At the first run of the Preparation for Transition conference in Birmingham, everybody I spoke to seemed to be talking about the session delivered by Jacqui Tilt, aided by Helen Leigh, on Practical strategies to ease challenge of Transition in MFL, so I was eager to attend this time around when the opportunity arose.
Jacqui, a secondary MFL teacher and Primary MFL AST at Hanley Castle Language College in Worcestershire, works with a cluster of 8 feeder primaries and shared her experiences of transition and the approaches taken by her school to ease the potential nightmare under the headings COMMUNICATION, TRACKING and PROGRESS. s highlighted the importance of COMMUNICATION between all involved parties is vital. Ways in which this has been achieved at Hanley Castle include
- regular network meetings, sharing effective practice, giving information and offering support with both primary and secondary colleagues attending.
- Language College newsletter – primary colleagues are encouraged to share in this letter too so there is a ‘joined up’ approach to sharing. Where it was initially just sent to be put up on the noticeboard, primaries wanted to share this with their parents so it is now electronically sent for distribution.
- an Annual Language Festival to which primary pupils are invited – the week before open days (good timing!)
- The cluster (8 feeders and the secondary) were awarded the Leading Aspect Award which recognized their hard work – always nice!
- Jacqui offers model lessons –although as she says, she is becoming increasingly redundant as primary staff have taken over the lessons to such an extent that they can be an example.
- The Language College’s FLAs are also shared with the cluster of primaries, working on things like intercultural understanding and storytelling.
- And there has also been the opportunity to observe one another thanks to funding from an external agency.
Something I liked about this was that it really is all inclusive – not just the teachers ‘plotting’, but pupils and parents are kept informed and involved too.
Pupils from the feeder schools all come with different experiences – so the Language College has a rolling programme with two of three language studied each year – French and Spanish, then the next year, Spanish and German, and the following German and French – so even if the child doesn’t do the language they’ve studied at Primary in Year7, there is the opportunity to pick it up in Year8, or at a lunchtime club.
TRACKING or Assessment is something that can be worrying – primary children often say that they enjoy MFL as there’s no assessment – but it does need to be done so how? The ELP is a long document to pass on to secondary colleagues – Jacqui pointed out that wading through 150 of them was unmanageable– and where to put them? I think there is a value to the ELP and that they can be used, but would suggest as a ‘show and tell’ document during the first week or so – this way, whilst the pupils share their portfolios of work with one another, teachers get a look too, gaining an impression of what has been included. A more manageable way of recording for tracking is using I can sheets and, with Helen Leigh, KS2 MFL Consultant in Worcestershire, Jacqui worked on some I Can statements based on the ELP and the KS2 Framework, and also a very simple proforma on which all the information from these statements can be synthesized into one A5 sheet. (Helen has kindly given me an electronic copy which you can download from My Box of Goodies)
And how to ensure PROGRESS? In the above way, prior learning can be seen at a glance and acknowledged, and children ‘buddied up’ with pupils of differing experience – eg a child with no previous French supported by a child who has done French for a number of years. Another way of aiding transition suggested was the use of the first few weeks for a cross curricular topic with pupils based in one place for most of the time so there’s less moving classrooms, enabling pupils to get used to the place – Jacqui is excited by this prospect as it allows collaborative planning with other colleagues at school and allows creative links to made between disciplines.
‘Creative repetition’ is a phrase Jacqui uses to explain how the potential problem of repetition – revisiting things in different ways – can be addressed. She acknowledged that it isn’t easy, but with the focus on skills rather than content at KS2, the new ‘independent learners’ that will begin to arrive will be more able to take a lead in how they learn as they exercise their LLS.
That’s the way one cluster of schools has met the challenge – lots of good ideas there with the focus again on communication between Secondary and Primary. Parts of this model might be unworkable for a school with a vast number of feeders where a ‘cluster’ would be more like a ‘mob’, but I think the more ideas the better – no two schools are the same after all, so to a certain extent every school has to find its own way.
Coming up …. Language Investigators, and the Languages Bridge.