Languages Outreach “La Petite Poule Rousse”: Learn French through Drama
Y5 or 6 (according to the choice of the school) from local primaries are invited to our senior school site for 2 hours once a week for 6 weeks to prepare and practise the performance of a drama production in French – La Petite Poule Rousse. French was chosen as it is the widest taught modern foreign language at KS2 and is the current language being taught at the schools we partner. Pupils give a final performance with music, costumes and hand-made scenery to a live audience in the 6th week.
A drama project is an exciting and inspiring way to develop language skills which may be a departure from what is normally provided by everyday transactional topics covered in KS2 schemes of work, but which promotes MFL as a cross-curricular subject, thereby helping to promote a ‘mastery’ approach to language learning and support CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning).
As Kevin Stannard, Director of Innovation and Learning at the GDST, highlights: “In the primary phase, obstacles to embedding the requirements of the national curriculum include finding curriculum time in primary schools and finding suitable specialist teachers. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2012-2016, observed that MFL is being marginalised in state primary schools – partly (and ironically) as a consequence of Ofsted’s unrelenting focus on Maths and English. Two thirds of primary schools offer less than an hour per week on foreign languages” (‘Beyond pets and pencil cases: Modern Foreign Languages in GDST schools’)
 https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/science-and-languages-are-poor-relations-primary-schools-wilshaw; Ofsted (2016) Foreign languages and science provision in primary schools: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/524559/Foreign_languages_and_science_in_primary_schools.pdf
Immediate beneficiaries are the participating pupils themselves but also the accompanying teaching staff (and those staff at the primary schools responsible for delivering MFL content in their own setting, who benefit from shared practice, ideas and resources). By participating in this project
primary staff can observe first-hand specialist language teaching techniques which they can apply in other contexts or with other year groups.
we hope to increase staff confidence both in terms of teaching and learning as well as by enhancing their own subject knowledge and improved skills.
there is the potential to offer continued support in the future by repeated participation in the project as well as by creating a collaborative and supportive relationship which would extend beyond the 6-week course.
primary staff also take away resources which they can use in the future.
Our own VIth Form pupils also benefit by being involved by using their own language skills as well as taking a leadership role within the outreach sessions.
Critical Factors for Success
Funding was essential to provide necessary teaching, resources and meet other costs e.g. transport.
Primary schools needed to want to be involved and be able to invest the required time and staff resources. Support from primary headteachers was very positive; the benefits of the project in terms of provision of language specialist teaching as well as developing pupils’ ‘soft skills’ were recognised.
Pupils who took part needed to feel that they had made progress in their language skills (see impact assessment below) and that they had had a positive experience, thus allowing schools to want to take part in future years.
Parents of pupils involved in the project recognise the benefits for their children.
I had previously expressed an interest in sharing our senior school teaching MFL expertise through an outreach project to benefit local primaries; I have previous experience teaching at our own Prep department as well as voluntarily in my own children’s primary school KS1 class. In the summer term 2016-7 Shrewsbury High School Head, Mr Mike Getty, asked whether, since the school intended to expand its Outreach programme as part of the strategic development plan, I would be able to offer a project involving MFL.
A bid to HSBC for a funding grant was made in April 2017 which was successful and the first primary school, Greenfields Primary in Shrewsbury, completed the first 6-week project in the first half of the Autumn term 2017. Two more schools will participate this year (Spring 2018 and Summer 2018).
Funding to pay for costs associated with the project are critical. .
The sessions take place in two teaching classrooms and perform in the main hall at our senior school site. We use classroom facilities e.g. interactive whiteboards, ipads. Pupils have a break during the session with refreshments in our newly refurbished canteen.
The course is delivered in French by specialist MFL teaching staff and supported by both our native speakers language assistant and senior SHS language students.
Questionnaires are given in the first session and filled in once more at the end of the 6 weeks to assess the development of pupils’ language skills and competence. These include a quantitative assessment – a vocabulary ‘quiz’ with key words and expressions, and a qualitative assessment – pupil self assessment e.g. regarding their own confidence and ability .
For Greenfields school, the first of the project, analysis of the surveys show a positive impact:
Vocabulary knowledge increased
Pupils reported increased confidence with spoken French and with skills such as offering ideas in a group
Pupils all reported that they had enjoyed being part of the project.
Parental feedback after the final performance was overwhelmingly positive, with several parents specifically commenting on how much their son/daughter had enjoyed participating. Parents were very supportive of the value of the project in terms of exposure to learning French.
VIth form pupils report benefit as they are able to practise their language skills in an unfamiliar context and have an opportunity to mention their involvement on UCAS applications.
5 of our Y12 and 13 French students were involved in helping during the project.
Pupils (boys and girls) from the first and second primaries will both be Y6 (10-11), pupils from our third school this year are likely to be Y4 (8-9).
Ongoing this academic year involving 3 local State funded primary schools, every other half term.
We hope to continue to project next year and develop it to involve more schools.
Continuation depends on continued funding.