By Ely Schosek
Springville-Griffith Institute offers two foreign languages beginning in seventh grade: French and Spanish. In middle school, it’s all about learning the basics, but high school, on the other hand, is more about applying the language. SGI’s high school French students are always looking forward to class!
That’s probably in part because it feels like we never do any work and the class is packed full of energy and excitement. Madame Brown always says that just because we rarely ever do notes doesn’t mean we aren’t learning. She enjoys tricking our brains into thinking we aren’t learning when we are.
Each week on Wednesday, students walk into class expecting to hear a new French song. This all part of “Musique Mercredi” which translates to “Music Wednesday.”
Brown will play the class a song that is currently popular in French music and always has an activity to go along with it; whether it be filling in the blanks, reordering the lyrics or writing what they see in the music video.
It’s not uncommon for students to be humming the song later in the day or add it to their own music. Many of these songs stick with students for months or even years in some cases.
In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Brown shows her students French Christmas commercials and accompanies them with various activities. The most recent of these included reading the video’s transcript and acting it out as a class.
Another popular activity is “desinner, mimer, créer” in which Brown has the class split up into groups. She gives one person from each group the same word and then has them either, draw it, act it out or create it out of Playdough. Their group has to guess the word and then write it on a whiteboard. Points are assigned according to speed and accuracy.
Brown also has numerous classic board games that she has modified for French class including Clue and Monopoly. Students are required to speak French as much as possible throughout the duration of the game.
It is not expected that students know every word so Brown is always more than willing to lend a hand when it’s needed.
Brown is a big supporter of knowing how to have a conversation with someone in French, not just knowing how to conjugate verbs although that is important too. That’s why many of the games and activities involve describing an object or word to a partner and having them use your hints to guess what it is. These sorts of activities enable students to work around the specific word that they might not necessarily know while still being able to get their point across.
Recently, Brown introduced a new game that is somewhat hard to explain — it seems sort of like baseball but with Brown’s rules. There are two teams who line up on either side of the room and alternate being the “batting” and “pitching” teams. Each team sends one person up to the board and Brown gives a word in English. The first person to write the French translation and “pivot” back around gets the point.
If they are the “batting” team, then they advance around the “bases” which are just different spots in the room. If they are the “pitching” team, their goal is to get three words in order to “strike out” the other team. Many students noted after class that they aren’t quite sure where Brown comes up with these things but they are definitely grateful for it.
Despite the fact that French class consists largely of games and fun activities, students are constantly learning and improving their knowledge of the French language. The lesson here is that you don’t need to just do notes and vocabulary quizzes in a foreign language class to learn the language.