Long-lasting language tasks

30th April 2004 at 01:00
This year, our languages department introduced extended homework for all pupils in key stage 3. This is supplementary to other set homework and pupils are expected to work on it over time or when homework may be difficult to set, for example because of staff absence.

In September, we sent a letter to parents telling them about the scheme and the dates by when the extended homework should be completed.

In each language, our pupils were given a list of 10 tasks, devised to suit all abilities. Of these they had to complete one a term.

For example, Year 7 tasks included Je vais faire un calendrier illustre (I'm going to make an illustrated calendar); Year 8, Je vais ecrire une petite histoire en francais (I'm going to write a short story in French); and Year 9, Je vais ecrire une article pour un journal ou un magazine (I'm going to write an article for a journal or magazine).

We felt that by giving pupils an element of choice that they do not usually have in our subject, along with a chance to do something different, we would be motivating them to learn.

You will always get those who are happy to do the minimum, but out of more than 150 pupils in KS3, only three failed to complete their task on time last term.

You will also, after the first task, identify those who will choose an easy option. This term, we guided students into attempting something more suited to their ability.

It was also obvious that a great number of pupils enjoyed doing this homework and parents commented on this. Some of it was of a very high quality and I enjoyed marking most of it.

A lot of the tasks were completed on computer and included a number of PowerPoint presentations.

I now plan to use these as starters for my lessons, presented by the authors themselves. When we tried this for the first time, both presenter and audience deemed it a success.

We may change some details next year but so far the idea has proved worthwhile.

Bridget Caddy

Head of MFL, Huish Episcopi School, Lanport, Somerset

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