Last time, I wrote about using a second language after not using it for many years and how it was like riding a bicycle. It would be rusty, but with some practice it could come back.
Imagine now that you were starting to learn a language with no previous experience to fall back on. You don't know any of the vocabulary, the way that the sentences are formed is different and all the nouns are either masculine or feminine, but you don't have any way of figuring out which gender they are.
Imagine the feelings you would have if you needed to communicate. This can be the way young children feel when they enter an immersion program.
Note: I will be referring to French throughout this post as that is the second language I have familiarity with. However, these thoughts can apply to other languages as well.
When young children enter into an immersion program, they don't have someone translating for them. They have to figure out what is being said through pictures, stories, gestures, and songs. As they begin to do various activities and their ears become attuned to the accents and the ways the sentences are spoken, they will gradually develop a vocabulary that they can use to begin communicating themselves.
Here are some ideas to help kids feel more comfortable when learning a new language. Some of these ideas will also work for older learners. it's important to keep in mind that beginning French learners can be scared to take risks in speaking and writing French, especially if they are older and more self conscious.
If you are teaching French Immersion or tutoring beginning learners it can be challenging when your students don't understand what you are saying and they are unfamiliar with the sentence structure and grammar rules. You have to remain patient and provide activities that will engage their attention and stimulate their French comprehension.
French immersion can be a tricky subject for beginning French learners, especially when it comes to grammar and remembering which words are masculine or feminine. To help ease their transition into French speaking, try encouraging them to take risks in their French by providing fun speaking and writing activities.
The goal is to help them get comfortable with the language and encourage them to take risks speaking and writing. Listening carefully and repeating stories or poems, playing guessing games to learn vocabulary, conjugating verbs, creating songs and rhymes, as well as writing French postcards are among the many captivating tasks you can use to engage your new French speakers.
If your students are reluctant to participate, try starting with gesture-based activities like Simon Says and Follow the Leader; challenge the children to listen carefully and respond in French. Instead of educational games, use French-style charades or improvisations where they build French sentences around their body movements.
Beginners can sometimes even find it intimidating to take a risk and speak any French out loud – so here are some activities you can use in your classroom to develop French fluency among students. A good activity for speaking French is role-play of everyday tasks, like grocery shopping or ordering a meal, which shows students different ways they can use French in their daily lives. Other useful activities include group work to help students practice conversation, playing Pictionary or matching word games for spelling and vocabulary building, creating board stories or comic strips for writing practice, and making silly sentences. These activities are great for making French both challenging and amusing for beginning learners.
Fortunately, there are plenty of fun activities that can be done to help them understand French better. I have only provided a small sampling of ideas.
Throughout the years, I have created many resources that have been helpful in the classroom and with tutoring young students. You can check out my TPT store French categories to find out more about them.
Here's one that can help with ordering food at a fast food place. This was created with one of my students. Click on the image to check it out.
Don't forget that helping students feel safe makes a world of difference when exploring French -- positive reinforcement and plenty of encouragement will foster enthusiasm for speaking and writing in French.
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About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.