Aim: To systematically encourage students to revisit selected linguistic structures, repeatedly and over time, with a view to transfer them and use them within new contexts.
Background: Seven modern languages are on offer at Bexley Grammar and all students are expected to take two languages to GCSE. Textbooks used in the previous Schemes of Work encouraged students to learn grammar within a specific context.
The journey began with research visits to two schools, observing teaching methodologies. Knowledge Organisers and Departmental Glossaries closely linked to the Scheme of Work were at the core of lesson planning in order to produce accurate responses in the target language.
Trials using this new methodology took place. A Knowledge Organiser of useful structures was created for use with a trial Key Stage 4 class. Talented Year 11 linguists were given roles as Language Leaders to work with underachieving Year 10s, modelling how to use Knowledge Organisers. By the end of the year, Key Stage 4 Core Language Grids existed for French, German, Italian and Spanish. These were stuck into exercise books.
Departmental INSET was provided to suggest ways to embed structures from the Core Language Grids into Knowledge Organisers for each topic. Key Stage 4 Core Language Grids were created in Chinese, Japanese and Russian. Knowledge Organisers were started in all languages.
Best practice was shared through peer lesson observations and departmental meetings and resources stored centrally. In addition, a Key Stage 3 Core Language Grid was developed, containing only the 10 most useful verbs. Training was provided to Language Leaders to ensure their proficiency in collaborating with Year 10 students and a Language Club was set up.
A new 5-year Scheme of Work was created, building from basic communication language needed to answer Assessment Questions (which quickly require a range of tenses). The department completed an overhaul of French, German, Italian and Spanish Schemes of Work and began developing Knowledge Organisers at Key Stage 5 for IB Topics in all languages.
Students who attended Language Club in Year 10 were far more likely to see the benefits of attending the Year 11 Language Clinic Program. They also appeared to be more receptive to strategies and made greater gains in confidence and spontaneity in the spoken preparation.
- Improved GCSE results – in 2018, 97.4% of students achieved grades 9-4; by 2019 97.7% of students achieved grades 9-5
- In 2018, just over half the cohort achieved grades 9-7 (54.4%). By the following summer this had risen by more than 10% (65.6%)
- There was an equally impressive increase in the very best grades 9-8 (from 26.8% to 35.8%)
- More developed written and spoken responses (at Key Stage 3 and 4)
- Students more receptive to additional support
- More students selecting to continue with MFL at Key Stage 5
- The success of the project methodology has spread to other schools
The concept behind this project is really rather simple: the more you expose students to the same piece of learning, the more likely it is that they will become familiar with it, then comfortable with it and finally confident with it. The simpler you can present the concept, the greater the chance of flourishing. Clarity and simplicity were integral to our success.
The greatest challenge in a large department (17 practitioners), was ensuring consistency. Once teachers were confidently on board, sharing good practice and resources became second nature. Students absorbing Knowledge Organisers (affectionately known as ‘cheat sheets’) like a sponge, was a game changer. To hand pupils a piece of paper with a solution, was liberating all round.
Contact: Jennifer Reed