Sunday 21 April 2013

What should KS2 MFL do?

In September 2014 the teaching of a foreign or ancient language from the prescribed list of seven (French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin, Latin and Ancient Greek) will become statutory in Key Stage 2 in all schools that aren't independent, free or academies.  For many of us, this is a very exciting prospect, and something that we have been waiting for and working towards for some considerable time.

There are 3.75 terms to go.

The draft Programme of Study is very brief, and pretty inaccessible for the non-specialist classroom teachers who will be doing most of the teaching.  There has been a lot of criticism in recent months of the amount of prescription in the draft Programmes of Study for subjects such as history.  It's my opinion that primary languages need this amount of prescription.  Teachers need to know what they should cover in Key Stage 2. It will help them and it will be even more useful for Key Stage 3 teachers - they would then know exactly what they were getting in Year 7 and would be able to plan accordingly.  At the moment Year 7 seems to consist mainly of starting again from the beginning, irrespective of students' Key Stage 2 experience, mainly because students come from so many different schools and have such different experiences of language learning.

I am in the fortunate position at the moment of having received a commission to write a series of resources for French and Spanish for Key Stage 2 and early Key Stage 3.  It seemed quite an easy job to start with, but the more I think about it the more cans of worms I open.  Each resource needs to have some specific grammatical, structural, linguistic or cultural point.  Which has all led me to think: What exactly do children need to learn in Key Stage 2 to prepare them for Year 7?

I posed the question to the #mfltwitterati yesterday

and have received some very useful answers.  Thanks everyone!

So here is my first go at a list for what KS2 children should learn in Spanish.  (I'm starting with the Spanish resources as the phonics and the numbers are more straightforward and because it's my first language.)

Number (plurals)
Adjectival agreement and position
Definite and indefinite articles
Paradigms of high frequency irregular verbs in the present tense (ser, estar, tener, ir, hacer)
Paradigms of regular -ar, -er and -ir verbs in the present tense
Connectives (y, pero, porque, sin embargo, también)
Qualifiers (muy, bastante)
Making verbs negative

Sé / puedo / quiero plus infinitive
(No) me gusta(n) plus noun or infinitive plus other opinions such as Me encanta(n)
Prefiero plus noun or infinitive
Question words 

Core language:
Numbers to 1000
Days of the week
Months of the year
Common adverbs (muy bien, bien, mal)
Telling the time

Children should be familiar with
Map of Spain and its neighbouring countries, position within Europe, main geographical features, major cities
Map of Central and South America and the countries there that are Spanish-speaking
The reasons why the majority of Central and South America is Spanish-speaking

Spanish's Latin roots
Spanish's Arabic roots

The above points can be taught through a variety of different contexts, such as animals, weather, food and so on.  I would envisage the French list not being too dissimilar.

Do you think I've missed anything out?
Do you think anything on the list is unnecessary and should be kept until Key Stage 3?
I would be very grateful if you could tell me via a comment!

UPDATE 23.04.13:

Very many thanks to all those who have responded either via comment below, via Twitter or via the CfBT fora.  I have taken all your comments on board and adjusted my original list.  My new list is available via Scribd (below) for anyone who would like a copy as a starting point for their own deliberations.  John Connor has made the very valid point that it's difficult to do anything too specific until we know what's going to happen with assessment.  Several people have mentioned stories, songs, poems and rhymes.  Most of the language and cultural content mentioned can be explored this way.

Thank you all again for making me think very hard!


  1. Thanks Clare, this is a really interesting conversation to initiate. I remember a training session we had arguing that past / future / present could (and should) be taught at the same time (although this was a KS3 session). Should we restrict what we teach to the present tense?

  2. I think this is really good and I agree that there should be more clarity and guidance in order to enable secondary teachers to build on what has already been learnt.

    I like the inclusion of cultural and etymological points, which are of course related! The reasons why Spanish has both Latin and Arabic roots would also make good cultural input.

  3. Hello and good luck with the commission! Could add Tener sed/hambre/frio/calor/sueno? Will you be including vocab lists? Possibly subtitled 'should know' 'should recognise and 'might know/recognise'? This would certainly help the non-specialist teachers. I don't know where they are with assessment at KS2 but this would definitely be useful for KS2/3 transition. Forgive me if I should know this but what will be the statutory timetable allocation? An hour a week?
    PS I am no longer teaching primary sadly

  4. I like all of what you included. I would like to consider more vocabulary, such as weather/seasons and school subjects, food. This would also tie up with intercultural understanding and projects with Spanish schools to give KS2 Spanish learners a real platform.

  5. That looks fab Claire- as always. Very helpful. As you say not as easy to do in practice. I would like adjectives in there too or is that in with adjectival agreement? Helen

  6. Hi Claire,

    This looks great!

    - I like the suggestion from "Anonymous" about "Tener sed/hambre/frio/calor/sueno" which can be taught through El hombre de Color. - Maybe more references to stories?(such a strength in Primary !!!)
    - I would maybe add "Pienso que"

    Isabelle @LanguagesIS

  7. Claire, I would suggest adding voy/vamos a.... to make the most of using infinitives, and also to facilitate greater use of TL to introduce learning objs. This is good, they clearly picked the right woman for the job!

    Kate Scappaticci

  8. Dear Claire,
    What you are discussing here really resonates with me. I work in an international school and we are privilaged to have 3 periods a week of MFL instruction in primary. We have been working really hard to create a document that shows progression and will serve as a base for secondary teachers not to start from scratch once these children get into year 7.
    Good luck with the job

  9. Very many thanks for your responses, everyone. What do secondary practitioners think?

  10. Fantastic work. This could of course be used as a pattern for a similar PoS for German, French and the other languages on the Government's list. This will be of tremendous use to primary schools all over the country.

    However, whatever happens at primary level, in Y7 we will continue to face the challenge of receiving children who will have been taught various different languages, some by language specialists, some not... and to try to fit them into our school's systems, which are themselves very different from school to school, with different languages on offer. Until there is a proper, unified debate on how best to integrate MFL teaching across the keystages, the transition will continue to present difficulties.