Many of you reading this article, will have memories of learning a foreign language via a textbook with a teacher who was focussed on getting you to perform role plays and recite verbs. This was how I learned French and German at school and I, personally, thoroughly enjoyed it. However, as Head of Modern Languages at a school that is over-flowing with creative and inquisitive minds, I understand that sometimes there is a need for a little more stretch and challenge and that this is best applied in various directions if we are, indeed, to give our students the ‘freedom to flourish’.
It is true that Spanish is the title of the subject but a typical lesson is so much more than learning vocabulary and drilling grammar. Although these important activities still take place in every stage of learning, pupils understand that the subject is also a means to exploring the curiosities of the world around us. Each topic area incorporates subjects that spark pupils’ desire to find out more. For example, recent lessons have included discussions about the diverse geography and climate of Chile; the Mexican artist and political activist, Frida Khalo; and the puzzling question of how the Incas built the ancient city of Machu Picchu without modern tools and machinery at their disposal.
Every lesson, our More Enthusiastic and Talented learners are encouraged to complete extension tasks. In addition to completing mini research projects, pupils can choose from a variety of other stretch and challenge work. Task types range from activities to improve their linguistic skills to empathetic writing to help foster an understanding of people from different walks of life - both past and present.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed my deliberate use of the phrase ‘More Enthusiastic and Talented’! The reason being that many of the pupils that I consider to be MAT in Spanish perform poorly in tests due to their Additional Learning Needs (ALN). However, despite having difficulties with reading and writing, with guidance, many of these students, as well as those without ALN, are able to access higher level skills such as critical thinking and analysis. Furthermore, students work electronically in Spanish lessons as standard. The introduction of Microsoft Office into the classroom and the addition of personal laptops is allowing all students to thrive at their individual level. It is an exciting time in education and I feel privileged to assist these young minds on their journey to becoming confident, independent and well-rounded learners.