January 31, 2023
Our MFL teacher, Madame Oakley, is passionate about teaching French and Spanish to all our pupils. Here, she explains how she tailors her teaching programme for each age group, from our 2 year olds in Nursery up to 11 years old, making sure they are ready for senior school.
My name is Madame Oakley and I am the French and Spanish teacher at St Margaret’s. I was born and grew up in Chambéry, in the French Alps. I moved to England in 2002 and after qualifying with a PGCE in French and Spanish in 2004, I have been teaching ever since. I started teaching at St Margaret’s in January 2020.
Part of the St. Margaret’s Family
My daughter Noa started at St Margaret’s in Year 1. She is now in Year 8 at St Mary’s in Colchester. My son Quinn has been here since nursery and is now in Year 2. Noa has very fond memories of her time at St Margaret’s and she relishes the opportunity to pop back to watch Quinn’s shows, whenever she can.
I am always overjoyed by the enthusiasm the pupils at St Margaret’s show for languages. I am utterly delighted when the children or their parents tell me they have used their language skills on holiday to order things or make themselves understood. Every week I like to reward some children with the MFL stars of the week. On a daily basis they also enjoy sporting Mme Oakley or Señora Oakley’s special stickers!
I am thoroughly enjoying teaching all year groups, as they all bring me different joys and rewards, in their own specific ways.
The children start learning French in nursery, 30 mins a week. I keep each activity short to make sure they stay engaged. I use different activities to give the children the opportunity to say and recognise the vocabulary. We play with fly swatters, I say the words and they compete to swat the correct picture. We play “Musical Cards”, I play a song and when the music stops they freeze and say the word on the card I show. They also enjoy playing with stickers, so it is a great way to practise vocabulary as well. Another favourite is “La pêche à la ligne”, using hand made magnetic fishing rods the children “fish” the words that I tell them. The children enjoy listening to stories, especially “Tchoupi” who is a little penguin who goes through similar experiences as them. I like to find songs related to the vocabulary we are learning. Alain Le Lait makes very funny songs in French; he is a firm favourite with the children. Even in Prep the children ask to listen to Alain Le Lait’s number song! The children also practise their sport skills, by throwing bean bags to the correct flashcards. Finally, they enjoy doing yoga in French! It is a great way to practise body parts, animals and a lot of general vocabulary.
Reception & Pre Prep
In Reception and Year 1 we continue with the same kind of activities. The vocabulary is repeated and developed a lot in Pre-Prep, to ensure the children assimilate it.
In Year 2 they start using full sentences. Learning how to talk about themselves, say their name, their age, when their birthday is, who is in their family etc. We play a lot of games and songs, and the children also enjoy playing games on the interactive whiteboard. In Year 2 they start to do more writing work. For each topic they complete a worksheet with the vocabulary, that they keep in their French folders.
The children can volunteer to take home the French Activity bag for the weekend. It is full of books, activities, recipes, games and a DVD. It helps support the children’s learning and gives them a chance to share their French at home.
In Year 3 the children have an hour of French a week. During the lessons all 4 skills are used: listening, speaking, reading and writing. They use their prior knowledge and develop it even more. They also enjoy games; which I think are a very important part of language learning. Moreover, they complete reading and writing activities every lesson. I also like to get them used to understanding recorded French voices, not just mine. Therefore, we do a lot of interactive listening activities. Their personal laptops are an asset for those activities. They act as mini language labs. Each child can complete the activity at their own pace, using headphones. We also start to learn about grammar and how it differs from English. The children also use their laptops for interactive games. Some like playing the games again at home.
In Year 4 the children also start learning Spanish. They have 1 hour of MFL a week. They learn French for half a term and Spanish the other half, allowing us to go into more depth for each topic. The children use their knowledge of French in Spanish. They already have a notion of gender thanks to French. They also take into consideration that the word order is different in French and Spanish compared to English. I teach Prep in the Disco Lab, making use of the green screen to act out role plays: at the café, doctor’s, chemist, shop etc. The children love bringing props, dressing up and acting in the target language. It is wonderful to be able to demonstrate that we learn a language for a real purpose.
In Year 5 the children start a penpal correspondence with a primary school in Nice, in the south of France. The children send and receive letters in French and in English. It is amazing for them to be able to use their French knowledge in a real life situation. It also enables them to learn about the French culture and way of life.
By the time the children leave in Year 6, they will be able to engage in short conversation, using full sentences. They will also manage to express their opinions, and work out the meaning of new words, using their knowledge.
Importance of Pronunciation
We find different ways to practise repeating the words together, making sure the children use the correct accent and intonation. Primary age children have this natural ability to repeat and copy the exact pronunciation. This is why I believe they are very privileged to be learning a language so young, and from a native speaker. I hope this will help them be a step ahead when they move to secondary school.