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Curriculum and Learning
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Modern Foreign Language (MFL)

Languages are an essential part of our broad and balanced curriculum. Not only do they provide an opportunity to communicate more effectively with others, they also help children to understand what it is to be a global citizen. This includes the importance of tolerance and understanding, which is crucial knowledge in today’s world.

Mandarin is the Modern Foreign Language of choice at Portway Primary School. This is taught by specialist teachers who are natives of China and therefore have exceptional subject knowledge.  Mandarin is taught as part of the PPA offer for all children including our youngest children in Nursery. Children learn the language through songs, listening exercises, stories, and conversations with teachers and each other. Special events are organised regularly to share Chinese culture with the children and promote the use of Mandarin outside of the classroom. Popular after school clubs for both KS1 and KS2 are offered which consolidate the children’s classroom learning. 

Our progressive curriculum starts by learning basic greetings and then expands into concrete concepts such as colours and animals before becoming more abstract for the older children. Ultimately we would like our pupils to become enthused by learning another language and choose to continue this learning into Secondary School.

How Mandarin is taught at Portway Primary School

The Mandarin curriculum is designed to help pupils form a language Mental model within their long-term memories.

Schema theory states that all knowledge is organised into units. A mental model is, therefore, a conceptual system for understanding knowledge. 

Our Mandarin Mental model is a way of organising Mandarin substantive and disciplinary knowledge in a meaningful way; it is an appreciation of how facts are connected and the ways in which they are connected.  It is distinct from information, which is just isolated facts that have no organisational basis or links.

Big Ideas help form the basis of the mental model. Big Ideas are key concepts that underpin the subject. There are two Big Ideas in Mandarin:

  • Basic concepts in a different language (The necessary basics to begin to understand and use a modern foreign language)
  • Working in Mandarin (To recognise and express feelings about their own identities and relate these to religious beliefs/ teachings.)

Each Big Idea has knowledge strands which help to strengthen the mental model. Learning knowledge in each of the strands allows pupils to express and demonstrate their understanding of the Big Idea,  which gradually develops as pupils return to them over and over again.


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