The year 7s all studied French throughout the year. However, they were then split into 2 sides of the year. Each side study Spanish for a term and a half and German for the other half of the year. At the end of the year they choose which language they would like to continue with alongside studying French. Although it seems that each language, allowing for year by year variations, seems to have been equally as popular in terms of uptake, the more concerning element for me was that there was a huge division in terms of uptake for KS4, with French being more popular by a ratio of at least 4 to 1. So how could that gap be shrunk- this was obviously not just an issue of students having had an extra term and a bit of French, or even many having had the joys of primary French before they came up to secondary school. The French Schemes of Work made students feel more confident and more able.
Things I felt were important:
- giving the year 7s material that they wanted to talk about- the differences between their lives now and their lives at primary school. They were told that at the end of the unit they would have to make an HONEST presentation to explain their new lives to the year 6s at their old school. So what would they want to be able to say to tell year 6s about their new lives?
- give them the tools to communicate in a way that they felt comfortable with
- phonics from the outset, making the most of Rachel Hawkes' superb materials and using her amazing Spanglovision idea. If you've never tried it, please, please do. It's amazing what the classes achieved after only a few lessons and with minimal teacher support. The sense of achievement they felt was immense. Especially as we shared the recordings on the VLE and allowed the school to vote for the "best" video (dance routines were obviously crucial). A small trophy also helped show SLT what we were up to as well as providing a tangible something for classes.
- learning from Greg Horton and building in a variant of Group Talk- giving them the tools to communicate semi-naturally from the outset.
- basic tenses from the start- using a blend of simple but multi-purpose imperfects alongside key present tense verbs.
- working at sentence level not word level. When I started out teaching I was working at the "here are 9 nouns" level, yet my students couldn't actually DO anything.
- encouraging everyone involved to be very upbeat and positive. The unit contains lots of games and mini-whiteboard activities to create a buzz of enjoyment and competition- as well as allowing for AfL wherever possible.
So there are lots of big creases to work out in this unit. When I was first settling in there was of course a need for more control in my lessons than there was by the end of my time there. As such, if I had been teaching the unit again in September I would have built in far more open-ended, group based speaking tasks such as "Just a Minute". But hey, it's a start...