Name/School: Helen Stanistreet St Martin’s C of E Primary
Holy Trinity C of E Primary
Job title: Teacher of Spanish
Lead Practitioner for MFL
I teach Spanish in two primary Schools in Sandwell throughout Key Stage 2
I also go into schools in the Sandwell area to model, guide and offer
1) What is your MFL background? (Training/experience/years/recent/not)
I started teaching Spanish to primary chn 18 months ago. I have been a
Primary teacher for 20 years and decided upon a change of career. I have
had no specific training as an MFL teacher but did spend 5 years living in
Spain some time ago so am confident in the language. After teaching for 20
years I am also a confident teacher and have combined the two. I have
spent a long time training myself, going on courses, joining sites like this one
and asking questions and going on language events.
2) Do you feel confident teaching MFL? Does your level of confidence
affect the way in which you teach?
I feel confident in my level of Spanish and feel confident as a teacher. I
know that I need to start ‘doing’ French as well as Spanish ( I did French A
level many years ago) but I am nervous about it. I have put myself on a
Upskilling course for French and am hoping this will kick start me!
3) What is the MFL background of this school? (Which MFL/since when/taught by
whom/what age/how often)
The schools were doing NO MFL
4) What are your views on the age that children in this school start
learning MFL? I do like the fact that it is all across the Key Stage 2
but in a perfect world it would be introduced at an earlier age.
5) How do you feel MFL should be taught? (1 lesson a week/every day drip fed/both
of those/immersed/cross-curricular/subject specific/other)
I feel that a specific lesson needs to be taught but from past experience if
the topic/ language isn’t practiced regularly it is forgotten. It needs to
become a part of the curriculum as a whole and used as a part of daily life.
Cross curricular would be great too as it would enable the children to see its
6) Do you follow a scheme of work/the framework/own planning/other,
does this work well? I look at the QCA areas and use them as a basis
but I do use them very loosely. I personally don’t use a set bought
scheme as I like to do my own thing but that does take up a lot of my
time. As I only do MFL I make the time but if I were still in primary
education I wouldn’t be able to give as much time to just one subject as
I do now.
7) Who do you feel is best suited to teach MFL at primary level and
why? (Class teacher/AST/coordinator/secondary teacher/French parent/other)
This varies. I feel that a classteacher is best able to promote the cross
curricular aspects and use it on a daily basis to embed it . However I do feel
that in order to do this there needs to be training and guidance from others.
8) What are your views on the use of the Target Language (The MFL
you are teaching) in the class? (As much as possible/not important and why)
As much as possible but again comes down to confidence and ability?
9) How much Target Language (TL) do you use in your lessons? (% of time)
Don’t really know- it depends. Basic instructions are in Spanish with mimes.
And the language I am introducing is in Spanish and other extras. I don’t
speak completely in TL or anywhere near that.
10) Do you feel this is too much, too little or about right, why?
Everything I say in target language I try to use mime for to aid
understanding and usually say it again in English to help.
11) If any, which parts do you not usually teach in the TL, why is this?
12) What affects the amount of TL that you use? (Content/time/children’s
Chn’s abilities/ time/ confidence in fact all of the above
13) Have you previously experienced or seen instances when confidence
does affect the level of TL used?
I feel that it is very hard to convince people who haven’t got the confidence
in a language, to use it. Confidence plays a far bigger role in affecting the
use of TL than the actual ability to speak it.
14) How do children respond if you use a lot of TL?
I find that some chn will think it’s a challenge to work out what you are
talking about but mimes do help. However chn would get switched off very
quickly if they couldn’t understand.
15) When you speak to the children in the TL, do they ever respond in
English? If so why do you think this happens, how do you respond to
Yes- they feel more confident in it. If it shows they understand the question
/ comment etc then does it matter?
16) Do the children have any other exposure to the TL apart from you
that you know of? (Other teachers/clubs/parents/holidays)
NO- maybe holidays in sme cases. We did have some penpals but not any
17) Do you think it’s possible to have an inclusive class and teach totally
in the TL? NO! I remember when I started my A level in French(long
time ago) and the teacher thought that we were suddenly capable of
understanding the whole lesson in French- We weren’t! I hated it!
18) Do you feel reverting to the mother tongue has any positive or
negative effects on the children?
19) Do you translate from Spanish to English? If so how does this work?
If I have said something that they don’t appear to understand then I will
translate back into English but I don’t want to put them off. But I do more
often than not rather ask them what they think it means, what could it
mean? How do you know? What makes you think this etc then I can make it a
learning / discussion point.
20) Do you have any links with schools abroad or have the opportunity to
use native speakers? If so how do the children respond to this?
We did have Penpals which was brilliant but the teacher has disappeared!
The chn thought it was brilliant. Am still trying to get more but want a
school to link with rather than one class in several different schools.
21) How would you rate your French pronunciation? (Excellent, good, OK, not so
good, bad, other)
French? I don’t know yet. Will let you know after upskilling course.
Spanish- very good –a agin comes to confidence
22) Do you feel that excellent pronunciation is important when teaching
I think it’s important but a passion and have a go attitude goes a lot further.
There are a lot of resources available to help the person who lacks perfect
pronunciation but few to help instill a love of teaching languages and the feel
23) How do you feel learning MFL affects lower ability children?
(Motivates/extra pressure/any examples)
So far I have only seen positive affects but you do need to find ways to
differentiate certain areas like writing at speed for quick starters. A
lot of teachers I have worked with in schools, have also noticed a
positive affect of MFL with Lower main stream chn. I feel that a new
language is a great leveler which chn start at the same level so anyone
can excel in it. Not sure if I have been teaching it long enough for a
great divide in ability to have shown yet?