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French at Heatley SS

 

The French program at HSS runs from Prep – 6. Our program’s main goal is ‘critical fluency’ i.e. getting students to be able to effectively communicate in French. To do this, we use an approach to teaching languages called the AIM (Accelerative Integrated Methodology) which is a methodology comprising of 5 key areas:

Story/drama/music

Each unit of work that students complete is based on a central story and most activities, oral and written, have the story as their focus. Using music and drama is not a new concept in teaching and certainly not in language teaching but the high use of drama, dance and song in this program is one of the keys to its success. Physically active programs suit many learning styles. Drama is storytelling and this is what most children do most of the time so we encourage them to do this as much as possible in the second language.

Gestures

Almost every word students learn is accompanied by a hand gesture. Words are kinaesthetically, auditorally and visually presented through speech and gesture simultaneously, and contextualised through story and drama so students learn to see (word and visual symbol) and feel the language as well as hear it. Gestures allow the classes to be conducted with little to no use of English and allow the teacher to know the level of a student’s comprehension more accurately. The gestures also allow students to be producing the language constantly throughout each lesson.

PDL (pared down language)

The words targeted for presentation through gesture and story have been selected through action research in second language classrooms. The vocabulary is selected according to frequency, function and ease of acquisition. This target vocabulary places a high emphasis on verbs but not conjugation. PDL presents vocabulary in a way that parallels first language learning so each part of a verb is learnt as the need arises.

Language Manipulation Activities (written and oral)

Students complete many scaffold writing tasks as part of their language learning. They become confident in reading and writing French. Creativity is encouraged in their writing and editing skills and analysis of language and grammar are also taught.

Transfer of knowledge into spontaneous interaction and creative writing

Students are encouraged from the very beginning to use the language they learn in creative ways and as they become more proficient teacher support can be reduced and students can have more and more control over their written and oral language production.