Monday, September 19, 2011

En français, s'il vous plait!

In my last post, I mentioned that the girls, despite their enthusiasm on the drive to French class, are usually shy and reserved once they actually get there. Not so, last week! They ran into the building ahead of me and were already settled at the table fashioning les escargots verts and les serpents noirs with Playdough by the time I made it into the room. They responded to Clémentine’s familiar questions that start each class with more confidence and less prompting. 

The structure of the class is similar each week: They start with review in terms of introductions, greetings, colors and the like. Since this is now familiar territory,  my girls and the other regular classmates are sure of themselves and even a little eager to show off for newcomers. After the review, new material is introduced and by now, the children are comfortable and ready to take on the challenge of new words and phrases.

Last Thursday’s lesson focused on “I like” and “I need.”  Clémentine offered the children different objects—a ball, yarn, a microphone—then showed them cards with a happy face or a sad face and asked them: Est-ce que tu aime la ball? (Do you like the ball?) and placed the happy face card next to the ball. Then she offered another choice, this time with the sad face card: Est-ce que tu n’aime pas la ball? (Do you dislike the ball?). She then strung the yarn across the room as a makeshift volleyball net and now the question became Who likes to play volleyball? The children counted before "serving" the ball and score was kept on the whiteboard. 

I am particularly excited about this lesson since, as with most mothers, the bulk of my day is spent with my children telling me what they like and don't like about what they have to eat, do, study, play with, read, and share. I see the opportunity for a lot of reinforcement on this one!

After working on the new content, the children move back to the table for snack. Again, it's a chance to interact within the framework of a familiar routine:  Clémentine asks, "Qui voudrait manger?" (Who wants eat?) and then, who wants a plate, a napkin, a cup, crackers? The children respond with answers that are quickly becoming second nature and the satisfaction of that achievement is clear on their faces and in the excited tone in their voices.

Finally, the last part of the lesson is spent on reinforcing the new material and expanding on it a bit. For instance, when Brontë answered the question "What do you like to to?" with "J'aime faire de velo," she was then prompted to state "J'ai besoin d'une bicyclette." (I like to bike/I need a bicycle).

As I mentioned in my last post, the girls often look for opportunities to plug in French words during the day. For example, Carys just started her Kindergarten curriculum a few weeks ago and she's been a little insulted that these early lessons in her math book have been "too babyish," as she puts it, focusing on learning to count. We've made it more interesting for her by having her do all the counting and comparison worksheets saying her numbers aloud in French. It has made the work more challenging for her, and therefore much more rewarding.

On top of the take-home sheets we receive at Language Stars, we have also started picking up flashcards and storybooks in French and even tried, for a few minutes, to watch Soul Surfer with the French language track (That one didn't last too long but Carys was very curious to see how the shark attack scene would play out, asking "How do you scream in French?") 

As I focused on the structure and repetition in the Language Stars class, I saw where I have been missing obvious opportunities to reinforce the material at home. So, this morning, when it was time to make breakfast, I asked "Qui voudrait le cereal?" When I pulled out a stack of bright Fiesta Ware bowls, each of the girls yelled out which color she wanted. "En français," I insisted. "Je voudrais le vert!" shouted Chloë. The other two quickly followed suit. We were careful to remember our pleases and thank yous and I taught them to ask for the milk. En français, of course.

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