Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

With 'A'-Level, GCSE and KS3 curriculum changes looming, MFL teachers are currently facing all the challenges involved with the implementation of new schemes and assessment measures. This post looks at how we are currently dealing with the implementation of the new GCSE so that our learners are ready and raring to go when it rolls round in September 2016.


After getting a sneak peak at the forthcoming GCSEs, we have moved our assessments from half termly, end of unit tests to termly 'Learning Checkpoint'. With the main new focus being on pupils being able to respond in TL to a series of stimuli, we have tried to mimic (as far as possible) the type of examination our current Year 8s will be facing come GCSE.

On listening and reading assessments we now expect pupils to respond in TL to questions that are written in TL (a pretty standard procedure but one that has been missing from current GCSE). The reading assessments also now include translation from TL to English, as will be expected on the papers. Learning Checkpoints now encompass all of the topics covered over the year so that pupils are constantly revisiting previous work in a synoptic way. Pupils are being given more challenging reading texts in order for them to gain the key skills necessary.

With regards to the production element of the forthcoming GCSE courses, we are focusing much more on spontaneous language in the classroom between pupils as well as reinforcing the need to 'recycle' language across topics. Key grammatical structures and verb formations are more important than ever and translation is becoming a staple in Year 7 and 8 lessons. We have created stimulus cards similar to those that we saw in our early access to the papers. An example of this can be seen below:

This stimulus card actually includes more than what can be expected when the new GCSE rolls around but we will be telling pupils prior to their speaking/writing assessment what will be expected of them. The card here covers all of the topics studied in year 8 French and allows for a whole view of the pupil's learning over the year. The writing element follows a similar structure and includes translation from English into the TL, another feature of the new GCSE. 

To further supplement all of these changes to assessment, we are abandoning levels and 'holding the grade' so that pupils actively work on their assessments to improve them before receiving a mark. 

UPDATE: Mats to help with the description element!

UPDATE: Since seeing papers, there is a possibility of introducing tiers into the written element of the paper and giving lower ability pupils a paper similar in style to the F tier (list of vocab, short sentences, guided writing).

Teaching and Learning

Year 9 schemes of work have been a massive focus for us in the last term. We are keen to get on putting as much emphasis on pupil's acquiring the necessary skills as early as possible and hope our new schemes reflect this. With the abolition of Controlled Assessments on the horizon, we need to make sure that pupil's production skills are up there with their receptive ones. The images included in this section are taken from my part of the scheme which focuses on Healthy Lifestyles.


We have made a more conscious effort to move away from structured speech and pupils being more spontaneous as you can see from the speaking assessments presented above. In order to do this we have tried to incorporate a variety of speaking activities to promote independent thought and more spontaneous speech as well as updating the Chatty Mats (thanks to Bellrive FCJ!).

Mock Speaking Cards: Pupils will be given time to prepare these as they would in the exam.

Timed Speaking Activities: Pupils will be given around 2/3 minutes to make notes based on the questions and then expected to speak with others in the room about the questions using minimal notes. The timers also add an element of challenge and pace to the activity.

Broken sentences: This is obviously a much more structured activity but the aim here is for pupils to make as many sentences as possible using the components on the board.

After more ideas for speaking activities? Look here.


Obviously Controlled Assessments have been the norm but we need to be making sure that pupils are able to produce language spontaneously, in exam conditions, without a dictionary. Big ask!

AVOCADO: I can take absolutely no credit for this. I spotted this acronym on Twitter and it just turned out that it works in French and Spanish too. Great stuff! I've created posters that are now pride of place above my board in the hope that pupils will become accustomed to this checklist for writing and speaking.

Structured Writing: One of the key things we noticed when trawling through the specifications was the fact that pupils have to write about a variety of topics within a piece, while using a variety of structures and everything else we'd expect. In an attempt to prepare pupils, we're aiming to give them more guidance in terms of bullet points but not limit them just to their current topic. This can obviously be seen in the assessments featured above. As you can also see here, AVOCADO is included on the slide to help remind pupils of the requirements.

Post-It: I've written an entire post about Post-Its in the past (here) but I really can't express how important I think they are. They are perfect as a plenary or a mid-lesson progress check. Get pupils to close their books and try and complete a sentence or use them as an exit ticket.


I've gone into my marking in great detail in other posts but I'll revisit it quickly here. As a department we are keen for our pupils to start recognising their own errors as they need the ability to self correct in exam conditions. Whereas currently controlled assessment can be redone, pupils need to be getting their written work right, first go with no support.

After rolling out Blue and Green highlighting last year, pupils are becoming more and more used to this idea of continual improvement and dealing with errors as effectively as they can. It's becoming second nature now for pupils to correct any blue and annotate green.

DIRT time is given real status within lessons now so that pupils are constantly revisiting past work and improving on what they have done. As teachers we can always see room for a little improvement so allow the pupils to see that themselves and it will soon start becoming second nature and, theoretically, less time should be needed for improvements in the future as they know exactly what is expected.

This will be a key feature to the success of 'holding the grade'. Pupils need to be actively seeking to improve rather than simple know their score and move on to the next piece. There needs to be a desire to improve and eradicate issues before moving on and the hope is that this will help.

Supporting/Stretching the Pupils

Writing Mats
KS3 pupils are issued with a writing mat to stick into the front of their books in order for them to be continually improving their writing from day one. My aim is for pupils to start using the structures on here without even thinking about it. A lot of my DIRT target will say 'Include...' and an element from here so that pupils are made to actively seek out a different connective, opinion phrase or intensifier for example.

Grammar Guides/Mats

I also created a really simple to follow and easy to use tenses booklet for pupils to keep with them at all times to keep on top of those pesky tenses and verb formations (especially the subjunctive!) These booklets can be found on my TES page over at https://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/Tense-Guides--KS3-4-5-6437015 and are available for KS3/4/5 French if you're interested in getting yourself a copy! I will be making copies for Spanish soon so keep your eyes peeled.

EDIT: Spanish one is now here.
Independent  Folders
I can't take even the remotest bit of credit for this one. This fantastic resource from Dannielle Morgan has a whole range of help sheets (with QR codes for Technology Savvy pupils) to help them overcome any misunderstandings regarding tenses, grade boosting, adding extra detail and whole plethora of other problems your students may encounter. Pupils are actively encouraged to go to these folders in order to solve their problems and they are easily accessible.

We're hoping with the early implementation of these measures, pupils will be ready to face the challenges that the new GCSE will bring when it hits in 2016. Do you have any ideas that you'd like to share? Do so below in the comments!


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