Developing academic literacy for students learning a foreign language in PYP can be challenging. Many students already have difficulties writing in English, and consider writing in French to be more difficult than speaking or understanding. I planned a writing activity in Grade 5 and my objective was to make them be engaged and reflective in their writing. After learning how to ask and answer questions about food, they learned how to offer food to people in view of inviting their parents for a breakfast at school. The writing that they completed in class was a letter that each student would send to their parents to invite them. The students had a real purpose for writing and understood that the language choices should suit the purpose as well as the specific audience.
Even if dealing with the use of verbs in the present tense could sound difficult, they had a check-list of what structure and language features could be used. For example, all the verbs available were ‘er’ verbs so that they could conjugate them by themselves.
They’ve also been able to see the difference between the written and spoken modes of communication, for example with the use of greetings.
They showed creativity when they decorated their letters.
After writing their letter, the students asked me spontaneously to practice their reading as some parents know a bit of French.
I planned other authentic writing activities to enhance students’ academic literacy and a positive mindset towards writing in the target language.
These last weeks I have had a few health problems and because of bad luck (poor medical care from incompetent doctors), it was hard to control and I had quite a lot of side effects from drugs. As a consequence, it affected my ear as well as my voice and my respiratory capacity. Now my health condition is much better, but while reflecting on my professional practices, I have been surprised to see to what extent I changed some of my teaching strategies to cope and to compensate for my weaknesses. Even if it was quite a demanding situation, I am quite happy with the new tools that I used and I thought that I could share this experience with you if by chance it should happen to you as well. Here are some tips:
1/ I slowed down my speech. It helped the students to think more before responding to my answers
2/ I gave instructions and information thanks to an online prompter: http://cueprompter.com/
The funny fact is that many students who used to be reluctant in reading, were happy to develop this skill and were keen to increase the speed of their reading.
3/ I also gave them some information thanks to online readings in the target language. This tool is interesting for students with dyslexia. It is available in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Arabic Languages https://www.naturalreaders.com/index.html
The fact that men and women’s voices can be chosen freely lead students to be accustomed to different speech rhythms, accents, tones and intonations.
In conclusion, being sick can lead to great professional experiences and new discoveries….
In PYP, I created new accessories to enhance students’ engagement and to increase student awareness of grammar. For example, instead of teaching how the personal pronouns work in French, I use masks. Students wearing masks feel more at ease to participate and to understand the differences between ‘I’ and ‘we’, as well as ‘you’ and ‘they’ forms, as they can embody the grammar forms. For example, ‘I’ can be a pirate, whereas ‘we’ can stand for Animals.
Even shy students have fun and express themselves more openly because of these masks.