Embracing Challenge – What we’ve learned so far.

This year Challenge is one of our main areas of focus in terms of Teaching and Learning. It is something we have really embraced in MFL, in fact, we were planning new schemes of work for Key Stage Three before the focus was even announced. Whilst I can’t say that I am speaking on behalf of the whole faculty, my reflections in the following blog post will show how we have taken this focus on board in Spanish.

As I mentioned before, we were already re-working the schemes of work before the focus on challenge was announced. I was already convinced that year seven were capable of much more than the simple introductions etc that the first chapter of the textbook was allowing them to learn. Add to this that it felt as if year eight and nine were not prepared for what learning a language was really all about, meaning that by year ten they just weren’t as ready as they could be for GCSE study.

During the Summer term I re-worked our schemes so that there was more challenging linguistic content in every module, as well as frequent repetition of the key structures that students needed to know. My colleague suggested we use a list of non-negotiables that we agreed students needed to have grasped by the end of year seven and eight. These structures should come up time and time again across all the modules to be studied.

Having seen some impressive work being produced by year sevens and shared on Twitter, I decided to start with the School topic. I did this for two reasons, one linguistic – they’d quickly be introduced to many of the concepts they need to know – nouns and articles, adjective agreement, opinions, connectives and regular verbs. The other was that being new to the school, students in year seven might be keen to give their opinions and talk about their new classes.

As far as I’m concerned (and feedback from colleagues teaching year seven Spanish echos this), it’s going really well. Students are coming to lessons expecting to work hard, practice language and really having to think. They don’t just expect to come along and play some games to learn a list of nouns. One thing that really made it for me was when a colleague proudly showed me a piece of writing a year 7 had produced, way above and beyond our usual expectations. So impressive and really promising.

During our open mornings I told all the tour groups that visited my room how pleased I was with year seven, and the hopes I have for them in year eight/nine/ten if they kept going the way they currently are. I wasn’t exaggerating when I told them that the work year seven are doing is the hardest I’ve ever set at their stage and I wasn’t lying when I said I’d got them reading texts that I’d have previously used in year nine. I genuinely was over the moon with how well they were getting on with everything we put in front of them.

It’s not all been easy, there have been a lot of resources to make/find/adapt and we can’t just follow a textbook like we might have done in the past. It’s been a big change for some. However, so far, so good. I’m seeing it as a great opportunity to put into practice all the kinds of things we talk about on #MFLChat or that I’ve been reading about and to share this with the rest of the department.

Of course, only time will tell. They will do their first assessments over the next couple of weeks so at that point we will see what they have really retained. But so far I’m confident, hopeful and excited for the challenges they are going to tackle next.

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