Croydon High is igniting a spark in Modern Foreign Languages
In early December each year, the German department at Croydon High runs "ADVENT-URES in German" at the school.
Year 4 girls are invited to come and learn about the traditions associated with Advent in Germany.
In advance of the day, parents are sent the words and a YouTube link to traditional German carols along with the recipe for Zimsterne Cinnamon Stars – a German festive speciality. It is suggested that they might like to practice the carols and bake the biscuits – but this is optional.
On the day, the children join together with Croydon High girls of the same age for an afternoon where they enjoy craft activities, making Christmas decorations and hearing about the various traditions of a German Christmas. Those who have baked the Zimsterne are invited to share them and there are prizes awarded for the tastiest and for the best decorated Christmas angels.
Some basic vocabulary is taught but the emphasis is on inspiring the girls to think about how things are done differently in different countries. Sixth Form German students help run the activities and the afternoon ends with all the children gathered round the piano singing Stille Nacht and O Tannenbaum.
In January each year, the senior French department invites Year 5 pupils to celebrate Twelfth Night by spending the afternoon discovering this French tradition, learning vocabulary and playing French games. The finale of the afternoon is when the girls are served with ‘La Galette de Rois’ or ‘King’s Cake’ specially baked by the catering team at the school. The secret ingredient in each cake – which serves eight – are a number of little charms that are baked inside the cakes. The child that finds the King charm is pronounced ‘King for the day’ and gets to wear the crown!
Every Easter, the Spanish department welcome visiting Year 3 girls to say 'hola to Easter in Spain'. In a very similar way to the other traditions, the Spanish department run a themed afternoon’s activities appropriate to the younger children in Year 3. There is a lot of craft work and the pupils learn and perform a Spanish song about the Easter Bunny. Some basic vocab is taught and the afternoon ends with a treasure hunt to find mini Easter eggs.
Senior school heads of department in French, Spanish and German each devised a themed activity designed to introduce junior age children to the vocabulary and culture of their respective languages.
Numbers vary each year and for each event, but there are usually between 50 and 100 pupils involved. Feedback is always very positive, conveying that both pupils and accompanying teachers benefit from the novelty of the events and how they certainly spark interest in the different languages. Schools are always keen to participate and students are very enthusiastic.
Sixth form language students participate fully in all the sessions and act as very positive role models for the younger children.
The initiative came about during a meeting of local junior heads hosted at Croydon High. It transpired there was a need for support with MFL and a desire to encourage children to develop an interest in languages.
All resources are provided by Croydon High and the activities are hosted in our Junior school and in the grounds when weather permits. We have been able to help with transport in some cases, by sending the school minibus to collect children.
Each activity is run by two members of the senior language department with assistance from sixth form students. Junior teachers of the participating year groups also support the event as do members of our school support staff. Refreshments in the form of home made biscuits or cakes are provided by our catering team.
The event itself lasts an hour and a half, but requires careful planning and organisation in advance.
There is no formal quantitative or qualitative assessment but plenty of feedback given and requested to try and ensure the events run smoothly and answer a need. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the activities are enjoyable and stimulating and schools are always keen to participate.
Pupils from years 3,4 and 5 are involved and visiting schools usually outnumber Croydon High girls by about 2:1.
Each activity runs at the relevant time each year.