How to teach MFL in primary schools
The numerous changes to the primary curriculum this year can mean that teachers feel as if they chasing their tails. Don’t panic. Here, teacher, author and freelance trainer Michelle Dredger offers her top tips.
Learning a language really does have a positive impact on a child's learning. It increases their cultural awareness and understanding, improves their speaking and listening skills and reinforces grammatical terminology which, as we know, features heavily in the new English curriculum.
But learning languages should be fun and engaging for you as well as your students. No, I’m not loca, MFL can be a lesson that we all look forward to. Here’s how:
Keep it simple
Remember, it’s primary languages – children don’t need to learn long lists of verbs, conjugated in the perfect tense. Let children use bilingual dictionaries in guided reading to find adjectives to describe a character in the foreign language. Take a topic like colours: after teaching the vocabulary, ask the children to create games such as colour bingo to teach the new words to younger pupils.
Work at it as a school
Try celebrating languages and cultures together as a school. You could introduce a breakfast club and eat croissants and other foods from across the globe. Or you could let the children study famous people from other countries (footballers are always a hit). Another useful exercise is to ask any children with EAL to teach the class a few words from their mother tongue.
Explore the language together
I know teachers feel like they should know everything (and we do know quite a lot). However, if you’re a complete novice, admit to the class that you're learning too. Turn the classroom into a multilingual zone and make labels for the items in the room. Start your lessons by greeting each other in the target language and write the dates in their books in the different language.
Don’t make it a 'Spanish and vanish' session
With everything else you have to cram into the day, it’s easy to think; “Great, Spanish is over for another week.” Instead, try to take 10 minutes to ask the children what they have learned and enjoyed; let them teach you their new words and phrases.