07 Jun 2018

Mentor Blogs: Jessica

avatar Lucy Jenkins

Our mentor Jessica has been blogging about her experience with the MFL Student Mentoring Project.  She is a final year undergraduate student at Swansea University, studying translation and interpreting in French and German. As part of her degree, she spent a year studying at two different universities in Germany and Belgium.

Take a look at what she has to say about her first few weeks as an MFL mentor!

Planning my first session

The week before mentoring began, I cleared a day and sat down to plan the sessions. After looking at the topics for the six weeks, I made a rough plan for each week, planning introductory games and noting down ideas for exercises. I will then go back after the first week of mentoring and adapt these exercises to the pupils.

I wanted the first session to be fun and light-hearted. There will be an icebreaker game for the pupils to get to know each other, if they do not know each other already. This will help me build a rapport with them and to hopefully help them to be confident enough to take part wholeheartedly in the sessions.

I have an exercise prepared that will allow the group to discuss their language learning so far which fits with this week’s theme, ‘My Language Journey’. I will also be talking about my own journey to show the pupils that we all have to start from somewhere and the rewards of language learning.

I hope that the pupils enjoy the activities that I have planned. The session is supposed to be relaxed and fun so I am going to end with a French joke. I am not expecting them to laugh as it is a ‘dad joke.’ I am worried that the pupils will not be talkative and the session will not work or that there will be one pupil that talks more than the others. Hopefully, I have planned enough activities to fill the hour but I am concerned that the pupils will finish everything sooner than I thought.

Week One

I have groups of four to six pupils, separated into three groups. The three groups work in different ways and at different speeds so this will be something that I will need to be aware of when planning the further sessions. The pupils are all motivated and are willing to take part in the sessions.

I started the session with everyone introducing themselves and presenting the aims of the project before moving on to an icebreaker game. I had created a game where the pupils have to choose a card which was face down from the middle of the table. The cards all had a category such as animal and school subject and the pupils would have to say what their favourite was. They seemed to enjoy this and they learnt something new about their peers.

The theme of the session was ‘My Language Journey’. I started by asking the pupils what languages they can speak and are learning. Some of the students are learning Spanish outside of school and there are a few who have learnt a language before but no longer do so. I also asked them if they were bilingual. They answered straightaway with ‘No.’ This allowed me to point out that being bilingual does not mean being able to speak two languages fluently. They thought about this and were excited when they realised that they were in fact bilingual. I have to admit that it was not until a couple of weeks ago that I realised that I was bilingual from a young age and am now quadrilingual.

I asked the pupils to guess what languages I could speak and why I continue to study languages. I was really impressed that they all mentioned German as one of my languages because it was a language that had not been mentioned yet. They also thought of some good reasons why I study languages. I had brought in photos and postcards from my language journey which they enjoyed looking at. I turned this around and asked them if they had any mementos that would summarise their language journey so far. I gave them some time to think about it and they came up with some interesting stories.

I wanted to finish the session something fun so I had found a joke in French which could also be funny when translated into English. They also played Chinese Whispers using their languages. Some sentences made their way around the group better than others but they seemed to have a laugh.

Week Two

This week’s theme was ‘Why choose an MFL at GCSE?’ I loved creating the activities for this week because I could use my passion for languages.

I started with a game of ‘Holiday Snap’, a game I played when I was younger and really enjoyed. The cards have ten words or phrases in English, Spanish, French and Italian. The pupils had to pick two cards from the table to see if the words matched in the different languages. They had so much fun with this that I had several requests to play the game for the whole hour. I linked this exercise with the theory of the language tree. They were intrigued by the idea of how languages are connected. I used this activity to show that by learning one language, you can open gateways to learn a different one.

The next exercise was to match the university degree with the sports person or celebrity. I wanted to show then that by studying a language at school or even in further education, they do not limit themselves. I included J.K. Rowling because a number of the students share a love for Harry Potter. She studied French and Classics and used her knowledge of languages in her books. Some examples of French in Harry Potter are Beauxbatons (beautiful wands), Fleur Delacour (Flower of the court) and Malfoy, a play on the French mal foi to mean bad faith. When asked what they would take away from this exercise, the pupils said they would remember that Kourtney Kardashian studied Theatre Studies and Spanish at university. They also said they had learnt that studying languages can take you in any direction.

The next activity was about the languages of the world. I started by asking them if they knew the countries that have French as an official language. I then asked them about the main global languages. The pupils coloured in a map of the world showing where these languages were spoken. The objective of this exercise was to show how widespread one language could be, which many of them had never considered. When asked to rank the top six languages of the world by number of native speaker, most put English at the top of the list. It shocked them to find out that Mandarin has the most native speakers in the world.

The final activity of the session was based around the question ‘Where can languages take you?’ I asked the pupils about the skills and benefits of learning languages. A range of answers were given. Many thought of the different communication skills but not of the problem solving and memory skills you can gain. I then asked them what jobs you can do with a language and I was very impressed that they realised the skills can be used for almost any role.

I was pleased with the engagement of the pupils and they took a lot away from the session according to the feedback.