Modern Foreign Languages
At RSA the MFL department’s priority is to develop a love of language learning for all our students by giving our students an insight into different cultures. We encourage their ability to foster respect, curiosity and kindness towards different cultures and the people within them. We enrich pupils’ MFL experience by organizing cultural trips abroad and language events in school such as, a four-day trip to Barcelona and a long weekend to Lille Christmas markets. We believe that by giving our pupils context to where the languages are spoken, we can improve engagement and enthusiasm for foreign language learning. We equip all our students with the knowledge and skills to thrive and excel in their language learning journey and ensure that no pupil is left behind. We are passionate about creating learners who understand the opportunities that learning a foreign language can lead to and we hope to make them aware of the things they can achieve through speaking multiple languages.
‘The limit of my language means the limits of my world’.
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
What are the minimum expectations of the National Curriculum/Exam specification?
Key Stage 3:
According to the national curriculum, pupils should:
- understand and respond to spoken and written language from a variety of resources
- speak with increasing confidence, fluency and spontaneity
- improve the accuracy of their pronunciation and intonation
- write at varying length, for different purposes and audiences
- use the variety of grammatical structures that they have learnt
- discover and develop an appreciation of a range of writing in the language studied
Key Stage 4:
According to the national curriculum, pupils should:
- build on the foundations they have developed at KS3 in speaking to enable them to communicate confidently and coherently in speech and writing, with increasing accuracy
- express and develop thoughts and ideas spontaneously and fluently
- listen to and understand clearly articulated, standard speech at near normal speed
- deepen their knowledge about how language works and enrich their vocabulary in
- respond to a rich range of authentic spoken and written material, including literary texts
- develop awareness and understanding of the culture and identity of the countries and communities where the language is spoken
- develop language learning skills both for immediate use and to prepare them for further language study and use in school, higher education or in employment
How is the curriculum sequenced to help students know more and remember more over time?
Mastery of languages is achieved through an intricate knowledge of grammar, the four language skills and the manipulation of new/unseen language independently. Core vocabulary and grammatical structures are repeatedly tested and recycled in lessons to ensure vocabulary is transferred to the pupil’s long-term memory. This is done through knowledge drill, knowledge organizer recall practice, Language Nut tasks and questioning in class.
In 2021 we reintroduced French to the KS3 curriculum in order to provide our pupils with a deeper and more varied experience of language learning. Pupils start the year studying French which will coincide with a Christmas Market trip to Lille in 2022 and study Spanish in the Spring and Summer term to coincide with a Barcelona trip in June.
Year 7: 2 MFL lessons per week
French (September – February)
Spanish (February – July)
Year 8: 2 MFL lessons per week
French (September – February)
Spanish (February – July)
Year 9: 2 hours of Spanish per week
Year 10 and Year 11: 5 lessons of Spanish per fortnight
The overarching aim is to ensure that our students can achieve the following skills:
- Understand and respond to spoken and written language from a variety of authentic sources
- Speak with increasing confidence, fluency and spontaneity, finding ways of communicating what they want to say, including through discussion and asking questions while continually improving the accuracy of their pronunciation and intonation
- Write at varying length, for different purposes and audiences, using the variety of grammatical structures that they have learnt
- Provide our students with cultural experiences, not only teaching them to learn a new language but also appreciate the culture and enhance their cultural capital
- Develop skills to recall vocabulary and improve pronunciation using correct phonics
As a department we have a carefully planned progression through our curriculum with content and skills clearly defined in our schemes of work which revisit and build on existing knowledge. We teach grammatical structures, syntax and vocabulary; using the correct terminology and making explicit links to English and other foreign languages’ grammatical structures and vocabulary.
Addressing the curriculum
Students begin their journey in the Spanish curriculum by learning the essential language structures in year 7 and this should provide students with a fun introduction to learning a new language. Students develop their speaking and listening skills through chants, singing and role-play in addition to completing listening and writing tasks. This provides a foundation for future learning and helps to foster a love and appreciation for languages.
As students move into year 8, they begin to learn more about the grammatical structures of Spanish and consolidate their learning from year 7 through regular low-stakes testing and revision of key vocabulary. This learning is both consolidated by the revision of essential structures, and expanded with the introduction and acquisition of new language, again through a variety of compelling and cultural contexts.
The Spanish curriculum in year 9 aims to prepare all learners for GCSE Spanish and works towards embedding and consolidating skills from key stage 3.
At key stage 4, the Spanish curriculum covers all topics taught on both the higher and foundation tier papers with revision built into the curriculum. Students are encouraged to complete independent revision and study from the beginning of the course to enable them to consolidate and embed key vocabulary. Through clear differentiation, the curriculum is designed to stretch and challenge the most able students but to also support those with SEN and who are disadvantaged.
What pedagogical approaches are used to ensure high quality learning takes place?
We aim to follow the Conti method whereby exposure to as much target language is essential not only by using target language in lesson but by modelling the core vocabulary orally as much as possible to aid vocabulary acquisition. We consistently use a communicative approach to planning lessons with a use of sentence builders and knowledge organisers to help build confidence and set the foundations for becoming independent linguists. Since hosting a CPD session with Gianfranco Conti at RSA, we have been experimenting with his methods in our lesson planning. By following these methods, we ensure full engagement from students of all abilities with clear progression from one lesson to the next.
How are you teaching literacy through your subject?
Reading is one of the core skills embedded in all our lessons. Students must be able to read texts and decipher meaning as well as translate into English. We use a mixture of texts designed for language learners as well as authentic material to expose students to a higher level. In KS4 we use the Viva Higher textbook due to it’s excellent links to cultural knowledge and it’s use of authentic texts for exam practice. Students are routinely asked to read out loud in partners or in front of the class to practice oracy and allow them to gain confidence in using the language.
How do you ensure that the needs of ALL learners are met?
- Regular low stakes testing through Language Nut and Microsoft Forms
- Teachers teach to the top and scaffold activities to support students in achieving mastery of each key skill
- Lessons are fully differentiated to meet each learners needs and are well supported by learning environments that offer both support and challenge
- We teach with a strong focus on vocabulary learning and interleaved vocabulary testing which is supported by Language Nut
- All students have access to Knowledge Organisers in their exercise books as well as on Teams to refer to at home
- All students have access to Language Nut which is a platform that allows students to complete tasks at their own pace and students can revisit tasks to improve their score as they learn from mistakes
- A TA is available to support students in lesson. The TA is always provided with an answer sheet so that they feel confident in supporting students out of their subject specialism
- High achieving students in KS3 are given GCSE exam questions as challenge tasks
- We use questioning to allow more able students to model answers and then use recall to allow weaker students to process new information and use the high attainer’s answer as a model and respond
- All teachers have access to a visualizer to model tasks and creat ‘live models’ to support weaker students
Assessment and feedback
- Progress and attainment data is collected three times a year from the exams sat in December, March and July. Exam questions are interleaved from the course content studied to date. Prior to assessment, students revisit and revise, all material covered since the start of their course.
- Interim assessments take place each half term and are alternated between reading, speaking, listening and writing assessments
- Learners take part in regular knowledge drills during starter activities
- Learners complete homework on Language Nut which provides students with instant feedback allowing them to reflect, improve and test themselves again
- Each half term, learners receive feedback via a coding strategy that allows students time to reflect and self-diagnose strengths and targets
- Whole class feedback is used to provide pupils with the opportunity to reflect on their weaknesses and strengths
- Students have access to online learning platforms (Language Nut) and each class teacher sets extra learning opportunities and monitors evidence of engagement weekly
In the MFL department all our homework tasks are set with an aim to practice and memorise core vocabulary. The vocabulary set is in line with the curriculum map.
KS3- Vocabulary focused homework is set on Language Nut fortnightly. Students are able to learn, practice and self-assess their vocabulary learning within the Language Nut platform that gives them instant feedback. At the end of the two weeks there is a vocabulary test in lesson where the students will be tested on 20 vocabulary items from the Language Nut tasks. This data is collected and used to track progress inform planning.
KS4 – Vocabulary focused homework is set on Language Nut or Teams and then tested in lesson during Knowledge Drills. A reading exam style question is also set once a week as homework.
What opportunities are offered to enrich the cultural capital of ALL learners?
Cultural awareness and enrichment opportunities are embedded into the curriculum, offering learners a broader experience of Spanish and the countries where it is spoken. In KS3 every last week of half term there is a cultural focus linked to Spain or Hispanic culture such as ‘El Dia de los Muertos’. Online platforms are also used to support the enrichment of cultural capital using authentic videos and music from websites such as; TeachVid and Lyrics Trainer. The MFL department has organised trips to both France and Spain to allow students the opportunity to experience different cultures first-hand which always has a positive impact on student engagement and their relationship with languages. We celebrate ‘European Day of Languages’ with several language challenges for KS3 and the Student Leadership team prepare and present an assembly to KS3 about the importance of studying a foreign language pulling on their own experiences.
How do you ensure the transition to KS4 is successful in a progressive model over 5 years?
The topic areas and grammatical structures which are introduced at KS3, are seen as building blocks for more in-depth learning at KS4 and the use of IT programmes such as Language Nut are well-established for reinforcing newly acquired knowledge or for setting lagged homework for supporting longer term memory.
The topics that are studied in KS3 mirror the three themes which are studied at GCSE. By the end of KS3 students are aware of the key components in a GCSE speaking exam; role play, photo card and general conversation. We ensure that students have ample practice of exams so that when they arrive at GCSE they are familiar with the process.
To promote careers within languages, Year 9 have a topic at the start of the year which looks at careers. We use this topic as an opportunity to have discussions about what careers are available to linguists and what are the necessary qualifications.
What is the subject offer for blended learning?
Knowledge organisers and schemes of work are available to the students on Microsoft Teams. For each unit of work, there are key resources, assignments and activities set through Microsoft Teams where student progress can be tracked and monitored. As a department, we also utilise the online learning platform ‘Language Nut’ which really focuses on knowledge retention and revision, providing teachers with an extensive report on student engagement, knowledge and allows students to work at their own pace according to their ability. The MFL department also uses the website, ‘Oak National Academy,’ to help support students when they have been absent or need further support on a grammar point or topic.
How do you ensure staff development in your curriculum area?
All MFL staff are expected to make a positive contribution to departmental developments and to stay well read about current pedagogies and practices to support excellence in teaching and learning with and maintain a strong sense of scholarship. Staff development and ambition is supported through engagement with AQA training resources, planning educational visits and extra-curricular events. All staff complete a subject knowledge audit at the start of the year to assess what CPD is needed within the department.
Impact of the MFL curriculum is measured through data produced at each key assessment point and through external assessments. The quality of work produced is of consistently high quality and results are in line with national average.
Thanks to our Conti approach to the MFL curriculum, students can begin to see progress in their Spanish abilities every lesson. All MFL staff use praise and rewards routinely in lessons which fosters a love of language learning and sense of achievement. Through this approach the pupils grow resilience and communication skills within in all four language skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking. We believe that it is these skills that represent a competent linguist; the willingness to make mistakes, learn from them and try again.
MFL staff routinely discuss with pupils the different pathways that are available to linguists, and we have students who continue their MFL studies to A-Level with a view of continuing their language learning at university. The MFL staff at RSA have a rich experience of different careers abroad which inspire students to consider different options.
MFL is a subject that offers many opportunities for building on students’ cultural capital, and we make the most of this by ensuring that our curriculum map allows for ample study of Hispanic and French culture. The Barcelona trip is exceptionally popular, and we believe this is due to the curiosity and interest we foster in languages from Year 7.
We ensure that our intent is being achieved by using termly interleaved assessments which monitor the progress and engagement of our pupils with the curriculum. We can also measure our success within the department with our positive uptake of MFL trips and activities within school. Through our range of enrichment offers we will be able to see culturally curious pupils who respect and want to learn about foreign languages and the cultures where they are spoken.
Consistency within the department will be monitored though work scrutinies from a range of different pupils including SEN and PP pupils. This will ensure that all teachers are routinely using knowledge organisers to support pupils, providing effective, targeted feedback and upholding a high standard of presentation. Lesson observations, learning walks and pupil voice will be established to ensure that high quality teaching is taking place across the subject.
We use our data from fortnightly vocabulary tests with our half termly assessment data to analyse our pupils progress and to ensure that successful teaching has taken place. It also allows for teachers to address gaps in knowledge before moving on the next topic.