Having read Mark Ensor's tweet and blog I thought I'd have a go at writing about what a typical lesson looks like for me and why I do the things I do. I thought this would be a productive exercise, not only for sharing the way I choose to do things, but also as a reflection for myself, a chance to really question what I do.
I'm going to think of a typical lesson with my year 7 Spanish class. This class have 7 hours of Spanish a fortnight (yes, I know we're very lucky) and started in September. There is nothing new in what I'm about to say. It's all been magpied and adapted for my own use from various blogs, talks, books, observations etc.
Lately, I've been starting every lesson with a chance for 2 or 3 students to present on an element of Hispanic culture that they've researched. We've had lots of different festivals, some historical events and some traditions. I think it's really important that students get to see the language beyond the classroom and really appreciate how widespread it is. These presentations aren't always the most accurate, although I am also using it as an opportunity to talk to students about good internet research and fact-checking. My aim isn't for all students to be able to retain knowledge of these presentations, just for them to have a flavour of the culture of the language they're studying. I only spend 5/10 minutes on these, and we don't do them every lesson.
What happens next depends on what we have been doing recently. Take for instance the free time/ my town topic. I might then test some vocabulary that students have learned for homework. I don't spend long on vocabulary drilling in class, I don't see it to be that beneficial, especially as I am working with motivated students who will (mostly) spend the time on it at home. I might ask students to test each other, we might do it on mini-whiteboards, individual questioning or it could be through whole class call and response.
Following this, and assuming this has shown that the students are at least familiar with the vocabulary, we will look at a written text. This text will feature the vocabulary we have just revised as well as unknown vocabulary, usually cognates or other items of vocabulary that I think the students can figure out from patterns. If our objective is to learn how to form the future tense, for instance, this text will include familiar features such as the present tense, and plenty of examples of the future tense. I first ask the students to read the text aloud, focusing on pronunciation over meaning to begin with. They might choose to highlight anything they're unsure of to come back to afterwards. Then I'll ask the students if they have an idea of the gist of the text.
Next I'll tell students that we are aiming to learn about the future tense and that I'd like them to find examples in the text. I might ask them just to highlight them, write them out and translate them into English or discuss them in pairs (where are they, what do they mean, how might they be formed).
Once the students have found examples of the grammatical feature I want them to work on I'll do a short explanation of how to form it, students will take notes in their books (they have one for work and another for vocabulary and grammar notes).
After they've made notes, students will translate some sentences from Spanish to English (If they didn't already do this with the text) and English to Spanish to check that they have understood and are able to apply these new rules. They can use their notes for this. They are encouraged to self-quiz as part of their homework periodically. For example, writing the following test for themselves:
1) I am going to eat
2) I am going to go
3) We are going to watch
4) They are going to play
5) You are going to listen
They should then mark this using their resources and then repeat with the ones they got wrong, adding more difficult items as they go.
Students will then do some speaking to practice this new structure, for example a survey asking each other what they are going to do this weekend, or a quiz quiz trade activity which practices their pronunciation and translation, but isn't as good for spontaneous speech. Students would be encouraged to include their previous learning, in this case opinions on free time, frequencies, maybe other people's opinions.
At the end of the lesson I would get students to explain the grammar point to a partner, test each other with short phrases to translate, write their best sentence using it and get a peer to check with their resources, or a similar activity that uses the new structure or has them reflect on their understanding of it.
Following this their homework might be to do some writing using the new feature, test themselves on it (in books or on quizlet - evidence must be shown next lesson), a grammar worksheet or a reading comprehension.
Looking at this lesson now I realise it's actually quite hard to describe a typical MFL lesson because it depends what stage we're at. Some lessons will lend themselves more to particular skills than others, lessons where students are practicing structures they have previously learned will be different to the one I've described where they're learning a new one. Clearly it will also depend on the class too, the class I have based this on are really motivated to learn Spanish and seem to take on any challenge I throw at them, more than any other year 7 I've had before. I'm hoping this has something to do with the change of approach I've had with them this year, but only time will tell I suppose. There are similarities but certainly differences too in the way I teacher year 10/11, maybe I'll blog that another time.
I'm bracing myself for someone to tell me they think I'm doing it all wrong, and please do. If you've seen any of my previous blogs you'll hopefully realise I'm open to changing and adapting new ideas. If I can see how something might work well, I'll give it a go.