ARCHIVES: CLASSROOM NOTES: November 2011
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Morning Immersion - Les Petits Minous
"Les Petits Minous"
La classe de Monsieur Baimba et Madame Isabelle
November was a short month at French For Fun because of the week-long Thanksgiving Holiday break. Two new students joined our class this month, and teachers and children helped our new friends learn the classroom routine and how we do things in Petite Section. These students came from the French For Fun's Tots at Play class, and this helped them transition smoothly into Petite Section.
Given the fact that the students in Petite Section range from 2.5 to 3.5 years old, it is a significant adjustment to become comfortable and at ease at school. For many of these children, this is their first experience away from home and their parents. Plus, Petite Section is often our student's first experience in a French Immersion environment. There is so much learning to do!
Our curricular focus continued to center on familiarizing the children with the daily routine, participating in a group, and all the language associated with this. "Transitions" (like arrival, bathroom, and meal time) are tough for young children, and in French, it makes matters even more complex. Monsieur Baimba and Madame Isabelle work extremely gently and patiently with these youngsters guiding, modeling, and constantly communicating in simple French. It is spectacular to hear and see the great progress all the children have made since September.
In addition to learning the language and activities associated with the school routine, the children were immersed in activities which helped them learn one of the most common sound segments in the French language - "on". Words like "champignon" (mushroom), "hérisson" (hedgehog), pont (bridge) "bouchon" (cork), and "marron" (brown) were used creatively through story telling activities and art project to provide the children with many opportunities to hear and use this language sound in many different contexts.
The class focused on various prepositions — such as sur (on) — and concepts related to directionality — en haut, au mileu, en bas (top, middle, and bottom) to help orient our young students to the space around them. Toward the end of the month, the students enjoyed their first on-site field trip to gather nature objects, pine needles and twigs, to make their own spiky little "hérisson".
During the first week of December, we began a new unit, "La Maison" (The House). Teachers selected this unit because it offers countless opportunities to incorporate living language experiences (familiar routines like taking a bath, eating a meal, brushing teeth, and getting dressed) with everyday vocabulary associated with living in a house — the shape of a house and the rooms and items in a house.
During the first week, the students worked with the shapes triangle, square, and rectangle and assembled their own 2-D houses. Following this, they worked on a larger scale by building shoe box houses and practicing the concepts of dedans and devant (in and out), in front and behind. The week before our Winter break, the teachers will shift the focus "outside" the house to "inside" the house. The children will go "dans la cuisine" (in the kitchen) to do a special cooking project which will be the holiday gift they present their parents at la fête de Noël on Friday, December 16th.
Upon the return from our Winter break, we will side-step from our house unit to focus our attention and curriculum on la Fête des Rois (Epiphany). Visit the "Classroom Notes" again at the end of January to read about all the fun and learning going on in Petite Section.
Have a safe and happy holiday. See you Tuesday, January 3rd!
"Les Gros Matous"
La classe de Madame Catherine
L'autome est là. On a beautiful, cool morning, we ran to la forêt to play in the woods, listen to the birds, and to look for coucou and le hibou en haut du grand chêne. We did see tall oak trees, but no owls or cuckoo. Just the same, we had fun and enjoyed un petit picnique dans les bois.
Back in class, we sang some of our favorite fall songs, like "Petit écureuil Roux". The song is about a cute reddish squirrel who likes to jump, do somersaults and who is a little "fou" (crazy). See how we look like him and notice how we gesture "fou" - the French way!
Les gros matous (4 year olds) in Moyenne Section are also working on handwriting and phonetics. This month we continued to work on les voyelles "A_E_I_O_U". We chose "Araignée", of course, for "A" and loved singing "L'araignée gypsie qui monte à la goutière", "Passe Passe Petit Rat", "La Famille Tortue", and "Alouette Gentille Alouette". These were all big hits with the children, despite the fact that these traditional songs are centuries old.
Throughout the day, we integrate music, movement, writing and reading into the various curriculum units. This makes the learning process fun and lively, and it generates positive energy which encourages all children to engage in learning.
As we approached the Thanksgiving break, we added a new sound "ou" to our memory box. This prompted us to make "une soupe aux choux" - adding a few more vegetables to make it delicious. Ummmmmm!
"Ou" is also for "ours" (bear). Since we do not have bears in Lafayette, we decided to invite our teddy bears to class and to build a tanière where "ours" will sleep all winter long. We even celebrated one birthday with our "ours", and we ate cupcakes in the tanière. The children pointed out that "tanière" rhymes with "anniversaire". What smart children!
We are busy now working on a little performance, "Calinours va à l'école", based on the story published by L'école des Loisirs. Our show will be on St Nicolas Day, December 6th, la fête des enfants.
PM IMMERSION I
La classe de Madame Catherine
During the month of November, we were immersed in a study of Paul Cézanne. We started the unit by going to the kitchen where we collected many items to be used in our compositions back in our atelier (workshop). The vocabulary was sometimes familiar, sometimes not. Words were selected to reinforce spelling, sounds, gender and for their interesting shapes (une louche for la soupe, and pour prendre une douche - our inside joke).
We selected one reproduction from Cézanne. While the students created their Cézanne inspired painting, they described their work in full sentences and identified each part of speech with its proper Montessori grammar symbol.
As always, these K-1 students loved making sentences with the symbols. Now the children really had to be creative - à la Cézanne. Each team chose a few items to create their own composition. Once satisfied, the children had to describe it in French to the rest of the class.
"La maison pomme", (see photos below) Cézanne's favorite fruit, was also fun to assemble and it enabled us to review all rooms of the house and to once again manipulate grammar symbols. We worked more specifically on using être (to be) in its plural form. The children have become very comfortable using this verb in its singular form during conversation - "He is, she is, it is", so now it is time to develop their fluency using "sont" (are).
At last it was time to say "au revoir" to Monsieur Cézanne. What an inspirational man and role model for the children! Among many other things, the children learned about how this great man lived in alignment with his heart's desire - even to his last day of life. Story has it that even in sickness and old age, Cézanne's passion to paint compelled and inspired him. On a cold, grey day he hiked up his beloved Montagne Saint Victoire and made his last painting. While on the mountain the weather turned from bad to worse and Cézanne made it home only to grow extremely ill. He died shortly thereafter. As a class, we remarked how the weather on the last day of our Cézanne unit was similar to the weather during his last days of life. So with a feeling of sadness and gratitude, we concluded our study of Cézanne. Moments like this one, when a teacher knows she taught and touched her students deeply, is the greatest reward of a teacher's work.
The holidays and winter break are fast approaching, and we are now preparing to celebrate la St. Nicolas and Noël. I wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season.
PM IMMERSION VII
La classe de Madame Catherine
Once the students had their basic information for their airlines (schedule and price), they began creating their own advertising material - an array of craft items were available for their use.
Each team initiated their own ideas and created their menus, brochures, and other advertising items while the teachers were on-hand to assist, correct spelling errors, etc. French was spoken exclusively.
After three class sessions, "le salon d'exposition" was open for business! Teachers, staff and the 5th grade class became the patrons. As you recall from the previous Classroom Notes, the idea was for each airline to sell their package, luring customers with slogans, pretty displays, and great deals. All questions and comments, sales and promotions had to be in French only, bien sûr.
After fifteen minutes of preparation and set up, it was obvious that the students were thoroughly prepared for the event.
It was impressive! Students came with props, costumes, and food. One of the most impressive aspects was that none of their activities and work was teacher-inspired. It was all student-initiated! The enthusiasm was amazing and contagious. This was a perfect day, a perfect lesson, the kind of day all teachers dream of having at least once a year!
Bon Voyage, see you au champs de mars an Janvier 2012.