What is a ‘good’ language learner?

Xenoglossophobia: it’s the anxiety or feeling of unease that many of us may have experienced when learning a new language. It is my aspiration and aim every day to create an environment in my classroom such that none of my students ever have to know what that feels like. On the contrary, I want them to come to class excited, ready to learn and eager to experiment and try out their newly acquired language skills.

I find that before we embark on actually learning the language, building a classroom community and developing strong relationships with students is paramount, and for this I tend to revert to English, throwing in key words in French and repeating them often. I love sharing my passion for language learning with the students and don’t want to ‘put off’ any of them because French seems too hard or too boring. So the first days are dedicated to getting to know them as individuals, so that I can shape and bend the curriculum to match their needs. Comprehensible input in French grows day by day as the children’s affective filter comes down, their comfort level increases and by the end of the first week, I aim to be speaking solely in French 90% of the time.

Here is an exercise we did today, where we brainstormed what a ‘good’ language learner should do, what should look like and what they might need. It was a Chalk Talk exercise from the Project Zero Visible Thinking routines and was a nice way for students to contribute their thoughts and ideas. We discussed how it was important and valuable for language learners to make mistakes and to ‘struggle’ with learning, because that is how growth happens, and that as PYP students, we are all risk-takers, so even when we’re not sure of the answer or how it may sound, we still give it a go.

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La rentrée!

It’s a brand new school year and I am excited to continue on this learning journey for my 17th year of teaching! This year I will be teaching French in Year 2 and Year 6, and English as an Additional Language in some other year levels.

I can’t wait to meet the new students who will be joining us and look forward to sharing my passion for the language with them so that they also develop a love and excitement for learning French! I have been working on some exciting new plans and I look forward to putting them in action.

Here’s a picture of our fun-loving and adventurous team happy to be back at school and raring to go!

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Joyeux anniversaire Dr Seuss!

It was Dr Seuss’s birthday on 2nd March and to celebrate, Year 3 students wondered what it would sound like if Dr Seuss spoke French…

Here is what they came up with:

  • il y a un tiano sur le piano
  • il y a un socal dans le bocal
  • il y a un zampe sous la lampe
  • il y a un fapin sur le sapin
  • il y a un bofa sur mon sofa
  • il y a un manier dans le panier
  • il y a un youteille dans la bouteille
  • il y a un mour dans le four
  • il y a une doite dans la boite

Apart from designing fantastic creatures that would make Dr Seuss proud, the children learnt French vocabulary words for items around the house and position words such as sous, entre, dans, sur, etc…

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Justin Bieber Fever

One of my favourite methods of getting students excited about learning French (or any other language) is to use TPRS – Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. TPRS is a method of language acquisition that was developed by Blaine Ray in the late 1980s and I have been fortunate enough to be trained by Blaine himself when he visited my school a few years ago.

This past week, I invented a little story for my Year 3 students and they absolutely loved it. They couldn’t wait to come to class to contribute to the next installment of the story and did a fantastic job at using the sentence structures they had heard to retell the story. I am always impressed at the level of engagement when I use TPRS and find that it is a great way to bring in student interest and make language relevant for them. Here is a little glimpse of our story and the culminating Kahoot, which the students thoroughly enjoyed:

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Cooking with bossy verbs

In their inquiry into how the world works, Year 3 explored what reactions occur when everyday substances react and what physical changes and chemical changes can happen when states of matter change.

In French, we examined this through a lens of instructional writing, looking at how verbs can be put in the imperative form to give commands and sound ‘bossy’. We put on our French language hats and looked at various scientific and non-scientific processes such as how to make cereal, how to run a bath, how to toast a slice of bread, and so on.

The children demonstrated their learning during this unit by writing a step-by-step recipe on how to make a disgusting sandwich. We had some weird and wonderful combinations such as a chicken and vanilla ice cream sandwich, a rotten banana and Oreo sandwich and a tuna and strawberry jam sandwich. The accompanying pictures were just as creative!

Finally, the unit culminated in a practical experiment where the children set up their equipment and ingredients in the school kitchen, then proceeded to follow instructions on how to make waffles, French style! The result was delicious tasting fluffy waffles and the smell of fragrant baking wafting down the corridors!

 

 

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International Day

International Day happens to be my favourite day of the school year in every school that I have taught at… not because it presents the annual conundrum of choosing which single country or culture I identify with, but because it is such a wonderful celebration of the cultural diversity and linguistic backgrounds that our students come with.

This year’s International Day at ISL was no different: fabulous display of national pride from various countries, gorgeous costumes, delicious food and fantastic performances all came together to make it a great day!

I was quite partial to this beautiful song that the primary choir sang, mainly because it is in Swahili and I understood the lyrics, but also because their melodious voices made me pang with nostalgia for Tanzania and Kenya.

 

 

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The Amazing Race

Year 3 recently completed their unit of inquiry looking into how communities use networks to meet their needs, using examples such as transport systems.

In French class, we learnt vocabulary related to different methods of transport, we learnt how to buy tickets when using public transport and how to ask for directions to where you’re going, and we also learnt to use maps that show bus routes or metro routes around Lausanne.

All this came in very useful when we embarked on the Amazing Race with all the Year 3 classes. It was a fantastic day of authentic inquiry and it was great to see students trying out their newly acquired language skills while out and about in Lausanne. When they came back to school, they wrote a little piece describing their journey in French and used Book Creator to publish it.

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Dans ma trousse

As part of our introductory unit to establish classroom routines and understand instructions in French, Year 3 have been learning to name the items in their pencil case and in the classroom.

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C’est la rentrée!

Here we are, at the beginning of a brand new school year! The corridors are buzzing with the excited chatter of returning students, eager to meet familiar faces and greet some new ones. There is a wonderful warmth and welcoming feel here at the International School of Lausanne, and to me it already feels like home!

I am really looking forward to the year ahead, working with the children in Year 3 who will be in my French class. I will continue to post here about things that are going on in French class, so stay tuned! For those that are in my EAL class, I will keep a separate blog to let you know about the exciting learning that takes place in English.

Have a great year ahead and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions!

Bonne rentrée!

Madame Tharoo (stharoo@isl.ch)

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