Last week my 6th-grade French students who are in month # 7 of their French language experience individually presented the story of Vercingétorix and Wormetha. Now you might have heard of Vercingétorix, France’s original hero from the first century BC. He united the Gallic peoples against Julius Caesar.
But I’m sure you’ve never been told the story of his girlfriend, Wormetha. That is because Wormetha is a class creation. The TPRS system (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) involves student input in story creation. My prompt was that this hero had a girlfriend. The students came up with her name, personality and features. When her boyfriend was hauled off to Rome by Jules Caesar, she shrieked, “Ne me quitte pas!” or “Don’t leave me!”
So what the students explained last week via clip art on google slides or a document was this story, combining both ‘true’ facts and ‘created’ facts about Vercingétorix. The pictures on the screen they chose served as memory prompts for them to use their French and recount the story in front of the class. They were encouraged to be as creative with pictures as they wanted to, but NOT to invent/look up new French. Repetition of comprehensible French is key to acquiring the language. No written words were to be on the slides (besides names). They had to have the story inside of them.
Besides enjoying the often humorous and amazing tech prowess of these 11-12 year olds, I was so pleased at their progress and confidence.
Therefore, after each had shared over the 3 days, I took a few minutes to point out to them how much they are now able to do at the end of 7 months of French. I asked them questions like:
- Can you believe how much you have learned in 7 months? I am SO proud of you all and pleased with your progress!
- Did you think back in August that by the end of February you’d be able to tell an entire story in French AND understand the stories of your classmates?
We teachers need often to give our students perspective on how WELL they are doing. It’s part of re-selling them on their good sense to choose the language and to persist. Speaking French or Spanish is a skill like learning to play tennis or the piano. It takes time, persistence and motivation. These young learners are like plants who thrive on water, sunlight and TLC. I mustn’t forget to water often!