Aim: To consider fresh and innovative approaches to grammar teaching and ways of incorporating translation exercises into Language lessons and homework.
Background: The new KS3 curriculum was more demanding and required translation skills and successful manipulation of grammar. There were several areas in which students had difficulties, e.g. direct and indirect objects, gender agreements and conjugation of correct verb forms. The languages covered were French, German and Spanish.
Year 1: Surveys indicated that students found translation challenging, but virtually all saw the benefits of translation as a useful and authentic activity. Most teachers had not used translation in Year 7 before, but all were convinced that it was a useful tool with which to enhance grammatical accuracy. The outcome was a range of lively and creative resources, including exercises based on tongue twisters, proverbs and sayings, idioms, signs, advertisements and songs, with video clip extracts.
Year 2: A new toolkit gave priority to authentic materials such as stories and poems with the use of songs. Student feedback from Year 7 suggested that fun activities were vital in engaging students in translation work. Short translation tasks proved an excellent means of differentiation and a useful extension task, especially when setting targets in line with the departmental marking policy. The report was disseminated at the BFET trust training day, where some of the materials, especially in French, were shared with colleagues from other schools.
Year 3: There were several new members of the department this year, so the project aims were shared and strategies for embedding grammar and translation practice were discussed. Staff worked hard in all three languages, creating resources which were shared centrally for all to use. In line with the demands of the new GCSE specification a new assessment scheme was introduced across Years 7 to 9, with termly assessments in translation from English to TL (target language), TL to English and a free writing component.
Evidence: Staff and student questionnaires, exam results.
Impact: Translation and transcription tasks were included in the end of Year 7 exam for the first time at the end of the first year of the project. Analysis suggested that the average marks in all three languages were unchanged even though the overall examination was judged to be significantly more demanding, suggesting that pupils dealt with translation and dictation with comparative ease. Data from Year 7 examinations: average mark in 2014 French 83.2%, Spanish 87.1%, German 81.6%. In 2015 (with transcription and translation tasks added): French 83.6%, Spanish 87.4%, German 81.4%.
Pupils developed a range of strategies to tackle translation tasks, such as using the context, looking for grammatical pointers and looking for cognates. The teaching of grammar had become embedded into every lesson and pupils responded well to this; they were able to talk with confidence about grammar using the correct terminology (e.g. subject, auxiliary verb, past participle), both in conversation with the teacher and with each other.
Reflections: I have benefitted personally from the chance to work collaboratively with members of the department and it is very encouraging to read that pupils and staff have such a wealth of strategies to tackle translation and grammar in the classroom.
Contact: Angela Stokes, Head of MFL, firstname.lastname@example.org