I went to watch Nick teach French today. Wow. He speaks fast and is in the target language 99.9% of the time. His kids are just spilling over with French (it’s level 1B in Middle School). He started with sentences up on the board that required the kids to compare two Annes from their reading. Anne H has ___, while Poor Anna has ___. AH is ___, while PA is ___. AH goes to __, while PA goes to ___. The kids were anxious to share their ideas about the differences. Then they discussed the similarities. That’s a great scaffolding of a complex linguistic task! After that, he showed pictures that they all worked to describe, and then revealed a sentence that he’d previously written. I got some good ideas about how to use my Smartboard a little better. (One of the pictures was of Einstein, and the class discussed whether AH was smarter than Einstein.) After that, he was doing frontloading for the kids to work them into a Blaine Ray (?) novel that has a lot of travel. Today they talked about Brittany — pictures of the clothing, food, and even a little video showing waves. Each picture had a little text to go along with it “The wind is very strong in Brittany,” for example; these were Nick’s version of “embedded reading.” It was great! The kids were getting the culture, the language, and pre-reading all at once.
At the end of class, Nick played a grammar game. He revealed one sentence at a time with a mistake in it. The kids had white boards for each pair, and they tried to correct the mistakes. This was a perfect game to play with a class of mostly 4%-ers! They were very competitive! Nick would count down, and they would have to hold up their board for checking all at once. I heard all sorts of great ideas as they tried to explain the grammar to one another.
I had an ah-hah moment when Nick and I were discussing whether that grammar game is actually helping them. In some ways, it doesn’t matter, because there’s such a flow of comprehensible French going on (I can say that, because I don’t speak French, yet I understood a lot) that they’re getting maximum input. If I attended Nick’s class every day, I’d be speaking French too.