Earlier this year, NACE member and Challenge Award holder The Broxbourne School was named one of nine schools selected to lead regional language hubs across England, supporting the new Centre of Excellence for Modern Languages. In this blog post, MFL teacher Alison Pateman shares some of the school’s keys to success in promoting the study of and high attainment in modern languages.

1. Make pupils secure… but keep them on their toes!

At The Broxbourne School we achieve this by combining routine with new elements. Our learners know their teacher will begin a new unit by teaching them the necessary vocabulary and grammar and allowing them to write it down in their books. But exactly how the new language will be presented, practised and consolidated is very varied, so they don’t know what to expect next. All our MFL teachers use a mixture of their own techniques and games, in-house-made SMART Notebook files, PowerPoints and worksheets, alongside engaging materials we have on subscription. Songs are fun and a great way to make words stick, while puzzle-making programmes like Tarsia challenge learners think that bit harder, again aiding memory.

2. Encourage learners to be creative

There are endless ways to present, practise and explore languages. Our Year 7 learners produced some wonderful pipe cleaner bugs to practise present tense verb forms. Old kitchen roll cardboard interiors are another good prop – challenge learners to move rings of paper independently of each ring to manipulate language into sentences. The origami paper finger game lends itself to all sorts of language activities. Equally, learners enjoy being creative with scenarios – for example, the Year 8 pupil who wrote her German homework as a series of social media posts, or those who wrote about the weather as a cartoon strip. Meanwhile Year 8 French pupils enjoyed playing a “blame game” to practise all forms of the perfect tense.

3. Celebrate languages outside the classroom

Last year saw our first ever MFL House Quiz, in which learners faced rounds testing their linguistic and cultural knowledge of the countries where our offered languages are spoken. We always celebrate the European Day of Languages (EDL), when all form tutors promote the importance of language learning – for example by taking the register with responses in a foreign language and wearing badges to show which languages they speak. Last year learners looked around the school for EDL posters with greetings in 10 different languages, competing for a prize if they could work out which was which. 

4. Grab a slice of the action on PSHE days

Languages are a part of the autumn term Year 8 PSHE day when all learners spend 30 minutes learning an entirely new language, mostly offered by teachers who normally teach other subjects.  Last year beginners’ sessions were offered in Russian, Afrikaans, Portuguese, Spanish or Greek. In the summer, we have an entire day dedicated to French. Learners visit a recreation of a French café (complete with French food, drink and music), complete quizzes, make posters of Francophone countries and prepare for an afternoon performance of “Les Trois Mousquetaires”.

5. Make life-long memories abroad

All our learners who study German have the opportunity to participate in an exchange to Schopfheim in southwest Germany, and to host their German partner on the return visit. Towards the end of the summer term Years 7 and 10 go on a cultural and study trip to France. The Italian students are offered study trips in the summer and autumn terms to Urbania, where they stay with local families, attend language lessons and do cultural activities.

Find out more about The Broxbourne School’s journey to becoming a national language hub.

Alison Pateman is a member of the MFL department at The Broxbourne School, a NACE member and Challenge Award-accredited secondary school and sixth form in Hertfordshire. She has been an MFL teacher for 25 years. She teaches French and German and has a particular interest in teacher and pupil creativity in language learning.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018