Modern Foreign LanguagesSecondary - French connections

Teaching SEN pupils is more about engagement than vocab

With A limit to the number of students per class, a computer for each student and an interactive whiteboard, teaching a foreign language at my school should be a walk in the park . until you realise that the students, aged 13-16, all have some form of emotional, behavioural or learning difficulty - and sometimes all three.

Our focus is on providing our students with as many opportunities to gain recognised qualifications as we can, while at the same time working on their social skills and providing some emotional stability. And it is the latter that teaching languages can potentially address by focusing on social context, culture and history.

In my first lesson, I read out a few simple statements about myself and then presented them on the whiteboard. Their first task was to guess what I had said. As I had taught them maths and ICT the year before, most knew me and so their guesses were largely correct. The aim was to show them that they could get a rough understanding without knowing the language by looking for recognisable words and combining them with what they knew.

I had chosen French for the first half-term because of the number of cognates: words that are spelt similarly and mean roughly the same as they do in English. I put some of these cognates on the whiteboard, letting the students guess what they meant. They quickly realised that they already "knew" many words, as they were able to recognise them.

My aim for this half-term is to provide the students with enough French to be able to greet politely, say what they like and dislike and what they might like to eat at a cafe. French, like English, has a variety of ways of saying hello and goodbye and I want to introduce them to words so they may recognise them and their meanings without having to be able to use them.

The vast majority of my students seem to enjoy their first French lessons. Many greet me with "My name is ." (in French) when they see me. It's a pleasure to see their joy when I respond. They only have a single 45- minute lesson per week - not a lot, but better than no exposure at all.

Timothy Hilgenberg teaches modern foreign languages and ICT at Arc School in Ansley, Nuneaton

What else?


Try bangortes's resource "a la tele" to introduce vocabulary for TV programmes and how to give opinions. It is recommended for pupils with behavioural and learning difficulties and is a big hit with teachers

In the forums

One teacher seeks advice on how to incorporate their learning support assistant into language lessons, while another secondary MFL teacher wonders if there is a demand for their skills at primary level.

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