My experience as a teacher of MFL
I am going to show two samples of two different kinds of work. The first one is a test carried out with Year 7 at the end of the module. The test is taken from the book Listos 1. This Year 7 is a mixed ability group with four problematic students in terms of behaviour and with a couple of SEN. The second example I give of my pupil’s work is a quite complicated writing exercise that I myself designed for Year 9. The level of difficulty only allowed a small number of students to finish on time.
The difficulty involved in the exercise had to do more than anything else with the verb “IR” (to go) in the past tense, which is quite complex in Spanish.This Year 9 is a mixed ability group with a large number of students with behavioural issues. I also enclose two termly review reports from year 7 and 8, which I helped to fill in. We gave effort grades from 1 to 4 and level grades varied from 1 to 6. Within these levels there were three grades A, B, C, being A good, B average and C low.
The mark scheme I used for the Year 7 test was marks out of 54 with some comments. Because they have just started doing Spanish and it is a mixed ability group most of my comments are praise phrases in Spanish. I tried to be positive most of the time. The first two were listening exercises where they had to listen to different numbers in Spanish and write them down in the order they listen to them. The third was a reading exercise where they had to match the number to the right word. In the fourth activity they had to match up the right picture of classroom objects to the right word.
The fifth was a reading comprehension exercise where they were asked to read five bubble speeches of five different people talking about their age and the date of their birthday. They then had to write the dates into numbers. Here we see some numerical skills needed. The sixth exercise was not considered as compulsory, therefore only the more able ones finished it. It was a relatively complicated fill in the gaps exercise where they had to differentiate between masculine and feminine nouns and had to match the right masculine or feminine article next to the noun.
Marking the tests one by one informed me about the level of knowledge each individual student had reached. I was pleasantly surprised while doing my marking because I realised that some students were doing really well, even better than I expected. I found that some shy students that did not make them noticed in the classroom were quite bright and certainly after doing the marking I felt really proud of them. Quite interestingly I also noticed that my attitude towards these shy students changed after I found out how well they did in the test. They really grabbed my attention and made me want to encourage them to participate more and to help them keep on learning as much Spanish as they could. This experience was successful, gratificating and obviously exhilarating and encouraging for me.
Sadly a small number of students did not perform so well. However, I did not find any surprises. The boy who got fewer points is certainly a student with behavioural issues and lack of attention deficit. Another boy who underachieved in the exam did quite well taking into account that he is SEN. Another problematic girl got an average result, which made me realise that if she could behave properly in classrooms she would get good grades because she seems to have the intellectual capacity.
In general I was more than satisfied with the whole class after marking the test. The level of the class was quite acceptable. This made me think that I achieved the objectives that I had intended to fulfil. I had put a lot of effort by explaining new topics as many times a s they needed to and at the end of every lesson I was very satisfied with their learning achievement. I also achieved that my aims were in agreement with the contents.
The test that the students were asked to do was very suitable for the year group. It was an average ability test and most of them performed quite well except two pupils with behavioural problems and two SEN. I think that the test was well designed for year 7 students because it was straightforward and simple. They did not have to read long pieces of work or write sentences yet. Perhaps, I would have tried to raise the level of the test a bit later.
On the whole, their learning informed me that I was ready to move on with new topics. However, there were some students who still needed help and were not ready to receive more information. For those students, I would prepare revision exercises for them to take home and I would correct them and help them with their errors individually.
I found that the mark scheme I used was not particularly useful. Most of the students were only really focused on the points they had got and only some of them worried about any comment I had made. They did not worry about their mistakes but on comparing results with their peers. Next time I think that with any year 7 group I will write useful comments in English, comments that can help them amend their errors. I will try to give more importance to the comments and not to the points, however I will keep on giving marks because otherwise some competitive students may lose interest for the subject.
I stuck some nice pictures of different regions of Spain next to their work. That is the reason why the mark scheme I used this time was simply giving levels and some comments with minor corrections. I found that this kind of mark scheme was very useful for me. I learnt about levels, a system that we do not use in Spain. Moreover, I thought that the students were quite enthusiastic and wanted to know what level they were in and this encouraged them to want to improve since they wanted to reach a higher level. Some of them asked me what they had to do to reach a higher level.
I found out that the task I set them to do was more difficult than I had thought. The main difficulty had to do with the verb “Ir” (to go) which is irregular and has lots of variations in Spanish, however, in English it is very easy. The fact that only a small number of students handed in the work on time made me think about the difficulty of the test. The year group was not ready to move on, I thought that they still needed to practise and study verbs and grammatical structures more in depth.
In any case this year group is a very difficult one in terms of behaviour and when asked to do homework in general only three or four did it. The lack of interest and discipline of this year group may well be a reflection of their family environment and the low socio-economic and cultural background. I have to admit though that I was quite satisfied with the work handed in. The fact that two students with behavioural difficulties handed in the work surprised me pleasantly. I realised how much potential they had.
I plan to progress in assessment during my second placement by means of:
* Daily direct observation to students: assess active participation in the classroom and evaluate completion of homework.
* Give explanations according to the different levels of ability in order to design average ability tests.
* Take into account the socio-cultural background of the pupil in order to motivate him/her according to his/her environment (QtT 1.1)
* Give a great deal of importance to tests
* Assess the daily effort and work in the classroom
* Evaluate presentation of exercise books
* I will promote the self-evaluation of each student as well as co-evaluation in order to gather information about their academic and personal progress.
From my point of view, assessment takes a main role from the very beginning of the academic year. On the one hand I will allow valuing the learning in relation to the aims of teaching, the contents divided into concepts, procedures and attitudes, the different activities and the methodology. On the other hand I will try to create a continuous process inside the classrooms that is to say in real life lessons. I will try to include different and several opportunities for evaluation. I will let them know that they will also be assessed orally in everyday lessons due to the impracticality of assessing each student individually in an oral exam. My expectations as a MFL teacher will be related to the level descriptions in the national curriculum always aiming to raise the level of my students where possible.
I hope to be able to give the students the opportunity to value for themselves the criteria of evaluation, how to deal with errors, the working method used (pair work, group work or individual work) the didactic material used (tapes, text book, exercise book, video etc), the development of the capability to do self evaluation and the importance of individual and independent work. In order to assess fairly I hope to be able to face the common problem of classes with students of different abilities and levels. It might be argued that a good way to deal with this diversity of levels is by means of introducing elements of individualised teaching, facilitating a more flexible learning and allowing the students to work at their own pace.
All these actions will help me to be more effective in terms of assessment. I also plan to read thoroughly the assessment policy of each school I go to from the beginning. I will prepare thoroughly my lessons and I will design a mark sheet with different sections to be assessed such as behaviour, active participation in the classroom, homework, presentation of exercise books and attainment.
Finally I should say that the assessment of learning has contributed a great deal towards my development as a MFL teacher. It has been very gratificating seeing my students learn and thinking that I have been the cause of their learning really fills me with enthusiasm. I have also learnt to adapt myself to them and to the different learning styles. By marking tests or homework I have realised the possible errors when teaching a topic and therefore I have had to rectify my way of dealing and teaching that topic. (QtT 1.7) Undoubtedly their enthusiasm has been the most exciting and gratificating thing of all and of course knowing that I am an important element in their lives and in their learning. Moreover, feeling that I am useful for society and for a large number of young people fills me with satisfaction.
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