How to incorporate culture into the GCSE MFL classroom

I think that culture is one of the elements
that pupils enjoy most when they are studying a foreign language, I think they are naturally
curious about how things work in other countries and you can introduce them to things that
they didn’t even know existed and they think it absolutely fascinating, so I think it’s
really important for engaging and motivating students and to give them a context to the
language that they are studying. I do really enjoy doing culture lessons just
as a lesson on their own, however I do try and integrate it into every lesson for example
I am a French specialist so I always use French or francophone names so that pupils are use
to hearing them, that they are aware of different places where that language is spoken, that
they have seen images, that there are maps, my classroom is covered in displays of different
films of different celebrities, artists, TV programmes, so pupils are use to hearing it
on a week by week basis. One of the things that I found that pupils enjoy the most is
that I play music when they are doing a quiet activity, not only does it create a really
nice calm atmosphere in the classroom but pupils are now use to hearing French music
or Italian or Spanish music in my classroom, and now they ask me for the songs that they
like and they go and listen to it outside of the classroom, so that’s something that
I really enjoy and the pupils love aswell. One of the lessons that me and my pupils have
really enjoyed is one were we have compared British schools to French schools and there
are so many videos that you can find online and I found lots of French students who I
think had made these videos for their own projects in their English lessons where they
are giving tours of their school and talking about their school day, so I was able to show
these to my students and we then had a discussion about what they thought the differences were
between French and British schools. I use radio that you can find online and lots
of music videos that you can find online as well, one of the favourite things that I have
in my classroom is my book box, so I went to the librarian at my school and asked if
she had any old books that were about the different languages that we studied and she
actually had so much stuff and I now have a tub in my classroom that’s absolutely full
of books, so I would recommend to any MFL teachers going to ask their librarian at their
school if they have anything, so I now have a tub of books in my classroom so if pupils
have finished an activity they know they can just get up, go to the box, pick something
that they are interested in and they can learn about culture in that way and those are resources
that already existed in the school and just weren’t used and I keep them topped up with
French newspapers and magazines as well when I go on school trips or if I go on my own
trips to France. Obviously literally texts are going to be increasingly important in
the new specification so there are lots of resources online that can help you get started
with this. Also if you are looking for more tips you can go onto Twitter and there’s a
community called the MFL Twitterati which links MFL teachers from across the country
so if you are stuck for an idea just send them a tweet with the #mfltwitterati
and someone will get back to you by the end of day, and I have found some absolutely fantastic
original resources and ideas through this community. There are a wealth of resources that you can
find for free for example the EU Cultural Embassies Tourist Boards, they send out maps
and the EU are fantastic for, they actually have a whole series of books and comics that
are written in a variety of European languages that they will send to you for free and beautiful
classroom displays as well so it’s well worth looking into that. Pinterest has lots of different
ideas especially for classroom displays and how you can make your classroom feel engaging
and involve culture so that it’s around all the time and also the Association for Language
Learning and Route into Languages have lots of resources that you can find on their website. We know that pupils motivation increases through
the study of culture, I personally think that this is because it gives pupils a context
to what they are studying and they can relate to it more. I think it’s really important
to find out what your class are interested in, so my pupils love music so I’ve found
lots of music that I think they will enjoy and then they’ve wanted to get involved in
that. Your pupils might be really interested in Sports, so you can find out who the most
famous sporting people are from that country and do lessons around them. Another thing
that I think is really important is to look at the calendar and see what events are happening
in the country of the language that you are teaching and there might be other international
events that are happening and plan lessons around them, so it might be the Olympics,
Eurovision, Day of the Dead, Bastille Day, make sure that your pupils know that this
is happening in that country on that day and involve them in that way. I think it’s really important to start from
Key Stage 3 in year 7, so one of the things that I’ve been doing every half term is a
cultural presentation or a topic. So, I’ll give pupils the choice, they can choose whatever
topic that they are interested in and they can prepare a project that they can hand in
at the end of that half term or a presentation to give to the class and I think it’s important
to give pupils a choice so that they can pick things that they are interested in and instantly
that will engage them even though it’s homework. I think that trips will become increasingly
important and we should be working with our colleagues to create cross curricular projects
so it could be something like working with the Food Technology department to do a lesson
that’s about food of that particular country. It might be working with the Geography department
to find out more about the environment in that country, so I think that we do need to
be talking to our colleagues and find out where those opportunities are available. Another
thing would be to make sure that pupils are really confident in expressing their opinions
in agreement and disagreement, this could be through image based discussions, so again
you are exposing pupils to images of people of places in the target language country,
they can then express opinions about those and obviously that’s an important transition
into A Level as well. In terms of literary texts something that I have really enjoyed
is teaching poetry and I think you can differentiate so that pupils can write things like Calligrams
or Acrostic Poems which can be broken down into quite simple parts so I think it’s important
to allow pupils to be ambitious and creative with their language as well.

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