Principles and Purpose of the MFL Curriculum
“Learning a foreign language is a liberation from insularity and provides an opening to other cultures. A high-quality languages education should foster pupils’ curiosity and deepen their understanding of the world. The teaching should enable pupils to express their ideas and thoughts in another language and to understand and respond to its speakers, both in speech and in writing. It should also provide opportunities for them to communicate for practical purposes, learn new ways of thinking and read great literature in the original language. Language teaching should provide the foundation for learning further languages, equipping pupils to study and work in other countries.” (DfE, MFL, September 2013).
The following principles have informed the planning of the United Learning curriculum across all subjects:
Here we explore these principles in the context of the MFL curriculum:
‘Why This, Why Now?’
In our planning we have asked ourselves ‘why this, why now?’ Here we provide some examples of the curriculum choices we have made, and why the units have been placed in the order we have chosen:
Teaching the MFL Curriculum
Effective teaching in MFL is conducted mainly in carefully planned target language (tailored to pupils’ language ability level and building systematically on prior knowledge) under the framework provided by the Rosenshine Principles. Lessons begin with a short recall activity and the modelling is kept short and is memorable. New language is introduced in small steps, followed by sufficient guided practice. Teachers check for understanding and employ various questioning techniques, ensuring all pupils are engaged and only moving on to independent practice when appropriate. To ensure a high success rate in independent practice, teachers ensure the language required, both vocabulary and grammar, has been practised sufficiently and provide the necessary scaffolds. MFL lessons have a clear I-we-you structure that is not rigid, as there might be various modelling stages (I) within one lesson. A balance of skills (reading, listening, writing, speaking, translating) is desirable in most lessons, although occasionally one or two of the skills might be prioritised.
So, when we walk into an MFL lesson, what should we expect to see?
Our curriculum is designed to provide challenge for all learners. Teachers are expected to adapt resources for the needs of their students.
Assessing the MFL Curriculum
Formative Assessment in MFL
MFL teachers continually assess pupils and check for everyone’s understanding as part of their lessons. All lessons begin with a recall activity, often in the form of a translation quiz, focusing on key language. Listening and reading exercises also provide instant assessment allowing pupils and teachers to identify areas that require further work. For extended writing tasks, whole-class feedback is an efficient way of picking out key themes in pupils’ responses. Pair speaking activities often provide teachers with assessment opportunities, concentrating on a certain number of pupils at a time.
Each unit of our Key Stage 3 curriculum has an optional end of unit assessment, covering two skills (one productive and one receptive). In addition, there are recommendations for achievement tests throughout our curriculum overview, designed to test knowledge of phonics, vocabulary, and grammar. Great care is taken to ensure that assessments are valid. Testing pupils’ ability to produce long stretches of more complex language in less scaffolded environments is progressively introduced.
Summative Assessment in MFL
All pupils are expected to sit end of year assessments in Years 7, 8 and 9. These consist of listening, reading, and writing with elements of translation. Speaking remains optional.
In Year 10 pupils are expected to sit a past paper at Foundation-tier, unless the Head of Department decides to opt for Higher-tier for some pupils. All skills are assessed.
Recovery and Catch-up in MFL
For any pupils who might have fallen behind and need to catch-up, particularly considering Covid, our pre-recorded video lessons and the fluency booklets for every sub-unit at Key Stage 3 and with a revision focus per theme at Key Stage 4 provide excellent support.
Progression in the MFL Curriculum
Progression between Key Stages
Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3: Progression between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 can be challenging due to limited flexibility in Year 7 MFL setting. Pupils do not necessarily continue into Key Stage 3 with the same language they studied at Key Stage 2 and the level attained at Key Stage 2 varies greatly. This often results in very mixed groups in Year 7 where some pupils are complete beginners while others have already attained a certain level in the language. For this reason, our Key Stage 3 curriculum assumes no prior knowledge of French or Spanish and it is left to the discretion of the teacher/department to adapt it for those who have.
Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4: The Key Stage 3 curriculum sets the foundation for Key Stage 4. Particular attention is paid to the three time frames with variation in the tenses (grammar) and every year we cover more sophisticated ways of expressing ourselves on a wide range of issues, expressing and justifying opinions with broader and deeper vocabulary knowledge. The units covered in our Year 9 curriculum act as a bridge between Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4. For pupils not continuing with a language into GCSE, our Key Stage 3 curriculum provides them with a basic but thorough understanding of the language. It also gives them an overview of the culture(s) and people speaking that language globally.
We expect most pupils would choose to take their MFL to GCSE. Reasons to do so include:
Key Stage 4 to Key Stage 5: To transition to Key Stage 5 it is advisable to secure Key Stage 4 grammar and vocabulary and some pre-reading over the summer is recommended. There are many reasons to take A Level Languages, such as:
Key Stage 5 to University: Completing A Level will prepare pupils for a Languages degree or a language combined course. The wide range of topics covered over the two years, the IRP and the study of Works (texts and films) prepares pupils for the academic and research demands of a Languages degree. Language courses at university offer you the chance to study an individual modern language or combine two or more (often including the history, literature, culture, and politics); translation and interpreting, as well as linguistics (the science behind language and communication) are also viable options. You can find more information here:
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