Autumn 2011 Working - The Independent Schools` Modern

Independent Schools’ Modern Languages Association
‫لا رف‬
No.53 Autumn 2011
Contact the Committee
Nick Mair, Dulwich College
Tel: 020 8693 3601
[email protected]
Astrid McAuliffe, Alleyn’s School
(Responsibility for German)
Tel: 020 8557 1506
[email protected]
Vice Chairman and Membership
Geoffrey Plow, University College
Tel: 020 7433 2302
[email protected]
Duncan Byrne, Cheltenham College
Tel: 01242 265604
[email protected]
Jane Byrne,
The Manchester Grammar School
Tel: 0161 2247201
[email protected]
Peter Ansell, Stonyhurst College
Tel: 01254 826345
[email protected]
Jim Houghton, University College
[email protected]
Aline Jacinto, The Manchester
Grammar School
[email protected]
Jenny Davey, Glenalmond College
[email protected]
Liz Hughes
[email protected]
Liaison with prep schools
Gillian Forte. St Christopher’s School,
Tel: 01273 735404
[email protected]
Patrick Le Berre, Highgate School
Tel: 020 8340 1524 [email protected]
Exhibitions Organiser
David Cragg-James
[email protected]
Richard Oates, Sherborne School
Tel: 01935 812249
[email protected]
Newsletter Editor
Peter Langdale, North London Collegiate School
Tel: 020 8952 0912
[email protected]
Julia Whyte, St Francis' College
Tel: 01462 670511
[email protected]
Liaison with ALL, ISMLA representative on Executive Council
Kevin Dunne, Ampleforth College
Tel: 01439 766000
[email protected]
Reviews and
Website Editor
Thomas Underwood, University
College School
Tel: 020 7435 2215
[email protected]
ISMLA Representative on AQA
consultative committee
Patrick Thom, The Manchester
Grammar School
Tel: 0161 2247201
Awarding Bodies Liaison Officer
Alex Frazer, Hampton School
Tel: 020 8979 5526
[email protected]
From the Chairman
For the Minister of State
Notes from the Editor’s Diary
Increasing Language Choice from Year 9
Robin Cockett
“We don’t speak like that, round here...”
George Van den Bergh
Foreign Language Spelling Bee
Sarah Schechter
Are Prep Schools just the same as Primary Schools
under another name?
Gill Forte
Creating a Textbook
Harriette Newcombe
ISMLA National Conference
Saturday 4th February 2012
University College School, Frognal, London NW3 6XH
Speakers will include:
Rachel Hawkes (Comberton Village College): Speaking,
One Skill or Two? Ideas, strategies and resources for the language classroom.
Helen Myers (The Ashcombe School): Hints and tips on
managing controlled assessment.
Nick Mair (Dulwich College) Starters, breakers and finishers:
a compendium of short, practical ideas aimed at maintaining
pupil concentration in language lessons.
Eva Bosch: The colours of Catalonia: the painter Joan Miró.
Samia Earle on the teaching of Arabic .
Nicola McLelland (Nottingham University): How we got
here: a history of learning German as a 'useful' language,
Bert Vaux (King's College, Cambridge): An introduction to
linguistics, the scientific study of language: what students
learn when they do linguistics at university.
If you have not yet returned your application form, you can
download another by visiting
From the Chariman
If in previous editions I gave the
impression that an eerie sense of
stasis was prevailing in regard to
the coalition government's thinking
about modern languages, then this
is emphatically no longer the case.
Speed readers will no doubt scan
feverishly for information about the
summer exam results but it would
be as well to be aware that there is
a longer game afoot: ignore Ofqual,
the Minister for Schools and the
EBacc at your peril.
Your responses to the ISMLA exam
results survey, combined with your
comments to the ‘Yellow Paper’ at
the 2011 ISMLA national conference
at Magdalen College School, brought
about a September meeting with
Nick Gibb (Minister for Schools). The
key issues had been derived from
your comments about the severe
and unpredictable marking of AS
and A2 MFL exams. To present a
unified front, ISMLA asked David
Blow (headteacher at The Ashcombe
School in Dorking and a top-level
statistician), Helen Myers (former
Association for Language Learning
President, MFL teacher [and Assistant Head at The Ashcombe School],
founder of the 4,000 strong mflresources website and chronicler of
the issue of severe MFL grading
since 2004) and Bernadette Holmes
(Cambridge University, current Association for Language Learning
Cynics will be delighted to hear that
a response from Ofqual offering the
opportunity to meet ISMLA arrived
by the very last postal delivery before the meeting with the Minister.
To his credit Nick Gibb had read and
understood our numerous submissions about the issues of severe and
unpredictable grading. The Minister
has asked to be kept informed about
these twin problems. Our understanding is that he is keen to see
that all examinations should be academically valid and offered at comparable levels of difficulty. The next
step is a meeting with Ofqual to discuss the issue of severe and unpredictable grading.
A key issue that triggered this meeting was the body of evidence gathered over a number of years from
you as ISMLA members and from
the London branch of the Association
for Language Learning. Indeed, the
ALL-London webpage entries on the
issue of severe grading could provide you with hard evidence, should
you need it, to inform meetings with
your respective SMTs about examination grades (see:
We very much hope that these issues can be brought to a satisfactory
conclusion and that the worrying
decrease in pupil interest in modern
languages – most recently amongst
the most able pupils who feel they
are more likely and more reliably to
achieve the highest grades in other
subjects – can be stemmed.
ISMLA has been asked by the Secre-
tary of State’s advisor to enumerate
the factors that we think go to produce competent and motivated linguists in independent schools. We
are keen to open up to ISMLA member schools this opportunity to comment. Details of how to do this are
outlined on the following page of
this Newsletter, on the ISMLA website, and have been sent to you via
email. The strict deadline for contributions is 14 November – you
should have read the email even if
this paper version reaches you close
to or after that date.
In the sort of direction I think many
of you would prefer to pursue, can I
bring to your attention the wonderful opportunity for young linguists to
broaden their horizons through the
Jules Verne exchange scheme. Senior Management will no doubt baulk
at the prospect of individual pupil
exchanges during term time but the
scheme has a proven track record in
France, Spain and Germany.
This reciprocal programme allows
pupils to spend time at a foreign
school and to lodge with families for
any mutually agreed period. The
assumption is that pupils will be
able, outgoing and keen to seize the
opportunity (and that it is not just
their parents who have initiated the
decision). Those students who have
undertaken the exchanges in other
countries almost universally comment that, even if the concern was
that they would fall behind in other
subjects, they rarely did and in
cases where this was the case they
were able to catch up. Full details of
the scheme are on page 25 of this
Speed readers: start reading now!
There has been much forum and
email traffic about GCSE, AS and A2
examination results. A simplistic
summary based on these would run
as follows. The GCSE written controlled assessment baffled all, AS
results seem to be lower compared
to other subjects, A2 oral marking
was unpredictable and the percentage of A* made modern languages
appear the less academic cousin of
subjects such as maths and the sciences. The perception was that IGCSE seemed a broadly reliable alternative, especially where teachers
and pupils had fully understood the
aims and mark schemes of the examination.
These are initial synopses of subjective reactions and it is essential to
realise that it will only be the analysis of more objective emails and of
the ISMLA exam results survey
which will provide the data that
guide our future actions.
Many feel that the next year or so
will define the status of languages
and therefore of language teaching
for a considerable time to come.
Please do your best to influence this
outcome, either as individuals,
schools or through the efforts of
Nick Mair
For the Minister of State
The Minister for State is keen to gather "More information and analysis of
how the best independent schools teach languages (including from the age of
5)". I understand there to be a particular interest in specific examples of
teaching techniques and more generally in the methods you think work for
pupils. Should you wish to inform this research, can I ask you to consider
the following questions? We would be grateful if you would keep to this format in order to make it easier for us to process your comments. All comments will remain confidential.
Nick Mair
You may wish to read the Minister’s article on these matters in The
Guardian (1st October 2011).
Name (confidential)
Email address (confidential)
What means do you use to evaluate the success of languages in your school?
Which teaching methods produce competent linguists?
Can you give specific examples of successful techniques?
What factors have made MFL successful in your school?
Are some languages more successful than others? If so, why?
To what extent does the calibre of teaching staff affect the success?
Are MFL at GCSE compulsory?
How important is ICT in your success?
How important are trips and/or exchanges in your success?
How important is the Senior Management Team in your success?
How important are parents in your success?
Do factors outside the department influence the success of MFL? Please detail if so.
Additional comments
Notes from the Editor’s Diary
Saturday 15 October 2011: Talk
for the assembled masses of Italian
teachers at the ALL Training Day in
Clerkenwell just by the astonishing
Italian Church (worth a visit – it’s a
bit like Naples–on-Thames). My
theme is using literary extracts to
enhance the teaching of ‘general
topic areas’ at AS/A2. Those who
have followed my contributions over
the years will recognise a recurring
theme. It was interesting while preparing my talk to realise how different the story can be in the two different languages I teach and the
difference of approach required. If in
French I can even go back to Mme
de Lafayette to find a suitable piece
of literary prose on the status of
women in society or to Racine for a
passage to analyse on ‘love’ (alias
Youth culture and concerns), the
history and development of the Italian language mean that I am restricted to more recent texts. Still
there is common ground to explore,
provided that one has a good knowledge of the literature. And a little
idea to share: If a novel does not
offer up a suitable passage for reading in class, maybe a review will
serve the purpose. A case in point
was the winner of the Premio Strega
(Italy’s Booker Prize) in 2010, Canale Mussolini by Alessandro Pennacchi. This is an outstanding
achievement charting the history of
a family (and of fascism) as it
moves form the North East to colonize the recently drained Pontine
Marshes near Rome. The book is
partly in dialect (another issue when
teaching and reading Italian) and
does not offer up easy passages, but
the review (on as it
describes the background and
themes is worthy of study in itself.
Wednesday 19th October 2011:
Half term at last. No school trip this
time (that is reserved for later in the
year) so off to Florence. This morning I get to see a really interesting
exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi
called “Money and Beauty; Bankers,
Botticelli and the Bonfire of the Vanities”. I’ve been interested in the
relationship between Banking and
Culture ever since I started a career
in banking in the early 1980s, long
since abandoned for the classroom.
Should we be making this sort of
connection between money, language and culture more often in our
Monday 31st October 2011: A
colleague has organised for AS and
A2 students of French to go to a new
production in English of Racine’s
Britannicus (and so have the Classicists, believing that Racine’s relationship with his sources to be more
straightforward than it actually is). I
have agreed to talk to the assembled linguists and classicists at
lunchtime to prepare them for what
they are to see. Such fun reviving
memories and materials for one of
the most successful set texts I have
taught under the old syllabuses.
Every boys’ school should consider
studying this struggle for power (in
every sense) between son and
Wednesday 2nd November 2011:
The production of
Britannicus at Wilton’s Music Hall in
End ‘vaut le detour’. A measured
new translation by
T i m b e r l a k e
Wertenbaker and
an especially powerful performance by Siân Thomas
as Agrippine had the students
gripped form start to finish. The run
ends on 19th November, sadly. A
move to the West End would be
Friday 18th November 2011:
ISMLA will be running its first New
Teacher Training Day, aimed at
young people in their first two or
three years of teaching. Anyone who
has followed recent events in the
languages world will be aware of the
difficult circumstances we currently
face. In the last issue we published
the text of a speech by Richard Hardie, launching the “Speak to the
Future” campaign - an impassioned
message to the community at large
for the promotion of language skills.
One of the campaign’s five stated
aims is “An increase in the number
of highly qualified linguists” and it is
instructive to look on the website at
the “Briefing” for this objective.
Pretty much last on the list is the
“UK education needs innovative,
highly skilled and qualified language
teachers with the passion and enthusiasm to inspire future generations of language learners. Challenges of supply and training are a
major cause for concern.”
I for one am keen to contribute to
this new venture because surely the
‘revival’ or promotion of languages
starts with the teachers who inspire
and encourage young people. So
often our students choose subjects,
be it at GCSE or A Level, on the
basis of the teacher; those who
teach a subject determine its image
and ‘status’ within the school and in
the eyes of the students.
Peter Langdale
A subject of continual reflection for those responsible for modern languages
in schools is the range of languages on offer. Neither is convincing senior
management teams of the value of variety and choice always that straightforward. So we are grateful to Robin Cockett , Head of Modern Languages at
Marlborough College for the following insight into recent changes there.
Over a year ago the Modern Languages Department at Marlborough decided
to liberalise and increase language choice from Year 9 onwards, our youngest
year group. Our existing language choices felt restrictive in that all new pupils had to study French for at least a year, to which they chose an additional
language from Spanish, German or Russian, studied ab initio after a 3 week
language ‘Circus’ of taster lessons. For their subsequent GCSE choices one
ML was obligatory and the second optional, thus French held a privileged
position as one of the two, and all dual linguists had to study French.
But was this a strength for French? Actually only a small minority of the adventurous, the very weak, or the disillusioned tended to give it up, and this
policy had the unintended effect of giving French a Cinderella status as the
language one defaulted to. Our new Head of French rightly took the view that
this was a burden to be gladly shed: better to have a leaner department, all
of whom had actively chosen to study French to GCSE.
Our large department of 14 teachers comprises mostly dual linguists, plus 3
triple linguists. We calculated that we could offer two more languages, Italian
and Mandarin (both previously restricted to early takers of French GCSE and
to the Sixth Form) and offer a completely free choice to Year 9 pupils to learn
2 out of 6 languages.
We retained the 3 week Circus, and in 2 timetabled blocks last September’s
new intake rotated around all 6 languages in their first 3 weeks, with some
restriction on access to Mandarin and Russian. The College’s recent adoption
of 55 minute periods over a 2 week timetable meant two taster lessons per
language, in two different blocks, so two languages were experienced by
each pupil each week. This was a whirl for all involved, with much shouting
and arm waving by colleagues to show classes to their new rooms on
changeover days, but the buzz amongst pupils was palpable.
At the end of the 3 weeks pupils’ language choices were as shown below (left
column). The outcome could scarcely have been more satisfactory as the new
languages, Italian and Mandarin, achieved good numbers not at the expense
of the more vulnerable German and Russian, or even Spanish, all of which
remained steady, but by reducing French numbers (which still remains comfortably the largest language).
Year 9 choice
% to (I)GCSE
Subsequently, numbers opting to continue French to IGCSE (middle column)
fell to 95 from an average of 124 over the previous two years, a figure representing 59% of the year group choosing French as opposed to an average
78% in the last 2 years. For ab initio languages the range of take-up rates to
(I)GCSE expressed as a percentage of the Year 9 choices (final column) is an
interesting reflection of perceived linguistic difficulty. Thus Russian was chosen by stronger linguists, many of whom continue, whereas Italian numbers
initially benefited from lower ability pupils, but see more limited continuation
beyond Year 9.
Just as I thought the experiment was an unalloyed triumph, there came the
task of setting pupils in two blocks and over six languages: suffice it to say
my mathematical limitations as a linguist were exposed, my colleagues’ patience sorely tested, and this year I will pass this task to a capable timetabler. After perhaps a fortnight of chaos the sets were established in numbers of between 10 and 23, all pupil language first choices were satisfied, and
some colleagues were able for the first time to teach a different language,
often their preferred one, ab initio to Year 9.
Another hoped-for benefit from the changes was that choice would encourage
more pupils to study a second ML to (I)GCSE. Numbers of dual linguists so
far remain steady compared to past years, but as the table below illustrates
there are a small number of pupils taking rare combinations, and it is hoped
that in future years positive feedback from older pupils will encourage more
diverse language choice amongst Year 9 pupils. For now it is exciting for colleagues who will teach a Year 10 set of Italian and Mandarin for the first
time, to see what combinations the incoming Year 9 will choose, and to look
forward to a linguistically more diverse Sixth Form in two years.
Total in Year 9
Total dual linguists
43 (27% of year group)
Dual linguist language combinations:
Problems? The diversity of choice necessitates two timetabling blocks in Year
10 for the larger French and Spanish (and next year for Year 11), so there
will occasionally only be two sets in one block to encompass the entire ability
range. More differentiation will be needed to cater for a greater range of
learning styles and abilities than we have been used to in one set.
Also, in selling this impressive degree of choice to keen and impressionable
13 year olds we neglected to communicate explicitly to their parents, beyond
the dry prose of the curriculum booklet, that their child could elect to give up
French on starting at Marlborough. A small number of parents complained
during the year that they would not have agreed to their child ‘throwing
away’ so many previous years of French. It was also true that one or two
weaker linguists had opted to change only to find that the alternative to
French was not the answer. As well as making the policy clearer to parents
this year we will also give pupils the option to think again and return to
French up to the end of their first term, if they or their parents wish.
I hope this choice will transform the languages landscape through the school
over the next 4 years, helping increase diversity, motivation and excellence
in language learning. Indications both from last year’s Year 9 and an invigorated team of colleagues are positive. It will be an interesting journey.
Robin Cockett - Marlborough College
Continental Connections
Educational language visits for English and Continental children
Established 1981
Educational language visits for 13 - 18 year olds
to France, Spain, Germany and Austria
Exchanges - Ages and interests matched. Each visit arranged
Paying guest - Stay in a family with children of same age
Tuition - Qualified teachers in France on a one-to-one basis
Recommended by many leading independent schools. For further
information please contact Mrs Ann E. Sachs at
Continental Connections
Cleedon House, Old Totnes Road, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ12
Tel.: 01 626 334 600 E-mail: [email protected]
“We don’t speak like that, round here...”
George Van den Bergh felt compelled to do something about the mindnumbing questions he had to ask his French students for the GCSE speaking.
So he went out to France and created a resource that is every bit as useful as
it is challenging.
There were times I thought, “They
must think I’m bonkers, or at least a
little deranged.”
I shifted position on the bench in the
Jardins de Luxembourg and adjusted
my camera: “Qu’est-ce que tu as fait
pendant les vacances de Noël?” I
asked again.
The young Parisienne continued to
look at me blankly. Finally she
shrugged: “Ben, on n’a rien
fait, quoi. Volià. Je suis
restée chez mes parents,
tu vois ? Comme tous les
ans. C’est…” she began
laughing. “C’est…Mais c’est
vraiment bizarre comme
And she was right; it’s not
a question that teenagers
usually have an answer for.
And yet we expect our own
GCSE students to answer
just such questions. Somewhere along the line,
something had gone awry.
• a lot of the questions we were
asking our students to prepare
were questions they would rarely
be asked in France
• the available resources which covered these topics were very far
removed from how young French
people actually speak
I wasn’t alone in finding the exercise
contrived. Colleagues and parents
felt the same. As one
teacher put it: “I had a
girl who was very upset
when she went to
France this year and
realized that no one has
a conversation on the
advantages and disadvantages of staying in a
Knowing that I couldn’t
change the syllabus and
its stilted questions, I
focused instead on the
answers, providing English students with the
responses possible: ones
that a French person
would actually understand. So I jumped on
the Eurostar and began
to film young French
The idea for the website
came during my 2nd year of
teaching French at GCSE.
As we were preparing for
the speaking exam two
things struck me:
people answering the very same
questions, then uploading each resulting video onto a website for
GCSE students to use back home.
It has taken a little while but buildi n g
t h e
w e b s i t e has proved
fascinating. In spite of delayed
trains, cancelled interviews and a
stolen camera, there are now over
500 videos of young French people
giving answers to just these types of
questions, complete with transcripts
and games.
The process has reminded me of the
ubiquity and usefulness of buckshee
“filler” words (ben, quoi, du coup,
déjà, voilà, enfin) in everyday conversational French.
And it was reassuring to find that
native-speakers make mistakes too,
often to do with their use of tenses
(“En fait, l’année dernière, j’étais
allé en Espagne”) or missing out the
negative particle ne.
It has shown me that there exist
fixed ideals within certain topics. A
dream holiday for young French people was invariably described as: “un
voyage de carte postale, la mer turquoise, le sable fin” as though it
were something they had learnt by
When talking about food I was
struck by how most French students
get by on the staples: pasta, pizza
and kebabs. But when pushed to
describe their favourite dish, they
would unleash their inner gourmand,
rhapsodising about “une spécialité
Matheysine”, or “un gigot d’agneau,
un peu saignant, avec de l’ail, cuit
au four…”
How have English students reacted
to the videos? Very positively so far.
The great thing is that the level of
language is aspirational and, crucially, à portée de main. There has
always been a vast resources gap
between elementary French videos
and the high-end, “natural” French
of TF1 and France2 which - let’s be
honest – most students only come to
grips with at the end of their A2
there to fill that gap.
George Van den Bergh
In the Eastern Region, we are fortunate to have many gifted, creative
language teachers. This is the story
of what can happen when these
teachers, who have wonderful ideas
but less time and money to put them
into operation, form partnerships
with Routes into Languages East,
part of a *government-funded project with university consortia, working with schools to promote languages (and the time and money to
devote to projects such as this).
Jane Driver, then of Comberton Village College, devised the Spelling
Bee to address the problems they
were having with encouraging Year
7s to learn the vocabulary they need
and somehow find a way to integrate
vocabulary-learning, memory and
spelling skills into the language
learning curriculum. All this while
having fun…
The project was originally trialed as
a Routes into Languages East project
two years ago, run jointly by Jane,
Rachel Hawkes, the Assistant Principal of Comberton Village College and
Routes into Languages East. It
proved to be such a success that it
was adopted as a national project by
all ten Routes into Languages consortia last year with Routes Cymru
also offering a fourth language,
Welsh. Comberton Village College
and Routes into Languages East subsequently won a European Language
Label Award for the project and it is
now sponsored by the European
Spelling Bee is offered in French,
Spanish and German. Pupils have to
learn 50 words at each of four
stages. The first stage is a class
stage, with the four winners in each
Year 7 class going through to the
school stage, the winners of which,
go through to the regional finals.
The final stage of 50 words are this
year Sport and Olympics related and
as such are covered by the Routes
East Inspire Mark for London 2012,
awarded to Routes East for its Language and Sport activities.
Competitors have one minute to
translate and spell as many words as
possible. All winners at each stage
are awarded a Routes into Languages certificate, with the regional
winners also receiving a trophy with
a cup for the winning school in each
language and a cup for the national
winners and medals for the runnersup.
In the third year of operation, many
schools have integrated the Foreign
Language Spelling Bee into their
Schemes of Work, practising and
running the competition in class.
Others run it in lunch-break clubs.
Some schools combine both. Year
8s, reluctant to relinquish their links
with the competition continue to be
involved by acting as Language
Leaders, helping year 7s and running Spelling Bee practice sessions
as well as helping in the Regional
and National Finals. Comberton Village College pupils have become so
involved in the project that one has
gone on to produce the extremely
impressive, professional website
(see that
now manages the competition, a
PowerPoint programme that generates randomly selected words for the
regional and national finals and is
now busy creating computer and
phone apps. Meanwhile others are
making a video to tell other teachers
and students about the Spelling Bee.
Amidst the stories of improved motivation, enhanced language performance, attitudes to learning and selfvaluation there is now hard evidence
of the success of the Spelling Bee.
Feedback from teachers and pupils
has been overwhelmingly positive:
”Thank you for helping me explore
the German Language more and
more through this fun journey of
competition” wrote one pupil, with a
teacher remarking, “…they will never
forget their alphabet and have a
deeper knowledge of vocab than
their average peers” with many
mentioning the increased vocabulary
and improved pronunciation as well
as the fact that pupils were really
So the Spelling Bee story unfolds
with over 30,000 pupils from more
than 400 schools ‘swarming’ to compete in a creative project combining
strong pedagogy and lots of fun,
while raising the profile of languages.
Sarah Schechter, Project Manager,
Routes into Languages East, Anglia
Ruskin University
is a £10 million programme funded
by the Higher Education Funding
Council for England (HEFCE). In
Wales, it is funded by the Higher
Education Funding Council for
Wales (HEFCW). It was established
as a partnership between the
Higher Education Academy Subject
Centre for Languages, Linguistics
and Area Studies (LLAS), the University Council of Modern Languages, and CILT, the National
Centre for Languages.
Are Prep Schools just the same as Primary
Schools under another name?
Gillian Forte of St Christopher’s School, Hove and responsible on the ISMLA
Committee for Prep School liaison offers a firm answer to this question.
I was a secondary teacher going
form Year 6 to A level before I came
to my present school – a small, but
academic Prep School on the south
coast. When I joined St Christopher’s I sometimes said that when
my own children were older I would
go back into mainstream teaching.
However, the job has changed tremendously in the time I have been
here (about 24 years!).
Teaching has become more child
centred and more demanding, but I
have never felt that I was a primary
school teacher – in fact I could not
be a primary school teacher covering
all the subjects and being with the
same class all day – I admire anyone
who can do this.
Prep school teachers are, I have
discovered, often regarded by the
Senior Schools they feed as rather
dinosaur-like. It seems common to
regard them as old-fashioned in
their approach to their job. I make
here a plea to all to notice the extremely good and innovative work
that is going on in these often small
schools. They may lack the facilities
and glitz of their larger senior
schools, but they have extremely
able and dedicated subject specialists who regard keeping abreast of
developments as an integral part of
their job.
IAPS has recently held meetings for
modern languages teachers on blogging and podcasting and integrating
language across the curriculum. Another subject has been and maximising the potential of the pupils
who find languages a challenge while
also helping gifted and talented pupils. My school is launching a wonderful languages acquisition programme. The whole staff is involved
in this and the feeling is that our
children will benefit enormously.
They will have the confidence to ‘decode’ languages. and will now go on
to their chosen senior school armed
with a ‘tool kit’ which will enable
them to approach languages without
To revert to my title, Prep Schools
are not Primary schools under another name. They should be looked
to as centres of excellence and innovation where each child is nurtured
and encouraged to develop to their
full potential. Look after your feeder
schools and value them.
Gill Forte
Creating a Textbook
My first year as an MFL Editor
In the Spring 2011 edition, we published an interview with Robert Baylis
Head of Languages at Dulwich College and author of “Edexcel French for A
level” on what it was like to write such a textbook. In response, Harriette
Newcombe, Assistant Editor of Modern Foreign Languages UK Secondary Division at OUP sent us this insight into the editorial side of the process.
researchers, photographers, artists,
and video and sound producers.
At school I was far too busy trying to
distinguish my relative pronouns
from my infinitives to give any
thought to the work that goes into
breathing life into a textbook. I
never for once considered how much
energy goes into a title before it gets
anywhere near a classroom, nor did
I ever imagine that one day I’d be
part of the Oxford University Press
Modern Languages Editorial Team
working on resources for the UK
secondary schools market.
In my first few months as an editor,
tw o things ha ve s ur pr ised me .
Firstly, I’ve realised just how much
work and collaboration goes into
publishing a course. It can take up
to two years to get a new course
written and published – and it involves an extensive team of people:
authors, editors, designers, picture
Secondly, I’ve quickly realised that
being an editor isn’t just about sitting in front of a computer screen or
behind a pile of proofs in a quiet
room, silently reading and marking
corrections to pages. Although I do
spend time on this, most of my time
is spent ‘project managing’ and discussing queries and schedules with
authors and designers and the rest
of the project team.
We rarely publish unsolicited manuscripts; the ‘idea’ for a book or
course is usually based on our consultation and research with teachers,
in which we aim to pinpoint what
they want from the resources for
their students. Refining the idea is
very much a team effort, involving
authors, editors, sales and marketing feedback, and further market
research. The idea is proposed to
our publishing board, and if investment is approved then formal commissioning takes place – contracts
are issued to authors, a tight brief is
sent out, and writing starts.
From that point on, as an editor, I
am trying to ensure that a high quality book is published both within
budget and on time.
reviewed by a teacher.
Our language courses consist of a
large number of components, and
therefore rigorous crossdepartmental scheduling must take
place. Right from the start, I work
very closely with the author as I
diagnose and suggest ways to avoid
any potential problems with the
Some units can be fast-tracked in
order to generate sample material
which is often sent to teachers, not
only to make them aware of any
new publishing that might be of use
to them, but also to allow for feedback which we will have time to implement before final publication.
When working on and developing the
draft manuscript, I refer to the brief,
and, if appropriate, the exam board
specification, the GCA grammar list,
and past exam papers from the relevant exam board. This ‘development
editing’ is arguably the most wellknown aspect of the editorial role to
those outside the industry and I
think most editors would say that
they enjoy it due to the creative
element involved. The main things I
look out for are difficulty levels of
exercises, engagement and variation
of activities, progression, skills coverage, length of content, and relevancy and sensitivity to topics covered. It is also important to implement style, and if there are two editors working on titles within the
same series, as is currently the case
with our Zoom Deutsch 2 and Zoom
español 2 11-14 courses, we have to
keep in constant communication
about the stylistic elements that
feature in our units.
Should a title be endorsed by an
exam board, as are many of our
titles, it is my responsibility to send
first drafts to be reviewed by the
board and feedback to the author.
Otherwise, I send material to be
When I’m happy with the next draft,
I send it to a copy-editor who formats the text and edits grammar,
punctuation, style, consistency, language level and ease of reading.
One of my first ever editorial tasks
was to copy-edit some worksheets
for our OxBox CD-ROMs. Copyediting was explained to me as a
type of coding for typesetters to
understand, i.e. all headings to be
formatted in a certain way. A copyeditor’s role may also extend to cutting material if it looks as though
there is too much.
Generally an author writes the answers as they are writing the manuscript and these are then sent to be
copy-edited and compiled in the
Teacher Book. The copy-editor can
also be asked to compile an audioscript for recordings and artwork
briefs, as authors will have included
image suggestions within the text.
The copy-editor plays quite an instrumental role in preparing the
manuscript for publication.
First proofs are always exciting; the
notion of a freshly printed textbook
hot off the press becomes a lot more
tangible as I get to see for the first
time how the designers and typeset-
ters have interpreted my ideas and
transferred them to a page. I then
mark up the proofs and include feedback from native speakers who also
receive a copy of the first proofs so
that by the time a book goes to
press it has been scrutinised by multiple pairs of eyes.
Audioscripts are native speaker
checked, updated, and sent to be
recorded. Later, when the producers
send back the tracks, I listen to each
one with the transcript and ensure
that everything matches and that
the speed and accents are appropriate for the level. The design team,
with my input, creates the covers
and booklets for the Audio CDs, as
they do for any other printed parts.
Meanwhile, depending on the project, I may have to travel on location
to shoot the videos for our OxBox
C D -R O Ms w hic h f e a tur e na t iv e
speakers and cover the content for
each unit of the Student Book, as
was the case with Clic! and Zoom.
These videos are scripted to engage
students and pull together all aspects of our course. The producers
edit the material filmed and invite
editors to attend a mini-premiere
further down the line.
Another challenging part of working
with language resources can be the
cross-referencing between the components, particularly when a series
consists of multiple languages. I
have to make sure that each component contains consistent referencing
(e.g. correct track numbers on transcripts) so that teachers can navigate through them as smoothly as
possible. The Student Book is the
core component for a course, and a
course like Zoom can include OxBox
CD-ROMs which include assessments, copymasters and interactive
assessments, as well as separate
workbooks, Audio CDs and a
Teacher Book, so it can take quite
some time.
As soon as I’m sure that no other
improvements can be made to the
final proofs, I notify the production
team for printing. After this point I
have minimal involvement with the
process; apart from one final check
of proofs.
I then can then breathe a brief sigh
of relief, but before I know it I’m
already working on the next project.
Advance copies of the finished product arrive from the printer – a great
moment! The stock is received in the
warehouse and distributed so that
classrooms across the country can
enjoy their shiny new language
courses in the full knowledge that
the editors here at Oxford University
Press have worked to cater to their
every need! I then keenly await
feedback, as it helps us improve our
future courses.
Harriette Newcombe,
Look out for brand-new Zoom español
and Deutsch plus Clic! for 11-14, the best
support for GCSE and new AQA editions
of Élan, Zeitgeist and Ánimo for A Level
from Oxford University Press. See also
Geoffrey Plow's review of Zoom Deutsch
1 on page 29. For more details visit
The « Académie de Versailles », near Paris, is the largest local educational
authority in France in terms of number of students and teachers: 800 schools (primary and secondary), over one million students and around 76.000
The department for European and International affairs of the Académie
(DAREIC) is in charge of supporting schools wishing to open up to Europe
and the world through various projects including partnerships, exchanges
and mobility programmes:
We would like to initiate a new programme based on pupils’ individual exchanges between our schools and schools in UK and Spain. The scheme is
based on the experience we have with similar programmes with Germany
(namely “Brigitte Sauzay” and “Voltaire”). The results are fantastic: language skills, autonomy, self confidence, great keenness to travel and study abroad later – and no difficulty to catch up with the curriculum when they
come back.
The scheme could be based on following elements (but we are open to any
Individual exchange (one pupil at a time)
Pupils aged 14-17
Pupils selected to be sufficiently self reliant, academically able and with
sufficient linguistic competence to benefit from the experience. They
should genuinely believe in the advantages of the exchange
Extended period (at least one month) spent in the partner country
The visiting pupil stays in the welcoming school free of charge
A teacher should be appointed as a tutor for the visiting pupil
Ideally the pupil should be hosted in a family (except for boarding schools). The welcoming school helps finding a reliable host family
The pupil goes abroad under the legal responsibility of his/her parents
If you are interested in the programme, please contact Chirine Anvar, Deputy Head of the DAREIC in Versailles: [email protected], +33-1-30
83 44 18
MyWorks KS3 French
Year 8 topics:
• À la mode
• Fais ceci, fais cela
MyWorks is an on-line resource providing a range of revision exercises
and assessments. The company behind it, Boardworks, specialises in
software for whiteboards and projectors and has developed the MyWorks
packages (in numerous subject areas) to venture into this side of information technology and teaching.
Currently there are three main language packages available, KS3
French, KS4 French and KS3 Spanish, with more to come (KS5 French,
KS3 German, for example) in September.
At first glance, the activities are colourful, informative and interesting
for the pupils and I was pleasantly
surprised by just how engaged all of
the pupils were whenever we spent
time using the software. KS3 French
comprises content current to the
Programme of Study, the MFL
framework and the QCA scheme of
work. The topic titles are as follows:
Year 7 topics:
• C’est parti!
• Chez moi
• Comme d’habitude
• Comment tu t’amuses?
• En famille
• Une journée
• Invitations
• Les autres pays
• Qu’est-ce qu’on mange?
• Qu’est-ce qu’on va faire?
Year 9 topics:
• À mon avis
• Ça va?
• Chez nous, chez vous
• Déjà
• Notre monde
• Une visite
There are around 130 assessments
in total and these include a range of
quizzes, ‘super’ quizzes and extension exercises all testing specific
skills and vocabulary. Most of the
tests last between ten and twenty
minutes and feature a range of different exercises, audio and some
animation. The content is thorough,
gives a good overview of the topics /
grammar and the software looks and
feels crisp and up-to-date. Pupils’
scores are recorded immediately and
are easily accessible for the class
teacher. This means that it is very
easy to set the group or indeed individuals, specific tasks within the
lesson (providing of course that you
are in a computer lab – I am fortunate to have i-desks in my class-
room) and receive instant feedback.
Pupils like this too and many went
back and redid certain exercises in
order to improve their previous
score and subsequent overall average. One of my Year 7 pupils commented:
“In Myworks you cover everything
that you’ve learnt in class. Your
teacher will set you up some tasks
which are more like mini tests from
what you’ve learnt in class. Myworks
automatically keeps your score and
converts it into a percentage. I find
this very good to see how I’m progressing through the year. However,
if you didn’t get a good mark you
can always go back to the task and
do it again. The main thing is that
you can get feedback right away.
Overall, I found Myworks a much
more fun way of learning than just
doing exercises out of a textbook
because it is more interactive.”
The set-up is very straight forward
(you just need the pupil’s name, email address and class / year) and
the interface easy to use. A class
teacher can set the class or individuals tailored homework assignments
or provide the pupils with access to
a number of the programs for revision purposes. I believe that MyWorks is a very practical resource
for pupils and teachers alike. The
only issues that we encountered
were technological problems at
home for pupils where they used
different web browsers and possibly
had not updated to the most recent
version of Flash Player. However,
the support and communication from
the team at MyWorks has been ex27
cellent and most efficient. In my
view, the price is very reasonable
too and it becomes even more so if
you opt for a three year contract and
bundle all the languages together.
Unlike some software packages,
there is only one fee and you can
then add as many pupils / classes as
you would like. We have subsequently purchased MyWorks for
French and Spanish and every pupil
in Key Stages 3+4 will have access
to the software. I am looking forward to the KS5 French and German
programs too. The feedback from
pupils has been very positive and I
think it will become a valuable tool
for reinforcing content from the
classroom and aiding progress and
revision for individuals and whole
class sets.
Thomas Underwood
Zoom Deutsch 1
Corinna Schickler/Marcus
Chalin Malz
Oxford University Press, 2011
ISBN 978 019 912770 2
This is the first volume of a new two
-part KS3 German course, complete
with Teacher Books, audio CDs, differentiated Foundation and Higher
Workbooks and OxBox CD-ROMs.
There is also an integrated video
drama that runs as a roter Faden
throughout the course, aiming to
present language that is relevant to
students and to provide an insight
into life in the German-speaking
world. The materials sent to ISMLA
comprised the pupil book 1, plus
uncorrected sample material for the
Teacher Book 1 and for pupil book 2.
Writing a review of this sort makes
me think - yet again - about the
place and value of text-books in
secondary school modern language
teaching and learning. It seems I'm
not alone in my musings. On Linguanet in July 2011, one correspondent wondered if 'harking back to a
rigid structured course provided by
someone else' was at all the thing to
be doing these days. The correspondent added that 'many good teachers end up with what is effectively
their own "structured" course anyway. The sum total of all his/her
found and adapted resources'.
This has much to commend it - if
you happen to be experienced
enough and confident that you have
resources which will work. However,
the point of course books isn't simply to convey language to pupils.
They can also give teachers direction, guidance and structure. Furthermore, they can help mediate
and regulate the handling of material in situations where more than
one individual is involved in the
teaching of a group.
There does come a point where a
teacher wants to mobilise his or her
experience and place at pupils' disposal exactly the material which he
or she deems pertinent to their
needs. It is one of the truly independent aspects of working in an
independent school: the leeway to
do things in the way that you, as an
individual professional, see as best.
This works fine as long as everyone
(teachers and pupils) turns up to
more or less every lesson. Nonetheless, in the case of long-term illness
or other absence on either side, the
material you've so carefully compiled
can tend just to sit there, on blog,
Internet site or mounds of sheets of
paper. It remains insufficiently
worked through and explained, or
just not understood at all - of potential rather than actual value.
In short, you do need a book, not
least as a PR tool. Families are keen
to see at home what is going on in
their child's newly-adopted subject.
A suitably-chosen course book can
do that job at the expense of minimum effort from the teacher. There
are certain essentials to look for in
such a text, some age-old, others
more modern (I'm going, incidentally, on the assumption that we are
talking about a course intended for
year 9 beginners in German):
how to use a dictionary? is ICT
* does the book set Germanspeaking countries in context? does
it emphasise the diversity of the
language area in which German is
spoken, avoiding the solecism of
seeing 'Germany' as the only home
of 'German'?
* does the book take grammar seriously? does it resume both in the
course units and in a reference section at the end of each book what
has been covered, providing not just
explanations but exercises too?
* does the book include real (or
nearly real) dialogue, via either audio or video supplementary material,
that sounds as if it's uttered for an
authentic purpose, beyond 'textbook world'? can the learner really
follow that dialogue? are there transcripts? is the dialogue well judged
enough to introduce new material
that is just beyond but satisfyingly
near to the learner's existing horizon
of expectations, allowing a sense of
manageable progress but avoiding
the stress of overload?
* does the book include more than
just cursory vocabulary lists? does it
understand that learners of German
and particularly those taking it as a
second foreign language need an
intensive diet of words (NB: Zoom
Deutsch is conceived as taking two
or three school years to complete)?
* does the book truly acknowledge
the fact that its target audience are
learning German in a school, with all
the practical and institutional considerations that this entails? with this in
mind, does it give centre stage early
on to the type of German words and
expressions teachers habitually say
to pupils at an early stage of their
learning? does it give guidance on
* does the course incorporate somewhere the sorts of drill and reinforcement work that will genuinely
fit in as homework? is it manageable? can you imagine setting the
drills in the book as class work and
homework when you are absent?
* does the course capitalise in the
earliest stages on the fact that
learners can deduce quite a lot
about German vocabulary from their
existing knowledge of English, via
* does the course encourage the
learner to formulate his or her own
rules, on the basis of the analysis of
examples and exceptions?
Having only one part of the course
to review doesn't enable me to answer definitively whether Zoom
Deutsch conquers all of these challenges. I haven't had the opportunity to road-test the audio and video
materials - in particular the 'video
drama'. But the signs are extremely
positive, and the headings above are
all tackled (the one about 'Germanspeaking countries' is covered early
and with particular care). The transcripts of the video drama, set
among teenagers in Berlin, suggest
that this feature will provide much of
the colour, interest and variety of
lexis that would be missing if one
concentrated on following the units
The German alphabet and pronunciation are handled thoroughly early
on, with the unexpected (but, on
reflection, perfectly obvious) move
of including an illustration of a German computer keyboard, emphasising that it is different from what a
British user would expect. There are
useful rule-formulation exercises;
one early example asks the learner
to work out from a set of written
examples how to explain the German formation of the numbers from
13 to 19. It sounds trivial (or, again,
obvious); but it is an instance of
making processes of learning transparent – ‘metalearning’, if you will.
This sort of activity pays attention to
one of the most important things
that needs to happen in a modern
languages classroom: the clear embedding of meaning and the inculcation of confidence in the learner as
to how to move forward even with
only limited language resources behind him or her. Similarly, work on
the use of a dictionary recognises
the importance of knowing how to
use reference tools when Controlled
Assessment exercises in Writing are
being done.
Not all the vocabulary lists convince
me. When I come across a unit
called 'Meine Familie', I want to see
all the German words for familymembers. But sections like 'Meine
Schule' are clear enough and steer
the right sort of course between day
-to-day practicality as homework
tools and the desire for comprehensiveness.
It takes time to work out how useful
any course is, but Zoom Deutsch 1
has the advantage of being set up
with what looks like a realistic
awareness of the type of environment in which it is going to be used.
You get the sense that teachers and
pupils will be happy using the course
to make progress. Above all, there is
enough spareness about the first
book to allow a teacher to introduce
his or her own interests and approach. Traditionally, things get
more complicated when one gets on
to the second and third years of a
German course (particularly if these
happen to be GCSE years). The
opening book of the course certainly
makes an auspicious start.
Geoffrey Plow
Contributions to the Newsletter
Write an article:
The value of this newsletter depends in great measure on
the contribution of members of ISMLA (and not only the
committee). We value all articles, letters or reflections in
any form which contribute to enriching the debate about
modern language teaching in our schools. Why not share an
example of good teaching practice? All you need do is contact the editor, Peter Langdale ([email protected]).
Write a review:
The reviews Editor, Tom Underwood, would be happy to
hear from anyone wishing to review books, websites and
[email protected] if you are interested.
Deadline for the next edition
The next edition is due to appear in time for the National
Conference on 4th February 2012. All contributions would
be welcome by Friday 6th January 2012 at the very latest.