I often find myself reflecting on how I can connect my students' French learning to what they are learning in their regular classrooms. I used to do a lot of cultural projects in English, and then I came to my senses and recognized that I was interrupting input with these activities and it wasn't worth it for me to continue on this path.
I see a lot of value in helping students take what they are learning in their classes in English and bring it into our French classes. However it is important to avoid making things contrived or forced. Take, for example, our first grade's unit on the life cycle of a butterfly. I am not going to take the time to teach my students the names of the phases of the metamorphosis process in French; what purpose would that serve?! Nonetheless, this fall I wanted to make some sort of a connection. So we read La Chenille qui fait des trous, which was a perfect way to connect to the students' science lessons while keeping the language accessible and relevant. They already know the story, so I had already had a leg up. And what rich vocabulary in this book! Days of the week, fruits, numbers...these categories are often taught in isolation, or as lists for students to memorize. This book presents this vocabulary in a familiar context, making the words much more accessible.
I remember a few weeks ago, again in a first grade class, where I was doing some work with numbers. I had pulled an activity from one of my favorite sources of online "games" (that has as its audience young French children); this activity focused on skip-counting. I hadn't really realized how important this concept is outside of my goal, which was to practice French numbers. My objective was simply to help students to think about numbers in a context outside of simply counting on their fingers. One of the teachers looked at me during the activity with an approving look. I realized that this moment that there was a lot of value beyond what I wanted them to accomplish. The critical thinking skills required for this exercise benefit students
I'm sure that the vast majority of language teachers already do this, and I think it's especially easy for FLES teachers. But it can be worthwhile to revisit this concept and explore activities that may have benefits beyond what we anticipate. Bisous.
This is a screenshot of another activity from the site I mentioned above. It's one my FAVORITES, and it comes in a multitude of sizes and difficulties.
Allison Litten, the 2019 VFLA TOY, teaches French at the Marion Cross School, a public PreK-6 school in Norwich, Vermont. This is her twenty-third year teaching, and twentieth at Marion Cross.