The Linguist

The Linguist 55,1

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 10 of 35

These will include the additional skills of role-play, responding to a stimulus picture card and translation practice. We will also ensure that our schemes of work no longer treat each topic in isolation – a system that worked well during the reign of controlled assessments. Moving forward, we need to have a scheme of work that demonstrates how language can be re-used and recycled regardless of the topic, as the AQA examination board has outlined in a sample scheme of work for the new GCSE. Although these changes represent great challenges in the way we teach and assess our students, the new curriculum also offers an exciting opportunity to refocus on teaching the language itself, rather than teaching to pass an exam. I may question whether the role-play scenario is useful to students; for example, there is a fear that requiring students to act out buying train tickets does not necessarily reflect the authentic life experience of our teenagers. Nevertheless, does it not represent a more life-like experience than preparing and repeating back essay responses to aural questions? As we continue to witness falling numbers of students opting for languages at KS5 (ages 16-18) and above, we can hope that this represents an opportunity to re-engage students through a different style of teaching and halt the downward trend. Notes 1 The Independent (11/6/2013) 'Michael Gove: New GCSEs will be More Challenging and Rigorous' FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016 The Linguist 11 FEATURES regarding the complexity of language in authentic resources, we must not forget the essential skills that such complexities can develop; specifically helping students to cope with unfamiliar words and feel confident with texts that combine language from more than one topic area. High-stakes exams One of the biggest challenges will be the removal of coursework (controlled assessment), previously worth 60% of the final grade, to assess writing and speaking. In many ways, controlled assessment has been successful, particularly for those who benefit from a staged and more manageable form of assessment. However, many teachers have criticised it, and as a department we felt that the writing and speaking assessments relied on students learning chunks of language from memory, rather than on understanding the language and grammar in order to express themselves confidently and creatively. In contrast, the new exams aim to allow for a deeper understanding of how the language works, as pupils activate their understanding of grammatical knowledge in order to express themselves in a variety of situations. This has, naturally, caused some concern in our department, as we are aware that it represents a sea-change for our students. It may present challenges for weaker students, since it requires greater long-term memory work; the assessments will require students to know language from up to three main topics, rather than only the most recent topic studied in class. Furthermore, it will require a more profound understanding of grammatical structures; no longer will students be rewarded for learning by rote a limited number of verbs in a certain tense without being able to conjugate key verbs independently and spontaneously. Translation from the onset Our next step was to review the assessment formats in all four of the skills from Year 7 onwards, as this would prepare students from the earliest opportunity for the new-style GCSE. As the new exams will have questions written in both English and the TL, and require students to respond in both languages, we are mirroring this in all our classroom resources, practice exam questions and end-of-unit assessments for KS3 and KS4. One area that has caused great concern is the announcement that students will need to be able to translate short passages into English and into the TL. For some teachers, this skill is old-fashioned. For many years, we have avoided such tasks in favour of a more communicative approach. In a world in which online translation tools can be accessed so easily, however, it can be very useful to highlight the importance of the skill of translation, demonstrating to our students that it is not a simple word-for-word process. Our next decision, therefore, was to set Years 7-9 two short translation tasks, one into English and one into the TL. The students dealt with this reasonably well. As predicted, the translation-into-TL task presented a greater challenge, but we were pleased to see that all students attempted the tasks with some success, and where language was unknown, they used their knowledge of the context to attempt a translation. Changing pupils' expectations A further significant change for our students was that we did not give them advance warning and revision guidance for the extended writing tasks, as we wanted to mirror the 2018 GCSE writing paper. This prevented them from memorising texts written in class or for homework and then reproducing them (often inaccurately) under exam conditions. This has presented the greatest challenge so far for our students and was difficult for them to accept. They found it very hard to prepare for an exam when they "did not know what the question was going to be", highlighting one of my greatest frustrations in students' expectations of teaching and assessment. Over the next term, our focus will be on preparing new schemes of work for KS4. No longer will students be rewarded for learning by rote a limited number of verbs in a certain tense ROLE-PLAY One of the new assessment activities

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Linguist - The Linguist 55,1