Celebrity gossip in French

6th February 2004 at 00:00
Pupils of foreign languages often find difficulty speaking confidently and fluently, with correct pronunciation.

Yet Year 7 pupils from Langley Performing Arts College, Solihull, put on a performance last month of 10 sketches in French and German which impressed trainee teachers and fellow pupils.

PGCE modern languages trainee teachers from the University of Warwick used drama to apply language learned in the pupils' first term. They started with small groups of pupils and soon had them confident enough to perform something by heart with carefully chosen props, costumes and wigs.

The performance, to an audience of other trainees, Year 7 pupils and MFL teachers included songs, interviews, gossip, puppets, spoofs of TV shows such as EastEnders, Blind Date and Can't Cook, Won't Cook and a disco scene with celebrities.

Pauline van der Will, head of modern languages, said: "The afternoon provided a wonderful opportunity for the pupils to practise their language skills in an exciting and stimulating environment."

The PGCE trainees were impressed by the pupils' motivation, their willingness to be involved and the speed with which they learned. One said:

"The best thing about this event was seeing through the different performances how language can be manipulated to produce so many different things. I enjoyed it - seeing how the pupils were proud of their achievement was excellent."

Marilyn Hunt, lecturer in MFL teacher education, University of Warwick Fast work for physics Year 10 physics includes speed, acceleration and force, topics which most students do not find straightforward. This practical works well with Year 9 and 10 pupils, giving them an opportunity to use synchronised stopwatches to measure car speeds.

The school is near a busy road with a 40 mph speed limit which drivers regularly exceed. I tell my pupils I have measured a distance on the road that will take the 40mph drivers 12 seconds to travel. Unfortunately the road bends so pupils at the start are unable to see those at the finish.

Mobile phones are not to be used, so how can the speeds be measured?

For low-ability pupils I get them to trial what needs to be done in the lab. I start a pair of clocks at the same time and ask two pupils to stand at the start and two at the finish. I "motor" past them complete with registration plate. One pupil in each pair reads the time as I pass and calls it to the other who writes it down along with the last three letters of the registration number. I point out that all members of the group have to do their work properly or that of the others is wasted.

It takes a while for the pupils to appreciate that their start and finish recorders may not get both sets of details for a car. Someone might have failed to get one set or a car might have turned into a side road, for instance. So that they have a manageable number of readings, each group concentrates on a different car colour and they measure only cars travelling in one direction. All groups can measure motorbikes, which are usually over the limit.

Safety has to be emphasised: don't cross the road, stand at the designated places, stand back from the road edge, don't distract the drivers.

It is only when the two halves of the groups get back to the lab that they can calculate the drivers' speeds by comparing the pairs of stopwatch times.

My aim is to associate classwork as closely as possible with everyday life.

If they are asked "What did you do in physics today?" they will be able to say that they learned how to measure the average speed of cars with clocks and a measuring tape. Contrast this with the reply that they used light gates and a computer to time a trolley down a ramp and calculate its average speed.

Alex Redhead, science teacher, the Lakes School, Windermere

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