Joint Working

Working with another department Case Study History and French – Cheam High School
Combining MFL with history through the medium of film has engaged pupils and developed their linguistic competence. Aim: To help pupils make connections between learning in history and French. The MFL department wanted to offer a more challenging learning experience to year 9 pupils than the usual ‘food and hobbies’ (as one girl put it). Inspired by the opportunities offered by the revised programme of study to make cross-curricular links and to match learning to pupils’ needs and interests, MFL staff teamed up with the history department to create a unit based on the film ‘Au Revoir Les Enfants’. The pupils had just finished studying the Second World War in history and the teachers hoped that the story of a group of Jewish children in hiding during the German occupation of France would spark a lively debate about historical issues – in French. As a starting point, the pupils were asked to describe the situation in France during the Second World War. They then watched the film in sections, using given sentence starters to comment on what they saw and to predict what would happen next. At the end of the film they wrote a description of the events and discussed issues raised by the story, including racism, standing up for what you believe and religious tolerance. ‘We got really passionate about it,’ said one girl. Many said they liked the fact that the film is based on real events. As one pupil said: ‘It was better than talking about things that aren’t real. This really happened and that made it more exciting, but also really sad.’ Action: Watching and discussing a French film about the Second World War. Teachers used a variety of activities during the unit, such as true/false, gap-fill, synonyms and antonyms. All of these were adapted for the interactive whiteboard and some are now available via the school’s intranet. Pupils who had not made so much progress in their language learning were helped by several factors: they knew the history content from recent Second World War work; the film was broken up into sections, so that any difficult bits could be explained before going on; and much of the new vocabulary was cognates, making meanings easy to work out. At the end of the unit the pupils moved on to discuss other films that they had seen and wrote a critique of two of their favourites. Impact: Memorable historical learning and greater confidence in spoken French. Working on language and history through film captured the pupils’ imagination and attention. Talking about the story consolidated their learning about the Second World War and gave them a new insight into life during the war. A year on, the pupils still remember the film well and recently brought it up as evidence of the importance of understanding other people’s cultures and religions in an MFL lesson focusing on whether or not schools in England should stop teaching religion, as they have in France.