First step - Only connect
It is often the lessons that include cross-curricular activities that children will remember in years to come. Linking modern foreign languages with geography and ICT is much more effective than simply memorising vocabulary.
"It's like the adage says, 'Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand," says Shannon Doherty, a recently qualified teacher.
Making meaningful links with other subjects in the curriculum provides opportunities to reinforce and extend learning. It enables children to engage with the subject in a meaningful and relevant context, thereby providing an extra dimension and enriching their learning.
Sue Shoveller, deputy headteacher at South Farnham School in Surrey, is a firm believer in the benefits of cross-curricular learning. "Creativity is all about making new connections, and cross-curricular activities are about making connections across the subjects," she says.
"One of the huge benefits of cross-curricular learning is that it gives you the chance to create an exciting learning environment that children can get involved in and are completely committed to."
The curriculum emphasises the need to provide opportunities for cross-curricular work in lessons. The Storyline Approach - developed in the late 1970s and later adapted for foreign languages teaching - has enabled pupils not only to make connections in their learning and build on these, but also to draw on their knowledge and cultural experiences outside the classroom.
However, planning cross-curricular lessons often presents a challenge to NQTs, who feel that relevant links to other subjects in the curriculum are not always self-evident.
Miss Doherty had difficulties during her NQT year due to the lack of guidance on cross-curricular learning during her teacher training.
"Much of it comes down to you," she says. "A lot of the time you have to do your own research and draw on your own experiences and skills."
When planning in a cross-curricular way, NQTs might do some research and liaise with colleagues from other subject areas, says Verna Brandford, who teaches at London University's Institute of Education.
"They should organise activities that challenge and stimulate pupils and acknowledge the social, cultural and knowledge capital that pupils bring to the classroom - this way, pupils can demonstrate their knowledge," she says. "Always ensure that the subject being studied remains the driving force and is not subsumed and does not become secondary."
According to Miss Doherty, who teaches French at a primary school in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, planning cross-curricular lessons is one of the most fulfilling aspects of the job.
"As we know, learning a new language is not only about words and phrases, but about people and places. It is about expanding personal horizons and stimulating curiosity," she says. "So the links are pretty self-evident."
Children are naturally interested in the world around them, and the study of a new language can lead to the exciting discovery of information and facts about the countries in which their language is spoken, says Miss Doherty. "Children can discover where in the world a language is spoken, what the weather can be like in these places, the physical features there, names of rivers, capitals and mountain ranges."
Using modern technology, Miss Doherty's pupils keep a record of the weather in the new language at several locations in French-speaking countries.
"Internet webcams offer great possibilities," she says. "My pupils compare and contrast their own local area with that of their partner school in the south of France."
Many other examples of cross-curricular potential can be found, and no doubt you will have specific interests, knowledge and skills yourselves that you can share with your pupils.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- Do research and liaise with colleagues from other subject areas.
- Organise activities that acknowledge the social, cultural and knowledge capital that pupils bring to the classroom.
- Use your own specific interests, knowledge and skills to engage pupils.
- Make sure the subject being studied remains the driving force and is not swallowed by other activities.