In tonight’s chat we discussed motivation in MFL including the barriers to it and what we do to raise it. There were some interesting points raised and questions asked on the topic and the following is my best attempt at summarising it all whilst only using my iPad rather than the full editor on the computer.
The main barriers to motivation in MFL that we discussed were:
When I started my current role as Second in Department, Curriculum Leader for Spanish our main concern was the lack of motivation our students had for studying languages. It was compulsory for them to take at least one language for GCSE but we had a fair few students who were disengaged and just didn’t see the benefit of learning another language. Seeing this I decided to focus on the influence of the extended curriculum on student motivation to study MFL for my MA Education dissertation, I blogged about it here. Then in April I attended some training with a couple of colleagues where a speaker talked about projects in MFL and it sparked a re-vamp of our schemes of work to see what we could do to motivate our students. The following blog is a summary of what we have done, how it’s been going and what we need to be doing differently in the future.
The first thing we did was decide which of the projects we had heard about we wanted to include in our schemes of work and for which year groups. I then planned these into the schemes of work, with the aim of the projects running alongside our normal curriculum. I will briefly explain the projects below, but I cannot take credit for any of the ideas.
Eurovision (Year 7 and Year 8 Beginners) - Learn a verse or two of a song in Spanish / French, perform as a class, film and older classes vote on a winner. We chose this as a fun interdiction to the language, the way it sounds and (depending on song choice) the culture too. This one went down fairly well and was a good way for year 7 forms to get to know eachother at the start of the year. The year 8 beginners weren’t so into it and I would consider removing it for them next year.
Spelling Bee - Adapted from the Routes into Languages resources we run this with year 7 and year 8 beginners. With rounds in class to find the best in the form, in the school hall to find the best in the year and then a local competition against other schools to add an extra level to it. We even integrated it with our school house system this year to try and get even more students engaged. This has been a great way of showing year 7 how important it is to learn their alphabet and vocabulary early on. For the most part I think they have enjoyed it but some responses to student surveys have shown that some felt that it put them under pressure to perform in front of their peers.
Translation Bee - very similar to the above but for year 8 continuers (those who started the language in year 7). These are harder to engage than the year 7 students, but this is the first year. I hope once this is something they’re used to doing it will become part of what learning MFL is out our school.
Over the last half term I have been working on improving vocabulary retention amongst my year 11 classes. I started by asking them to respond to a survey which asked them to reflect on vocabulary learning. How easy they find it, how often they do it and the types of words they were revising. I then spoke to them about interleaving, spaced practice and Ebbinghaus forgetting curve and explained how they could help themselves by changing their vocabulary learning habits. I also introduced the use of retrieval practice grids, as shown below:
These grids are intended to show students the range of vocabulary they need to know from across the GCSE course and test how well they can remember them. I was hoping for two things, that testing students on such a range of vocabulary might prompt them to realise how much they needed to revise and also that the testing itself would help their learning. Student reactions to these grids have been good on the whole. The majority of students have noted that the grids are really challenging but that they were showing them what they needed to revise more. Some students have requested that we do these at the start of every lesson.
I have asked students to complete the same survey again two or three weeks after the first time, and here are the main results to compare (apologies for the lack of numbers on the charts)
An interesting change here in student perceptions of the difficulty of vocabulary learning. I’m not quite sure what to take from it, were they overconfident before?
A positive result, many students are studying vocabulary more frequently than before, now with some students saying they even study their vocabulary everyday which is a great improvement. I’m hoping they are taking my advice and using the Quizlet app on the bus maybe.
I’ve also seen quite a change in the words they are revising, with students focusing less on the words they are expecting to be tested on soon and more and more focusing on things they learned a long time ago.
I’ve been collecting in scores for the grids, between the first and second grid each student went up on average by 1.5, by the third grid students scores had gone up by around 5 marks. I’m not going to claim that this could be replicated elsewhere as I’ve not done it in a hugely scientific manner, but it’s enough for me to see something positive and suggest we might be doing the right thing.
I’m really pleased with what I am seeing so far, and hope to start to move this method further down the school. If I can show younger students the difference it is making for year 11 maybe that will start to convince them. I know other people out there are trying similar methods, so please let me know how you’re getting on by commenting below.
On Wednesday 7th March we discussed grammar teaching.
Interesting comments included:
Other comments noted the difficulty of implicitly teaching grammar and that they tended to teach grammar more explicitly to older students.
We also discussed what implicit and explicit grammar teaching combined might look like. I thought this was a particularly important point and maybe an idea to try:
We also discussed the importance of carefully sequencing how grammar is introduced and how some popular course books don't always do this in the best way.
One final, but important point to consider:
Next week we have a number of options. Pick your favourite and feel free to let me know your suggestions for the future.