Lisa Humpries, Tonyrefail Community School

Medium: English

Location: Tonyrefail

Languages: French, Spanish

When looking at how to raise the profile of IL amongst our Year 9 learners, we felt it was important to focus on the key aspects that the majority of learners are looking for when deciding their option choices; enjoyment of lessons, perceived competence in the subject, and perceived relevance of the subject. As a result, the following strategies are currently being implemented to improve learners’ attitudes in these crucial aspects.

EPI – ‘Contified’ Scheme of Learning

The introduction of EPI within the department has made a substantial impact in terms of the enjoyment Year 9 experience during IL lessons and the sense of accomplishment that they feel in each and every lesson. The abundance of varied activities introduced has given all learners multiple opportunities to understand and then produce high-frequency target chunks,  providing them with ready-made building blocks that they are able to use confidently and accurately. This has really helped build the confidence of our learners and allows them to see our subject as something that they can make clear progress in. In particular, the competitive edge to many of our speaking activities (sentence stealers/battleships/mind reader etc.) has led to learners being willing to speak more enthusiastically which has really made a difference in how successfully they feel they can communicate in the target language.

PenPal Opportunties

We are also lucky enough to have built a strong link with a school in Paris over the last five years and as a result, two of our year nine classes this year have had the opportunity to be matched up with a French Pen Pal. Learners see this as an excellent way of using their language knowledge for authentic purposes and they respond extremely well to receiving a letter of their own from their new companion. Our letters are written in the target language with the French school writing in English, so this also gives us an excellent opportunity to revise what we have covered over the course of the year. Learners therefore send letters describing their family, school, hobbies etc. and again this has meant that learners are seeing the value in the language they have learnt and the joy of connecting with people they would not normally have the chance to. Just one of the fantastic reasons for studying a language, I am sure we can all agree!

Learners leading learning

Something that we are now re-introducing, that has been very successful in the past is a Year 9 stand-alone group project where learners are given the opportunity to plan a beginners’ French lesson of their own. They are given the task of planning a thirty-minute lesson on a topic such as greetings, numbers, colours etc.  Which includes a starter, 3 main activities and a consolidation activity. Learners then present their ideas to the rest of the class and each teacher decides on a winning group who will then deliver the lesson to our younger year groups such as Years 3 and 4. As an all-through school, this provides an excellent opportunity for our younger groups to get a taster of International Languages and be exposed to role models in language learning. All year 9 classes have responded positively to this project and the purpose of their language studies has again been underlined. As they say, there is no better way to learn than to teach and this project has really helped us to continue to boost the confidence of our year 9 learners.

MFL Mentoring

The MFL Mentoring scheme run by Cardiff University has also been a massive help to us in terms of improving uptake at GCSE. The use of trained university students delivering cultural sessions has really helped to inspire and motivate our learners to continue with their language journey as it highlights to them the many joys that learning a language can bring. All learners who have taken part in this scheme have really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about languages in general and it has improved their appreciation of cultures, which has helped to broaden their horizons and aspirations when thinking of their own future.  Furthermore, learners have been much more engaged with the chance to look into topics and themes that we would not normally have the time to look at during our own IL lessons and talk to an inspiring role model who can share with them all the amazing opportunities learning a language can bring. This scheme is something which we are extremely grateful for as a school, as it helps to reinforce the message we are continually trying to embed into our lessons.

Career Talks

Lastly, this year we have tried to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by both Cardiff University and CSC, which has allowed our learners the prospect of speaking to people outside of the school in regards to their option choices.  Indeed, over the last month we have managed to secure a languages workshop delivered by Cardiff University on ‘Where languages can take you’ and we have also taken part in a ‘Wales Language Outreach Event’ by the British Council. Indeed, both events gave our learners a real insight into the types of careers that could be open to them with a language qualification. The use of real life examples in both presentations really grabbed the learners’ attention and it really made them aware of the amazing success stories of  people who they could immediately relate to; people who started their language journey just like them in year seven and who have travelled the world and experienced so many wonderful moments thanks to their language skills. We are now looking at introducing the ‘Routes Cymru Pupil Language Ambassadors Scheme’ to our learners with the aim of using peers as role models, who can support us in continuing to raise the profile of our IL department and help us to further promote the value of studying languages in our school.

With all these strategies, learners at Tonyrefail Community School are being given an abundance of opportunities to foster a love of learning languages.

Languages that they understand are going to provide enriching opportunities for them in the wider world. Last year with just some of these strategies, we were able to secure some of our highest numbers at GCSE and we hope this will only continue to grow year on year!