A blank canvas
There’s a new school opening nearby next September and it’s got me thinking about what I would do if I were to be designing a year 7 Spanish curriculum from scratch. They plan on offering four hours a week of Spanish, so I’ve worked on that basis seeing as I’m writing about my ideal curriculum. I know this is a lot more generous than most of us get though.
I’d be really interested in hearing other people’s views on this, both from MFL specialists and teachers of other subjects.
What would I want them to know by the end of the year?
By the end of year 7 I’d like students to have an understanding of some key grammar points – articles, spelling rules such as forming plurals, adjective agreement, word order, regular present tense and some irregulars. I’d also like them to understand the immediate future and potentially have been introduced to the preterite. I’d like students to be able to express their opinion using more variety than just ‘me gusta’ and adjectives that are more interesting than divertido and aburrido. I think this sort of foundation would equip them with the language learning skills that would be the building blocks for later years.
What do I want them to get out of it?
I want students to be able to use the language to talk about the things they want to talk about, beyond their classroom and their pets. I’d like them to understand something about where the language is spoken in the world and how it might help them in the future. I want them to get satisfaction from their language learning, a balance of achievement and challenge.
What resources would I use?
I really believe that when well-constructed and used well a textbook can be a great thing. The textbooks I’ve come across so far however, leave a lot to be desired in terms of teaching exciting language and topics that students are interested in. That said, I’ve just been looking at something fairly new that looks like it would tick a lot of the boxes for me.
In addition to the textbook I’d like students to be introduced to lots of reading and listening texts that are accessible to them but that include more complex language. At this stage I wouldn’t expect them to understand the formation of these tenses but an early recognition of them and potential to use them as set phrases would be useful for when they’re introduced in the future.
What would lessons look like?
This is where I think things could be very similar to my current practice (blog coming soon on that topic). Lessons would start by reviewing previous learning, maybe from the previous lesson or further back. Then students would be introduced to the new concept to be learned via a text. The concept would then be explained so that students have an understanding on the grammar rules. Over the course of this lesson and the following students would practice this concept in a variety of ways, first for recognition and understanding before being expected to produce the language themselves. Over time, texts used in class would use all of these concepts so that students are seeing the same language recycled again and again rather than learning them as individual units that aren’t returned to.
Homework would make regular use of resources such as Quizlet, Quizziz and Google Forms for learning and testing vocabulary and grammar as opposed to reading/writing that would need marking.
Extra curricular activities.
In my previous school I really focused on the extra curricular as a way of motivating students. Some of my favourite activities were the Spelling and Translation Bees, LinguaMaths and a singing competition. What I was most proud of however, was the penpal project which eventually involved more than 150 students from different year groups. Giving students the opportunity to communicate with students their own age who were learning English was something I definitely would want to do again. The only issue was when a year seven wouldn’t know what to write, as they thought their penpal probably wouldn’t be interested in what was in their classroom or pencil case – a fair point I’d say.
I don’t think there is anything groundbreaking in what I’ve said, and there’s certainly nothing in there that some schools aren’t already doing really well. I’ve just magpied the best bits of what I’ve seen and heard around. I do think it’s the type of thing you can only really do when starting from scratch and establishing something new though, not that can be implemented in an already established department unless everyone is totally on board with it. Clearly there is still a lot more to consider, target language, assessment and more. I’d be interested to hear what you think.