Sunday, 21 September 2014

Considering Starting Teaching Spanish? Do Not Fear-Help is at Hand…

Spanish has steadily  been growing in popularity in the secondary MFL classroom over the past ten year. It is now considered as an attractive alternative to other European languages such as French and German.
A few years back, French and German seemed to be the perfect combination to find a job as a languages teacher in England. Spanish was growing but despite the appeal of Spanish holidays and the credibility of a language spoken all around the world, many schools were still hesitating to add Spanish to their language curriculum.
Although there are now many native speakers of Spanish teaching in England, a lot of colleagues who were originally trained to teach French and German, are being asked to add Spanish to their foreign language repertoire. Depending on their starting points, this can be seen as a daunting task…
I was delighted to be approached by Osiris to enable me to share my experiences as a non-native Spanish teacher in England as I have had extensive experience over the past twenty years to set up Spanish in a number of schools and support colleagues in developing their own language skills in Spanish.
I know that many MFL teachers are currently developing their language skills in Spanish in order to meet increasing demand in schools and colleges and I am aiming to provide a complete guide to setting up and enhancing Spanish teaching.
OK, the course is called “Perfect Spanish Teaching”, but I will aim to remain realistic. The idea is for the course to start a quest for constant development and improvement-one I am still on, for that matter-rather than provide a magic wand to make us all perfect by the end of the day. If only…
I will focus on:
Assessment, feedback and progress planning
Grammar teaching
Use of authentic resources
Independent learning (for pupils and teachers!)
Looking forward to seeing you in Birmingham on 21st November or in London on 1st December.
Click here for more details

Saturday, 17 May 2014

ALL Session at Woodbridge School, Saturday 17th May 2014

I had a great day with fellow language teachers and ALL members from East Anglia and Essex today.
Many thanks for your warm welcome to this lovely part of the country...
As promised here is a copy of the slides I used at the conference as well as an electronic copy of the handout. I also include here a link to Kathy Wicksteed's fantastic FLAME presentation. This is particularly relevant for KS2 teachers but many of the cross-curricular ideas and CLIL resources could be used at KS3 too or as a part of a transition module.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Join ALL project to discover ways to integrate Literature in the New Curriculum for French

What is literature? What do language teachers do with it?

ALL is this year undertaking a project, launched at Language World, to support language teachers with integrating literature into their schemes of work in national curriculum key stage 2 and 3 (for 7-14 year-olds) as required by the latest version of the national curriculum. The project's work has two parts - one is funded by FIPF (the international French teachers federation) and will focus on written text in French; this will be made available through the FIPF international platform online (with a link from the ALL website) - the other relates to literature and other sorts of interesting texts, in any language and will be made available by ALL.

You will read more on the project as it develops but, rest assured, the Project Team needs your help! We will, before long but not now, be asking teachers to contribute their suggestions:
  • What pieces of literature / text do you use with your classes? Which classes?
  • What do you do with the texts? What does the class learn? 
We are planning some sessions at events to explore this theme, but, if you do not currently include anything you would call literature in your schemes of work, maybe our project will give you the impetus to locate something and try it out this term?

More soon about the ALL Team and the project and how you can get involved.

In the meantime you can register interest with Steven Fawkes. Happy reading!
Steven Fawkes, ALL Membership Officer and Fellow

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Language World 2014, 4-5 April at Lancaster University

I had a great time at Language World 2014. As promised, here is a copy of my slides and reference sheet. If you are still not an ALL member, what are you thinking of? Definitely time to join this fantastic community...

Friday, 28 February 2014

MFL Conference, The Piggott School, Reading, 28th February 2014

I had a really good day at The Piggott School  in Reading today. Please find below the slides for the two sessions I delivered.


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Myths and Reality: Foreign Language skills for the 21st century?

This item was published on the Osiris Educational blog on 7th February 2014

I never really liked to describe the subject I teach as MFL. Modern? If you have to state something is modern, doesn’t it somehow make it sound old-fashioned? Foreign? The word never conjured up anything warm and accepting to me… 

Some people will then go on to tell me that MFL is a neat way to distinguish languages like French or Spanish from Community Languages. Does this mean that French is not a community language in London despite quite a large French community living there? Is this a polite but obvious way to discriminate between languages? After the Olympics and London being described as one of the most multilingual cities in the world, I had really hoped for this distinction to disappear. Languages are languages, aren’t they? 

If you are bilingual or multilingual, you have been given a special gift that needs to be celebrated. So why are so many school children hiding the fact they may be using a different language at home? 

The national debate about languages seems to be evolving in the UK and this is all good news. There is still a fair amount of myths circulating in and out of schools about how languages may not be “suitable” for all children and even a possible threat to the development of their language skills in English. Funnily enough, the vast majority of conversations I have had about this were with people who still consider that being monolingual is the norm. The thing is, there are now more multilingual people in the world and being monolingual is becoming more and more an exception to the norm. 

Some children will find learning a language easier than others but the truth is that proficiency in any language cannot be easily attained. It requires time, effort, resilience and equal opportunity of access as it is still optional in many schools. In addition, the examination system does not serve languages particularly well. It provides pupils with limited options-why can’t we study French for Food Studies at GCSE?-and does not always give pupils a positive recognition of their skills. 

There is indeed a language skills deficit in the UK at even the most basic level, probably the one some would say is not “worth bothering about”, justifying the narrow choice of language qualifications available, but is no skills at all better than some skills although limited? Clearly not. It would be like refusing to enter a race at school just for knowing that we could not possibly end up in the top 3. So what about the other benefits of taking part? Language learning needs to be embraced as an activity that will benefit all, in the same way as all children benefit from core PE. 

Is language learning a 21st century skill? Usually the discussions gravitate around the role of technology and core skills like literacy, numeracy and oracy, with no sign of language learning being included in the list. I find this odd as Language learning skills are part of literacy core skills-they also support the development of mother tongue literacy by allowing comparisons. 

Recently, the debate about languages for all has been hijacked by the “which language” debate. Do not allow yourself to get distracted-we have a language deficit in the UK and I am not sure whether stating publicly that some languages are more useful than other is helpful at all. We need more languages taught by qualified specialists in schools. If language skills are taught well, they are transferable so the “which language” discussion becomes redundant as we cannot predict accurately what will be of use by the time our current school children enter the job market. 

Language teachers should also be allowed to bring languages alive and tap into youth culture, which they cannot always do in the curriculum time they are given-one of the smallest in Europe. Languages, just like technology are in constant evolution. Using ICT and social media can provide very real opportunities to communicate quickly and effectively with different language speakers about all sorts of common interests. 

In schools, the question should not be whether all children should learn languages or which one but how language teachers can work with all areas of the curriculum to make language-learning an integrated literacy-enhancing experience. 

[I am looking forward to taking part in the languages conference organised by Osiris in the summer. For more information click  here and here. See you there...]