IMG_1181, a photo by Joe Dale on Flickr.
It was only last year that I was hosting the MFL Show and Tell at my school, The Radclyffe School. The Show and Tell has an easy unconference format that enables a lot of networking and informal exchanging of good practice. However informal the formal , do not be fooled, as I have learnt more by attending the previous Show and Tell sessions than on a combination of at least 3 "formal" training days. This time, as I could not joined in person, I skyped my contribution and really enjoyed sharing my experience of creative partnerships.
The main aim of Creative Partnerships is to work with a creative practitioner on something that is usually a cross-curricular project. Last year, I worked with a film director on a video clip to promote languages and this year, I focused on music using a French rap project to try to engage some of my de-motivated boys. Although at first the project was not particularly aimed at boys, it soon became clear that the rap was a more popular vehicle with boys than with girls. After a lot of discussion, I managed to get a small group of girls working on it too, but 15 out of the 18 were boys.
I introduced the group to French rap and slam, showing them different genres within the genre and also how different it is from American Rap. We then discussed possible themes. Identity was a common theme but other themes emerged including Peace in Palestine, Racism, Bullying and Prejudice-hardly what I expected from a group of Year 8 boys! We then looked at developing the themes in small groups and we were lucky enough to work with a local MC and a music producer who could also speak French.
The first hurdle was to make the language accessible and I showed the students how simple structures can be effective, for instance describing a situation by naming what is around it. This was inspired by the French Slam Artist Grand Corps Malade's song "Un verbe: aimer" where he describes all the feelings rushing through his head as he is falling in love-all are nouns apart from one verb: aimer (to love). We also worked with cognates and known vocabulary like greetings and food, trying to make it sound good, without necessarily making it all rhyme accurately. This was great to develop their dictionary skills as well as their awareness of phonic patterns.
Pronunciation was an issue as cognates always encourage students to pronounce in an anglicised manner. To avoid this, I recorded myself reading the students' texts so that they could practise by listening to it rather than just reading it. The students also worked with a local Artist who helped them to design a CD cover for the rap. The rap was then put together by mixing all students' contributions. The students agreed on a beat, they had a try on the drums and the guitar and after quite a few attempts, our rap was born.
I learned a lot working with the students on something different and I enjoyed working with non-teachers to produce the rap. I am not entirely convinced the project will mean that all students decide to opt for French next year, but it has certainly changed our working relationship. I now know so much more about what makes them tick as well as about all the talents that had not been revealed to me during their French lessons...