We voted for Brexit. (I didn't.)
We are all going to hell in a handcart...
...but look on the bright side, it's a right hand drive handcart, painted in Union Jack colours, which will be driven on the left hand side of the highway to hell...
No, this post is about GCSE.
Specifically, remaining positive.
Negativity breeds negativity and I know this because I'm a very grumpy old man.
So, how to be more positive with a group of Year 11 students about to take their GCSE exams and who haven't really learned enough vocabulary?
This is my list of positivity for very intelligent students who have breezed through the last 11 years of their education without ever really exerting themselves:
- Let them know, individually, what they're really good at. (Even if it's just recognising cognates!)
- Reward them. Have a bag full of lollipops and Haribos on hand to distribute. If you did an Easter holidays revision session (You shouldn't have! See here) I can guarantee you were a different person (probably because the kids who needed to be there weren't!). You even took in sweets and/or cakes, didn't you? And you smiled! You were the MFL equivalent of cabin crew and you know it!
- Get them used to a familiar lesson structure. I have 2 lessons each week with my students. Lesson one is reading and lesson 2 is listening. Each week we revise a different topic. We complete half a dozen or so different types of questions and revise the vocabulary to go with each question before attempting it. I'm using GCSE reading resources from zigzag education and listening resources from the Pearson German GCSE Revision Workbook
- We are doing what I call pre-listening and pre-reading. Exam technique, if you like. For instance if we are doing a listening question I show them the question title and the GCSE Grade for that question. e.g. Shopping. C grade. I give them a few minutes to come up with a list of vocabulary they think they might hear for a question of that grade. They then share their list with their partner. For reading questions they highlight any unfamiliar words and then share those with their partners. Doing this makes them feel more confident about their own abilities. They are actually surprised (and you will be!) at how much they actually do know.
- Distractors. Spend time revising and learning distractors. Get the students to specifically listen for time phrases, however, but, never, not, didn't, etc... Show them the examiners' reports for questions like this. If they can see where most candidates fell down, perhaps they can learn not to.
- Everything we do is marked by the students in class. Less for me to do. Instant feedback for them. They make a list of al the vocabulary they didn't know and they learn that for homework/revision
- Forget about Target Grades. The student who is currently working at a D grade is not going to get an A star. So don't push it. You can't learn it for them. Just get them to do their best. If that means a foundation listening paper for an A star target student, then so be it.
- Give them homework! Don't just tell them to revise. Give them guided revision. Some students will not have a clue how or what to revise. Give them lists of key vocabulary to learn. Give them listening and reading activities to do. I do this via a very good VLE. Again, you needn't mark the work. Give them a clip, a question, a mark scheme and a tapescript. Use sites like audio-lingua.eu to find some authentic listening clips they won't have heard before.
- And finally. Don't panic. You know who will ace the exams and you know the ones who on a good day will scrape a C and on a bad day will get a D. GCSEs are designed for some people to fail. (Look at last year's marks to ums conversions.) Someone has to get a D, someone has to get an A. That's how it works. You can't control it, so don't fret about it.