It’s that time of year again (no, sadly not Christmas). Most year 11s are taking a pummelling from all sides with a revision sized baseball bat. How can we do revision effectively in MFL? It would appear to me there are three key areas. 1) Teaching exam technique 2) Vocabulary refreshing and/or building 3) Revision technique
Certain things are guaranteed on an exam paper and students need to be aware of this.
- There will be a question on tenses – can they spot them? Sometimes time markers play a role here. Students need to be aware of the features of each tense. Chris Fuller made a good point that anything future adds and anything present/past takes away in French and Spanish. If they spot an infinitive it is likely a future tense unless preceded by an opinion phrase.
- Higher level papers will often mention all three of your multiple choice options. The trick is working out the right one. Two are probably close to right so listen carefully the second time to these.
- Exam boards have to promote SMSC just as schools do, students need to remember the exam is written for teenagers. When the question says “What are Karla’s views on smoking?” The answer is unlikely to be “it is harmless and we should all just light up now”
- Exams follow a peak-trough model where harder questions are preceded by easier ones. They need to make sure they do not give up too quickly.
- Leave nothing blank! I’ve had students get 5 extra marks in a past paper. When the kid said he got an A, he shocked most of his classmates! He later admitted not answering 8 questions but guessed them and was rewarded for it.
- Some subjects have introduced walking/talking mocks. I prefer to brief students before they do they paper, allow them to make any notes of reminders and then let them go. Closer to the exams the briefings get shorter.
Vocabulary refreshing / building
- Mindmaps, lists, flashcards. Give students a topic and make them produce a mindmap with the use of nothing more than their brains. Then let them have access to support materials to add to it and increase their knowledge. Alternatively get the person next to them to add to it and pass it around a group of 4 to grow it as much as possible.
- Make a tarsia puzzle. This involves chopping up a sheet of A4 into 8 pieces and writing matching English and German along each inside edge. The idea is to put the paper back together again with every English and German definition matching perfectly with no text around the outside. They can be automatically made here.
- Lots and lots of listening practice. Some great advice on teaching listening can be found courtesy of Dr Gianfranco Conti here. Some reasonably good advice can be found here (shameless self-promotion).
- Vocab wars – give two students different lists of vocab which they quickfire at each other. Winner gets a prize. Make own lists for subsequent lesson. Allow a mark if they get it right or if they self-correct quickly then allow them a point. Works on demotivated bottom sets, did it earlier today.
- Ditch the highlighters, they involve minimal cognitive demand and all the vocabulary is important.
- Avoid teaching huge amounts of cognates as the students can work them out with considerable ease. Focus on the more challenging language. Would you rather a kid knew anrufen or telefonieren?
- Websites are useful but should not be the sole revision tool of a student. Linguascope intermediate and languagesonline.org.uk among others will be able to help
- PQRST Past Paper Method – possibly the best thing I have come across in a while for making a past paper effective
- Preview: revise the topics before tackling the paper.
- Questions: now do the paper.
- Review: see questions below
- Scribble: note any new vocabulary on the paper that was not known.
- Test: test yourself two or three days later on that vocabulary to check retention.
- Past papers should not just be an end in themselves. Completing a past paper is good but using it to push revision and learning forward is better. Students should be looking at the following after completing a paper:
- What new vocabulary is there that I didn’t know?
- Did I miss out on marks from misunderstanding the question requirements?
- Did I miss out on marks because I didn’t know the material?l
- Did I miss out an answer – the crime above all crimes on an MFL paper. When the odds on a correct answer are 33% or higher, missing answers out is silly.
I have a mixed ability GCSE group with grades ranging from A*-G. It is a two year fast-track German course. I have seen many good ideas on the secondary mfl facebook group but due to the nature of the course there is simply not time for trivial pursuit, jenga or balloon towers. They do look fun though! Below is a typical revision lesson:
Topic: healthy living and lifestyle
STARTER: activity that refreshes their memory of large amounts of vocab eg: odd one out, make a mindmap, 30 word vocab test German–> English or English–> German.
Present: a revision activity students could do at home on any topic but model it with this one.
Listening practice using past exam questions or revision workbook questions. Immediate feedback and discussion of where the marks were won and lost. Suitable for both higher and foundation although leaning towards higher.
Split class into two groups
Highers do some practice reading questions on the topic while foundations do practice listening appropriate to their level on the topic, then they switch. Students doing the listening will be talked through how to approach the question, what the question is looking for and any handy strategies that come to mind. We then attempt it. Those doing reading are largely left to it.
Set homework: revision via vocabexpress / samlearning / past paper / make a mindmap / make a tarsia puzzle / languagesonline
Students then may face one more listening text (because you can never practise this enough) or another vocabulary building activity based on my experiences over the course of the lesson.
Revision Technique. https://classteaching.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/supporting-learning-through-effective-revision-techniques/ This one blog post gave me a lot of ideas. I don’t think I can improve on what Shaun Allison has written so enjoy. Lastly, show this poster to your students (thank to Chris Hildrew).