Preparing for the new specifications

Now that we at last have news about the new specifications for teaching from September, I have turned my attention to analysing what is actually new and what we as teachers should focus on and develop. The researchers at the University of York often post thought provoking articles, and as I was thinking about these new specifications and heard teachers talking about past papers etc. wondering what to keep and what to throw away, this article on Holding on to the past: Why decluttering is such a dilemma caught my attention. It is an interesting read. 

lizblog1What to keep, and what to throw away is a dilemma. I haven’t got an attic, which is where most people hoard things in case they come in useful at some point in the future. You can be sorting and come across really old resources that actually could be useful! You know that they worked well so don’t throw them away. You can be out walking, as I was last weekend, trying to rest my mind and sort out my thoughts and come across gems like these bluebells amongst the old trees. Maybe some things just need to be left to grow, as long as they have the right conditions to thrive – and others need nurturing and very careful planning to ensure that there is development over time.

I found a book by Elspeth Corrie “designed for students preparing for CSE, O level or the new 16+ oral examination dated 1984.  Chapter 3 The single picture-with specific prepared questions-without prepared questions and had a look. The pupils are given these helpful words of advice. “You will be asked to talk about a picture. These pictures are not designed as vocabulary tests; rather they are there to test your ability to manipulate the German language in describing something. After a set of 8 picture examples the pupils are given a warning. As you will have gathered from these examples, questions may well involve you in interpreting the picture, not just reporting the obvious.’’

I think that the important thing is to be able to ‘sift’. As teachers we have a lot of stuff thrown at us, but we need to really reflect on what will really help the pupils to learn effectively. As you are thinking about schemes of work, your text books and your resources for next year, I would recommend keeping what is really good practice and just adding more translation/transcription tasks wherever you can. I‘m absolutely sure that we are already teaching grammar effectively, but discuss as a department what you can add that helps move pupils’ understanding on and increase their ability to manipulate and produce accurate language for themselves.   The news coverage recently about the SATs papers also made me think and Jill Cosh’s comment that “labelling language is not the same as using it effectively – just as labelling the parts of the engine does not enable you to drive effectively…’’  is pertinent. We will be looking later on in the term at approaches to the teaching of grammar too. As you review your schemes of work, always rely on your instincts, because what works well is worth keeping and adding to.

As I have said before, one of the advantages of teaching over several decades is that we can hopefully learn from the good things from the past and add to that the amazing role that technology will play in education in the 21st century! So a mixture is good. Many fantastic chefs delve into recipes from the past and add their new knowledge to it cooking with modern utensils. We will be looking at new ways of using technology in the classroom over the coming weeks and discussing the benefits as we consider the implications of the new specifications.

Well, to conclude for today, we only need to think about Shakespeare… Can I recommend this fabulous work on maps to you for some speaking practice? Developing an awareness of language is so important, isn’t it?


Liz BlackLiz Black, has taught languages in both primary and secondary schools for over 30 years and has, as a consequence of this cross-phase work, a keen interest in ensuring effective linguistic progression. She is currently a PGCE tutor, freelance author and consultant. She has been a member of ALL for many years and is on the National Executive Council and the Primary Special Interest Group. She delivers training for primary and secondary teachers and is well known for her creative teaching ideas.