Learning a foreign language can open up the world for young children. It can inspire them to look beyond their own horizons and feel some of the excitement associated with discovering new civilisations, cultures and ways of looking at the world. As such, we believe that learning French provides the BAWB Federation with an opportunity to explore our Christian vision in a unique way; our children begin to understand that ‘neighbours’ are not just those who live in our local area but include other nationalities from across the world.
However, we realise that the key to igniting a fascination with the wider world is to ensure that children succeed in their language learning. To achieve this, learning needs to progress carefully, building up in small steps with regular revision of key concepts and vocabulary. We have developed our long-term and medium-term plans to ensure that this happens effectively.
In Summer 2021, we introduced a new scheme of work called The Primary French Project which was developed jointly by the Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, the Association for Language Learning and Network for Languages following the introduction of the 2014 national curriculum. The scheme is robust, thorough and has high expectations of the standards achievable by primary school children. Additionally, it includes geographical and cultural knowledge about France that makes the learning of the language more meaningful.
We then worked hard to adapt the scheme to meet the needs of the children in our unique small rural schools. One of the initial challenges was to help those children in Years 4 – 6 who had missed large amounts of language learning due to Covid-19 and who therefore weren’t ready to embark on the age appropriate modules of the new scheme. In 2021 – 2022, we therefore decided to begin by teaching all children the foundation module, called Niveau Bleu, to ensure that the basics were in place. For UKS2 children we planned extension objectives to enable them to fill in the most vital gaps more quickly and to support them to move into Year 6 or onto secondary school feeling confident and enthusiastic about their French.
In the following academic year, the long-term plan then moves on to give children full access to age appropriate work with the hope that the basics will then be in place, allowing them to make progress in the more challenging aspects of the language without losing confidence.
Another change that we made to support children to retain learning was to plan regular revision of key objectives, shown by blue text in our long-term plan.
Finally, we introduced shorter, more frequent lessons. Previously, children learnt French for approximately 40 minutes per week in a single lesson. We now teach them in 15 minute sessions, four times per week, and we have found that this has made a significant difference to their ability to retain knowledge.
All children in KS2 at the BAWB Federation have full access to French lessons, including children with additional needs. Lessons are adapted to ensure that every child, no matter their needs or abilities, can enjoy and succeed at language learning.
The children at Askrigg and Bainbridge are taught French by Mr Scrafton while Miss Collins teaches the children at West Burton.
Our new planning and methods of teaching French are still in their infancy. However, even at this early stage, it has been exciting to see how quickly children are picking up the language. They are keen to take an active role in spoken activities and French conversations with their teachers and classmates are fun, lively affairs. Scaffolded writing activities and model sentences support children to translate their oral knowledge into written French. Songs, rhymes and reading activities help further develop this breadth of experience.
At the end of each unit, children complete a simple assessment based on what they have learnt over the previous half term. The results of these assessments are used to identify gaps in what the children have learnt that can then be revised and secured in language teaching in the following term. The regular revision of key knowledge, skills and vocabulary further supports us to embed the learning in the children’s long term memories.
We are very excited to see what our children will achieve in the future when our new approach to language teaching has had time to demonstrate its full impact.
Miss Collins, French subject leader
Email: [email protected]
Click on the image to see our long-term overview