MFL & Parents Evening

Perhaps this rings true for some of you.  I’m not sure how you see parents evening or how they work in your school but I’ll do my best to make sure that there is something for everyone.

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I firmly believe that strong relationships facilitate greater progress in the classroom.  Parents evening offers a unique opportunity to build two relationships.  Empathy and enthusiasm are crucial in those few hours.

1) Student – Teacher.  Parents evening is one of the few times you will get where you can talk to the child about their progress without their peers being around but with a level of accountability, as their parents heard it.

2) Teacher – Parent.  Parents might have heard from their offspring that you are a fire-breathing ogre with a volcanic temperament, liable to go off at the slightest infraction.  Conversely, they may have heard that you are a “legend”.  Either way, it is an opportunity for the parent to put a face to a name and to have a dialogue about their child’s progress.

Making the most of parents evening:

Preparation

In my current school students seek you out for appointments and you are encouraged to seek appointments with them.  They bring you a flurry of pieces of paper (these diminish as they progress through the years) and you try and pack them all into 3 hours.  Other schools do their appointments online and I’ve seen that be quite effective.

Once my appointments are written in then I do three things:

  1. Locate data and assessment results for classes being taught
  2. Look at the list of names and note the first few things that come to mind for each student.
    1. Penny – presentation, homework variable, good effort in class.
    2. Leonard – speaking good, needs to increase detail and variety in written work.
    3. Howard – off-task, focus, incident thurs.
    4. Raj – equipment, off-task, consider seating move?
  3. Make sure that I have a mug of tea ready.

Approach

I have seen a variety of approaches at parents evening.  Some teachers ask the student questions “how do you feel you are progressing?”  “How do you think Spanish is going this year?”  My feedback from students is that they do not enjoy this moment of being put on the spot and are not always certain about what to say.  Most students will likely opt for a conservative response irrespective of how they are progressing, as it will minimise fallout if they feel they are not doing so well.

Personally, I prefer the following:

Positive Appointment

  1. Know your student.  A couple of words about the student shows that you definitely know them.  “This is the second year I’ve taught Anakin”.  “Teaching Luke in year 7 and now in year 9, it’s great to see how far he has come”.  “What has pleased me most about Rey this year is how she has…”
  2. Data and progress.  Talk about how they have performed in assessments or data-drops.  Are they where you expect them to be?  If not, why not?  Was it the assessment or the revision?  How can they get there?  How can home be involved in helping them?
  3. What’s next?  Explain that there are a couple of things they could do “to really help themselves move forward”.  Keep it short, simple and to the most important stuff.  If a parent is writing notes then feel free to say more.  Consider that if there is a conversation at home afterwards then what do you want them to remember?   There may be more, but that parent might have had 7 appointments already.
  4. Any questions?  Leave a minute or two for the parents to ask any questions that they have.

With year 10s and 11s I have taken sheets of useful revision websites for parents to take away.  The students may have already been given this sheet but an extra copy at home never hurt!

Less positive appointment:

  • Know your student.  A couple of words about the student that shows you definitely know them and have caught them being good.  Even the very worst students I have taught have not been 100% bad for 100% of every lesson.  Key point to consider here: how can you build that relationship?  How can you involve home in bringing about a turnaround in fortunes for that student?
  • Data and progress.  Talk about how they have performed in class.  Are they where you expect them to be?  If not, why not?  How can they get there?  How can home be involved in helping them?  At this point, the student or parent may suggest something that would help.  Make a note of it and then deliver on it.  This could be a seating plan change, a resource, a need for greater help, checking understanding prior to starting a task.  This shows your intentions to secure the best outcomes for their child.  Actions speak loudly.
  • Issues.  If the issue is behaviour or homework then talk about where things need to improve.  Most parents appreciate honesty.  If the parent appears supportive then tell them you will give them a ring, or an email, in 2-3 weeks to review how things are going.  As you do this, write it in your planner and then do it.  Sometimes parents will engage positively with you at this point.  Others may choose not to.
  • Finish well.  Find a way to finish the appointment on a positive note.  No kid should feel like they are a lost cause.
  • Any questions?  The parent may well wish to question you further.  Do not be afraid to involve your Head of Department if you need to.  Perhaps warn them prior to the appointment if you know of a particular tricky parent.  If the parent is taking up undue time then politely suggest that you continue the discussion at a later date, possibly with your Head of Department present.

Take a sheet

In previous years I have brought copies of the following to parents evening:

  • Sheet titled “how to help my son/daughter succeed at languages”.
  • Sheet titled “effective revision techniques for MFL”.
  • Sheet with QR codes for revision websites.

Each one has gone down well with parents.  It takes a bit of prep time but you can reuse them most years.

Parents that care will likely read the sheet.  Those that do not care will not but I have seen them appear in Spanish books, or have heard that it was stuck to the fridge or useful later down the line.

What do you do when they say….?

  • “Why does he/she need languages?”
  • “He/she is never going to go to France/Germany/Spain”
  • “I was never any good at languages”
  • “Why does he/she have to do a language?”
  • “Everyone speaks English”
  • “You can give it up in year 9 anyway”

If you read my previous blogpost Blogging for Languages without nodding off, then you will have an idea of my answers to these questions.  Firstly, I started Spanish at university at the age of 18.  Secondly, I never planned to teach languages.  Lastly, I never thought I would ever end up in South America.  However, all of these things happened.  I find this normally works as quite a disarming start to a number of the above statements.  After this, I can then talk about the importance of languages, the doors they opens and the benefits for their child.  You will need to come up with your answers to these questions and similar ones.  If you want some statistics to back up your answers then have a look at the Year 9 Options post  or some things I picked up at the ISMLA conference.  The main thing is delivering them with empathy and enthusiasm.

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5 Things to try tomorrow

Number, Five, 5, Digit

It has been a while since writing one of these (or anything) so here are 5 things to try tomorrow.

Everydaymfl has been a little bit quiet of late but posts in the works include one on questioning and possibly one on the new GCSE – what I learnt teaching it so far.

No writing lessons

Writing is one of the easiest skills to show progress with.

  1. Student writes something
  2. Teacher corrects
  3. Student improves

However, students are used to a lot of this.  It really is quite something for them to have a “no writing” lesson in a subject they will typically associate with writing.  An entire lesson of speaking and listening is not a bad thing as it reminds them how important the skills are.   Some groups will be noticeably more enthused by this idea.  It is quite heavy on the planning and paired activity so you may want a settling activity at some point – perhaps hands up listening.

Group Model Essay

After my year 10 group seemed somewhat intimidated by the 150 word task in the new GCSE, I thought I would approach it gradually.  Here is what we did:

They were given a 150 word task from the AQA textbook.

In groups of 4 they drafted the best response on mini-whiteboards that they could come up with.  After some feedback from me, they improved the draft on mini-whiteboards.  One member of the group put it on to paper.  They handed them in and I typed them up on a word document with significant amounts of space around them.  I annotated the work highlighting tenses, good bits of grammar (comparatives, superlatives, subjunctives) and double ticks for anything that particularly stood out.

This was really well received and sometimes it is helpful to know “what a good one looks like” but also to know that you were involved in producing it.

Micro-listening enhancers

I have read a lot about these on Gianfranco Conti’s website.  I have found myself using them quite a bit recently as my speakers are kaputt.  The pupils did seem to be gaining confidence from them.  In teaching the perfect tense in Spanish, it seemed to have a positive effect on the pronunciation of “he” and “ha” et al later in the lesson.  Well worth a try and something I am looking to do a bit more of earlier on.

Photo Credit: immaculate-photons Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: immaculate-photons Flickr via Compfight cc

MM Paired Speaking

Possibly one of my favourite activities.  The MM refers to a lady I worked with on my PGCE.  In my mind the activity is named after her for two reasons.  1) I have never seen anyone else do it.  2) I’ve no idea what to call it!

Students divide their page into 3 columns.  If they don’t have a ruler then gentle folds work well.

  • Column 1: days of the week or time phrases in a list going down.  3 lines between each approximately
  • Column 2: draw simple picture representing an activity
  • Column 3: leave blank.
  1. Person A asks question for example: “Qué hiciste el lunes”
  2. Person B responds using time phrase and makes sentence based on picture “el lunes fui de compras”.
  3. Person A notes down in the empty column what their partner did on Monday.

You can add challenge by getting Person A to write in the third person on step 3.  You could differentiate for weaker learners by getting them to write a quick note as to what they heard.

This is a very versatile activity as it can be adapted to different tenses and languages easily.  It is good speaking and listening practice at the same time.  Both students should have that last column filled by the end of the activity.

The Future Tense Three Musketeers 

This came from a teacher I used to work with.  She would teach the future tense telling students that there are three musketeers.

Musketeer number 1 has 6 moves in Spanish.  Musketeer number 2 always does the same thing. Musketeer has different disguises but you can always tell it is him by looking at the ending.  The three can never be separated.  Once the concept has been introduced you may then move on to some mini-whiteboard practice.  Telling students to check musketeer number 1,2 or 3 seems to be quite effective.  It also seems to eradicate “voy a juego” or “voy a hago”

1                       2                                            3

Voy                  a                   ______________AR/ER/IR

Vas

Va

Vamos

Vais

Van

 

Everyday Revision

It’s getting light in the mornings now so that means it is probably time to look at revision.  This is a new post that is attempting to improve upon an older post.  Here’s how I’m planning to drag  help my year 11s through their final listening and reading exam.

Make a plan

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My plans tend to work like this.  As I’m running a fast-track course then we probably have no more than 1 lesson per common topic on the Edexcel Spec.  Therefore my students need vocabulary, listening practice/reading practice and things that they can actively take away from the lessons and try.  The following is an example:

Topic to be taught Vocabulary Focus L/R Take away exam technique Take-away revision technique
General interests Sports, hobbies, free time. L Dealing with the picture questions Mindmapping
Lifestyle (healthy eating) Foods, drinks, gern/nicht gern

Gesund/ungesund etc

L+R Dealing with multiple choice (pick 4 from list of 8) Flashcards
School and college Subjects, likes/dislikes, L+R Dealing with past/present/future questions Make a Tarsia

Vocabulary – Revise / Refresh / Build

The listening and reading exams are essentially one massive vocabulary test of 2 or 5 years worth of learning (depending how you run your course). Therefore most lessons need to begin with some refreshing of vocabulary.

I have the following principles when it comes to selecting revision activities:

  1. The students need to be made to think or to listen carefully
  2. It has to involve the students using and hearing target language
  3. How much do students gain from it?

Here are a few go-to ideas:

Worksheets – For a few years it was almost heresy to suggest a worksheet but if it is a good worksheet then use it.  The benefit is that the students have something to take home to revise from and they may appreciate not having to write things down for a bit.

Last man standing bingo – students write five words from a vocabulary list and then stand up.  Teacher (or willing student) calls out the words.  If all five are called out the student sits down and has lost.  Winners are those left standing.

Environmentally friendly strip bingo – students write a list of seven words on the mini-whiteboard from a vocabulary list.  Teacher (or willing student) calls out the words.  Students may only rub off the top or bottom word when they hear it.  Winner is the first one with a clean whiteboard.

Normal bingo – You’re reading this and you’re a language teacher.  I’m not going to explain this one!

Vocab battles – Students have two lists of vocabulary and test each other.  Winner is the one with the most correct.

Wordsnakes – Students have to separate the words in the snake.  Here is one for work and work experience topic.  If doing German, you will probably need to remove the capital letters.

arbeitspraktikumchefgehaltbedienenkundigen

Tarsia puzzles – 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.

Dictation – minimal preparation.  Read out sentences from a past paper transcript or textbook reading activity.  Students have to write down exactly what they hear.

Discovery Education PuzzlemakerThis was a staple of my NQT year until I accidentally and rather dramatically exceeded my photocopying budget .  I only recently remembered its existence.  Well worth a look and free to create simple puzzles involving vocabulary.

Vocabulary Toolkit – These are some rather old but still  very good books in our department.  They are sadly out of print but perhaps purchase a few for PP students.  The book in question is here.   Whilst it will not relate exactly to your exam board they are good little tools for revision.  German and French versions only I think..

Collaborative Mindmaps – Students work in a group of 3-4.  Start with the topic area in the middle and give them 4 branches out.  They have a minute to add whatever they can before passing it on to the next person.  Rinse and repeat.

It is worth mentioning that in the above activities I will probably focus on non-cognates over cognates.  Most students can deduce a word such as “telefonieren” but may struggle with “anrufen”.

For more ideas of games that work then head to Frenchteacher.net or this page (shameless self-promotion).

Teaching Exam Technique – some thoughts on past papers.

This technique of going through past papers is something I have found valuable.  My thanks to Chris Hildrew’s website for this:

PQRST Past Paper Method

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.

General Exam Technique Teaching Ideas

  • Teach features of language such as prefixes and suffixes.  For example, “ent” always implies removal of something in German (entfernen, entspannen).
  • Test them regularly on the little words and the negatives “jamais” “rien” “personne”.
  • Use the listening 5 minutes well.  Model it on a visualiser if you have one or get your entire group stood around you while you do it and invite their contributions.
  • Have a twilight with your higher level students where you practise the target language question at the end of the higher reading papers.
  • 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 their multiple choice options.  The trick is working out the right one.  Two are probably close to right so listen carefully the second time to the ones that appear similar.
  • 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”
  • Remind students that Edexcel 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.  Question 9 can be a walk in the park after question 7 on nordic walking or the training of guide dogs.
  • Leave nothing blank!  I’ve had a student get 5 extra marks in past paper as a result.  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.

Remind them that they have been preparing for this for 2-5 years but shouldn’t assume that they can just do it without revision.  Make the following your mantra:

dont-be-upset-poster

EverydayMFL’s typical revision lesson

As a teacher of a mixed ability group on a fast-track 2 year course.  Here is a lesson outline that I would use.  There are so many good revision activities out there and I’ve seen all sorts of ideas on the Facebook groups involving balloons, jenga, trivial pursuit etc.  You will notice that these do not feature heavily in the plan below.  It is simply that with the time pressures of such a course, I’ve had to prioritise listening practice and as much vocabulary input as possible.  The final lesson will generally involve some revision fun and German or Spanish food.

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.

MAIN:

Present: a revision activity students could do at home on any topic but model it with this one.  Students do the activity building in vocabulary from the starter and what they can remember.

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.  Sometimes completed with transcript.

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 / linguascope / language gym workouts etc

PLENARY: 

Students then may face one more listening text (because you can never practise this skill enough) or another vocabulary building activity based on my experiences over the course of the lesson.

Students on study leave – what to do when you cannot do anything to help them anymore!

  • Make sure they know what constitutes effective revision – for a blog that changed my practice, click here.
  • Mail a document on useful ways to revise for languages to the parents.
  • Set them up some vocab lists on Quizlet / Memrise / Vocabexpress.
  • Give them a pack of past papers to work through and the mark schemes.
  • Give them a sheet of QR codes leading to language revision websites.
  • Make them purchase a revision workbook or guide to help them revise prior to study leave.

All the best with the final furlong.

 

The Options Lesson

These next few weeks, we’re trying to convince the year 9s to carry on with a language or two.  Here’s my thinking for…

The Options Lesson.

STARTER: Brainstorm every reason to learn a language.  Could be done as a Think Pair Share.  Students can then share with the class.  Some commentary from teacher probably required to clarify, explain and correct.  Typical answers include

Travel, teaching, interpreting, translating, fun, challenge, interaction with others, live abroad, get girls, get guys etc.

MAIN – 3 sections of approx 10 minutes each

Section 1: English is not enough

Quiz using powerpoint from TES.  Slides 8-12  On this powerpoint you will find:

  • Guess the amount of speakers
  • Guess the percentage of people in Europe who speak…
  • Match the language to the people who speak it

The last activity may require some updating so modern multilinguals include Roger Federer, Bradley Cooper, Tom Hiddleston and more found here

The percentage question and the guess the amount activity could be done on mini-whiteboards so every student has to think about the answer.

You could also share some quotes from celebs found on the internet if you so choose.  Mandela is my personal favourite:

Section 2: Skills and Business

Explain skills that can be gained by learning language using above PowerPoint.

Give pupils a list of 10 jobs and work out how a language could be useful in those jobs. Alternatively ask them to generate a list of jobs, give it to another group who then suggest how a language could be used.

Here are some if you are pressed for time:

  • Walkers Crisps Employee
  • BMW Employee
  • Easyjet Steward/Stewardess
  • Hotel Receptionist
  • Surf Instructor
  • Civil Servant
  • MP
  • Firefighter
  • Police
  • NHS Frontline staff.

Get pupils to generate a list of French / German / Spanish companies that have links with the UK.  The list below is just to get you started.

  • French: Christian Dior, L’Oreal, Michelin, Peugeot, Renault, EDF, Agence France Presse, Bugatti.
  • German: Audi, Siemens, Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Adidas, Haribo, Aldi, Lidl, Puma, Hugo Boss, Bauhaus, Bayer, Carl Zeiss, Bosch, Kraft,
  • Hispanic: SEAT, BBVA, Santander, Iberia, Alpargatas, Topper, CoronaExtra

Ok, maybe don’t mention that last one…

This section of the lesson finishes with this:

Section 3: What about Brexit?

“Brexit means Brexit” we were told.  Most students seem aware that we will leave the E.U and some believe all sorts of weird and wonderful things about what this means. Regardless of your view when it came to leave or remain, and regardless of what kind of Brexit we go through, languages will remain vital to trade, business and growth of the UK economy.

Share the following statements with students.  The links to the original websites have been added so that you can fact check the statements.

“Language skills are vital for our exports, education, public services and diplomacy.” – All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Foreign Languages.  Article found here

Lack of language skills costs the UK £48,000,000,000 a year in lost trade- Department for Business, Innovation and Skills).  Quoted in The Guardian here

30% of UK businesses have no need for foreign language skills – Confederation of British Industry.  Also found in Guardian here.  Conclusion from this one, 70% would welcome someone with language skills

¨If I’m selling to you, I speak your language.  If you’re selling to me, dann müssen sie Deutsch sprechen” – Willy Brandt

75% of the world speaks no English. -Routes into Languages quote this statistic in a helpful article here

“Brexit means higher priority for language skills. If we found it challenging to deal with the 24 official and working languages of the EU and the Single Market, let’s consider that there are 164 members of the World Trade Organisation.  Each potential trading partner and regulator will be requiring precise negotiations. New relationships require trust, reliability and cultural empathy – those soft skills that come from knowledge of other languages and cultures.”- Bernadette Holmes MP.  Original article here

PLENARY

Coming in to land now… I will try and explain what the GCSE entails and how they make their choices.  All the normal warnings “don’t pick subjects based on friends/teacher preference/perceived ease/novelty”etc will be given at this point.  We will conclude with a video:

Finish off with Options Girl

And/Or finish with Lindsay.

And/Or Alex

 

During my “research” for this lesson.  I stumbled across the British Council video below.  It sadly does not fit in to what I plan to do, however their series of videos are pretty good.

Also considered using this one…

And this…

Summer is here

It finally happened!  After a weekend that was full of fog, rain and dull weather, summer appeared.  I’m not sure if it is sticking around but it happened for all of 1 day.

If you’re not feeling summery enough then click here or here or even here before continuing to read.  Don’t do all three as that would be like mixing mint ice-cream, strawberry ice-cream and honeycomb ice-cream.  All the right intentions but it would end well!

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Photo Credit: `James Wheeler via Compfight cc

It’s the end of term so this blog contains some stats, a quick thank you and an update on what to expect from Everydaymfl.com in the future.

Stats 

Thanks to…

Thank you to all the people from the secondary MFL facebook groups for your encouragement and suggestions.  Thank you also to those who have commented on the site or have followed me on Twitter.  Thank you to Steve Smith for listing me on the excellent FrenchTeacher.net.

What’s coming?

Fun with Grammar– Since someone asked for it on facebook, I’ve wanted to do a post on quirky ways to make grammar rules stick and good grammar practice activities.

Teaching the new GCSE – I’ve done two posts on preparing for it here and here but as I’m teaching it next year then I need to reflect on things such as how well am I preparing the students for the exams they will face?

Teaching the new GCSE  content– some of the newer content.  I’ve trialled a bit this term such as customs, festivals, poverty and homelessness so there will be a blog on that.

A facelift for the site – This is something I consider every now and again but it hasn’t happened yet.

A guest blog? – Maybe you have been reading this thanks to the facebook groups and thought  “I wouldn’t want to run my own site but I could do that!”  Drop me a line here and let me know.

Sorting out the categories – there has to be an easier system.  I’m working on it!

 

Have a great summer!

Outstanding MFL everyday.

‘Hypothetical’ conversation overheard in staffroom:

Experienced teacher 1: “I delivered a number of outstanding lessons today”

Experienced teacher 2 “Ha! Your definition of an outstanding lesson is you putting your feet up while the kids are standing outside!”

Experienced teacher 1: “you saw them then!”

I’ve seen a lot of requests on TES forums, Twitter and Facebook for outstanding activities or an outstanding lesson on (insert topic here).  I’ve probably wished for a few myself in the past.  There’s nothing wrong with asking for something that works when you’re low on time and your desk is covered by paper and looks like a scale model of the himalayas. What makes an outstanding lesson is highly subjective and is based largely on the observations of the person watching.  I think even OFSTED realised this recently.  OFSTED say they will no longer grade individual lessons or learning walks.  This is good news, although they have to deliver a judgement on quality of teaching and learning across the school so some form of grading still has to take place (in their heads one assumes). Teaching and learning still has to be judged as outstanding/good/requires improvement/inadequate.

This is not a post on “how to play the OFSTED game” as the only OFSTED game to be played is simply high quality teaching and learning.  It is a post about the key ingredients for an outstanding lesson and how we might apply those in MFL teaching everyday.

Before we look at the ingredients.  Let’s hear it from the horses mouth:

Inspectors will use a considerable amount of first-hand evidence gained from observing pupils in lessons, talking to them about their work, scrutinising their work and assessing how well leaders are securing continual improvements in teaching. Direct observations in lessons will be supplemented by a range of other evidence to enable inspectors to evaluate the impact that teachers and support assistants have on pupils’ progress. Inspectors will not grade the quality of teaching, learning and assessment in individual lessons or learning walks.

Inspectors will consider:

  • how information at transition points between schools is used effectively so that teachers plan to meet pupils’ needs in all lessons from the outset – this is particularly important between the early years and Key Stage 1 and between Key Stages 2 and 3
  • whether work in all year groups, particularly in Key Stage 3, is demanding enough for all pupils
  • pupils’ views about the work they have undertaken, what they have learned from it and their experience of teaching and learning over time
  • information from discussions about teaching, learning and assessment with teachers, teaching assistants and other staff
  • parents’ views about the quality of teaching, whether they feel their children are challenged sufficiently and how quickly leaders tackle poor teaching
  • scrutiny of pupils’ work, with particular attention to:
  • pupils’ effort and success in completing their work, both in and outside lessons, so that they can progress and enjoy learning across the curriculum
  • how pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills have developed and improved
  • the level of challenge and whether pupils have to grapple appropriately with content, not necessarily ‘getting it right’ first time, which could be evidence that the work is too easy
  • how well teachers’ feedback, written and oral, is used by pupils to improve their knowledge, understanding and skills. 

Source text here P44.

Outstanding (1)

  • Teachers demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding of the subjects they teach. They use questioning highly effectively and demonstrate understanding of the ways pupils think about subject content. They identify pupils’ common misconceptions and act to ensure they are corrected.
  • Teachers plan lessons very effectively, making maximum use of lesson time and coordinating lesson resources well. They manage pupils’ behaviour highly effectively with clear rules that are consistently enforced.
  • Teachers provide adequate time for practice to embed the pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills securely. They introduce subject content progressively and constantly demand more of pupils. Teachers identify and support any pupil who is falling behind, and enable almost all to catch up.
  • Teachers check pupils’ understanding systematically and effectively in lessons, offering clearly directed and timely support.
  • Teachers provide pupils with incisive feedback, in line with the school’s assessment policy, about what pupils can do to improve their knowledge, understanding and skills. The pupils use this feedback effectively.
  • Teachers set challenging homework, in line with the school’s policy and as appropriate for the age and stage of pupils, that consolidates learning, deepens understanding and prepares pupils very well for work to come.
  • Teachers embed reading, writing and communication and, where appropriate, mathematics exceptionally well across the curriculum, equipping all pupils with the necessary skills to make progress. For younger children in particular, phonics teaching is highly effective in enabling them to tackle unfamiliar words.
  • Teachers are determined that pupils achieve well. They encourage pupils to try hard, recognise their efforts and ensure that pupils take pride in all aspects of their work. Teachers have consistently high expectations of all pupils’ attitudes to learning.
  • Pupils love the challenge of learning and are resilient to failure. They are curious, interested learners who seek out and use new information to develop, consolidate and deepen their knowledge, understanding and skills. They thrive in lessons and also regularly take up opportunities to learn through extra-curricular activities.
  • Pupils are eager to know how to improve their learning. They capitalise on opportunities to use feedback, written or oral, to improve.
  • Parents are provided with clear and timely information on how well their child is progressing and how well their child is doing in relation to the standards expected. Parents are given guidance about how to support their child to improve.
  • Teachers are quick to challenge stereotypes and the use of derogatory language in lessons and around the school. Resources and teaching strategies reflect and value the diversity of pupils’ experiences and provide pupils with a comprehensive understanding of people and communities beyond their immediate experience.

So let’s have a look at those key ingredients and what they mean for us in the classroom:

Key Ingredient: What it means for MFL teachers:
Transition information We need a knowledge of where the children are coming from.  We need some idea of how much language tuition the children have had, what language and how effectively it was taught.  This is more applicable to year 7.  As far as year 8s and 9s are concerned, you will need an idea of where they finished at the end of year 7.
Challenge Is your work demanding enough?  I don’t mean simply sticking an extension task on a starter or a reading activity.  Are you sufficiently challenging that little lass who finishes the task seconds after you have explained it?  Should she have finished that quickly?  Are your tasks differentiated enough to keep all students challenged and engaged?  Could you give different students a different task?  How could you reward risk-taking with the language?
Pupils views ARGH?!   What would they say about your lessons?
Parents views Informed by the above as few parents have likely seen your superb lesson on the future tense!
Scrutiny of work From this I understand the following:

1)      Pupils must be seen to be making an effort and doing well and this should be seen through their exercise books.

2)      There must be some evidence that their abilities have improved.  You can do this through various ways.  Some staff will use charts with “can do” statements or it could simply be that there are less corrections in the book later in the year.

3)      There must be some work that is not “too easy” for them where they struggle.  Struggle is part of learning so that is not a bad thing.  If it is all ticked and correct then it could be interpreted as too easy.

4)      Feedback should inform and foster improvements in knowledge, understanding and skills.  For more on feedback see here

Subject Knowledge Must be evident along with questioning.  Questioning varies depending on subjects.  I think certain subjects have it easier than MFL but students could deduce a grammar rule if given sufficient examples and then go on to some structured practice of that rule.  If you are thinking of ways to develop your subject knowledge then look no further:  Keeping your languages up!
Effective Planning No time wasted and all resources readily available and accessible.  They may not want to see a lesson plan per se but would expect to see a well planned MFL lesson.  This is probably the best thing I have read on planning an MFL lesson.
Behaviour Management Clear rules and consistently enforced.  I would argue that there is nothing wrong with removing a student whose behaviour is detrimental to the progress of the rest of the class, even in an observation.
Adequate practice time Pupils must be allowed enough time to practice and embed what they are learning.  There must then be a definite increase in demand and evident progression in difficulty of the material covered in the lesson.  Practice in MFL will obvious take place through different skills but it is worth considering: how do they link to your overall objectives in that lesson?
Checking understanding Understanding must be checked and any misconceptions identified.  You can probably tell who will struggle so maybe set the class a short activity that they can use to demonstrate their learning, while you go and help those who need it.
Challenging h/wk Homework could consolidate, extend or prepare the students for future work.  It should do all of these.  More on homework here
Literacy and Numeracy Whilst numeracy is harder to shoehorn into MFL, literacy is very much the bedrock of what we do.  Start using grammatical terms and do not shy away from them.  You’re a language teacher and probably a fan of the odd reflexive verb, subordinating conjunction or relative clause.
Pupils know how to improve Pupils have to know how they can make their French/Spanish/German better.  What does their book tell them and what does your classroom wall tell them?
Challenging stereotypes As MFL teachers we are in an ideal place to do this and hopefully avoid situations like the recent awful match of the day video where the presenters butcher the French language.  I’m not giving you a link, as a football fan I find it embarrassing.

OFSTED’s descriptions miss out one major feature of teaching that I believe is key to delivering outstanding lessons and that is relationships.  Admittedly you can produce an outstanding lesson that meets all of the above boxes but there is likely to be one question in the observer’s mind that also needs answering: “would I be happy for this person to teach my kids?”  Your relationships with your students will answer that.  John Tomsett says: ‘Fundamentally students need to feel loved and I really don’t care what anyone might think of that, to be honest, because if I know anything about teaching, I know that is true.’

What could I do now? 5 things to try this term.

If you’re English then make a cup of tea before contemplating the following:

  1. Build those relationships.  Grab your seating plans or markbook and find 3 students per class who you are going to develop your relationship with.  How are you going to do that?  Will you be teaching those kids next year?  Who knows?  Do it anyway.
  2. Key Ingredients.  Pick one of the key ingredients that you need to work on.  In your planning for next week incorporate it into every lesson.  Yep, that’s every single one.  It’s all very well reading a blog post but you have to act on it.  My Headteacher likes the phrase purposeful practice.  To paraphrase Aristotle, “we are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence therefore is a habit not an act.”
  3. Share.  Share the OFSTED descriptors or key ingredients above with your department.  What ones do you want to work on over the coming weeks?  What do you need to put into place for next year?
  4. Gained time.  Can you devote some of it to CPD?  Who in your department is good at challenge, differentiation, target language use?  Who could you learn from?
  5. Power of praise.  I used to do termly phone-calls home to a parent to give some positive feedback on a student.  I’ve slipped on this and may well do a few in the coming half-term.  Shaun Allison writes about them here.  You could also do an email although make sure you personalise it.  One simple phone-call has massive potential in terms of relationship with the pupil, their parents and the parents of other students.
  6. Consider September.  Yep, right now!  September is where we set the tone, set the patterns and culture in our departments, what would you like an observer to see if they entered your classroom?  What needs to be part of your practice?
  7. Iron sharpening iron.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (biblical proverb).  I love this proverb as it applies to most areas of life. Another person can always be guaranteed to sharpen you and smooth out the rough edges.  Most NQTs have a mentor and most PGCE trainees do too.  Once we exit that process, we are on our own.  Who could you work with to improve your own teaching?  Can you get them to pop in and watch?  No notes, no agenda, no judgments and no threat, but just someone there simply to develop your practice.

Further Reading

Indicators of Outstanding – a blog post by education adviser Mary Myatt.

Great Lessons – a series of blogs by Tom Sherrington (Headteacher) on what makes for great lessons.

An Outstanding Teacher – short blog post by Shaun Allison

Six Steps to Outstanding – I read this when I was starting as an NQT and found it useful.

Pupil Premium & MFL

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We’ll start with some words from Number 10 Downing Street:

“The Coalition Government introduced the Pupil Premium in 2011 to provide additional school funding for those children classed as having deprived backgrounds, and also those who had been looked after (by a local authority) for more than six months. The Service Premium was also introduced for children whose parent(s) are, or have since 2011, served in the armed forces.” Source Material for super keen readers.

Regardless of whether you agree with the idea of the Pupil Premium and the considerable emphasis placed thereupon, it is here to stay.  I have to be honest that over the past few years I have had mixed feelings and a lot of questions about it: what about children who fall ever so slightly above the threshold?  What about students with parents in the forces that actually do not access the funding and do not want it?  Can it make that much of a difference?  Are we in danger of over-emphasizing it?  One headteacher’s blog wrote about the disadvantage gap being a chasm.  It is a complex issue but not one we should shy away from.

Earlier today our SENCO shared this picture:

It reminds me that my job is a teacher is to ensure that every pupil has a chance to achieve.  For some those boxes in the picture will equate to extra funding from Number 10 and for others the boxes are the process of scaffolding and lesson planning.  For some pupils the boxes symbolise my teaching, my feedback and my attention or time spent with them.  Feedback has been covered here, support and scaffolding for lower ability has been covered here and here.  Today we are looking at the Pupil Premium.

Why Pupil Premium Students struggle:

Pupil Premium encompasses a variety of different situations.  It should never be confused or used as a synonym for low ability or behavioural difficulties.  Both might be true but they are not always the case.   I have done my best to list the struggles and the type of student in the table below.

Type of Pupil Premium Student Explanation
Free School Meals Eligibility for free-school meals is used as an indicator of poverty. It may be that such students eligible come from homes that do not support their education in terms of material resources, or in terms of assisting with homework.  Other needs might be more basic in terms of uniform, cleanliness or communication skills.
Service Children Children with parents in the armed forces are often eligible for the pupil premium. In my experience this presents slightly different issues in terms of T&L. Some students will be anxious as a result of the situation the parent is in and the infrequency of contact. Other students may need no help at all as the other parent works and provides for them.  There is a wide spectrum of need when it comes to this type of student.
Children in Care Inevitably these students will have varying issues. Much depends on the reason these students are in care, and at the same time, the quality of care they are currently receiving. Children in care are often quite well supported but struggle in other areas possibly in terms of development, communication and social skills, or mental health.
Ever 6 This refers to the fact a student may have been eligible for the pupil premium in the past 6 years.  It is worth knowing as whilst the student may no longer be eligible; there may still be needs that require meeting or they may only have moved slightly above the threshold for FSM.

What is suggested to be effective?

Having read OFSTED’s report on how schools are using the pupil premium.  They mention a number of ideas but many relate to SLT and governance.  The following are their suggestions for the classroom:

  • Effective teaching and learning for pupil premium students – just teach great lessons everyday.
  • Target support effectively.  How are you moving students forward?  What support do they have?
  • Know the desired outcomes for PP students, not always age related but higher.
  • Know your pupils.
  • Deploy your TA effectively  (see previous blog post here).
  • Enhance their thinking, study and revision skills (see blog on revision here).

They also say the following:

“Where schools spent the Pupil Premium funding successfully to improve achievement, they never confused eligibility for the Pupil Premium with low ability, and focused on supporting their disadvantaged pupils to achieve the highest levels and thoroughly analysed which pupils were underachieving, particularly in English and mathematics, and why.”  

Having read around the subject it appears there is a “no excuse” campaign going on.  Social deprivation, familial background, home situation, low attendance and level of need are not excuses (see 2013 presentation by OFSTED here).

In short, the pressure is on…

Photo Credit: Jack Zalium via Compfight cc

What can we do in MFL?

There are a lot of questions below designed to provoke thought and hopefully action.

Photo Credit: youflavio via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: youflavio via Compfight cc

Data tracking – Analysing data has become a necessary part of the job.  Whilst we may find it tedious, it is a means to an end.  The end should be answering the following kinds of questions:

  • Are your pupil premium students where they should be?
  • Are they attaining in line with their targets (grades 5-9, positive progress 8 score, FFTD, or whatever you use)?
  • If they are not attaining then you need to be asking why?
  • Is the underachievement isolated to MFL or is it more widespread?
  • Where are they achieving?  Why?
  • How can you use that knowledge to your advantage? What has that teacher or department done?  What are they currently doing?
  • Could another member of staff give a pupil a bit of encouragement that causes them to see your subject differently?  Is their tutor/head of year/achievement leader (or whatever your school calls the role) pushing them to achieve in all subject areas?

Targeted Questioning  

Some teachers would advocate a system of no-hands-up whereby any questions are directed at PP students first and then at other key groups (underachievers, more able, SEND, disengaged boys).  On a seating plan I do have key individuals highlighted and will more often direct my questions towards them.

Others might add on to this the idea of “no opt out” where the kid is not allowed to say “I don’t know”.  It is entirely up to you how to run your classroom.

Quality first marking/feedback.

A suggestion from another school was to mark all PP books first in the pile as you are freshest and most alert.  It is hard to dispute the logic if that is true for you.  Personally, I find my marking gets better after the first three or so.  I would need to adapt that strategy slightly.  I do have some issue with the ethics of this approach, as every student should be receiving decent feedback from me.  There are also students out there who may not be in receipt of the Pupil Premium but actually fighting battles at home on a par with, or worse than those who are classified as disadvantaged.  It is up to you as a teacher to differentiate accordingly.

Seating plans – Some of my colleagues advocate seating all PP students in the same seat in their room so they always know who they are.  Others advocate sitting them at the front of your classroom to enable them to seek help.  Yet more suggest surrounding them with pupils who can positively influence them.  It is up to you as a teacher to decide and you probably have your own views, but we have to know who they are and we have to be able to answer the question: how are you catering for their needs?

Strengths/weaknesses analysis – this was quite a useful exercise with my year 11s.  Looking at the data I had, their performance in class and their books.  What are their strengths and weaknesses as far as language learning was concerned?  Do they know what their strengths are?  Are they playing to them and working on their weaknesses?  One of the issues with the new GCSE is the many elements: speaking, listening, reading, writing, translations, photocards, roleplays, target language questions, target language answers, 40 words, 90 words and 150 words.  What bits are they doing well?  What do they need support with?  I have seen teachers on some MFL Facebook groups looking for “quick wins”.  Actually, could it be a case of looking at the individual pupils and picking one area they need to develop that is going to make the most telling difference in terms of marks?

Resourcing in school – This could be hotly debated and there is a strong argument from both sides.  Lend them equipment or don’t lend them equipment, it’s up to you.  Similarly the  issue is the same with books, do you let them take it home?  Much also depends on the individual pupil.  For some pupils you will never see the book or pen again, others will have it back in the subsequent lesson.  Perhaps for those who persistently struggle the school could supply a pencil case that could be picked up from a central point and returned at the end of the day?  Rewards could also be used to ensure its return.

Bought resources

  • Revision guides?
    • A note on guides – having examined a few I am leaning towards CGP.  I just feel their explanations and layout are more accessible.
  • Revision workbooks?
    • Some exam boards offer these full of past paper style questions.
  • Photocopiable booklets from TES?
  • Learning websites such as samlearning.com and Vocabexpress.
  • Twilight sessions.
  • Revision sheets with QR codes containing links to good sites.
  • MFL revision conferences (one school in Peterborough did this – found via google)
  • Half-term revision sessions.

With all of this there is a caveat: you need to evaluate how effective and helpful it was.  This is very much something OFSTED and the DofE are looking at.  It is no longer simply a question of how are you using the money.  The assumption is you are using it; the question is what effect is it having?

Resourcing the student with strategies and techniques

Do your PP students know how to revise effectively?  I hear from year 11s various comments on learning styles and about highlighters and gel pens however the research shows these to be largely ineffective.  If you are curious about how to make revision more effective then I suggest the following:

The Guardian – The Science of Revision – excellent article with links and research to back up.

EverydayMFL – GCSE Revision – Here’s one I made earlier, nothing like a bit of shameless self-promotion!

Classteaching – quality advice and backed up by research.

Anything to prevent the eventuality below:

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Relationship – Some students need someone to believe in them in spite of their home background.  They need that person who sees them for who they are and what they can become.  They need someone who sees them as a work in progress and who will not give up on them.  They need you to be the person who appreciates them just as they are, but cares too much to leave them that way.  I am not saying you have to be their best buddy but you can be the role-model, support and guide to life that they have lacked.

“Carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

Photo Credit: Macro-roni via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Macro-roni via Compfight cc

Teaching Assistants – Teaching assistants can be the unsung heroes and heroines of your classroom if deployed properly.  These are the questions you need to be thinking through:

If you have one then what is their remit in your classroom?

  • Do you direct them or leave them to it
  • Do they have a seating plan and know who they are meant to work with?
  • Do they have an order of pupils?
  • Could you promote independence by asking TA to move on after 1-2 minutes with a student?
  • Do they elicit or explain?
  • Do they guide to the answer or give the answer?
  • How well resourced is your TA?  Do they have your schemes of work?  Do they see a lesson plan or do you brief them on what is going to be taught?
  • Who is working harder: your PP student or your TA?
  • Could you get some planning time with a TA attached to a particular student?

Parents – Not all PP students have difficult family situations so get the parents onside.  Be careful not to patronise.  It is very easy to assume certain things when the label PP is on a seating plan or class list.  Parents evening is an excellent opportunity to build relationships, develop that link between school and home and facilitate learning and progress.  One parent recently asked me “what can they be doing outside of school as I don’t speak any languages?”  2-3 minutes later she left armed with strategies and places to find resources to help.  In terms of cost, it was minimal but there is a huge potential yield.

Marking Meetings – One of my colleagues recently suggested this at a meeting.  I’m quite keen to try it.  It used to be the norm when I was in school.  Certain teachers would call you up to their desk and go through your book marking it with you while the class were working their way through exercises. Would a pupil premium student benefit from some live feedback and a discussion of misconceptions?  Equally, this could apply to all pupils but if you’re going to work through a group, why not start with some PP students?

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Any great ideas?  Leave them in the comments section below!