Skip to main content

The Rosenshine principles applied to MFL


Image from Tom Sherrington's blog

If you haven't heard of Barak Rosenshine and his Principles of Instruction you can find your introduction here. Rosenshine was a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois, where his research focused on learning instruction, teacher performance, and student achievement. When you see his principles, you may think they seem obvious, and it's worth noting that they may not be a perfect fit with how languages are acquired in general. But they do fit quite neatly within the PPP paradigm (Presentation - Practice - Production) which is often criticised in the scholarly literature, so if you are comfortable with this way of working the principles will make added sense.

  1. Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning.
  2. Present new material in small steps with student practice after each step.
  3. Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students.
  4. Provide models.
  5. Guide student practice.
  6. Check for student understanding.
  7. Obtain a high success rate.
  8. Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks.
  9. Require and monitor independent practice.
  10. Engage students in weekly and monthly review.

So I thought I would apply these principles to MFL with a practical example. We're going to consider a lesson about using weather expressions with use of the near future tense in French (je vais aller). This might typically be suitable in a Y8 or Y9 class.

1.  Short review

Review use of weather expressions in the present tense using quick translation both ways, "guess the flashcard" or a map of France showing weather symbols for choral repetition and quick QA.

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.  Introduce and practise new material, etc

The new material in question is the word si + the near future tense (in the first person only). We're introducing je vais aller, je vais jouer, je vais rester. So by the end of the lesson we want pupils to recognise and use S'il fait beau, je vais jouer au tennis avec mes amis (etc). Here are two different approaches:

Method 1 - sentence builder

Display a classic sentence builder frame with two columns. Column 1 has S'il fait beau, s'il pleut. s'il fait mauvais, etc. Column 2 shows examples of the near future, e.g. je vais rester + la maison, je vais jouer au tennis avec mes amis, je vais aller en ville avec mes parents. Little or no new vocabulary is introduced to keep the focus on the verb forms and limit cognitive load.
Run a routine of translations both ways, choral reading aloud, guessing what the teacher is thinking etc.

Method 2 - pairs of pictures on PowerPoint.

On the left there is a weather symbol, on the right an image representing an activity, e.g. tennis, shopping, working in a bedroom. About 8 pairs of pictures in total, no more. Teacher reads aloud as pupils listen. Second run through, choral repetition. Display all pairs together on one slide for more review, repetition, guessing games and pair practice.


Both the above approaches generate lots of input and repetition of the target phrases and verb patterns. Checking for understanding can occur with cold calling questioning (no hands-up) or with mini-whiteboards. You can also monitor any pair work and the general quality of repetition. At no time up to now has there been any analysis or explanation of the new verb pattern. If the sentence builder contains English translations meaning is always transparent. If you go down the PowerPoint slides route, then meaning will need clarifying, probably with occasional translation into English.
You have guaranteed a high success rate, had all pupils involved, while respecting the principles of comprehensible input, repetition and building phonological memory through output practice. Words have not been used in isolation, but in high-frequency reusable chunks.

At an appropriate point you can explain what is going on with the new verbs and how the near future is formed. With some classes you can quickly show other persons of the verbs. But the emphasis has been on usage, not explanation.

8.  Scaffolding for more difficult tasks

This may be for a following lesson, but at this point you can further embed the new language patterns by using a set of short written or spoken sentences, or a short written or spoken paragraph modelling the same patterns, but with some additional variations (two or three new verbs and new activities, e.g. Je vais faire mes devoirs, je vais sortir avec mes copains, je vais me baigner à la piscine.

If working with an aural or written text you can do a range of scaffolded tasks, e.g. gapped transcription, reordering, comprehension tasks such as true/false, ticking correct sentences or QA. You can use the aural gap-fill technique at some point, e.g. hiding the written text and asking students to complete sentences orally. You can use "disappearing text" on the board, gradually removing words and chunks, with students having to recall the missing language.

Students can compose their own written examples with the aid of some modelling by you on the board. They can write or record their examples or play a guessing game with a partner. Higher attaining classes can prepare a short written composition Le weekend prochain in which they embed examples of the patterns they have practised, perhaps including negatives.

9.  requiring and monitoring independent practice

This can take the form of listening in to pair work practice or checking/marking the quality of written output.

10.  Weekly or monthly review

You'll make sure that pupils have the chance to hear, read and use the target patterns repeatedly in the future. The Scheme of Work/Learning will build in such opportunities to reuse the new language, interleaved with other work.

I've kept this brief to offer a concise and clear overview of what the Rosenshine principles might mean for an MFL teacher in practice. What I have outlined probably accords closely with the type of thing you do already. You might even see this has common-sense practice, but I think the principles are a useful reminder and broad template for how to design effective lessons. The examples I gave above are a few of many others you could have chosen.

To conclude here is a visual representation of the 10 principles. the image used above is from Tom Sherrington's blog. Tom has recently published a very popular book on Rosenshine's principles.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What is the natural order hypothesis?

The natural order hypothesis states that all learners acquire the grammatical structures of a language in roughly the same order. This applies to both first and second language acquisition. This order is not dependent on the ease with which a particular language feature can be taught; in English, some features, such as third-person "-s" ("he runs") are easy to teach in a classroom setting, but are not typically fully acquired until the later stages of language acquisition. The hypothesis was based on morpheme studies by Heidi Dulay and Marina Burt, which found that certain morphemes were predictably learned before others during the course of second language acquisition. The hypothesis was picked up by Stephen Krashen who incorporated it in his very well known input model of second language learning. Furthermore, according to the natural order hypothesis, the order of acquisition remains the same regardless of the teacher's explicit instruction; in other words,

Second language learning and acquisition

This is a long, referenced blog which combines all the posts in my earlier series entitled Conscious and Unconscious Language Learning. If you have already read those posts, you should look away now. Part 1 Throughout the history of the study of language learning and teaching reference has been made to two distinct types of language learning. The first could be characterised as "picking up" a language and normally involves the apparently unconscious acquisition of a language in an informal or natural setting. One thinks of the child who learns their native tongue, or the immigrant who learns the new language without recourse to formal study. The second type of language learning involves the practice of a language in a formal, systematic way, often in a classroom setting. This has frequently been termed conscious learning. Such a clear distinction may be controversial and you may already be thinking, quite reasonably, that both types of learning have a role. However, when

French cinema terminology

If you are teaching A-level film, you'll want your students to have some knowledge of key vocabulary. You'll want to learn it too, of course! Nathalie FLE produced this lovely video screencast about film vocabulary: Vocabulaire français : parler du cinéma ( + sous-titres en FR) - YouTube Here are some other handy links for film and film vocabulary in French: Exploiting film in A-level MFL lessons - from my own site frenchteacher.net http://utils.exeter.ac.uk/french/ingrid/film.htm from Exeter University. A basic list of terms. http://people.duke.edu/~dfbell/fr164voc.htm A more detailed, technical overview of film terminology by David F. Bell from Dyke University. http://angellier.biblio.univ-lille3.fr/ressources/glossaire_filmterms.html A bilingual page from Lille University which goes into some detail on cinema terminology. Here is a useful list from ThoughtCo: French Terms Related to Movies and Film Festivals (thoughtco.com) Another good list here with brief de

What is "Input Processing"?

Input Processing (IP) was proposed by Bill VanPatten, Professor of Spanish and Second Language Acquisition from Michigan State University. Bill may be known to some of you from his podcast show Tea with BVP. He is one of those rare university academics who makes a specific effort to engage with practising teachers. IP was first proposed in a 1993 article (published with T. Cadierno in the Modern Language Journal) entitled "Input processing and second language acquisition: A role for instruction." My summary of it is based on an article "Input Processing and Processing Instruction: Definitions and Issues" (2013) by Hossein Hashemnezhad. IP is a little complicated to explain, but I'll do my best to summarise the key points before suggesting how it relates to other ways of looking at classroom language teaching. Is this actually any use to teachers? I apologise in advance for over-simplifying or misunderstanding. To paraphrase Dr Leonard McCoy from Star Trek &q

New MFL GCSE consultation

Updated on 7th April, with a few modifications to the original post written about a month earlier. ........................................................................... The DfE in England has recently published information about the proposed new GCSE exams, first teaching September 2023, first exams June 2025. There are two consultations going on, one regarding the subject content, and the other (much shorter) with respect to the assessment arrangements such as tiering.  The context is important here. DfE are worried about uptake in GCSE MFL, especially with their EBacc target of 90% uptake in mind. (This is highly unlikely to be achieved.) Therefore they would like an exam which makes the subject more attractive, both in terms of interesting content and accessibility (how easy it is thought to be). They are aware also of criticisms levelled at current papers that the exam is elitist, featuring too much subject matter which appeals to middle class students. Recall that MFL has be