new monarch’s position . These sessions allow students ‘to have a break’ from the linguistic part of the language and help to boost interest and engagement.
I really hope these three strategies are going to change students’ point of view and attitude toward languages. Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts or new ideas ☺ !