Bonjour and bienvenue – welcome to my language cross-age tutoring experiment

First term saw me returning to teaching Year 7 & 8 French for the first time in 4 years.  I love teaching LOTE as there are so many possibilities to encourage students to make connections between their own lives and language, and French language and culture. There’s lots of space for role plays, games, singing and playing with learning.

We don’t run an immersion program in the way that some schools do, where students complete some of the core subjects in the language they are learning. Instead we run a program that primarily teaches language skills and culture primarily delivered in English. From day one though, I have made a real effort to speak as much French in the classroom as possible, including all of our basic instructions. I’m aiming to immerse students in the language so that they are able to build their understanding of vocabulary in context. My year 7s have been able to respond to simple instructions given in French, including things like  ‘turn to page …. of your textbook’, ‘open your exercise book’, and ‘write in your diary’. They are learning days of the week and months through our method of writing these on the board each day. They are learning how to ask some basic requests in the classroom in French and students are starting to go to their dictionaries to find words that enable them to experiment with creating their own sentences in French. One of my favourites was the student who used his dictionary to create a simple sentence ‘Thanks for today’s class Miss’. You’ve got to be happy when a student teaches themselves to say that!

By the end of term, students were confidently using formal and informal modes of speaking in order to introduce themselves, ask how people were feeling, ask someone’s name and ask about who people were. I’d been asking them to go home and teach their parents what they were learning and in week 6 we had some wonderful parent-teacher interviews where parents talked with enthusiasm about the language they were learning. Parents who had some knowledge of French were starting to use their French skills, meeting and sharing with their child’s developing knowledge. Other parents are learning along with their kids – it’s great to have these conversations with parents about the ways language learning is becoming a family affair.

I’ve got a long way to go in developing my pedagogical skill in teaching French. It isn’t one of my strengths as a teacher and so there’s so much more I need to learn, but I’m loving teaching and learning with my students and I’m excited about one of the tasks we are doing when school starts back this term.  I wanted my students to be able to experiment with using their knowledge of the language in a way I hadn’t done before and so I decided to get them to do some cross-age tutoring. As a P-12 school I have the possibility of getting my Year 7s to teach what they know to the primary students, and so my students are currently working on basic storybooks using the vocabulary they have learnt so far and they are going to take these books to the primary classroom of one of my colleagues and each student is going to share the book with a primary student and talk about what the words mean. My students are incredibly excited about this, spending time storyboarding how they will set out their books, they are linking about the way they might use illustrations to support their text and what might be the most effective way to incorporate both English and French words to help their primary student understand the simple stories we are writing.  I can’t wait to see how this sharing unfolds!

Most of all though I love the way students are open and receptive to learning, keen to tackle the challenge of learning a new language and eager to stretch their understandings. It’s a joy and a privilege to take this journey with them 🙂

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