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Showing posts from July, 2014

Jacqui Turner on the new MFL A-levels

 Jacqui Turner is an experienced, practising teacher of A-level French. She kindly sent me her  views on the draft subject content being proposed for the new MFL A-levels to be taught from September 2016. She writes: Steve has written extensively about the proposed changes and new forms of assessment, so I don’t intend to repeat those here. Rather this is a personal reaction, from a teacher who has extensive knowledge and experience of teaching A Level and supporting practitioners in other schools. I’ve deliberated for quite some time about this post before putting pen to paper, so to speak, because my first response is actually one of disappointment over a number of issues. Firstly, I was somewhat dismayed over the makeup of the group putting forward these new recommendations. There was no representation from the examination boards; I consider this to be a major oversight, as there seem to be some exaggerations, even inaccuracies, in what is asserted by ALCAB over the cur

Latest primary French resources on frenchteacher

Here is the latest list of resources which might appeal to primary French teachers, especially those teaching Y6. A particular feaure is the list of 21 parallel reading tasks. MISCELLANEOUS   “A good student” poster Teacher phrases for the classroom Stick-in vocabulary lists Strip bingo vocabulary game Fridge sheet – stick on fridge for revision Place mat with classroom expressions Prepositions – Où est le chat? (display/worksheet) Conversation questions board game Parts of the body strip bingo game Clothing strip bingo game Pair work interview slips Word re-ordering for revision What is the question? General revision questions NUMBERS, DAYS, MONTHS  Numbers wordsearch – which number is missing? Variations on number bingo Numbers 1-60 – arithmetic sheet Numbers 1-50 dominoes Numbers 1-100 dominoes Numbers 1-100 crossword Days and months wordsearch Months of the year + dates FAMILY AND PETS  Easy text and exercises on the Simpsons – good for whiteboard Fam

So what would a better A-level have looked like?

In contrast with the backward-looking A-levels proposed by the Russell Group and accepted by Ofqual, what might we have done to improve an already effective modern languages A-Level? What would be fresh, challenging and engaging? The recent JCQ report looked into why students are not doing A-level language courses and one thing which emerged was that students would like to see more interesting topics, see a greater stress on communication and less stress on grammatical accuracy. Although this would not meet the preferences of Russell Group universities, I believe student opinion, if accurately recorded, has got it right. The British tendency towards conservatism finds its expression in the desire to protect the role of reading, writing and grammatical accuracy, even when most observers would place greater value on the practical skills of listening and speaking. Most of us learn a language primarily to listen to it and to speak it. A-Level should keep this strongly in mind. My own

Implications of topics to be covered in the new MFL A-levels

The Ofqual draft content of the proposed new A-Levels refers to three thematic strands which would form the basis of the subject matter studied. These themes were chosen by the ALCAB (Russell Group) advisory group to encourage students to engage with topics relating more directly to the culture of the target language. They feel that students arriving at university have too little knowledge of the literature, history and intellectual culture of the target language cultures. Although the Ofqual document does not list in detail what might be studied, they have kept the three strands put forward by the Russell Group. These are: Social issues and phenomena Politics, current affairs and history Intellectual culture, past and present The ALCAB report went into greater detail with an "indicative list" of topics which we may assume would be picked up by the examination boards. For example, under "social issues and phenomena" for French they suggest: Les valeurs

JCQ report on low take-up at A-level and the A* grade issue

The JCQ is "a membership organisation comprising the seven largest providers of qualifications in the UK". They have just released a report to look at the reasons for low and declining take-up of modern languages at A-level and the reasons for the relative lack of A* grades. Its chapters, produced by different people or agencies e.g. Ipsos Mori, contain a very thorough analysis of recent trends in languages, both at GCSE and A-Level, including, for example, the issue of "severe grading" as well as the key issue of why there has beena decline in take-up. There some very useful recommendations. I thoroughly recommend this report if you are interested in policy or qualifications. Here is a concise summary of their findings as summarised by the AQA site: students' motivations for choosing, or not choosing, to study a Modern Foreign Language (MFL) at A-level are wide ranging and include a perception of difficulty some teachers feel the jump between GCSE a

Steve Glover's comments on the draft MFL A-levels

I am grateful to Steve Glover, author of the excellent ALF (A-Level French) and ALGIE (A-Level German Literature and Cinema), who was kind enough to send me comments about the ALCAB report on A-Level modern languages and what I have written in my blog posts. You may recall that the report is the basis for new specifications which will be taught from September 2016. Steve brings a wealth or knowledge and experience to the field of A-Level languages, having taught and written for A-level students. He has given me permission to post his comments as a blog.  I have very slightly edited what he wrote. I hope colleagues who teach A-level MFL find this interesting. Key link: ******************************************************************************* I certainly don’t disagree with most of your comments, Steve, although I would agree with the ALCAB report

How will the new MFL A-levels affect classroom teaching?

This is my fourth and last blog for the moment on the new draft content for MFL A-levels, largely inspired by the ALCAB report from "top" universities with input from subject associations, independent schools and one academy. It is notable that exam boards were not consulted. This was an appalling omission. To my mind they have extensive knowledge and experience in these matters which should have been drawn upon. They have intimate knowledge of what students can and should do. What practising teachers would be most interested in perhaps is how any new specifications will affect the classroom. Crucially 20% of marks will now be awarded for knowledge of the target language culture (literature and film) and half of these marks will be given for work written in English (e.g. essay or context commentary). This means that at least 10% of marks will be given for answers in English (I mention "at least" because listening and reading papers are allowed a certain amount o

The ALCAB report on A-level modern languages

ALCAB stands for A-Level Content Advisory Board. It is a panel of university academics who took advice from a range of stakeholders, including the ALL, subject associations, with a little input from schools (notably independent ones) and other bodies. Here is their report: The panel identified five weaknesses in the current AS and A level. I shall add my own gloss to each criticism in turn. (a) The regulatory requirements are of such a general nature that they do not require awarding organisations to prescribe topics which require students’ direct engagement with material relating to the society of the countries where the language of study is spoken. On the one hand, this appears to be a criticism of the lack of prescribed texts we now see (with the exception of the WJEC). The panel believe that teachers cannot be trusted to select material, whether

New MFL A-levels - part 2

In my last post I looked at the draft content of the proposed new A-levels for modern languages. I shall now deal with the assessment objectives and mark weightings. Once again, there are very significant changes. Here is the link again: To summarise succinctly: Listening   20% Reading (assessed through speech and writing)   30% Language use (accuracy and appropriacy, both speech and writing)  30% Culture     20% We have to be a little careful here, because reading will be partly assessed within the oral. (We may end up with summary and discussion on short texts.) The big change here is the allocation of marks for cultural knowledge. When the existing post 2000 A-levels were designed teachers expressed the view that culture (literature, film etc) should still feature in courses. It was decided, however, that no marks could be awarded for cultural knowl

Draft content for new MFL A-levels

The key documents from Ofqual, which I recommend you read, are here: Subject content: Assessment:  The documents are short but there is a fair bit to take in, including quite significant changes from what we have now. Ofqual are under some time pressure with this, no doubt, but what a shame the consultations end in mid to late September. Many teachers may not be switched on to these things over the summer break. The draft content draws strongly on the recommendations of the A-level Advisory Panel which consists entirely of university academics, with little input from the secondary school sector. Teachers may feel concerned, even angry, that they have had so much influence over the new content. I do not believe university lec

Michael Gove's legacy to languages

Mr Whippy van - image: wikimedia commons Since I wrote this post I have now had the chance to see the draft content of the new A-levels for teaching from September 2016. It is alarming to see how retrograde the new content is and, in particular, the huge influence of the university sector in its formulation. Please see my more recent blog posts. Gove left us with more than I had thought. ************************************* You can usually tell when politicians have inspired a degree of hatred: they are referred to by their surname only. Just think of Thatcher and Blair, as opposed to Major, Callaghan, Wilson, Heath or even Brown. Most teachers would have liked party poppers and champagne to hand on hearing the surpise announcement that Gove's tenure at the DfE has come to an end. For an Education Secretary he had a long run.  I cannot recall such a despised, ideological minister, but has his influence been felt to a large degree by language teachers? It is true that Gov

Early exam entry in MFL

There are schools who enter pupils for GCSE exams before the end of Y11. There may be several reasons for this. Some schools with pupils of very high academic ability may feel that the GCSE exam is not challenging enough by Y11 and prefer to take on more challenging, or different work. Other schools may wish to enter pupil very early, even in Y9, so that their students get some accreditation before they drop the subject at KS4. In the days of O-levels, "academic" schools would allow pupils to sit exams at the end of Y10, taking on an "AO" qualification in Y11, for example business French or language and literature. In general I am against early exam entry. Let me explain why. Firstly, early entry requires teachers and students to focus too much on exam technique in Y10. With the current system of controlled assessment, squeezing exam work into Y10 becomes even more of a challenge. With new linear courses with terminal exams coming in June 2018 it may require mor

Using music in language lessons

This blog is copied from the teacher's guide of It also features in the MFL teacher handbook downloadable from the Samples page . Why? Music lyrics are a good source of comprehensible input Music is a good way in to cultural aspects of France and French-speaking countries Singing can help learners memorise material Singing is active and fun Singing can relax learners, make them comfortable about using the foreign language Singing is a good controlling activity; it has  a calming effect and everyone is busy What can you do with music? Beginners and near beginners Songs with actions – give pupils something to do. Actions can serve as memory-joggers and can be used to reinforce vocabulary and structures. Simple verb chanting to familiar tunes accompanied by moving arms to indicate the personal pronoun work well with beginners. Try Mission Impossible theme with aller, Here We go Round the Mulberry Bush for être. (YouTube has quite a