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Thornhill Primary School

Thornhill Primary School

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Modern Foreign Language

Thornhill’s key principles for the teaching of Modern Foreign Languages

Modern Foreign Languages is the development of children’s linguistic competence. It should be seen as a life-long skill. Learning a language opens up avenues of communication and exploration as well as promoting, encouraging and instilling a broader cultural understanding.


The National Curriculum

For every pupil in Key Stage 2, Modern Foreign Languages is a statutory foundation subject. The attainment targets outlined in the Programme of Study for Languages relate to:

  • listening and speaking skills
  • reading and writing skills
  • knowledge about grammar


The effective teaching of French at Thornhill

Speaking and Listening

At Thornhill we:

  • Listen attentively to spoken language and show understanding by joining in and responding
  • Explore the patterns and sound of language through songs and rhymes and link the spelling, sound and meaning of the words
  • Engage in conversations; ask and answer questions; respond to those of others; seek clarification and help
  • Speak in sentences using familiar vocabulary, phrases and basic language structures
  • Present ideas and information orally to a range of audiences
  • Appreciate stories, songs, poems and rhymes in the language


We learn new vocabulary through listening, repetition, analysing and applying. We have word banks available in each classroom as French working walls and we offer scaffolded support for independent work.


Learning from others through collaboration, pupil leaders and subject enthusiasts is encouraged in all subjects and in French we encourage the pupils who speak French at home with their families to share and explain some of their strategies and knowledge. We experience a range of activities, including songs, rhymes and games, which provide a stimulated and varied approach to language learning. Pupils are given opportunities to listen to the teacher, to songs and rhymes, to each other and to native speakers. In the past we also established an international bond via letters written by the children in Year 2 to a class of pupils in France.


Research indicates that a new word/phrase becomes a permanent acquisition when taught and applied 5 times. At Thornhill we revisit the main topics and we add something new every time whether it’s a phonetics skill like identifying phonemes or a sentence structure skill.



Reading and writing

We help our pupils to:

  • Develop accurate pronunciation and intonation so that others understand when they are reading aloud or using familiar words and phrases
  • Read carefully and show understanding of words, phrases and simple writing
  • Broaden their vocabulary and develop their ability to understand new words introduced into familiar written material, including using a dictionary
  • Describe people, places, things and actions orally and in writing
  • Write words from memory and adapt these to create new sentences, to express ideas clearly


We follow a creative approach from EYFS up to year 6. When we learn about Paris we make things like individual travel documents, travel brochures and quizzes that we share with others. In Year 4 we have a project on La Francophonie  and we create presentations about French speaking countries.



We provide a staged approach to the teaching of grammar, supporting both progression and assessment. The main key areas are gender, verbs, questions and sentence building.


Initially pupils are taught to recognise that nouns are either masculine or feminine. They will then apply articles to known nouns and gradually to new nouns. They will then learn about adjective agreement and how to use bilingual dictionaries to support the spelling and to help identify grammatical gender for new words. The last step in KS2 is to apply the knowledge of gender to other parts of speech (prepositions and partitive articles).


Sentence building starts with substituting a known noun for another, in a simple sentence and we follow a few stages until the pupils become able to form questions and to create linked sentences drawing on a range of known nouns, articles, adjectives, pronouns, verbs, adverbs and conjunctions.



In French each topic begins with a preliminary assessment through play. Using formulation and summative assessment approaches of assessment, the content is then differentiated, taught and assessed both at the end of a lesson and entire topic through self-assessment and teacher observations. We refer back to the attainment points outlined in the Programme of Study for Languages.


At Thornhill the pupils develop an understanding of other cultures and learn to look at things from another person’s perspective. They become able to show an awareness of the similarities and differences between people and appreciate the diversity of languages spoken within the school.

  • Thornhill Primary School,
  • Thornhill Road,
  • London,
  • N1 1HX