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French model

We all know that the beginnings and endings of lessons are important but often, in the rush of "getting them in", "getting on with it" and "getting them out" we forget how much.

Since placing a much greater emphasis on preview and review in my French lessons, I have noticed that pupils retain more information, are more engaged, and are much more able to see the logic of where they have been and where they are going in terms of their own learning.

When I start sessions I give pupils two minutes to work in pairs and discuss what they learned last session. It's long enough to get their minds ticking over but brief enough to keep them on task.

Then I brainstorm some of their ideas in a whole-class forum. I keep pushing the concept that we are building on what we have already studied, to offer them a scaffold and security while allowing them an appreciation of where they are going, and the purpose of the learning.

Three to five goals keep them focused in every session. I number these on a flip-chart and frequently refer to them. I use bright pens, silly drawings - anything that will help the information sink in.

For a meaningful plenary, again I allow time for paired or small group reflection. We often brainstorm the five most important things they have learned that lesson. I also find that a preview into what the next lesson will hold helps to focus them. This way they know where they have been and why, and where they are going and why.

Barry Smith, head of French at Michaelston Community College, Cardiff

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