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Leadership in Languages MLTANSW workshop 2015

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Bronwen Calcraft shares her wisdom on encouraging students into senior languages courses.

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Leadership in Languages MLTANSW workshop 2015

  1. 1. MLTA ‘Leadership in Languages’: Q&A panel How to get senior classes? Context: Ravenswood Ravenswood is a K-12 non-selective independent girls’ school on Sydney’s North Shore and offers the IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma as an alternative to the HSC in Years 11- 12. Six languages are offered: French, German, Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin), Latin and Spanish (IB ab initio). The Coordinator leads a team of 11 (one Chinese assistant, 3 part-time and 7 full-time teachers, most of whom speak at least 2 languages other than English) and oversees K-12 Languages, including all HSC and IB Languages. Despite having relatively healthy numbers in Years 11-12 each year for all six languages, it has become an alarming trend that the classes are being combined (HSC/IB) as a way of reducing cost to the school and being ‘fiscally responsible”. What is the ‘magic number’ and why does it change from year to year? (Can be very frustrating!) Another trend is that the IB is becoming more and more popular, leaving the HSC in its wake. Great for Languages and the IB, but not ideal for the HSC, effective teaching and learning practices, particularly in Year 12, when the courses diverge and Higher Level is introduced. This trend is now having an impact on the part-time staff allocations and is setting a precedent which worries students and parents (and the language teachers!) Challenges and ‘big questions’:  How do we get enough students continuing with their language into Year 11 so that we can create separate HSC and IB classes? (Some teachers are so keen to allow their students study a language in Stage 6 that they will teach combined classes of Beginners and Continuers and/ or teach all lessons off-line – this shouldn’t have to happen!)  How do we encourage a passion for languages in our students so that they seek life- long language learning and want to use languages in their life after school?  Compulsory language to end of Year 9 (or the last compulsory year of study) – how do we stem the ‘mass exodus’? Why are they dropping language in such big numbers?
  2. 2. Strategies:  Be proactive! What is that ‘magic number’ to run a class anyway?? (varies from school to school, principal to principal ) Don’t let Languages be the victim – be the ‘warrior’! Fight the ‘fiscally responsible’ line they give us – what about the value we are giving these students? HOWEVER, you need to have a good relationship with the executive/decision-makers so that concessions can be made and rules ‘bent’   Run an online ‘electives’ survey with Year 9’s – read and analyse results: why do they KEEP a language? Why do they DROP it? (share results) then REACT to its messages  Run a focus group after subject selections have been done (eg Year 10) – what needs to be addressed? May need to have some tricky conversations with certain teachers… review programs  We need to ENGAGE our students with interesting programs (which get the balance right between fun and rigour, technology and verbal communication/written work; flipped classroom; giving meaningful feedback) and choose resources and texts which are inspiring and relevant, not outdated. Just keeping on with the same program year in and year out is ‘suicide’!  The students need to feel valued and that they have a good relationship with their teacher, in order to want to continue with that language  ‘See’ the student – personalised emails acknowledging successes and encouraging improvement (as per Liberty Campbell’s presentation)  ‘DELF scolaire’, ‘Fit in Deutsch’ (+ Chinese and Japanese external programs) – allow the advanced students to be extended and gain meaningful accreditation at the end of each year, as well as their school level.  Immersion experiences in Year 10 eg Global Experience program (sister schools)  Overseas tours – cross faculty or interschool if necessary (if can’t get the numbers)  We need to ‘think outside the square’ when it comes to timetabling and offer creative solutions and flexibility to individual cases, in order to allow our students to continue with their senior language study (eg ‘blended learning’ - 2 languages on one line) or cross-campus /cross-school classrooms (eg Willoughby Girls’ and Mackellar Girls’)  Work closely with your local uni – Year 10 French Day, Year 9 ‘experience languages at uni for a day’) Creates meaningful links for tertiary study, career and language.
  3. 3. What to fight for:  Quality time for lessons per cycle (especially in combined classes)  A ‘senior space’ – kitchenette for coffee/hot chocolate etc  – give the juniors a ‘tour’ of the facility to show them what they can look forward to!  A dedicated language space (languages centre; language lab)  Resources: equipment, technology, texts and resources  Teachers who are passionate, skilled, dedicated, enthusiastic, who develop a rapport with their students and who make their subject RELEVANT in the eyes of her students  Time to plan as a team  Cultural excursions and activities. It’s not ‘just about going to a restaurant’ as they think!  Compulsory Language study in Stages 5 and 6! What to read: Dr Ruth Fielding’s (University of Canberra) publication entitled: “Exploring Effective and Sustainable Language Programs in NSW Independent Schools”, A snapshot of Language Learning in 2014 Copies available from the AIS website or through Merryl Wahlin (via email): MWahlin@aisnsw.edu.au Bronwen Calcraft, Ravenswood Languages Coordinator 1 August 2015

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