Working with schools: some ideas on cooperation (part 2 – topics)
Based on preliminary scoping of teachers at comprehensive schools in England, there is great demand for support in designing engaging materials for the new specifications. Obviously, different schools will have different needs, but also different capacities and facilities, and give their teachers different levels of autonomy, but the ideas below are some of the aspects of the curriculum where your input would be most welcome.
Please note that exam boards in England, Northern Ireland and Wales are a lot more prescriptive regarding the topics and works which can be taught in the classroom. More information on exam specifications here.
For Key Stage 2 (primary)
Anything age-appropriate. Both specific resources and workshops would be very welcome, as there is comparatively very little for this Key Stage and most teachers are not language specialists.
For Key Stages 3-5 (11-18)
Translation is making a come-back in the exams, and therefore is being taught again from Year 7 onwards. Teachers have mentioned that they would be very keen for materials on how to approach translation in a more interesting way (e.g. through poetry, easy literary comparisons, more interesting texts).
Another area where your expertise could be useful would be through the creation of short culture-based tasks to be used as starter activities for a lesson. These could be linked to contemporary or annual events (e.g. la fête de la musique, la Japan Expo, something from the news…) or simply interesting facts or topics for reflections (e.g. looking at one of the Southern accents, the OM-PSG rivalry, the shift away from dubbing, parallels between Welsh and Breton…). Those activities do not have to be reading comprehensions with questions, they could be videos, ordering/matching tasks, gap-fills, or even partly in French partly in English.
There is definitely an interest for culture-based materials, but not all teachers have the freedom to deviate from the scheme of work to include entire lessons outside the curriculum. Nonetheless, activities or workshops around food, regional culture, BDs, music or TV could be more easily integrated in the curriculum as these are prescribed themes.
Reviewing films for appropriate content for different age groups and creating resources for studying it is extremely time consuming. Activities around films would therefore also be welcome, whether they are a series of short tasks (e.g. three 10-min activities to do throughout the film) or an entire project based on the film. The former are especially needed for Key Stage 3, as would be films from Francophone countries other than France.
For Key Stage 4 (GCSE & National 4/5s)
Translation has become a key part of the new GCSE and therefore teaching resources and workshops around this theme are stringently needed. Teachers would also welcome more diverse listening resources – it could be interesting getting your students involved in creating these (similar to what the University of Texas have done for adult learners).
Up-to-date resources on topics such as social media, music, technology or what young people do in their free time would also be very useful for GCSE teaching, as even recent textbooks are outdated and most teachers will not have lived in a French-speaking country for quite a few years.
The new specifications also include a topic on customs and festivals in French-speaking countries and communities, for which there are few resources beyond lists of stereotypes. This would be particularly crucial in raising awareness of French beyond Paris, baguettes and the Eiffel Tower.
In terms of widening the curriculum, there is some interest for resources or workshops on literature that would be appropriate for this age group.
For Key Stage 5 (A-Level & Highers/Advanced Highers)
Literature and film have always formed a key part of A-Level study, but schools tend to pick the same works year after year despite the exam boards now offering a wider range of choices. Introductions to the possible texts and films so that teachers can choose between them would be useful, as there are few information and resources available for the ‘non-traditional’ choices (most common choices are still L’Etranger and La Haine, but Intouchable is becoming popular).
As for Key Stage 4, up-to-date (and regularly renewed) resources are needed on music and media in Francophone countries, as well as festivals and traditions beyond lists of stereotypes. The topic of marginalisation/integration would also benefit from richer and more current input.
Students are also required to conduct an independent research project related to an aspect of life or culture in a French-speaking context. Workshops and ‘study days’ could help support them in this task.