Monday, July 22, 2013
Denise and I had the opportunity to take a group of incoming 8th graders to France in June. We organized the trip with Vistas in Education, a wonderful travel company that specializes in family stays in France. We traveled by train to Toulouse and then took a bus to Foix, where we were warmly greeted by the host families (see above photo). VIE did a wonderful job placing our students with host families; we were so impressed with the care and attention the family stay coordinator had taken in matching them up.
We insisted that the students speak only French while we were traveling in France. We used our immersion system, but we found that it was more difficult to enforce without grades-- this was an optional trip during the summer after all! We set it up as a competition, though, letting students know that if everyone succeeded in keeping their points, there would be a reward for everyone. If not, we would award the person with the most points some kind of prize. (In the end they all succeeded-- we will have a special party for them when they return to school.)
When we met back up with the students after their family stays, it was remarkable to see the students' progress-- four days of immersion in the target language can do wonders. Their curiosity about French had also increased, and two of the students asked me to explain the imperfect, conditional, and future tenses to them on the train ride back to Paris. (How do you say should? How do you say was? How do you say will?) I wrote some exercises for them on the spot and they practiced their new tenses together.
The students' background using RLRA's communicative approach certainly helped them on the trip, and the opportunity to make good connections with native speakers and see how useful it is to be able to communicate certainly boosted their confidence and their motivation. Denise mentioned noticing the look on one of the students' faces when he successfully ordered a sandwich-- it was as if a light bulb went off in his head-- It worked!