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ARCHIVES: CLASSROOM NOTES: October 2011


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Morning Immersion - Les Petits Minous

Les Petits Minous"Les Petits Minous"

La classe de Monsieur Baimba et Madame Isabelle

What a good start with Les Petits Minous! We spent the first two weeks getting to know each other and becoming familiar with the new routines. "Social" and "Emotional" growth and development is one of our greatest areas of focus in Petite Section. It is essential to establish a few rules and routines to help the children feel secure. We patiently model and discuss how to act appropriately in the school environment. So much learning in our class occurs by way of song. (Thank you Madame Isabelle!) For example, song #7 on the class CD, "Que Fait Ma Main?" is an important song we are using to help children learn appropriate ways of interacting with each other. When you are 2 and 3 years old, there is so much to learn like sharing, taking turns, following directions, and learning how to work and play in a group at school. This on top of being in the French immersion environment is an exciting challenge, and we are happy to see that all of your children are thriving.

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Our daily schedule:
The "welcome" gradually takes place and children are invited to work with manipulatives at the table. Once all students arrive, we say "hello" by singing and dancing our greeting song. Following this, we have a short "Group Time" on the carpet. This is when we introduce the topic of the day. The children listen and watch as we demonstrate an activity, and then it is their turn to do the activity. After this period of concentration, everyone is ready to move their bodies! We change the pace with a period of music and movement, followed by another teacher-led artistic or academic activity. By this time, everyone has worked up an appetite, so we break for meal time. Bathroom breaks, meal time, and cleanup provide rich opportunities for children to learn important practical language. Finally it is time to say, "au revoir" (goodbye).

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Our first two months: On an academic level, we worked around three main units. Being Les Petits Minous (the kittens), we played with stuffed cats noticing how soft (doux) they are. We learned to feed them with a plate of milk (une assiette de lait) and put them in a basket (le panier) to sleep. We created different sets of activities where the children had to count the cats from one to three (un, deux et trois), place them at the right place listening to prepositions like sur (on), sous (under), dans (in), devant (in front) and derrière (behind), and to sort them using the concept of size, petit et grand (small and large). We will continue to work on these concepts during the following units.

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We conducted a few sensorial projects using "the cat", a favorite character of all our students, to celebrate La Fête du Goût (taste's week). We made a cat which smelled like chocolate, and we related it to the song "Le chat chocolat". We also prepared sandwiches representing a cat face. This was a project enjoyed by all!

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MinousWe also celebrated La Fête des Animaux (animal's week). We focused on domestic animals, and introduced dogs and bunnies in the classroom. We had a lot of fun learning how to cut (couper), glue (coller) and paint (peindre), while making la niche (a dog house).

Finally, we introduced the season l'automne (the Fall) with les citrouilles (pumpkins). During this time of year, pumpkins are seen all over. For this reason, we decided to use citrouilles to illustrate the color orange (orange), the circle (le rond), and to reinforce the vocabulary for the different parts of the face which the children already learned during "the cat unit" — les yeux (eyes), le nez (nose) et la bouche (mouth).


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In the coming weeks, we will continue the topic of the fall. We will use the cute, little hedgehog (hérisson) as our "mascot" during this unit. We had a lot of fun during our first promenade (walk) to gather items from nature for upcoming projects. We will be hosting a Parent Breakfast prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday break. This date will be announced in a few days. We look forward to seeing you in class.

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Les Gros Matous

"Les Gros Matous"

La classe de Madame Catherine

MatousWhen you are 4 or 5 years old, the sky is truly the limit! Our students in Moyenne Section (Pre-K) are so eager to explore and learn.

"Greetings" are an important part of our daily routine, so we began the year singing "Bonjour les amis comment ça va? Ça va bien?". The topic of "emotions" was our curriculum theme, and by the second week of September we had a word and a face for many emotions.

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Handwriting is a new skill to learn in Pre-K. This year we are using the "Handwriting Without Tears" curriculum. We decided to use this curriculum because it mirrors our multi-sensory approach to language instruction. Children build and sculpt letters prior to learning to write them. They learn the letter sounds by way of playing with an assortment of interesting objects starting with the particular letter sound. Singing and movement is also incorporated into the literacy learning experience. After introducing the various Handwriting Without Tears materials, like les longs batons et les batons courts (big line and little line), we worked on the easiest letters to reproduce L, E, and F.

E became É accent aigu for École and Éléphant and Égypte.

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F took us to France, the land of Fromage, and we learned to sing and dance "la Farandole" de Christian Merveille.

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F was also for "Fruits", "Formes" (shapes), and "Famille" — perfect topics of conversation at this level.

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La Fête des Animaux in early October gave us the perfect excuse to dig out our "peluches" (stuffed animals), practice our best imitation of animal sounds, and stage mini dialogues with them.

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MatousWe also introduced simple graphs. For this exercise, the children had to graph the habitat in which each animal lived. This activity challenged our students in many ways. For example, it reinforced concepts of directionality -- in particular "vertical" and "horizontal". These concepts (vertical and horizontal) were recently learned in the handwriting program enabling children to integrate their prior knowledge with the new graphing activity. What a perfect melding of math and literature!

The week-long celebration ended with a field trip to the animal shelter followed by a trip to the "great outdoors" at the Martinez Waterfront. We enjoyed a family picnic and we saw a variety of wildlife. What a contrast to those in captivity! The weather was perfect, and we had a wonderful time.

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Our curriculum focus shifted to La semaine du goût in mid-October. We tied together all previous units (shapes, animals, body parts, etc.) and learned a new comptine "C'est demain jeudi, la fête à la souris". We tasted different varieties of pommes and made a healthy snack with raisins secs and fromage in the shape of an hérisson.

November is now upon us, and only Madame Catherine knows
what the "Gros Matous" will see and do… Stay tuned!


PM IMMERSION I

La classe de Madame Catherine et Monsieur Baimba

The Immersion 1 class is always a bit challenging in September, since these kindergarteners/first graders have to adjust to a brand new and long school schedule. This year, we meet twice a week for academics and on Fridays for an hour long workshop.

Naturally we began by talking about school, comparing today's school with "l'école d'autrefois" (school in the old days). These compare and contrast lessons allowed us to introduce new vocabulary and engage the children in conversations. The method book "Gaston 2" published by Elli has good songs and exercises on the topic.

Since we have at French for Fun many authentic objects, everyone is always eager to touch, take a closer look and ask questions while passing around cartables, trousses, cahiers de textes, and stylos plumes. Supermarket ads from France are also very good to use this time of year since everyone is selling school supplies.

Two Friday workshops were devoted to "La récréation." After all, recess is an important part of the school day in first grade. I selected le jeu de la marelle which seems to be universal and also a perfect way to review numbers without boring the children. Our community is very diverse at FFF, so we invited family members born and raised abroad to show us how the game of hopscotch was played in their native land. In less than 30 minutes we had hopped from Japan to Malaysia, from Romania to Germany and from California to France. Greatly inspired, the children designed their own "marelle", counting by two's, by ten's and even backwards.

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We concluded the unit by reading a funny story about a little boy who had brought his pet to school. Of course the kids asked, "On peut faire?" Bien sûr, we can, but we had to wait until the following week, October 4th to be precise, the day of La Fête de Saint François D'Assise, Patron Saint of the animals.

Thanks to the support of a few parents, we had enough pets to devote an entire class to them. What fun! The pet owners felt very proud and did a great job introducing the pets in French. The audience, including myself, really did not know what to expect from these creatures. A day to remember!

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French For FunWhile in Aix en Provence years ago, I decided that a unit on Cézanne would be perfect to welcome fall and encourage my first graders to make complete sentences. Some twenty years later, it seems that the unit is getting better and better.

First we had to visit Aix with its many fountains. We learned an old song, La Samaritaine, which the children really liked to sing and act out. It is amazing how after so many centuries, these classics are still enjoyed so much by young children. Using story telling techniques and lots of visual support, the children became acquainted with Paul Cézanne and how his life unfolded in Aix en Provence. We had fun at la Boutique de chapeaux du papa de Cézanne, but actually counting all the money at the newly purchased banque was really exciting and challenging for these savvy future business people. In case you did not know, Louis Cézanne did open the first bank in Aix and became quite successful, which allowed Paul to truly devote himself to his art without worrying about money.

I had saved some play money in Francs so the children were able to see and understand that the Euro is still a pretty new currency.

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Just in time for La Semaine du Goût, I had shared with the children how Paul would meet Emile Zola, his best friend who had given him un panier de pommes. These apples became one of Cézanne's favorite models.

We were just happy to enjoy des pommes, des chaussons aux pommes, une tarte aux pommes avec du jus de pomme and singing, "Pour avoir une pomme" de Suzanne Pinel from Canada. Lucky that we are also only minutes from La Boulange.

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If you are still wondering why I use Cézanne in the fall to teach my first graders how to make complete sentences, using Montessori Grammar symbols to help them understand what a verb is, a preposition etc...well come back in a few weeks for the rest of the story!


PM IMMERSION IV

La classe de Madame Catherine

The majority of these 15 boys and girls are in third grade and have been at French For Fun since preschool. We continue to meet four times a week after school for 45 minutes. This year, we begin the week with academics and Thursday is game day, atelier (art workshop), or cooking.

After sharing our best summer memories, we reviewed lots and lots of vocabulary, concentrating for the first time on spelling, "l'orthographe". The word itself looks and sounds scary in French. To ease the anxiety and pain, we played "le baccalauréat".

The children really enjoyed finding un fruit avec la lettre C, or a place with the beginning letter C. This game allowed the children to come up with many different words — citron, cerise for example or charcuterie or cinéma. If someone does not remember the meaning of a word, then the class must mime or describe that word. For citron, the lemon, the students might have to remember amer (bitter).

In third grade, we read a lot in French. So far, our favorite was a silly poem about a girl Paulette qui s'était coincé la couette dans l'anneau de son classeur.

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In case you do not know what a couette is, take a look at the photo...It was Couette's Day!

To practice basic conjugations and sentence structure, we described both orally and in writing the various places Rémi goes to throughout the day. The cartoon-like characters are fun and appeal to this age group. They can be found on "JeDessine.com".

We were just about finished with "la cantine" (school cafeteria) by the time we celebrated "La Semaine du Gout" (taste week). Since we had talked about nutrition, balanced meals, and food groups, we prepared a full meal "à la française"! Des oeufs mimosas, des croquettes de viande, des pâtes, des carottes aux lardons, du pain bien sûr, du fromage et des meringues pour le dessert. Quite a feast for afternoon snack, but no one seemed to mind!

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We are now off to La Suisse and the first order of business in this well disciplined country is to keep track of time! Be prepared to see lots of cuckoo clocks in our classroom...


PM IMMERSION VII

La classe de Madame Catherine

French For FunMost of the students have been working together at French For Fun with me for over seven years, so naturally seeing each other after three months off is always a pleasure.

This year we meet only twice a week in a much smaller room decorated with visual aids centered on our theme for the year - Paris, the city of lights. We claimed this room as our own despite the fact that other groups use this room. After all, the Immersion VII students are the "seniors" around here!

French For FunEach wall of our classroom is adorned with authentic materials and art reproductions. These items will serve to focus our studies throughout the year.

French For FunThe first of our curricular investigations centered on a large black and white photo of the Eiffel Tower taken from La Place du Trocadéro. This somber image was chosen in order to pay homage to the victims of 9/11, and to Tom Burnett and the other brave souls who stormed the cockpit of United Flight 93 foiling the hijackers' plan to crash the plane into the White House. Tom was a parent of three girls who attended French For Fun prior to this tragedy. A number of children also had family stories to share about this horrific event. As a class, we went online to view photos and videos of two ceremonies taking place simultaneously - one on the Place du Trocadéro and the one in New York City. The event in Paris was organized by "The French Will Never Forget."

French For FunThe following week, our mood changed dramatically as the new middle school students were eager to talk about their first weeks at school. Their elders, the 7th and 8th graders, had a great deal of advice and wisdom to offer. As a place to begin a "compare" and "contrast" exercise, I dug out my son's French school planner which he used while in 7th grade in France.

This led to a vibrant exchange of ideas between the students and their teachers. Meaningful and intelligent dialogue was abundant as we studied the similarities and differences between French and American middle school curriculum and school experience. We are thrilled to welcome a new student who spent a few years in an international school outside of Paris. Her input in the "compare and contrast" dialogue was very valuable and appreciated by all of us.

In addition to our new student, we have a new volunteer, Karine, who is a graphic artist from St Etienne, France. She is studying in San Francisco in a program preparing her to be a language teacher. Once again, the Immersion VII students impressed me with their ability to communicate in French with Karine to explain what "core" means in their local middle schools.

In the end, the students were able to distill two main differences between French and American school experience. One relates to the actual daily school schedule and the other relates to "la cantine" (the cafeteria). The use of a "real" French 7th grade school planner and an actual menu from a French middle school cafeteria gave children a true understanding of how different life can be for youngsters in France. The students discovered that French children have a different school schedule every day. What a lot to keep organized! They decided that French middle-school resembled the American college structure more than the middle school structure.

French For FunTowards the end of October, we transitioned to a new topic - planning our trip to Paris! This unit is evolving into much more than just planning a trip. It will be a lesson in graphic arts, business, marketing, and advertising! Thanks to Karine and her expertise, this project has been elevated to a much higher level. So far, students have been given the task to work in groups to research which airlines fly from SFO to CDG - a huge feat in itself. From here, teams contacted the airlines to get all the travel details -flight times, costs, etc.

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In the upcoming weeks, teams will create advertising materials for each company which they will use to market their airline and travel packages. I am a seasoned traveler, and I will be their toughest customer! Which team will sell their travel package to Madame Catherine? Stay tuned.

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