‘How to create a red carpet moment that lets language learning shine’

Florentina Popescu
29th March 2017 at 14:07

Language learning

For me, like for any other language teacher in this world, International Week is my "red carpet" moment.

I usually live my job at high intensity, but during this special week in particular, I feel that my work, my pupils and the language I teach are the centre of attention.  

And what a busy week we had, this year.

The week kicked off on Monday 6 February, when the whole school gathered in the big hall, for an introduction to this exciting "journey".

The children were told to expect the following: “Every afternoon we are going to meet up in the airport (aka the hall), with our passports ready. In mixed groups (reception up to Year 6) we will take the plane to different countries (aka classrooms): Australia, Thailand, Kenya, Belgium, USA, UAE, Japan, China, Israel, France, Italy, Iceland, New Zealand, Russia and Egypt.”

I know every child in the school, as I teach them all French, but I realised that for the other teachers the planned activities during International Week would be an engaging way to get to know them all.

So here we are, in this crowded airport, ready for our flight to…Australia, where we looked at some amazing pictures and we practised a song.

In Thailand, we learnt facts and history (covered in some very glittery activities); in Belgium we made waffles (yummy!); in the USA we carried out some experiments and we talked about science.

We flew to the UAE, where we talked about geography, then took the plane to Japan – to study computing, of course. In China it was art (and more glitter!) and in Israel we talked about Jesus and we had an opportunity to learn so many new things about traditions and religion.

In France, for a change, we learnt about monuments and we re-created some great cardboard landmarks:  the Louvre, Tour Eiffel or L’Arc de Triomphe.

Next, the big plane flew to Italy. Ciao! Benvenuto! Pizza and maths (oh, yes, it could be tricky sometimes to divide a pizza in quarters if you are only 4-years-old); Roman numerals and Fibonacci sequence – we had fun!

In Iceland, some Coca Cola volcano experiments made us incredibly keen to visit this country and in New Zeeland we just loved the Haka dance!

I know, by now you may be wondering: so, where is the language teacher and where is the red carpet?

Yes, then it was time for the French assembly. The whole school sang in one single voice: ‘’Bonjour’’. The moment I led the assembly and realised that I knew every single child in the big hall was overwhelming. I can hardly describe my feelings.

It is not only that I know them, but that I have encouraged and inspired them to speak and express themselves in French with such an elegance and courage that makes me so proud of these children. 

We started with a song sang by my Year 2 pupils, ‘’Ma famille’’. Little hands were holding puppets in the air we had made with lolly sticks and paper: "maman”, papa’’, ‘’soeur’’, ‘’frère’’ and ‘’ bébé’’. Such a brilliant singing, mes petits français! Bravo!

Next it was time for Year 5 and their play, Veux-tu devenir mon ami? (a French adaptation of an well-known English book  I had specially created for this event): janvier, février, mars…un lapin, un oiseau, une souris…How good these children are, what great acting, what a brilliant accent!

Subject Genius, Florentina Popescu, How to create a red carpet moment that lets language learning shine

Then Year 6 read some French poems: Pour ma mère, Mon cartable, La clé des champs, L’ écolier. We finished with a song about nationalities: a sea of flags in the air, while singing : je suis anglais/ anglaise, je suis français/française, je suis ecossais/ ecossaise etc. What a view, my work was not in vain.

Two days later, a French theatre troop came in to our school. Their performance of Le bistro de Dan Roro entertained the children (and the teachers) for one hour and 15 minutes with an incredible interactive show which proved that we are all so good at French: café, omelette, table…Oh, la la!

Subject Genius, Florentina Popescu, How to create a red carpet moment that lets language learning shine

On top of these activities, I have taught Russian for one week. I studied Russian when I was at school for many years, but I never had the opportunity to use it. Well, this week was different: we looked at Russia, with all its snow and big, bright cathedrals.

We had a taste of the Cyrillic alphabet (Really? Is "h", "n" in Russian? And "p" is "r"?) and we counted to ten.

We have created some matryoshka dolls and we had good fun watching Masha and the Bear.

After all these journeys, we gathered again in our airport, to say "goodbye", "au revoir", "ciao", "привет". 

Subject Genius, Florentina Popescu, How to create a red carpet moment that lets language learning shine

International Week really proved a great opportunity to promote language learning and I would heartily reccommend trying these activities which so inspired and engaged pupils.

At the end of the week I went home, I smiled and  said: "Oh, what a week!" And, once more, I felt I am the richest person on the planet.

Find more information about the interactive French Theatre and show here.


Florentina Popescu is a French teacher at J and C Academy in north-west London