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Bring language to life

Are you still battling with a group of youngsters, mostly boys, and wonder why they don't love modern foreign languages (MFL) as you do?

Here is a brief case study that worked with a Year 10 German class, 18 boys, low ability and challenging behaviour.

The standard stuff: praise, choice, variety, target setting, short sharp tasks, instant rewards, long-term aims shared and use of data to inform progress.

Grass roots ideas: invite ex-pupils who have used MFL with success in their jobs - this works well, particularly when the ex-pupil is male, earning a good salary and has used, or is using, a foreign language at work; give them PowerPoint presentations to prepare in class or for homework; give a choice of homework - all must be done but in any order they wish; every lesson is a competition; points are awarded for attendance, punctuality and effort; points are deducted for lateness, rudeness, lack of effort; praise letters are sent to those amassing points every half term; award best speakerlistener prize every term; assign 10 vocabulary words to learn at the end of every lesson and each word is worth a point when tested next lesson; find magazine articles to read rather than textbooks; email another school, under supervision of course, to give a real perspective to MFL; ask a keen primary school to let you have some work from its MFL pupils for your pupils to mark (they take this very seriously); try quizzes rather than tests; try team games and give each team a sensible captain. Good luck

Sara Sullivan is head of languages at Woodlands School in Essex.

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