For new 7th grade students, the first few days of school are a foray into an unknown universe. For them, everything is new: new friends, new teachers, new schedules, new expectations, and new course offerings. For many, one such new course offering is a modern language, either French or German. As one of their five core course offerings, modern languages meet for 40 minutes, five times a week. My approach to teaching French to new 7th graders has always taken this "newness" into consideration. It is for this reason that we spend the first two weeks singing and marching through the halls as a French "alphabet train," playing Battleship to learn our letters and numbers up to 30, listening to French songs that share their titles with students' names, and laughing our way through the many manipulations of the mouth that give way to coherent French sounds.
At the end of these first two weeks, my hope is that students know their letters, numbers to 30, and most basic French greetings and salutations. However, I also have far more grandiose objectives, ones that work in concert with the other 7th grade teachers to lay the foundation for successful participation in all facets of life here at FA. Through a series of exercises that encourage fun without making fun, that demystify "foreignness," that intentionally disarm students, my goal is to create a classroom environment that builds confidence, encourages positive risk-taking, and promotes engagement with the material and with each other. Descartes said, "Je pense donc je suis” (I think therefore I am), but to that I'd also add, "Je ris donc je suis" (I laugh therefore I am), "Je chante donc je suis" (I sing therefore I am), and "j'adore donc je suis" (I love therefore I am).
-Dr. Ben Parsons