Speaking Routines (Part 1)
As a French teacher, my heart swells when I hear my students speaking the language. I know their sense of language affiliation is strengthened through speaking. Learners entering school with no language base in French don’t just magically become spontaneous speakers of French. Research consistently shows what language teachers do and how they do it has a direct impact on the language expertise of their learners. So, which practices are proven? What are the most effective ways? How can we increase target language production without devaluing home languages?
The key is to intentionally build on the language base while creating space for learners to use their voice.
I think the key is to intentionally build on the language base while creating space for learners to use their voice. Research repeatedly points to the importance of the use of repetition. Young learners can gain a sense of expertise quickly when repetition meets routine. Research out of Louisiana in French immersion kindergarten classrooms revealed time spent talking about the daily schedule as beneficial (Haj-Broussard et al., 2017). It is important to remember this is only beneficial if learners are not being « talked at » but rather encouraged to speak.
What does it look like in my classroom? I display the visual schedule for the day before the children arrive. I choose to make my own schedule cards using photographs which depict real activities from my classroom. I display my schedule from left to right in an effort to reinforce this aspect of early reading (directionality). Showing the passage of time throughout the day helps early learners situate themselves within space and time; I use a clip of a bumblebee to indicate where we are at any given point of the day.
What does it sound like? This is key. In the fall, echo speaking and choral speaking is where we begin. I don’t necessarily start off with full sentences. I use AIM (Accelerative Integrated Methodology) to gesture verbs and the transitions. « J’ai fini! (activity) J’ai fini! Bouge, bouge, bouge l’abeille. Bouge, bouge, bouge l’abeille. Maintenant la classe fait (activity). » It is important to remember that activities will change many times per day which will give the learners extensive practice with the sentence frames introduced during this routine. The predictability of this speaking time will allow for many learners to feel confident joining in during the choral speaking time.
Later in the year, choral speaking continues but new language is introduced which helps students better describe the sequence. I usually add the words avant and après next. Remember, the children are learning the words they need to describe what they do at school at the same time as they are learning the sequential vocabulary. In turn the ordinal numbers are introduced and the talking time about the schedule can be done in chunks (en premier, en deuxième, en troisième).