I'm currently in Milwaukee, WI for the annual conference of the AATF (American Association of Teachers of French) where I'll be presenting on a topic completely unrelated to teaching French to infants. After only two days, I've already purchased six CDs of children's songs (four traditional, one Christmas, one comptines) and a whole program for teaching French to pre-literate children. It's called ABC pour commencer and includes a teacher's guide, two tapes, student's "textbook," and student's workbook. Perhaps I'm a sucker--it wasn't cheap--but I liked it the best of the materials targeting very young learners. Carl won't need it for a few years yet, which will give me time to figure out whether I like it or not. And I might even get it use it on a few guinea pigs next week: my friend Amy, who is fluent in French, is bringing her three children (under five) for a three-day visit. She's spoken some French with them, so maybe they'll test drive these materials for me! (I think I'll also try to interview each of them--at least the two that can speak in sentences--to find out what they think about French. Stay tuned!)
To my disappointment, very few of the sessions at this conference are related to young children and language acquisition. So far I've only attended one--but it was a good one! Maria Kurt's presentation on comptines--nursery rhymes and finger plays--gave a thorough list of the benefits of using them with kids (complete with video clips of American kids at a French preschool chanting them in unison). And of course, we all got to learn and practice a few! In "Monsieur Pouce" (Mr. Thumb), the child convinces a sleeping Mr. Thumb to wake up and greet his family:
(Make a fist with your left hand, hiding the thumb inside, and use your right hand to knock on your fist) Toc, toc toc! Monsieur Pouce, es-tu la?
(Put finger to lips) Chut!
(Put hands together under a tilted head and pretend to sleep) Je dors!
(Knock on your fist again) Toc, toc, toc! Monsieur Pouce, es-tu la?
(Thumb peeks out of the fist and nods its head as it speaks) D'accord, j'arrive.
(Thumb touches each other finger) Bonjour Papa, bonjour Maman, bonjour grande soeur, bonjour petit frere!
(Hand waves) Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour!