This term we have started the long process of raising the profile of languages in our school. We're trying to put on more activities, revamp the way we are teaching and generally promote the importance of languages throughout the school.
My MA dissertation was on the theme of the extended curriculum and how it helps to motivate students to learn languages, so of course this is a topic that I'm very interested in. I've tried to apply some of what I have learned completing the dissertation to help us, and I think it may be starting to have an impact. A teacher from another department sat next to me the other day and said 'you're doing a lot in languages these days, aren't you?' and that was enough to give me the hope that we've made a start.
The dissertation research showed me that showing students how languages were specifically relevant to them is key to their motivation, or finding a way to indirectly attract their interest. Interest could be sparked in different ways. Some students would be motivated to learn a language in order to integrate with native communities, but others would want to learn a language for the personal gains the academic qualification could potentially afford them in the future.
With this in mind I began considering what types of activities students would find motivating. Comments from students showed that although trips abroad attracted students to studying MFL it wasn't always for learning the language - trips were seen as more of a jolly than a learning experience. I looked into the range of opportunities offered by other schools and began to apply this to what we do ourselves.
Over the term we have introduced a variety of activities, and brought back those that had faded over time. We now have a partnership with a Spanish school that 160+ students from all year groups of our school are now writing to, including brand new year 7s and Sixth Form students who no longer study languages. On our next trip to Spain we will be taking year 11 and 13 students to visit the school, and hope that one day an exchange will grow from it. We also intend to start a lunch time session where Sixth Formers who no longer study a language can learn conversational or business French/Spanish with our FLAs.
We held a French exchange with a local boys' school and have a French penpal exchange starting up.
We have brought back the Spelling and Translation Bees organised by Routes into Languages, and whilst it hasn't quite hit the spot for year 9 it has really sparked some enthusiasm in year 7 that we hope to harness in the future. The year 7s have also been loving lunchtime clubs run by our language assistants where they are learning about the language and culture of the countries that speak the language they are learning.
We have visited Essex University for an evening for a taster event, whilst we didn't attract as many students as we would have liked, we had 26 which was certainly more than we could have expected a while ago.
Not everything has been so sucessful though, we have a lot of musical talent in our school so I thought I'd tap into that with an MFL choir. I had two sign ups...!
Althouh this is a start to raising the profile of MFL in our school, we of course need to maintain this and see it reflected in our numbers at GCSE and A Level. I don't think there's a miracle cure, but if anyone else does then please let me know!