With the new focus at GCSE level to facilitate the Ebacc group of subjects, learning a foreign language is becoming more and more important. At South Charnwood we focus on French as we have teachers who are specialists in that language. We also recognise the importance that learning a language has in the world of work and the doors that can be opened because of it. There is a national shortage of linguists and anyone who can express themselves in another language will know what confidence that can bring.
In Year 7, all pupils learn French in mixed ability tutor groups. They follow the “Expo” course (book 1) to ensure that key details are studied, but there is a wide variety of ‘branches’ off the main course. For example, some topics may be skimmed over quickly to gain the key language for the assessment; while some, more interesting areas are expanded into mini-projects. In Years 8 and 9, pupils are put into ability groups and begin by continuing differentiated versions of the Expo course before moving on to work on extended projects that bring together and put into action the key grammar they have come across so far; write their autobiography and study the world of sport. In Years 10 and 11 the pupils continue to follow the “Expo for AQA GCSE” course and broaden their horizons ready for the controlled written and spoken assessments that take place during the year and final listening and reading exams.
The courses are all designed to reduce the amount of vocabulary and rote learning and focus on key grammatical points, giving each one a context on which to ‘hang’ the language. An example is the subject of food and drink: the purpose of this is not to learn a large amount of different foods and drinks but to show that you can take part in a role-play and use conversational and transactional language. The four skills we study in French are listening, speaking, reading and writing and a combination of these is usually planned into lessons, unless there is a focus on one in particular. Gifted pupils can expect extension work to really push them, sometimes including ‘realia’ gathered from genuine French sources. Any pupils in need of a little extra help are guaranteed carefully differentiated work and only have to ask their teacher for support. We track and monitor pupils from when they start at South Charnwood to ensure everyone reaches his or her potential and intervene in cases of underachievement.
Each pupil receives two books at the beginning of the year. The green book is for neat work and should be used for revision. This work will be marked by teachers, constructive feedback given and targets set. It also contains a chart to show progress in the four skills during the year. The purple book is for planning, rough work and games. This is not normally marked except to check rough drafts. ICT work is either displayed on the classroom wall, used as project work or stuck into exercise books. Not all ICT work leads to printed paper, however; we often use the online suite “Linguascope” to support language learning and all pupils receive a username and password so they can use this at home or in ICT rooms in school. The impact of ICT is also evident in our classrooms, equipped with interactive whiteboards for group discussion work, games and explaining languages. We have video and audio recording equipment for presentations as well as assessed pieces of work.
Homework is either learning key language ready for the next assessment, or there may be a written task to complete and hand in. If no formal homework is set, pupils should practise using Linguascope. Assessments either comprise listening, reading and writing tests or a one-on-one speaking ‘exam’. Later in Year 9, the pupils’ autobiographies are the actual assessments, written over a number of lessons, judged and bound together to show off! We hope most pupils will choose to continue learning a language to GCSE level and beyond but, if not, this project demonstrates the high levels attained at Key Stage 3.
Members of the department, in conjunction with the Humanities department, also organise a popular trip to France in Year 7. This includes a visit to the battlefields of the First World War, a tour of the local area (Rue), a visit to a market (Berck) and a task to complete there, activities at the Château in which we stay (Le Château du Broutel), a disco, a visit to a chocolate factory (Beusson) and a trip to Disneyland (Paris)!