News and blog

Modern Foreign Languages in the Senior School & Sixth Form

Modern Foreign Languages in the Senior School & Sixth Form

The academic year began with Languages Week events in September.

Activities included a Japanese taster lesson, a French patisserie where croissants and pains au chocolat were sold with proceeds donated to Jimmy’s Night Shelter, a German games session, a Chinese mooncake-making session and an energetic Flamenco dancing class led by Miss Romera. 

Integrated Learning days

During Integrated Learning days, students in Year 8 were encouraged to think about how key political, historical and cultural figures from French, German, Chinese and Spanish-speaking countries had changed the world in which they lived.

This was a great opportunity for students to gain an insight into cultures and languages that many of them had not studied before.

Their research and collaborative skills were tested to the limit as they had a short time to explore and evaluate their chosen figure’s impact on society and to present their findings in an accessible way to their peers. 

Students in Year 7 were also encouraged to think beyond the language, and undertook a special project on Le commerce équitable which saw them exploring which products can be Fairtrade, what life is like for Fairtrade workers, and saw them considering how their actions and shopping habits may link to wider repercussions for people around the world. 

Languages events

During the course of the year, our department has held a number of special breakfast events, which were greatly appreciated by students! They were able to sample typical breakfast fare from a range of countries as well as finding out more about the traditions behind some of these delicacies.  

In December, Professor Nick Harrison from King’s College London visited St Mary’s to provide students in Years 10 to 13 an insight into what studying French is like at university level. In January, the Chinese department accompanied 28 students to a local restaurant to celebrate Chinese New Year. 

Adventures in Spain

During the February half-term break, our Spanish department travelled with twenty-one Year 10 and Year 11 students to Benalmádena (Málaga, Spain). This proved to be a great opportunity to put a wide range of skills into practice as they brushed up on their language in daily Spanish lessons.

They also took part in a Flamenco workshop, participated in photo competitions and cooked a paella to feed 70 students at the language school in Benalmádena.

The visit was completed with a visit to Malaga, including the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle and the Museo Picasso. Lots of the girls also made good use of their knowledge of restaurant and shopping vocabulary in their free time! 

Visiting theatre

In early March, we welcomed a visiting theatre company for a very entertaining performance of Das Schlimmste Hotel, conducted in German and enjoyed by students from Years 7 to 10 and as well as guests from The Leys School. 

In the classroom

All members of the St Mary's MFL team continue to encourage all students to develop creative and analytical skills within their language learning. We have been experimenting with building blocks to help the students understand different kind of structures. It is a more kinaesthetic way to experiment with complex grammar and sentence structure, which encourages collaboration with others. Many students have enjoyed this approach. 

Still St Marys

Sadly, since March a number of exciting activities have been put on hold, including our popular study visit to France for Years 8 and 9, our end-of-year Mexican Fiesta for Year 8 Spanish students and a further performance by a visiting theatre company.

Teaching and learning are a very different experience now: language lessons are often loud with lots of speaking and listening activities and lots of paired and group work. As remote learners, our lessons are quieter, although students are still being encouraged to practise pronunciation at home and to take part verbally in classes with their microphones. The importance of communication has never been more evident!

We have all found ways to be creative in our approach and have been tremendously impressed by the way students embraced new technology and methods of accessing, completing and submitting work.

They are developing problem-solving skills and finding new ways to communicate and collaborate with each other, as well as continuing with their pure language learning, whilst demonstrating perseverance and ingenuity along the way.

Nevertheless, we are all very much looking forward to the time when we can safely return to the classroom and enjoy the familiar hubbub of a normal language lesson. 

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