French in the Nursery

Learning something new

At Cargilfield the children are introduced to French in Nursery. They have one lesson a week, lasting approximately twenty minutes. This means that we can have children learning French from the age of three. People are often surprised to hear this, but young children’s brains are very receptive at this stage and they learn without being aware of it, learning through play. I have had children who having being very quiet on beginning Nursery, speak their first word in my lesson, and in French!

The learning is based on what is happening round about them, although I do try to cover certain topics. For example, when we are learning about colours and clothes, I point to the children’s clothes and shoes. They now love to show me new shoes or other items of clothing as soon as they arrive, allowing further consolidation of the new learning. We often count animals on new sweatshirts or jumpers and recently we all counted the numbers of unicorns on a little girl’s dress! 

In the same way, when we have learned, “Comment ҫa va?”and its possible responses, “ҫa ne va pas”with its thumbs down symbol, quickly becomes a favourite. On starting a lesson, the children are very keen to show me a grazed knee or a scratch on their hand. This becomes an opportunity to learn some of the parts of the body. These sessions often end with a rendition of Têteépaules, genoux et pieds! 

Of course, the children are too young to learn to read the French language but that does not mean they don’t enjoy looking at books in French. Just as in English, they are very quick to pick up the refrain. “J’ai toujours faim”, as said by the Hungry Caterpillar, is a good example of this.  This is a very useful story as we can go over colours, numbers, food, as well as learning the very useful “j’aime” and “je n’aime pas”, not forgetting metamorphosis! 

Our lessons also involve Pierre, my puppet, and a menagerie of other stuffed animals. It is fun to see the children using these soft toys to talk some basic French. We also have plenty of song and dance, which they love, and it always amazes me how quick they are to pick up little songs. They are expert copiers! Songs are also very useful for memory. They are plenty of children in the Upper School, who on hearing the word “anniversaire”, launch into the song, “Quelle est la date de ton anniversaire?”!

In these strange times we are experiencing, our learning is taking different forms. However, learning though play and by following our natural curiosity continue to be very valid for the older boys and girls just as much as for the younger ones.  Working out why different designs of paper planes fly better than others is a good example of this. It is playing with physics! Allowing children to wonder about why things happen or how things work and supporting them in finding out the answers is an excellent way for them to learn.

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Cargilfield Connected

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