An Engaging Way to Learn Français

Term 3 is always a busy one for Middle School French students.

Through May and June, our language students are usually gearing up for the Concours d’art oratoire public speaking competition, the French 6 play, the Amazing Race around Victoria, and the food truck fundraiser – but this has been a year for innovation and adaptation.

Not wanting to lose the essence of these experiences, the Middle School French team (Ms. Marti, Mademoiselle Cournoyer-Grenier, Monsieur Hollingworth and Madame Pike) joined forces to create and deliver a rigorous and engaging program while at home.

Grade 6 student Deristhi G.’s “ideal community” called TigreVille (Tiger Town) is devoted to tigers.

Whether answering pop-up style questions on Top 40 French songs, hunting for vocabulary items in a household scavenger hunt, drafting hand-drawn designs of an original “ideal community” or creating a personalized menu for a new restaurant, teachers and students have stretched their skill sets to keep the learning and pace going.

The idea is to put students into situations where they are likely to encounter in a second language. For example: asking for help when something goes wrong, seeking directions around town, and ordering food in a restaurant.

Research shows that learning a second language improves not only listening skills, memory, concentration and creativity, but it also increases tolerance and an ability to persevere when learning becomes challenging. Speaking, listening, reading and writing in a second language require courage, risk-taking, and perseverance.

At the Middle School, teachers seek to create an environment where students feel comfortable and capable to try new things, to accept that they are not perfect, and to learn from making mistakes. The students’ job is to put enough words together to communicate a message. Over time and with feedback, accuracy will improve.

This term, French 6 students worked in small break-out groups to practise and prepare the lines of a group skit. French 7 students created a “guess the location” activity for classmates by describing directions to a mystery location. Finally, whether in Victoria, Toronto or Mexico, French 8 students independently created cooking-show style videos of making a delicious (or disgusting) snack, and with classmates they created a “fiasco at the restaurant” skit to share with peers.

French-speaking chef Daniel Parent livestreamed with Grade 8 students to teach culinary skills, such as organizing a clean food prep station, slicing and dicing an onion, and making a one-pot dish to serve at home. Students had the chance to pepper the chef with questions and to get feedback on cooking techniques.

The “carrot” in these learning situations is bringing real-life into the lessons as much as possible, but the end goal continues to be giving the student a taste of what is involved in mastering a second language in authentic situations and cultivating an appetite for continued study of a second language. If students learn some cooking skills along the way, even better.

In the last week of school, students will gather by grade, not only to vote for their favourite French pop songs and to watch their classmates’ skits, but also to celebrate a year of growth, learning, and fun en français, bien sûr.

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