Introducing MFL Across the Primary Curriculum – As a Home-Schooling Mum!
A few weeks ago, my little ‘to-do-list’ notebook started to look very odd. Gone were the standard shopping lists, people to email and upcoming birthday present ideas, replaced instead by “desk space, top up paper supplies” and “how do they teach long division nowadays?” and “why didn’t I pay more attention to phonics at parents evening????”.
Becoming a de facto educator at home with little time to plan or adjust has been an enormous leap into the unknown for many parents across the country, and world. Thankfully, school teachers are supporting their students at home with online lessons, plans and access to fabulous resources, so we need not fear too much (except the long division, and the names of shapes, because I can’t remember anything past a rectangle).
As a theatre-maker, I have tried to use some of my creative practice to devise a schedule for my daughter that combines the key concepts school requires to keep her up to date with the curriculum, whilst also allowing her to follow her own line of interests. Plus, of course, the more interested she is in the work, the more time I will have free to chase after her toddler brother (his key learning area is Physics - how high can I climb and how hard can I fall?).
As a practitioner for the Multilingual Performance Project, introducing languages to the lessons was of course an interest to me, but, alas, I am not a language specialist. Having signed us up to an online BSL course, we spend an hour a week learning basic BSL to build up to a certificate, but that requires a huge amount of focus and energy from both of us, and a very well-designed programme of learning. Without that skillset, I have tried to think about more subtle integrations of a modern foreign language that I can supply as a non-specialist whilst home educating.
The key concept for my approach was to find a topic into which a modern language can be interjected in a way to support the learning, rather than as entirely separate lesson. For this two-week schedule, we chose to look at World War One – La Grande Guerre. The schedule I devised is for a KS2 child who is VERY keen on history and reading, but has little to no knowledge of world geography or foreign languages. Our schedule was based very firmly on the interests and skill set already held by my child, but some of the ideas within it could be applied elsewhere both by other home educators and in the classroom.
Allowing her to choose the historical event she wanted to study ensured a high level of engagement before we began, as well as it being a natural progression from our World War Two topic. It’s worth mentioning that her reading material inspired this previous choice – her current book being Wave me Goodbye by Jacqueline Wilson. I’ve learned that using fiction that is related to or inspired by the topic or is set in the target country will create discussions, deepen understanding of the topic and increase enthusiasm greatly.
Each day needed to include reading, writing, maths and creative work, combining the topics of WWI and French language and culture.
You can download the two-week schedule here.
[I’ve included all the activities we took part in over the two weeks (marking the MFL-integrated activities with a *) to give an overall picture of the cross-curricular approach as well as the resources we used to support the work.]
Being at home meant that we could base our meals around the topic too. Baking Anzac biscuits together created a way to talk about the Gallipoli campaign, making our own baguettes allowed us to talk about the importance of bread and la boulangerie to French culture. Tuna Niçoise for lunch, French onion soup, lots of cheese… food is a wonderful way to engage the senses with the sights and smells of a culture. We even had to mark Dijon on the map to show where the best mustard came from!
The week began with the menu for le petit-déjeuner on the table. Each day the menu was there ready to be referred to. This was her first ever contact with French pronunciation and gendered nouns, it was an easily understood conversation starter that could be easily repeated each day.
You can download a PDF of the menu here.
Througout the two weeks, further food magnets were created and placed around the kitchen, on the fridge and cupboards, so commonly used words and phrases are visible and easily referred to.
Map of France created by Holly and her daughter.
French vocabulary magnets created by Holly and her daughter.
Art inspired by George Seurat, created by Holly's daughter.
Materials for making Sikh dolls.
This endevour was subject to the usual successes and failures of all great plans (for example, I’d overestimated how capable we were at writing sonnets as well as Wilfred Owen!), but it might give you an idea as to how I, as a non-French speaker, integrated French language into home-schooling.
Photographs of the activities are courtesy of Holly Bateman.
Primary teachers: Watch this space
Holly and MPP Director Daniel are currently writing up a collection of drama and creative activities for introducing languages across the primary curriculum which will be posted to our website soon.
Holly Bateman is a Birmingham-based theatre practitioner working with the Multilingual Performance Project.