Monday, March 07, 2011

guest post: puppets, songs, and worksheets for preschool French

Meet Céline Mazoyer, a French native living in North Carolina who studied in France, Romania, England, and the US. She has a BA in English and an MA in Teaching French as a Foreign Language. She has taught middle and high school, given private lessons, and worked as an online coach and tutor for Auralog. And she and her Romanian husband are expecting their first child this summer, whom they plan to raise multilingually!

As I am very interested in learning more about teaching languages to preschoolers, I asked Céline if she'd be willing to tell us more about her tutoring sessions with two young brothers. Here's what she had to say, along with a sample lesson plan.

I have been working with two young boys (now two and a half and four years old) for a few months now to introduce them to the French language. Fayetteville, NC, is close to the very important army base Fort Bragg. Many people who live in town have had the opportunity to spend some time in Europe because of their job in the army. The boys' father works in the army and they spent a few years in Italy. They would like to go back to Europe and so their mom wanted to introduce the boys to a new language, either French or Italian, but she said she had difficulties finding a tutor.

We meet for an hour every week and here is what we did during our last lesson. It will give you an idea of what we like to do together.

I have tried since the beginning to install some routine and have been using a puppet to start our sessions. So we like to use Jerome, our snail puppet, with whom we introduce vocabulary and review the expressions we have learned. We usually say “bonjour,” “comment ça va,” “ça va bien” (which we learned here).

We have been introducing a few fruits’ names lately so we presented Jerome with some fruits (I used cards but it would be even better with plastic or real fruits) to see what he likes, allowing us to see “j’aime,” “je n’aime pas.” The boys may not repeat the words for the first time they hear it but I do not force them, it usually comes naturally when they are ready.

To continue working on fruits, we played a fruit bingo game with the eldest. The youngest brought a game that allowed us to reinforce the colors. He does not repeat the colors in French, and still barely knows them in English, so I just repeated them aloud as he was playing. This way he gets used to the sounds of French. Then his mom played some French music for him while I was working with the eldest.

I don’t do that very often, but this time I printed a couple of worksheets for him to choose from. On one we counted aloud in French to add fruits. So far we have learned to count up to ten, but the total number of fruits we had on our worksheet was much bigger. So I went up to “onze,” and after asking me what “onze” meant, he counted without difficulty with me up to “vingt,” twenty – which made me very proud! On the other worksheet we colored the biggest item given among the three; I am slowly introducing him to the difference between “petit” and “grand.

To finish we played one of our favorite songs of the moment “Tape, tape petites mains” that I introduced when learning about animals.

We had a great time! Our sessions really vary in activities depending on how the boys feel. It is really hard to keep the attention of children so young so I try to bring as much as I can to make sure we won’t get bored. Luckily our library has a French children’s book section and we are able to have a story time from time to time. I try to borrow books that match the topics we cover together and the boys’ interests. The last books I have borrowed were about dinosaurs; the boys are just fond of them right now and really love “Dinodor.

Their mom is doing a great job working with them during the week to reinforce what we see together, playing our songs, watching their favorite cartoons in French, which really makes a difference.

I really learn a lot every session we have together. It is so great seeing them both progress, getting more confident with the language and being able to pronounce words and expressions with a clearer accent than most adult learners! It is very impressive!

Merci mille fois, Céline! (By the way, I would love for my children to take lessons with you!)

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