Modern Foreign Languages Curriculum
1. Intent: why do we teach what we teach?
Our MFL mission at King Solomon Academy is to ensure: “pupils are able to manipulate the language accurately and confidently. Pupils are curious and feel passionately about the importance and relevance of languages and want to pursue them further.”
We believe that language learning goes much deeper than the language itself. All year groups are not only exposed to the target language but also to the culture, history, literature and politics that surround the language itself. We provide a deep understanding of another language to improve pupils’ native tongue, communication, empathy and understanding skills.
Our curriculum is designed around what we believe makes a pupil successful in languages, that is, for pupils to be able to manipulate language accurately and confidently and for pupils to be curious and feel passionately about the importance and relevance of languages. We believe in depth before breadth when teaching language and grammar principles to our pupils to ensure language mastery. In each year of MFL teaching pupils are exposed to authentic target language texts, learn about the history and culture behind the target language and re-use high frequency vocabulary and grammar within different contexts. We use CLIC (Content and Language Integrated Learning) throughout the curriculum, for example in year 8 we have a module on the First World War taught through the French perspective, whilst year 8s study First World War poetry in English. In summary, rather than teaching to the exams, we teach to develop, master and create curiosity, which results in excellent linguists.
We keep our curriculum updated in a variety of different ways driven by robust academic research. Our language gurus include Rachel Hawkes, GioFranco Conti and Steve Smith. All of the above have contributed significantly to the best practice behind the teaching of MFL. Furthermore, the Head of Department completed her Master’s dissertation on how to encourage boys’ engagement in MFL and is on the Teaching Leaders programme, where here current academic project seeks to investigate the best ways of developing listening and speaking skills. We believe in the constant cycle of improvement and make changes to our curriculum after each academic year, after reflecting on the successes and weaknesses of curriculum implementation and after a thorough analysis of pupils’ results throughout the academic year. Department meetings are driven by academic literature and department results, there is an overarching focus each year, for example, this year it is as follows: phonics, micro listening, rote learn verbs and target language. Department meetings aim to give a shared understanding of the rationale behind the chosen focus and build the skills of staff in these areas.
Currently we begin the languages curriculum in year 5 and as such we are able to map a single coherent path from year 5 to year 13. Our KS2 and KS3 topics are loosely linked to KS4 topics (GCSE topics) and grammar is taught in a constant loop of recycling through each topic. For example, in year 6, pupils learn how to describe their dream castle, in year 8 they learn how to describe where they live and in year 10, in preparation for their GCSE, pupils master the topic, “Where I live”. The GCSE topics are Identity and culture, local area, holiday and travel, school, future aspirations, study and work, and international and global dimension.
We make sure these are sufficiently covered across KS2 and KS3 to provide students with a strong starting point in year 10.
2. Implementation: how do we teach what we teach?
Below is the break-down of how the curriculum is delivered to each Key Stage:
On the basis of research, we believe language acquisition between the ages of 9-11 is best supported by speaking, hence why we prioritise this skill in KS2. As you move through the curriculum, other skills are built in and we carefully think about when and where they appear.
We are proud to say that all MFL teachers have their PGCE in languages. With the exception of one teacher, all teachers would be able to teach French to KS5 and half of the department are dual-linguists and can additionally teach Spanish to KS5. All teachers have spent considerable time abroad studying, living and working in their target language country. Furthermore, all teachers teaching in KS2 have a Languages PGCE and both the Head of Department and Deputy Head of Department teach in KS2, ensuring a robust foundation for languages is laid in KS2 in terms of our curriculum, medium term plans and lesson plans.
Support in MFL:
To ensure access for pupils who have low prior attainment we frequently use models, scaffolds and knowledge organisers. Furthermore, we have implemented rote-learn verbs this year, designed to particularly support low prior attainers as they memorise conjugations before applying them. All pupils read the same texts- we have the same expectations of all of our learners to be able to master challenging target language texts. Beyond lessons, additional support is available for these learners. On weekly basis, sixth form pupils support primary and KS4 lower prior attainers. Parent volunteers support Y11 Spanish.
Monitoring the implementation:
Half termly mid-term plan evaluations happen at the beginning of each half term with the Head of Department to check for logical lesson sequences, rigorous activities and appropriate levels of challenge. Pupils receive a knowledge organiser at the beginning of each unit work taught. Furthermore, in Y11, pupils have access to the Edexcel GCSE vocab lists for each module of work. Over time, we are interested in building routines around online homework, where pupils are able to practice vocabulary and grammar to secure mastery and to be able to practice exam style listenings and readings.
3. Impact: how do we teach what we teach?
The end of year grade that our pupils receive are a culmination of all 4 skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) that have been tested at least once throughout the academic year. Additionally, our termly formative grade is never just based on one skill. Moreover, our checkpoints work on a termly theme, where we focus on a particular skill, such as listening, but test at least one other skill at the same time. Finally, we are moving towards implementing a weekly vocab test for each year group. This is already happening in KS5 and some other year groups.
Below is the break-down of how we assess our pupils:
After each checkpoint, there is a re-teach lesson where teachers re-visit content that pupils have not mastered. This ensures that pupils are given every possible opportunity to get things right.
Formal termly assessments and grade boundaries
Each year, teachers reflect on the above assessments (all data has been saved in the teacher mark book throughout the year) and make plans on how to adapt the curriculum for the next year.
In the past 3 years we have been adapting the KS3 curriculum in the light of the progress that pupils make in KS2.
In KS2 we assess 2 skills per term. We rank the students from the data and record their raw marks in our markbooks. Students are RAGed by performance based on our own internal understanding of where students need to be. Sadly, there is no national framework for primary languages so we base our judgements on attainment in relation to what we believe is a good starting point for KS3.
In the past 10 years KSA has consistently achieved results that fall in the top three schools in the ARK network, more often than not, achieving the best grades in the network. Each year is slightly different, but we produce strong results in KS3, GCSEs and A-Levels.
Last year we had our first ever pupils in KSA pupils go on to study languages at university. This year 2 out of 3 of our A-Level pupils are applying to study languages at university. Moreover, our Y12 classes are our largest we have ever had: we have 9 pupils studying French and 6 studying Spanish. Compared to last years’ Y11 Spanish cohort of 11 pupils, we have 22 in current Y11 and 22 in current year 10. We are very excited about these figures! We wish to recruit more boys to study MFL at KS5 level. However, those pupils that pick Spanish in Y10 and languages are KS5 are highly dedicated to the subject and are passionate.
5 things we’re proud of:
1) Increasing engagement in languages in KS5 and at university
2) Attainment at KS4, even though the GCSE has got harder
3) KS4 Ab-initio Spanish course shows rapid progress across 2 years
4) Fully integrated 9 year curriculum
5) The strength of the MFL teaching team, strong teaching and learning and planning