Stories to support curriculum planning


Table of Contents


As with the other national curriculum subjects there are four strands to support high quality subject knowledge:

  1. National curriculum importance statements
  2. Authentic sources
  3. Subject associations
  4. Twitter communities

To help us get our bearings, it is worth quoting the purpose of languages from the national curriculum programme of study: ‘learning a foreign language is a liberation from insularity and provides an opening to other cultures. A highquality 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’.

The national curriculum for languages aims to ensure that: ‘all pupils understand and respond to spoken and written language from a variety of authentic sources; speak with increasing confidence, fluency and spontaneity, finding ways of communicating what they want to say, including through discussion and asking questions, and continually improving the accuracy of their pronunciation and intonation; can write at varying length, for different purposes and audiences, using the variety of grammatical structures that they have learnt; discover and develop an appreciation of a range of writing in the language studied’.

Once the importance statements have been revisited, it is helpful for subject leaders and coordinators to discuss and agree with colleagues, the reason why their subject, in this case languages, is important for the pupils in their school. One way of doing this, is to draw on a quote, in this case a Czech proverb, ‘you live a new life for every language you speak. If you only know one language, you only live once.’ This kind of prompt allows us to formulate our way of stating the importance of the subject. We might agree or disagree with such a statement and in doing so come to a form of words which expresses our view of the importance of this subject, in this school. This moves us away from the territory of ‘we teach this subject because of the SATS or GCSEs’. While the external tests and exams are important, they are not the totality of the subject.

Professional Communities

Subject associations are important because at the heart of their work is curriculum thinking, development and resources. The subject association for languages is the Association for Language Learning and it should be the case that any member of staff with responsibility for a subject should be a member of the relevant subject association, and this should be paid for by the school.

Twitter subject communities are important for the development of subject knowledge, because it is here that there are lively debates about what to teach, how to teach and the kinds of resources that are helpful. For languages it is worth following All 4 Languages and the hashtags #MFLchat #MFLTwitterati #Languages.

An excellent example of drawing pupils in, is Telling Tales in Latin, a clever book about Ovid writing stories which introduces pupils to vocabulary and grammar in a structured, careful way. Right from the start, pupils are encouraged to see the links between the Latin vocabulary and words in English. What this means is that very early on, pupils gain confidence because they realise that they can begin to make sense of it. And the great thing is that the teacher does not need to know Latin in order to work through the activities with pupils.

Interestingly, the programme of study at key stage 2 allows for the teaching of any modern or ancient foreign language. There are excellent resources for teaching Latin to young children. Minimus is a Latin course based on a real family who lived at Vindolanda in 100AD: Flavius, the fort commander, his wife Lepidina, their three children, assorted household slaves, their cat Vibrissa – and Minimus the mouse. It is a great way in, not just to the language but to the lives and preoccupations of Romans living in England 2000 years ago.


Languages films

Check our library of films related to the subject

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