Teaching a foreign language in Primary school is often a bit of a misnomer. French and Spanish are the standard options and you as the teacher are typically in one of three situations:
You’ve just been gifted 120 iPads by a very kind benefactor. Which department would you give them to? For me, the answer is a real no brainer: the Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) department. Some would say I’m biased, and maybe that’s true, but I have put my impartial hat on to answer that question and although Humanities came a very close second I still maintain that MFL naturally lends itself to technology use.
We all know the importance of reading for our students’ futures and life chances. As such, we recently reviewed our literacy policy at Firth Park Academy, a Sheffield inner-city comprehensive rated as ‘Good’ by Ofsted. Our charismatic principal, Dean Jones, wanted our new system to be engaging, relevant and simple to use. This article looks at the process and the next steps, as we look to continually improve our provision.
Step 1: Build a team
Teaching Shakespeare can be at once exhilarating and terrifying; inspirational and life-threateningly tedious. I like to think that the contradictions here echo, or at least nod, to the emotional rollercoaster that was early modern drama. When speaking to students – Secondary school and university – a common stumbling block is invariably language. Besides the archaic vocabulary – ‘hautboy’, ‘nonce’, ‘tun-dish’ and ‘fardel’ come to mind – there’s also the syntax, the distinctly Christian rhetoric, and seemingly endless concerns about marriage and death. For pupils in Secondary school these subject matters, compounded by unintuitive phrasing and words, can be a categorical turn-off.
What are the biggest obstacles that people face when it comes to studying Shakespeare? If you ask a group of students most of them are likely to come up with the same answer – the language. It’s old. Archaic, even. They don’t understand it. A group of teachers are likely to give a different response – teaching rhythm is no fun. They’re bored of teaching iambic pentameter. Students don’t see the point. However, neither of these problems needs to be a barrier and both can be approached using interesting and engaging techniques.
In order to celebrate Shakespeare 400 week, Cheshire-based company Printerland have created an infographic to share their 75 favourite Bard-coined terms. Including the likes of “mimic”, “arouse”, “puking” and “hob-nob”, the display illustrates the powerful impact Stratford’s finest had on the English language as we know it, while revealing where these words were first used.
It’s amazing that people are learning French on St Helena, especially with the islands Napoleonic links and the regular influx of French tourists wanting to see where Napoleon was exiled in 1815 and later died on the island in 1821. The language was consistently introduced to the English-speaking St Helena from September 2014, when Years 7-10 in the secondary school, Prince Andrew School started lessons within the set timetable following the British National curriculum. Since that time, French has also been introduced to the three Primary schools on the island, with years 3, 4, 5 and 6 accessing French lessons each week.
The past few years in the UK have seen a steady decline in the number of young people studying foreign languages at GCSE, A-Level and university. In other words, as soon as learning a language becomes optional, the majority of students give it up. But why, when languages offer a variety of proven benefits (see below), are they still seen as an unnecessary subject by so many? And what can teachers do to inspire their students – not only to persevere with languages, but actually to enjoy them?