In order to maximise success in MFL, you need to make the subject come alive for each and every one of your pupils. That means understanding a little bit about them and tailoring your lessons to suit. Very quickly pupils will find the language more fun and accessible and be motivated to answer when the topic you are discussing is one they would be interested to discuss in English too.
The list may seem a little daunting at first, but even the seemingly less accessible information can be quickly learned through speaking or writing exercises.
1. What is their ability?
What is your pupils’ ability in terms of listening, speaking, reading, writing, intercultural understanding, knowledge about language and language learning strategies? It is important to establish what level each pupil is capable of working at so you can pitch your lessons at the right level.
2. What did they do before they were in your class?
What did your pupils cover in primary school or with a different teacher lower down in secondary school? Repeating lessons already learned is the quickest way to turn off pupils so do your homework and make sure you know what’s been covered before and expand on it, rather than repeat it.
3. What sort of activities do they prefer?
Different ways of learning will engage different learners. Of course, you can’t differentiate every lesson to the extent that it taps into every single pupil’s preferred learning style 100% of the time, and besides, variety is important. But make sure that you use a range of activities in your lessons and be prepared to adapt or change activities to engage your less reluctant learners if you’ve not managed to inspire them with what you had planned to do in today’s lesson.
4. How interested are they really in foreign languages?
Is the interest mainly linguistic or cultural? How can you exploit this? Of course some pupils will waste no time in telling you that they don’t want to be there at all… but of those that do have an interest in foreign languages, delve a little deeper and explore the areas that really interest them in depth. Enthusiasm can be contagious so if you get a small group of pupils hooked you may soon find that others follow suite.
5. Which other subjects are they interested in and/or good at?
Can you make links between MFL and these subjects which will engage them and make the learning in your lesson more relevant and engaging?
6. What outside interests and hobbies do they have?
Is there a way in which the topics you choose for class / controlled assessments can involve these interests? Again, the key here is to tap into topics that your pupils would be keen to talk about in English, then half the battle is done and your learners will be far more motivated to learn the necessary vocab to converse in a foreign language.
7. Do you know if the parents speak another language?
If any of your pupils’ parents speak another language or use it in their line of work this can be a really interesting discussion point in class. It can make language learning seem a lot more relevant to your pupils as they can see the real applications. You may also consider asking parents to come and talk to the class as they can act as fantastic role models. Though it is well worth sounding them out first as the wrong type of parent could just turn your pupils off for good!
8. What ideas do they have for the future?
Perhaps they are interested in a career in which languages would be a benefit, but they have not realised it yet. Always help your pupils to find ways in which their language skills will be applicable to their life and their future. It can be very difficult as a pupil when you are learning a language if you find it difficult and feel it is irrelevant. Make it relevant and your pupils will be more motivated to learn.
Is there anything else you should know about your pupils?
Do you have any ideas for good ‘getting to know you’ activities?
What other strategies do you have for engaging your pupils?
Have you made use of visiting role models in your class?
You may be interested in our range of MFL Courses