MFL over lockdown

  • Another lockdown….. At least another month at home. Maybe two… what if it lasts until the Summer Term?
  • There’ll be no “proper” lessons, no classroom activities…
  • Surely this is going to be a disaster…

These thoughts and many more may have crossed both teachers and students’ minds in January, when we learned that we had to switch back to teaching and learning remotely.

However, were these concerns realised? Were we really unable to continue with our language-learning during January and February?

The good news is that, to the contrary, we enjoyed implementing some different approaches to learning a language which allowed both us and our students to experiment a bit more and discover there were possible future property developers, chefs and fashion designers amongst our students at Headington.

Who knew that amongst our L4 and U4 Spanish students we had talented directors who could shoot a short video of a tour of their house (or boarding house!) while describing it all using target language?

Expert chef pâtissiers or cuisinierès in L4 French class researched French recipes, made shopping lists in French, and then recorded themselves cooking and baking in step by step mouth-watering video recipes.

U4 students of German were able to express their fashion sense and record a video of themselves describing items of clothing from their wardrobe.

We also had writers, poets and singers: students of French writing about either an imaginary museum or a cabinet of curiosity. L5 French poets penned poems looking at form, then vocabulary.

One pupil in L5 is now entering a national singing competition in French. She is a songwriter and has translated her song into French while at home during lockdown!

Older students had the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the language and its culture by researching how Frederick the Great influenced the culture and Architecture of Berlin or by presenting photos of their grandparents and talking about life in the olden days using the imperfect tense in French.

Picking up an object important to them and saying why it was important, including personal anecdotes and memories was a great way of ensuring that despite being outside of the classroom and communicating via a screen, our pupils could use French and connect their experiences to grammatical concepts such as the range of past tenses.

Younger students in Spanish created Slides presentations and posters showcasing their research about Spanish-speaking countries producing pieces of work with some beautiful pictures, interesting facts and cultural details.

We were able to discover so many hidden talents in our students and hopefully they have discovered that using a language is not just about putting words together in a sentence to get a grade at GCSE or A Level. Language learning can be creative, fun and another way in which to express themselves.

In summary, the MFL Department at Headington managed to continue to use language outside of the classroom and by promoting three pen-pal schemes, we were able to offer an opportunity to our pupils to carry on practising with their language(s) of choice. The girls will have their padlet documents or email addresses to write to their French, German and Spanish friends they have made while at home!

Moreover, we are very proud of the many initiatives that were started with our classes and we will continue to explore these new paths in the future.

By Mr Ignazio Pompeo, Head of Modern Languages