A Level Languages


A Level Languages

Judith Goad Park View School

Today we will….

• Look at the current structure and requirements of the AS and A2 language exams.

• Consider what implications these requirements may have for our teaching at A level and further down the school.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ Year 12 language student?

Take three minutes to discuss and jot down some ideas of what a ‘typical’ language student may be like at the beginning of their Year 12 language course. Consider the following….

• Experience at GCSE in languages • Achievement at GCSE in languages • Skills acquired by the end of Year 11 • Motivation levels

Now let’s compare to Year 13.

Assuming this student carries on to Year 13, how do you think he or she may have changed, progressed and developed by the end of Year 13?

Consider…… • Linguistic and thinking skills acquired by the end of Year 13. • Motivation levels.

• Experience of languages and language teaching.

What are the main differences between GCSE and A level?


• Four papers • Paper 1 Listening (Tiered – Foundation or Higher and marked by the Examining Board) • Paper 2 – Speaking (2 controlled assessments centre assessed and marked, moderated by the Examining Board, not tiered entry) • Paper 3 – Reading (Tiered – Foundation or Higher and marked by the Examining Board) • Paper 4 – Writing (2 controlled assessments marked by the Examining Board, students graded by outcome, not tiered entry) • Topics and vocabulary lists specified by the Exam Board.

AS/A2 - Edexcel

AS Unit 1 (30% AS/ 15% A2) candidates.

– Speaking. Can either be a teacher examiner or a visiting examiner if you have more than 10 Unit 2 (70%AS/ 35% A2) – Listening, Reading and Writing A2 Unit 3 (35% A2/ 17.5% of total A2) – Speaking. Examiner as above.

Unit 4 (65% A2/ 32.5 % of total A2) – Research, Understanding and Written Response Exam Board specifies topics for each level but there are no vocabulary lists.

EDEXCEL AS = Youth Culture and Concerns, Lifestyle: Health and Fitness, The world around us (travel, tourism, environmental issues and the French/ German/ Spanish speaking world), Education and Employment EDEXCEL A2 = all of the above and …Customs, traditions, beliefs and religions, National and international events: past, present and future and Literature and the Arts.

AQA have basically the same structure although Unit 1 is the Listening, Reading and Writing, and Unit 2 the Speaking etc. At A2, they have a Listening, Reading and Writing exam whilst Edexcel do not.

AS Unit 1 Edexcel

• Spoken Expression and Response in German • Choose ONE of the AS topic areas eg Youth Culture and Concerns for discussion during the oral.

• 50 marks • 15 minutes preparation • Test = 8 to 10 minutes • Section A – stimulus card and questions • Section B –discussion of general topic area and its linked sub-topics.

AS Unit 2 Edexcel

• Understanding and Written Response • 2 hours 30 • 70 marks • Can draw on texts from all four AS general topic areas.

• Section A – Listening • Section B – Reading • Section C – Writing (200 -220 words based on a short stimulus. Students must respond to four to six linked bullet points.)

A2 Unit 3 Edexcel

• Understanding and Spoken Response in MFL • 50 marks • 11 to 13 minutes • Section A – debate for up to FIVE minutes on a topic chosen and prepared beforehand by the candidate. The Examiner must argue the opposing viewpoint.

• Section B- spontaneous discussion of a further two unpredictable areas of discussion chosen from the AS/A2 general topic areas by the Examiner.

• Counts as the Listening exam.

A2 Unit 4 Edexcel

• Research, Understanding and Written Response.

• Content of this exam can be linked to any of the general topic areas at AS and A2.

• Section A – translation into the MFL • Section B – discursive or creative essay (240 to 270 words) • Section C – Research Based Essay. (240 to 270 words) This rewards students for language skills and research linked to an area such as….

 Geographical area  Historical Study  Aspects of Modern Society  Literature and the Arts (eg text, play or film) EG We have chosen ‘Der Vorleser’ and Germany between 1961 and 1990. Our students will write their essay on one of these topics.

Top Tip 1 • Know your Exam Board and its requirements!

http://web.aqa.org.uk/qual/gce/languages/f rench_noticeboard.php

http://www.edexcel.com/quals/gce/gce08/l ang/german/Pages/default.aspx

Our ‘typical’ Sixth Former

Think about our description of our ‘typical’ Sixth former and his/her skills and experiences, and what we have just discussed. • Are there any key similarities between the courses? • Or differences?

• Which skills would a Year 12 student already have after taking GCSE?

• Which would s/he need to develop during the course of Year 12?

• What implications could your knowledge of the AS/A2 courses have on your teaching at Key Stages 3 and 4?

Top Tip 2

In any given Sixth form class you could have a wide range of students in terms of ability, SEN need, maturity and ethnic/religious/social background. In some ways, AS/A2 can be the most mixed ability teaching you will ever do!

Eg In my French AS class, three came from top sets, one from set 4 and one from another school. All have had very different experiences of grammar teaching at GCSE and all remember different grammar points from GCSE (for example, three could not define what a verb is in September last year!).

Plan for a range of abilities and do not assume that they will remember everything from GCSE. REVISE, REVISE, REVISE!

Top Tip 3

Year 12 is just Year 11 plus six weeks key skills and knowledge from GCSE.

don’t assume that they are ‘grown –up’! Sixth form is a lot to take in for some students and they will need help adjusting to the new course and ways of learning, as well as revision of

‘Show us how to revise and collect information.’

Advice and teaching will be needed on the following, for example:

‘Stress the importance of a well-organised file on the FIRST day!’

• How to organise a file.

‘Use e-mail!’

• Study skills – use of the dictionary, ‘free’ periods, learning vocabulary, the dangers of internet translators etc.

• Coping with volume of work and stress of exams.

• How to revise and collate/collect information.

• Revision of key grammatical points.

Unit 3 – A2: Task 1 Nine steps to happiness!

Top Tip 4 A4L

Make sure your students understand how the exam will be marked and what is expected of them.

This will help your and their understanding of the course and its requirements .

Unit 3: Task 2 Find a partner who has a language in common with you. One person should be the Examiner and one should be the student. Stage a ‘mock’ Unit 3 oral debate. Remember that the Examiner should argue the opposite from the student and that neither should back down!

Your topic is the DEATH PENALTY.

Examiner: you are


the death penalty.

You should test the student’s knowledge of the topic, his or her topic vocabulary, and his or her linguistic skills (eg moving from ‘why?’ to ‘what would you do if…/what would you have done….?’) Student: you are


the death penalty.

Remember that you are 17/18, nervous and NOT at graduate level in terms of language or thinking skills!

‘We LOVE debates, especially if you give us


Examiners: • How did it feel to be an Examiner?

• What were the challenges?

• Is there anything you would have done differently? What? Why?

• How could you plan for these challenges?

Students: • How did it feel to be in this situation?

• What would be the challenges for your students?

• How could you plan for these challenges as a teacher?

TASK 3: Unit 3 – A2

Thinking about the marking criteria, your ‘mock’ oral exam and the pages on Unit 3 from the Edexcel specification, in pairs or groups, please consider the following: • Which key skills should be taught and developed for this exam?

• How would you prepare students for this exam throughout Year 13?

• What implications this exam has for you as a teacher – which skills should you develop?

• What impact could these specific exam requirements have for your teaching at Key Stages 3 and 4?


Key skills Preparation for students Implications for teacher Implications for Key Stages 3/4

Ideas for Key Stages 3 and 4

• Debates with ‘roles’ on topics such as school uniform.

• Teach them some language of debate eg. ‘I agree/ what rubbish!’ etc • Encourage and reward development of answers from early on.

• Encourage the spontaneous use of language rather than ‘pre-learnt’ sentences eg games such as ‘just a minute’ or ‘taboo’.

• Teach sound-spelling links to help with pronunciation and intonation.

• Teach study and revision skills which can be transferred eg use of cue cards, learning of key verbs in three tenses.

• Ensure that students are used to speaking tests from early on and help them develop coping strategies.

• Foster an atmosphere in your classroom/department which encourages linguistic ‘risk taking’ from Year 7.

What oral examiners are looking for…

• Spontaneity rather than pre-learnt responses.

• The language of debate/ hypothesis/ evaluation/ explanation/ analysis.

• An ability to express opinions.

• An ability to use AS/A2 constructions eg passives, subjunctives, conditional perfect….

• Knowledge of the topic areas and associated vocabulary.

• An ability to develop ideas orally.

• Excellent pronunciation and intonation.

• An ability to deal with the unexpected.

• Evidence of wider research.


Top tips for Sixth form teaching!









Know your exam board requirements and make yourself familiar with the exam.

Assume nothing – revise, revise, revise!

Plan for your range of abilities, SEN needs etc.

Teach skills as well as subject knowledge.

Use A4L strategies to help your students understand what is expected of them.

Help your students develop coping strategies – do not expect instant maturity in Year 12!

Remember that you are teaching a language and about a culture, as well as preparing students for the exam.

And a final tip from my classes….

Bring food on Friday!

Have Kleenex at the ready at all times……