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What to do with a Y7 who have mixed KS2 experience


To KS3 MFL teachers, compulsory Languages in KS2 can be seen as both a danger and an opportunity. New Y7 students having very different experiences of language learning in KS2 can present a complex picture.

Here are some steps that you can take to ensure that your new Y7s who have learned the language before maintain their enthusiasm and continue to progress.

Before they arrive:

Nothing will demoralise a new Y7 student faster than having to repeat at the beginning of their secondary language learning career everything that they did in KS2.

Revisit your scheme of work:
- reflect on what learners should and do know.
- give students the opportunity to use language more creatively.
- focus on the skills rather than topics or vocabulary.
- explore the same language in a different context. Transition does not mean "more of the same". Put familiar learning into unfamiliar contexts. Revisit but don't reteach.
- build in opportunities to use technology to liven up a unit of work. Students can demonstrate what they have learned by making a podcast. Stronger learners can help weaker ones via a class wiki. Use interesting authentic websites to help them to practise familiar language.
- build a bank of tasks differentiated by prior learning and by ability.
- offer challenge in every lesson.

Dialogue with your primary partners is crucial here. You will need to know what the students have already learned, and, most importantly, how they have learned it. The word "Transition" implies change at KS3. Instead we need to view it as "Continuity and Progression" and change the way in which Y7 are taught to facilitate this. Secondary teachers can learn from their primary colleagues who deal with mixed-ability on a daily basis. Always bear in mind that language learning should now be seen as a continuum from Year 3 to Year 9, from age 7 to age 14.  It is not two completely separate stages.

As the secondary partner in the students' language learning journey, you are the people who will build the students' capacity to manipulate language and apply it to different settings, not the people who help students to accumulate more vocabulary and set phrases.

Read and familiarise yourself with the KS2 curriculum for KS2 Languages. Do you know what the expectations are for the end of Year 6?

Familarise yourself with the KS2 Framework for Languages, in particular the Language Learning Skills and Knowledge about Language strands.

Read, which talks about progression from KS2 to KS3.

Look at the scheme of work put together by a group of schools in Yorkshire as part of a LinkedUp project.


At the beginning of Y7:

Gauge their ability and level as soon as possible on entry to Y7 or even at the end of Y6. This will enable you to ascertain their existing knowledge and also the skills that they have.
There are different ways of doing this:
- traditional written test
- audit of skills
- ask students to give themselves a star rating based on their prior learning.

If timetabling and staffing patterns will allow, set the children following this initial testing.

For consideration:
- Do you set according to previous knowledge and skills or according to ability?
- If timetabling and staffing patterns do not allow for this, is there value in discussing the issue with your SLT and timetabler?

In the classroom:

Use the more experienced learners to support the less experienced. Students with prior learning can help you to teach the ones without.

Group the students either according to their prior learning, giving the groups non-obvious names. Alternatively you could group stronger and weaker learners together, to help each other.

Plan for pair work and group activities to enhance the peer to peer learning conversations.

Invite a different level of response to the same stimulus, such as a video, song or text, or a different level of creative response to a unit of work. (For example, if you have been working on zoo animals, some students will produce a detailed brochure with complete, complex sentences, while others with no prior experience will produce a poster where the animals are labelled.)


In the longer term:

Students who have learned languages in KS2 may be sufficiently advanced to be able to take GCSE in Y9. However we do need to be mindful of lifelong language learning and progression into KS5. Early GCSE in Y9 gives students the opportunity to do a second language in KS4. After all, they will already have a number of years' experience of language learning skills under their belts that they can adapt to a new language and which will make the acquisition of that new language easier. You will gain dual linguists via a linear format rather than via a tandem or parallel one.

2009, revised 2015