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Maximising Foreign Language Learning By Celine Courenq, Head of Faculty, World Languages


id you know that 40 percent of what you have just learnt is forgotten after 20 minutes? How can we then ensure a meaningful and carefully crafted World Languages curriculum in order to maximise learning for our learners? This was one of the topics discussed during our FOBISIA JAWS workshop in November 2019 where we had the privilege to welcome Dr Gianfranco Conti, an international keynote speaker and author of several books on language acquisition. We learnt how the memory works, specifically looking at the differences between ‘working memory’ and ‘long term memory’ and ‘the forgetting curve’.

isolation, that would mean they can only remember and recall five words. However, if we teach them five sentences as per the Conti approach, then they can potentially remember and recall 15-25 words. New language is introduced gradually in small chunks and steps using extensive modelling with thorough practice of pronunciation and new structures until it is firmly embedded.

Example of Sentence Builders:

What does a Key Stage 3 World Languages classroom lesson look like? We begin a lesson with a retrieval practice task to recall previous learning: a “starter” activity can strengthen previous learning and lead to fluent recall. Language lessons follow on each other and require students to learn and memorise chunks of vocabulary and structures on a daily basis with retrieval practice.

We ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students

We present new material in small steps with students practice after each step to manage Cognitive Load In World Languages we are now working on presenting new language using our Sentence Builders which introduce vocabulary in sentences rather than as individual items, so students know how to use them in the context and real-life situations. If we consider that students can remember only five pieces of information at a given time, then if we teach words in 20

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Using mini-whiteboards provides instant feedback on students’ understanding. Another approach, asking students not to put their hands up and choosing who to question ensures every students’ understanding and progress is checked. These techniques not only ensure that teachers check understanding of all students but also addresses any gaps in students’ knowledge or misconceptions.

We provide models

Models and worked examples help students learn faster. Extensive modelling and awareness raising of new language

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Term 1 Magazine December 2020