Monday, 14 October 2013

Fostering independence in writing in MFL

After marking 3 sets of books today (go me, how efficient, god bless PPA), I began to get increasingly frustrated with the number of homeworks I marked enhanced with a little sprinkling of Google translate. First of all, let me say that I am not against Google translate as a tool for learning - it's just simply that I haven't dared explored such capabilities with my classes yet, and let's be honest, in the majority of cases it isn't necessary to use it.

I've decided the three main reasons pupils use Google to translate for homeworks are probably 1) laziness; 2) a genuine inability to complete the task set of them and 3) a lack of confidence in their own ability. What I find most frustrating about this is that I feel as a department, and indeed as a school, we give pupils an awful lot of the tools required so that they can create meaningful pieces of work of their own accord. It seems that when it comes down to it, they either can't or won't. Our KS3 and KS4 pupils in languages are all provided with a vocabulary booklet with vocabulary and structures in for them to produce writing at home. There are grammar sections at the back. Pupils complete pre-tasks, in which they practise vocabulary, sentence structure and building paragraphs. A writing task for KS3 homework should be a culmination of classwork and previous homework - an opportunity for pupils to show themselves off, prove to me how much they have learned. Of course, that's on the basis we have a good working relationship and they want to impress, but I like to think that with most of my classes, we do have such a positive working environment. 

With the implementation of a flipped learning project, we will have a chance to experiment with homework and hopefully measure any impact on results and attitudes to out-of-class work.I really believe in our new KS3 homework set up of prep, draft & redraft so I am keen to make it work. I'll put this one down to a first attempt - iron out the creases and try again.

So in the meantime, it's back to the drawing board... a reinforcement of the idea that we don't NEED to use Google, our brains work and it's good to be in our challenge zone sometimes. A chance for me to reflect on the way I set out homework tasks - should I have differentiated more? Do I need to do more confidence building in class? How else can I encourage my learners to be (here's the Ofsted buzzword...) resilient? Or perhaps students are just overwhelmed; to expect writing to be done independently is just the straw that breaks the already-heavily-laden-with-homework-camel's back?

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