By Jenny Gardner
Tel: 01277 222682
You might expect this to be a rich resource on French art and culture, but the "art" referred to will be the children's own illustrations. The pack consists of a ring-binder containing 35 plastic pockets holding photocopiable A4 sheets, two to a pocket. It's aimed at six to 11-year-olds. Apart from small sections on guidance for teachers, key words and flashcards, most of the pages are devoted to worksheets and stories. Each story sheet is based on a letter of the alphabet and contains empty boxes in which the children will draw, beneath which are a few lines of text. Some sheets contain crude drawings, but illustrations for young learners should surely have some artistic merit, especially at this price, and from a resource with "art" in the title.
There is a huge linguistic leap from being familiar with nouns at word level to working with a range of grammar at sentence level. In French, even more than in most languages, young learners need to be familiar with the sound of a word before seeing it in written form - the skills of reading and writing usually follow listening and speaking. The author suggests chanting "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" in a rhythm for the children to answer nouns in a sentence, and having the children make their own alphabet book.
This is a good start, but to work on the stories it's suggested that the teacher reads a sentence "getting the children to repeat it several times", and eventually the children come to understand it and illustrate the relevant box. The impression is given that children can understand and learn the language through this technique alone. However, for French Thru Art to achieve its claim that it "overcomes the boredom of repetition", teachers will need to find a variety of motivating steps for making the chunks of text meaningful to young learners, other than by endless repetition. Having acknowledged "the boredom of repetition" why use this as the main teaching technique?
A scheme for early language learning should provide for clear linguistic progression and for other aspects of language learning, such as the production of spoken French - and it should include appropriate methodology. This folder, therefore, is not a scheme, but something to dip into, if you are willing to spend the price on a language learning resource with such a title!
Rosemary Bevis is a primary languages teacher in Stockport