In the classroom with middle school French teacher, Martha Moore.
How do you approach teaching a language at the middle school level?
I teach the beginning level at USN, but try to immerse the students as much as possible. That means conversation in the target language every day, from day one. Vocabulary is taught with lots of miming, pointing, cognates and cues. I sort of keep chattering until a student understands what I'm saying and the translation goes on the board. For grammar, kids create their own grammar manuals with notes from the board. We do grammar in English. I've found that since kids quickly make connections to the "codes" of their native language, grammar seems to stick better when taught in English. It's helpful to point out where our grammar rules intersect with those of French and where they differ.
What are the pros and cons of immersion at a beginners level. Are you a believer in this method?
I am a believer, and I taught with full immersion (grammar and all) for about five years at my previous school. It helps kids get their ears tuned very quickly, and the "sink or swim" approach keeps them on their toes. They hear, speak, write...and hopefully start to think in the target language. The downside of the method for me was that I would lose a few kids. They just couldn't quite take the leap and needed more of an "easing in" to the language. Here, I like the balance of teaching grammar in English and just about everything else in French. When they leave middle school, they will enter French II, which is full immersion.
Which digital, audio programs do you recommend to help students practice at home?
Duolingo is great!! I also like a podcast called "One Thing in a French Day," and "News in Slow French" is helpful too. I also recommend putting on any French news or radio just to benefit from some passive-acquisition time. Oh, and watching shows in French that you've already watched in English, too (like Disney cartoons or "Caillou"--always a hit for some reason) can be fun.
How do you integrate the Common Core when teaching a Language.
Since my school is an independent school, we don't have any sort of mandate to integrate Common Core. I think a lot of what Common Core asks of students is addressed, but no one will be testing the kids to determine that.
Take me through a typical class period of French class.
"Bell Work" on the board as students come in (scrambled word, a sentence to translate, etc)
Chain Question: Usually this question uses vocabulary and grammar from current lesson (for example: "Est-ce que tu as un restaurant favori? Si oui, comment s'appelle le restaurant, et qu'est-ce qui vous me recommendez?" "Do you have a favorite restaurant? If you do, what is it called, and what do you recommend?); all students ask and answer this question in a chain around the room.
Check Homework: If it's a translation, all answers will go on board, and we'll check together; with translations kids write their own English sentence for the last number, and we do an around-the-room, on-the-spot translation.
Grammar Note or Vocabulary Practice: this could be a note written in the grammar comp book, a quick verb drill, or a brief translation task.
Partner Work: This is often a pair interview or the creation of a dialogue or description of some sort.
Sharing Out of Work: We come back together as a class and share what we've discovered through the interview or read our dialogues.
Closing Game: Sparkle is a big hit, as is Quizlet Live; we've started playing Taboo too, and Pictionary and Charades are old standbys.
For good reason, it is common for middle schoolers to take Spanish. Why study French?
French is spoken in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. There are over 220 million French speakers worldwide. French is one of the working languages of the United Nations, the Olympics, the European Union, and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. The art, literature, fashion and FOOD are worth experiencing and enjoying "comme les français"!