Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To be or not to be...that shouldn't be the question

For my French 1 students, obviously their skills are extremely minimal.  They just started.  When teaching a language, you can't just pick and choose what topic to do when.  Many topics require previous knowledge.  For example, you can't teach the past tense without teaching avoir (to have).  There is a general, logical flow to how to teach any student a language, and it's common to start with square one: to be.

It's hard to describe anything in any language without knowing how to conjugate "to be".  She is a student.  I am smart.  We are American.  "Is", "am", and "are" are all forms of "to be".  French is very similar to English.  Like you wouldn't say "I is" in English, you wouldn't say "je est" in French.  It just doesn't make sense.

You also need to teach subject pronouns fairly quickly.  You can't constantly be saying Emily is smart, Emily is pretty, Emily is fun.  You say Emily is smart, she is pretty, she is fun.

So in Chapter 1 of our book series, part of it is to introduce être, which means "to be".  When I taught it this time, I taught them in conjunction of one another.  I taught "to be" at the same time I taught the subject pronouns.  BIG MISTAKE.  They started thinking that "je suis" meant "I" instead of "I am".  I ended up taking a step back and emphasizing that je, tu, il, elle, etc. never change.  It's the VERB that changes with each one.  For a solid ten minutes, I gave real life examples.  I asked the class which pronoun I would use if I was talking about my mother.  Or if I was talking about my mother AND myself.  Or if I was talking about my mom and her friends.  A bunch of different examples.  They seemed to have it.

So color me confused that their average score was a 20/30 on the être quiz I just gave them.  Well at school 1.  School 2 took it today, so we'll see how they do.  I clarified a few things differently for the School 2 kids and made a few more examples on the board before the quiz, so we'll see if that helps.

I'm thinking, next time around, I will probably start with JUST subjects one day and then add être the following day or a few days later.  They will never have a grasp on verbs if they can't get subject pronouns.

There is a really catchy song I like to use with the kids that helps them remember the different forms of être.  It can be found here.

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