The first few days of Intensive French are conducted in English. We will discuss as a class how the next five months are going to go, we talk about how they feel about Intensive French and we go over some strategies for dealing with the frustration they will feel when trying to function in a new language. One big frustration they feel is that they are not able to read English books in my class, only French ones during silent reading. In order to deal with this frustration, I talk about the three ways that they can read a book.
I ask the students to think back to when they were first learning to read. I have them talk about what they remember. Memories are often a little spotty on the subject of learning to read. Many think they just tried and they could do it. Some remember that it was frustrating and they had to read one word at a time. Others remember picture books very fondly. I tell them that learning to read in French is just like learning to read their first language (English for almost all of my students) except that it's easier because they already know so much about reading.
|My class library is better organized than this now with book|
baskets, but I don't have a more recent picture
Then I move on to the three ways we can read. I show them three books, all French. One is a book we read together in grade 4 pre-intensive French. The second is a comic strip book and the third is a simple book with very few familiar words. I ask them if they know the three ways to read a book. Through prompting and modelling I can get them to come up with the ideas themselves that they can read a book by:
1. reading the pictures (the comic book)
2. re-telling yourself a familiar story (the book from last year)
3. reading the words (the simple book)
I model with each of these books, showing them my thought process as I look at a few pages. I have them help me by saying what they think is going on in the book based on the pictures and words or from what they know from reading the book last year.
This lesson helps amazingly when I start up silent reading time, which I do right away on the first day. I feel it is very important to give my students some time to explore the French books on their own, just as students in Kindergarten are given time to explore books in their first language to help them learn to read. Many students find a sense of relief after I explain this to them. Before I think they feel like I'm going to plop some books in front of them and expect them to be able to read them in the traditional sense. That would be an unrealistic expectation of them at this point. After all, I'm there to teach them how to read, not expecting that they will be able to do it right away on their own without help.
How do you help your students settle into your classroom? What are some of your favourite first day activities and lessons?