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ARCHIVES: CLASSROOM NOTES: February/March 2011


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Morning Immersion - Poussins

Les Poussins"Les Poussins"

La classe de Madame Catherine et Madame Isabelle

Traditionally February is the shortest and the coldest month of the school year. The weatherman had even predicted snow in San Francisco, so les Poussins who had been busy creating their winter scene in January had fun digging out of the valise (suitcase), les manteaux (coats), les écharpes (scarfs) et les gants (gloves) to play dress up.

Throughout the year, les Poussins are taking one step forward, two steps backwards in order to store on a more permanent basis the French vocabulary presented to them. Once we were all bundled up, we dressed up our stuffed animals with manteaux et écharpes made out of felt of different colors. The children had to use deductive reasoning in order to select smaller outfits for smaller animals and learn how to tie the scarves around the neck of the stuffed animal. Most of our Poussins did not quite master that skill yet.

Math concepts, including recognition of numbers while reinforcing specialized vocabulary are presented on a weekly basis using a variety of manipulatives made to be used by one child only while the teacher sits back, observes, helping only when needed, yet making comments in French once the task is completed in order to reinforce the second language.

The color of the month was blanc (white) comme la neige (snow). We used corks as well as Q-tips to carefully cover le ciel (sky) with pretty flocons (flakes). The project demanded careful attention, concentration and was good to work on the three finger grasp - all required skills for writing.

We did get some snow on Mount Diablo, our beautiful mountain in Contra Costa County, but none in Lafayette, so the children used farine (flour) to trace letters and faces.

Could not say Au revoir to l'hiver (winter) until we made some bonhommes de neige (snowmen) Each one was a bit different, but all were rond, rond, rond (round) and très mignon (cute).

This year, Mardi Gras was late so we began the month of March having fun talking about dressing up as pirates, princesses... reading carnival stories and of course singing our favorite clown song, Clown Clown Clown passe devant la glace, il fait des grimaces, de Christiane Lelaure... a great song to review parts of the body and just being silly making faces in front of a mirror.

So we were silly, after all we are French For Fun, but we also love to work and this month we have began tracing letters, stamping letters and even writing letters on our own.

Here are some N pour nez du clown. (nose of the clown)

We described pictures of children dressed as clowns and made our own clown masque with a big red nose and 2 grosses joues (2 fat cheeks)

Carnival is so colorful, we had to bring out our gymnastic mat to jump on the colors of the rainbow. Here again it was often easier to say the color in French than it was to carefully jump feet together from one color to the next.

Carnival and colors are synonyms of confettis et serpentins (streamers) and great for our three year olds' small motor skills.

Then came the big day, Mardi Gras (see photos on our past events page). The weather was beautiful so we went around our block for our annual défilé (parade) in full costumes, returned to the center to sing, dance, and of course eat - Crèpes, Bugnes et Beignets made by the Mom of one of our Poussins. So much fun and all so good. Thanks to all the parents who helped during the event.

Then came la pluie (the rain), and this year it rained beaucoup, beaucoup, beaucoup. We had to bring out all our rain gear and sing our rainy songs. The favorite was opening up le parapluie (umbrella) to the sound of the pipo.

The rain finally stopped and it was time to paint the house. Our maison jaune, our yellow house, will be used in the weeks to come to not only learn basic vocabulary - porte, fenêtres, volets, toit ( door, windows, shutters, roof) - but also work on shapes, identifying them in French and recognize them.

We will decorate the outside of the house, hanging flowers, buiding the garage and une niche (the dog house) and working on prepositions.

We will probably use our maison jaune to hide a few eggs for Easter...

Les Cloches (the Easter bells) will be ringing soon, so keep your ears open.


Les Papillons

"Les Papillons"

La classe de Monsieur Baimba et Madame Ghania

Les Papillons finished the winter in les montagnes (the mountains). Because the children seemed to enjoy a lot the science project about ice, we organized two science group activities. Beyond the science concept, these kinds of activities brought a real curiosity about the world, which inspired them to express themselves. The questions and stories the children shared with the group involved a lot of nouns, verbs and prepositions.

The first science project used les sapins (pine trees) as a topic to work on math concepts. We simply used a set of five green triangles of various sizes. One would choose a number between one and five and someone else would have to build a sapin using as many triangles as they were told. The bottom of the sapin is larger than the top, so we had to use deductive reasoning to compare the triangles and place them in an orderly fashion. We also had to count the different parts, make sure to have the exact number, and add or subtract one or two parts when necessary. It was so great to hear the children solving problems among themselves in French.

We cannot enjoy les montagnes without talking about activities like skiing, snowboarding, or glisser sur une luge (sliding on a sled), when we have places like Les Alpes or les Pyrénées in France. The conversation we had about this brought a few questions "what goes down the mountain the fastest?", "what make things go down faster than others?" etc. This was the perfect opportunity to have the second group activity, about velocity. Simply using two pieces of wood and some piles of paper we made two mountains of different sizes. At first we used two identical objects to see which one would go faster.

Once everyone had a chance to try to find an explanation, we made mountains of the exact same height. This time we used different objects and compared their speed to order them from the slowest to the fastest. We laughed a lot when the cube would not move, and we had to try many times to distinguish which ball was the fastest.

We left the mountains just in time for the Mardi gras celebration. Since this is the biggest annual event at French for Fun, many children were getting excited and were talking about costumes they would wear for the défilé (parade). It was so much fun to speak about the costumes we will wear for French for Fun's carnival. All our activities made the children use a lot of vocabulary to describe the makeup on the clown's face, a mask from Venice, or the costume of the children in a book. Costumes are all about creativity, so each Papillon traced the outline of his hands on paper, and decorated these unique masks to be ready for the celebration.

Mardi gras is about being silly, so what better example than a clown to represent it. Clowns' faces are so graphic that we used half of it to explore symmetry. Les papillons were really calm during this activity and we were impressed by the results.

  

As you certainly know, there is no French celebration without food. And what a perfect transition to spring than masks made of fresh veggies? We spent time describing every product and used many adjectives to describe the texture, the taste and compare the colors.

Madame Isabelle prepared for us a new CD especially for the spring. One of the songs is a poem describing how with the help of sun and water, the seeds grow and become a plant. To illustrate this story we planted un pois chiche (a chickpea), observed it growing up day after day, and reported it on paper, drawing our observation and writing the specific vocabulary: le pois chiche, la graine, la tige, la feuille (the chickpea, the seed, the stem and the leaf)

  

What a better place than le jardin (the garden) to spend le printemps (spring) when you are un papillon? Log in next month to learn about our next unit.


Les Tournesols - Kindergarteners

La classe de Madame Catherine

Following our unit on la poste, les Tournesols learned that Vincent Van Gogh had painted not only the postman but many of his neighbors working either in nearby fields or in the different shops around town.

We also met le boulanger (baker), le boucher (butcher), la fleuriste (florist), and le cordonnier (cobbler). We had accessories, practiced the verb ALLER (to go) and directions - and in anticipation of Mardi Gras, had fun pretending to be one of them. We played les 7 familles des métiers and even learned the names in French of the professions of our parents.

This year our Mardi Gras celebration took us to Italy. Throughout the years and very early on, our students at French For Fun travel the world.

We located Italy on the large French Atlas and brought out our giant puzzle of Europe made out of cardboard.

We loved the shape of Italy and designed our very own boot like country, situating Rome and Venise (Venice), our destination.

Looking at books, we discovered that the Italians share mountains with France, built the longest tunnel under these mountains together and even use a language similar to French.

It was fun to speak Italian and eat Italian food, while listening to some of Madame Catherine's favorite memories of her childhood vacations on the Adriatic Sea.

  

Once in Venise, we marveled at the beautiful palaces and could not believe that houses were standing on water. We wondered how people get around there and then discovered that they have all sorts of boats. Our favorite was les gondoles (gondolas).

With Monsieur Baimba, the artist of the school, we carefully drew les palais (palaces), le canal, and une gondole on construction paper to decorate our classroom.

With Madame Catherine, we actually went on board a gondola, humming a romantic tune. We were really there, in Venise just in time for Carnival.

  

There were all sorts of people wearing gorgeous masks and costumes. We viewed videos on the internet, but we wanted to meet Polichinelle, Arlequin and Pierrot. Lucky for us, Madame has a beautiful collection of these characters of the Commedia dell'Arte.

We also learned two traditional French songs, Arlequin dans sa boutique, and Polichinelle monte à l'échelle. The latter song is very rich and allowed us to work on pronunciation and phonetics, learning the different ways of writing the sound "O" in French.

We also used the song to do math. Making a very long échelle (ladder) and numbering each barreau (step) (not by one of course, too easy for our K at FFF), but by counting and writing numbers by 10's.

Then Madame Catherine remembered she used to juggle while singing this song when she was a little girl in France. She practiced her juggling skills and we tried to just catch a ball and sing the song. Much easier to learn French....

  

We had also read the story, Arlequin, prince de carnaval (édition Retz), so we were pretty familiar with all the characters by now and wanted to make our own Pierrot. Simply using a few pieces of black and white paper et voilà.

With Madame Isabelle, the musician of the school, we sung and learned how to play on the key board, Au Clair de la Lune.

We had to meet one more character, Colombine.

Les Tournesols loved to hear that Pierrot was often sad because he loved Colombine and she barely noticed him, too busy talking and playing with all the other boys.

The other girls did not like Colombine much. All the boys always paid attention to Colombine and ignored them.

We used this story to describe the characters using many adjectives, like; bavarde, maline, rêveur, timide...and prepare our students for acting.

Stay tuned, since after Spring break, Les Tournesols will act out Une promenade en bateau (boat ride), a short story made up by French school children and their teacher who posted it on the internet a few years ago.

It is really a small world after all and Madame Catherine is always ready to take us some place new.


Immersion III - "Les Dragons et les Fées"

La classe de Madame Catherine

Les Dragons et Les Fées

The big event this February was of course our musical presentation of the classic story, ROULE GALETTE.

Our students, most of them in second grade, were able to read and understand the original text without introducing a lot of new vocabulary, however we spent a good month on the unit since Madame Isabelle our music director wrote a musical on Roule Galette just for us. What a success!

Collecting props for the decor, thinking of ideas for simple costumes led to many conversations all in French bien sûr!

The story allows for many students to each have a role. Each character has its own attributes which is perfect for using lots of language, making long sentences, with many adjectives and other parts of speech. We have used very successfully for years now with these children International Montessori Grammar Symbols which they love to manipulate.

Madame Isabelle as a musician captured the mood and make up of each character with sounds and introduced our students to a variety of musical styles from the tango to the blues, to rock as well as sing along child like tunes.

They loved them all and of course had to learn some basic steps and moves appropriate for le loup, le lapin, l'ours... Put all these skills together and voilà we are learning French à la French for Fun.

The story of Roule Galette is also action packed, lots of verbs! Satisfying my needs to practice basic conjugation in the present tense with my students, Madame Isabelle brilliantly included in her composition, les Je monte au grenier as well as nous balayons

  

As a result, these American children know not only the infinitive of many verbs, but can also conjugate them in the present tense.

        

We are all eager to find out what our next production will be...


Immersion IV

La classe de Monsieur Baimba

Immersion IV

Bienvenue dans les Alpes!

The children of Immersion 4 experienced winter in the Alps. This mountain range does not just cover a part of France, but goes through eight countries. Today, it is impossible to speak about France without knowing how important Europe is. The exploration of the Alps encouraged us to learn alot about European geography and the different cultures who share these mountains.

As you can imagine, it developed new vocabulary. Furthermore, we practiced our writing skills and created complete sentences both verbally and in written, which include specific vocabulary, grammar and conjugation. The children of Immersion 4 are socially adept amongst each other, so we explored these activities through games and group socialization. For example, they had a lot of fun with conjugation, they teamed up and challenged each other to see who could conjugate verbs like être, avoir, aller (to be, to have, to go) and first group verbs (ending by -er) such as escalader, monter, manger...(to climb, to go up, to eat).

France is proud to have the highest mountain of the Alps: Le Mont Blanc. Following our passion for sports and challenges (that we experienced previously in our unit on Le Tour de France), we read the story of the first excursion to the top of this mountain, called La première ascension du Mont Blanc racontée aux enfants (Jean-Marc Boudou, Oros, 2001). The book relates the real story, including fascinating characters and historical facts, using both texts and drawings.

We liked it so much that we decided to make our own interpretation of the story. While we were describing the illustrations, we found that it could be a great comic strip. We spent some time comparing American comics with French/Belgium ones, such as Astérix et Obélix. Then we divided the story in eleven chapters, and the children were partnered in twos, both on rewriting the text and illustrating it as a real bande-dessinée (comic-strip).

  

Next time, when you are at French for Fun, please take a moment to look at our book. The result is awesome and the children of Immersion 4 can be proud of their work. Beau travail!

Click thumbnails to see larger photos


Immersion VI - "Les Licornes"

La classe de Madame Catherine

Les Licornes

Since most of these middle school students have been with us for years now, celebrating Mardi Gras is part of their annual rituals. So of course they devoured as many crêpes as they could, sang and danced and even invited some friends to the party, but each year it is my responsibility to teach them something new.

For sure this year, I was introducing them to someone they had never heard of, Pieter Brueghel l'Ancien.

Brueghel was a painter from Belgium who during his short life (1525 - 1569) was among the first to paint common people from the country engaged in their daily activities.

He was also using a brand new technique, perspective, and as the students found out he was also the master of details.

During Carnival, we studied Brueghel's famous work, Le combat entre carnaval et carême. If there is one piece of art which can illustrate clearly the story of Mardi gras and Lent, this one is it.

We truly learned a lot, discovering all the symbolism depicted in the work of art, the new words I had to introduce which were not in our vocabulary as well of course as the skills the students needed to actually reproduce the painting.

The final project was impressive and I am convinced, Brueghel is no longer an unknown painter to them.

Click thumbnails to see larger photos

Using the book, Brueghel from the collection, Voyage Dans un Tableau (des Éditions Palette), we also studied another painting, Jeux d'Enfants. Children's games have come a long way.

It was fun to discuss and compare the ways the children were playing all over town, not supervised at all, with today's games and activities children engaged in.

À bientôt.

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