An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Spanish
Christian Brothers Secondary School
Youghal, County Cork
Roll number: 62500T
Date of inspection: 6 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
This Subject Inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in the Christian Brothers Secondary School, Youghal.† It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Spanish and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject in the school.† The evaluation was conducted over one day during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning.† The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers.† The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí written preparation.† Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher. †The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
The Christian Brothers Secondary School in Youghal will be amalgamating, in the coming year, with two other schools in the town and moving to a new school which is currently being built on the outskirts of the town.† At present, the total enrolment is 230 boys.† Spanish was introduced into Transition Year in 2001 as part of the Post-Primary Languages Initiative and, in the last few years, a small number of students have continued to study the language in fifth and sixth years.† Of these, a few have taken the Junior Certificate examination at the end of sixth year and others have opted to take the Leaving Certificate examination.† There is no provision for Spanish at junior cycle.† Initially, the language was offered to students in fifth and sixth years who had no previous experience of learning a European language.† All students in Transition Year, which is optional, study a half-year module of beginnersí Spanish.† Currently there are thirty-nine students in Transition Year and three students of Spanish in each of the fifth and sixth years.† Four periods per week for the duration of the module are allocated to Transition Year Spanish classes and five periods per week in each of fifth and sixth years, which is good provision.
Language teachers have their own base classrooms where they can store teaching resources and audio-visual equipment, enabling them not only to have immediate access to necessary teaching resources but also to create a stimulating learning environment by the display of maps, posters, studentsí projects and other material relating to the language and the country. †Resources are allocated on a needs basis and there is an adequate supply of resources for the teaching of Spanish.† Suggestions were made as to how this supply could be improved and expanded.† Students of Spanish do not have access to ICT during Spanish class time, but it is to be hoped that this will change when the new school is ready.† The school is involved in the School Development Planning Initiative and has completed work on school policies.
In first year, all students take French and most students opt to take German as an optional subject. Some students with special educational needs have supplementary English classes instead of German.† In second year, students choose to continue their studies of either French or German for Junior Certificate.† At senior cycle all students take a language, with most opting for French.† Students who are studying Spanish in the present fifth and sixth year classes have opted to take it as a Leaving Certificate subject.†
It is recommended that contact be maintained with the Association of Teachers of Spanish, not only to keep up to date with the latest developments in the field of Spanish and to avail of any in-service, but also to meet other teachers of Spanish to compare and discuss issues related to the teaching and learning of the language.
There is evidence of good long and short-term planning for Spanish.† Individual planning for lesson content is in line with syllabus guidelines and examination requirements and cognisance is taken of studentsí ability, age and needs when planning lessons.† Special needs are planned for and inform lesson content.† Lesson planning provides for a thematic approach with the integration of all four language skills, which is recommended practice.† Lessons seen were well structured and integrated into an overall scheme of work with links to previous lessons.† Planning provides for regular assessment of students in the four skills, which is good practice.† Resources were gleaned from a variety of sources reflecting the teacherís awareness of the need to expand a range of activities around a particular theme.†
A good level of teaching and learning was seen in the Spanish department of CBS Youghal.† A pleasant learning environment has been created within the classroom by the display of studentsí projects, maps and posters relating to Spain and Spanish life.† There is good use of the target language which is commendable.† Students are obviously used to hearing Spanish being spoken in class.† It is suggested that this good practice be further developed to include all classroom instructions.† Simple authentic language is encouraged and there is a systematic building up of vocabulary which students are encouraged to note down. This is sound practice.†
Lessons progressed at a suitable pace and language content and level were sufficiently challenging.† In the lessons seen, good use was made of the blackboard.† Attention was paid to grammar and explanations given were clear and unambiguous.† There was good continuity with previous lessons, as seen in the revision of lexical items at the beginning of classes.† Classroom activities were varied and ranged through role-play, pair work, listening practice, reading short texts and teacher questioning. †In order to ensure practice of all four language skills, it is suggested that the range of strategies used to encourage student participation be expanded to include activities such as games, group work and brainstorming exercises with the emphasis on the students rather than on the teacher.† Oral learning was consolidated by written practice where possible.† Attention was paid to pronunciation and studentsí mistakes were corrected with sensitivity.† It is suggested that special attention could be paid to intonation, perhaps drawing particular attention to the difference between questions and statements in the target language.† Training students to ask questions through the target language only during class would provide useful practice here.†
A good range of resources was used during the lessons.† The teacher used a variety of materials which linked in to the theme of the lesson, including photocopied worksheets, relevant tapes and extracts from textbooks.† In one class, the practical example of giving directions around the school worked well and held studentsí interest throughout.† This was followed by the use of a street map, which provided a good springboard for oral practice on giving and asking for directions.† It is recommended that the sound practice of using visual stimuli to introduce vocabulary and themes and to facilitate oral practice be continued and expanded.† Suggestions were made on ways of building up the resourcesí bank to include a good supply of flashcards, video clips, oral practice Ďplaying cardsí and other aids to promote active student participation in class.† Questioning techniques used were effective and productive, consolidated learning and paved the way for interactive role-play within the class.† In one lesson, the one-to-one questioning of students could have been shortened to switch to a follow-up student activity, such as pair work or group work, thus maximising student use of the target language.† Homework was assigned to further consolidate learning.† In one lesson where students were listening to an aural exercise, it was suggested that it could have been of benefit to follow up this activity by giving the students a copy of the tape-script as it contained useful vocabulary which could subsequently have been used productively.† In another lesson, students were preparing for the oral examination by revising thematic vocabulary and answering related questions.† While an oral practice textbook was used to good effect for revision purposes, care was taken not to rely too heavily on the answers given therein, but rather the ideas were used as a springboard for the studentís individual answers.† This is good practice.† Such books are useful for building up vocabulary, but it is important that students give their own personal responses.
In all lessons seen there was evidence of very good classroom management.† Teacher-student rapport was excellent and the learning environment was at all times pleasant and conducive to learning.† Studentsí efforts were consistently affirmed and it was evident that the studentsí individual learning needs were being addressed.†† Students were engaged throughout the lessons and worked well.† The small classes in fifth and sixth years ensure individual attention for students and they respond well to this.†
Formal tests take place at Christmas and in the summer term for all non-examination students and comprehensive reports are issued to parents twice a year.† Each year group has a parent-teacher meeting once a year.†
A range of assessment modes is utilised in Spanish in line with syllabus requirements.† Transition-Year students complete a project during their study of Spanish.† They then present this project individually to the rest of the class.† This is sound practice as all students then receive the benefit of everyone elseís research, which will greatly enhance all studentsí cultural awareness of the country and its people.† There was evidence of some fine examples of these projects on the classroom walls.† In Transition Year, students are assessed using aural, oral and written assessment with the presentation and content of the project also taken into account.† Assessment includes oral and aural testing in fifth and sixth years.† This is to be commended as sound practice.†
The task of preparing students for the Leaving Certificate examination in just over two years is a daunting one and great work has been done with the students to fulfil this task.† It is important that students access a wide range of listening and reading materials in order to acquire the skills and range of vocabulary necessary for the Leaving Certificate examination.† When questioned, students showed enthusiasm for the subject, good understanding and a good level of spoken Spanish.† The teacher is to be commended that these students have managed to reach such an advanced level in such a short time, considering that they did not study the language in junior cycle.† It is to be hoped that after amalgamation, students will have the possibility of taking the language through from junior cycle to senior cycle.†
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
∑ Good overall teaching and learning was evident in Spanish classes seen.
∑ Teacher-student rapport was excellent and the learning environment was at all times pleasant and conducive to learning.
∑ There was evidence of good long- and short-term planning.
∑ Students showed an enthusiasm for the language and were fully engaged in activities.
∑ A range of classroom activities was in evidence, including role-play and pair work.† In order to maximise studentsí active participation in class, this good practice could be further developed to include more strategies for active learning.
∑ The use of the target language within the classroom is well developed and it is suggested that this be further developed to include all classroom instructions.
∑ Questioning techniques are used to good effect.
∑ Lesson content is suited to studentsí level and ability.
∑ Small classes ensure individual attention.
∑ Language teachers have their own base classrooms where they can create a stimulating learning environment for the subject.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ The sound practice of using a variety of visual stimuli to introduce vocabulary and themes and to facilitate oral practice could be expanded by developing the bank of resources available at present.
∑ In order to ensure sufficient practice of all of the language skills, the good range of classroom activities seen could be broadened further to incorporate more strategies to encourage active learning.
∑ At present there is no provision for Spanish in junior cycle, and the task of ensuring that students adequately cover the Leaving Certificate course in just over two years is a difficult one.† It is to be hoped that, when the forthcoming amalgamation is complete, students will also be offered the possibility of taking Spanish in junior cycle.†
∑ It is to be hoped that students of languages will have access to ICT in the new school.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the principal and with the teacher of Spanish at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.