Grappling with the key stage 3 modern foreign language framework is part of the lot of an education authority foundation subjects consultant.
We work mainly with teachers outside the core subjects. Our job is to improve teaching and support the development of whole-school planning which will embed the KS3 strategy and raise pupil attainment. Since the roll-out of the MFL framework, languages departments in Essex have found the strategies here helped them get off to a good start. Many schools in the county are already a long way down the road to implementation, so if your department is not sure what to do next, read on.
Get your paperwork in order
Pave the way for successful teaching of the framework by having the objectives mapped on to schemes of work in advance. This does not mean rewriting everything. Begin by deciding where in the course you will launch and reinforce each objective, and append a checklist to your existing scheme. Decisions can be moved around in the light of experience as teaching proceeds.
Una Kipps is head of department at the Integrated Support Services Centre near Basildon, which provides education for pupils who are out of school for medical or psychological reasons and those excluded from mainstream education. As part of her mapping exercise, she produced a checklist for every Year 7 objective, itemising what each entails in terms of the coursebook she uses. Her grid (for quipe Book 1, Oxford University Press) and a blank version are downloadable from the curriculum resources menu on Essex's KS3 website at (www.e-gfl.org).
You could also consider buying one of the framework packs available from the major coursebook publishers, for ready-made mapping documents. These are expensive, so it is worth asking if they could be bought from the school's funding for the KS3 strategy.
Build up framework awareness
Start with the Year 7 objectives and carry out some collaborative activities in departmental meetings. This will help the team understand and apply the objectives.
Use the tasks in the Core Training Folder which accompanies the framework.
Copies can be ordered or downloaded from the DfES website (www.standards.dfes.gov.uk). Study the language-specific examples together, to help clarify the exact nature of each objective. Aim for a shared departmental understanding of the essence of Year 7 work.
Following this, look at Years 8 and 9 for an overview regarding progression. Draw up a list of ideas and areas for discussion in future meetings.
Languages staff at Helena Romanes School in Great Dunmow and at Burnt Mill School in Harlow have used departmental meeting time to plan lessons, which they then taught to Year 7 and later evaluated together. This is a practical approach, which encourages idea sharing and facilitates discussion of teaching and learning among colleagues.
Speak to English department teachers, as they will already have introduced and developed a similar framework. Find out what they did, what they recommended, what they wish they had done, and so on. Where are the areas of overlap? How can the responsibility be shared and the results doubled?
At the Cornelius Vermuyden School on Canvey Island, all languages classrooms have a display with a pupil-friendly description of the parts of speech, produced by head of department Debbie Ekers. This means pupils are receiving the same messages in languages and English lessons. You can download Debbie's display from www.e-gfl.org.
Be sure to send someone from your department to the local education authority for optional training during this academic year. This training is part of the KS3 strategy menu and all LEAs will have tailored one or more sessions. This is a key opportunity to meet your consultants and talk to colleagues. Find out more from your LEA languages adviser. If neighbouring authorities are organising theirs differently, you may also be able to attend their optional training sessions. And you could find out what is planned in your LEA as continuing support. For instance, all Essex languages departments will be able to attend local half-termly development sessions.
Visit the websites of other LEAs and see what you can find. Suffolk's www.slamnet.org is a good example for starters.
Support for the troops
At Burnt Mill School in Harlow, all languages classrooms sport a wall display with the key rules of French pronunciation. Pupils have quickly learned that oi says wah and qu is k.
At Furtherwick Park School on Canvey Island, head of department Stephanie Leonard has phrased the Year 7 objectives in "pupil-friendly" language to help her students understand lesson aims.
This means that 7W4 becomes "understand how singularpluralmasculinefeminine nouns work and how they can make other words in the sentence change". Her KS3 Framework in Pupil Speak is also available on the Essex website (www.e-gfl.org).
Don't stop at Year 7
The framework will eventually operate throughout KS3 and some effort expended now on the Year 8 and 9 objectives will enable the department to build a "big picture" of the framework and could be used to solve some of your current issues in these year groups, such as poor reading skills, inability to exceed level 5 and low motivation. Criticisms levelled by Ofsted and action points arising from your KS3 audit can also be tackled in this way.
To locate suitable objectives, study the pages with language-specific examples in section two of the framework folder. These will also inspire you with teaching ideas. You may then decide on different clusters of objectives in the various sets or a term-by-term focus on different areas of difficulty. This is a good way to involve departmental members who don't have a Year 7 group.
Exploit the fact that as the first foundation subject to have a framework, modern foreign languages has a key role to play if other subjects follow suit. Take full advantage by making sure your developmental work remains high-profile as well as ground-breaking. Request a slot at in-service training days and impress staff with the language department's achievements. This is a golden opportunity for languages to be at the cutting edge of curricular development.
And finally ...
Dabble. Experiment. Trial. Find out what works. Tell people about it. This is the excuse language teachers have been waiting for. Amusez-vous bien, everyone.
Andrea Osborne is a foundation subjects consultant with Essex County Council and a languages teacher KS3 MFL information is available on the DfES Standards site:www.standards.dfes.gov.uk keystage3strandspublications At the main menu click on TLF (Teaching and Learning in the Foundation subjects) and follow the links. From this site you can download and order the framework or the core and optional training materials. These materials can also be ordered from DfES Publications:Tel: 08456 022 260Email: firstname.lastname@example.org