Over the past half term, the children of Year 4 have been studying a tiny French speaking island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It is thousands of miles away, and only 800,000 people live on the island of la Reunion. The children have learned very important key French phrases like ‘there is/il y a’ and ‘on peut trouver/you can find’, which they will continue to use in other topics. However, they have also studied some more unusual vocabulary like ‘sugar cane/la canne à sucre’, ‘shark/le requin’ and ‘an active volcano/un volcan actif’. On the surface, this topic may seem rather unusual to learn and some of its vocabulary unimportant. In reality, it has proven to be one the most fruitful and important topics of the year so far for the children of Year 4.
This is because it is has been an opportunity for students to not only learn more advanced French but for them to explore the core values of the British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park. I decided to study this tiny island instead of France to teach that France is not the only French speaking country. Open-mindedness and international thinking are core values of our school.
The children have discovered a new culture that is different to their own -- one that is sometimes strange and hard to understand. They discussed how it is respectful to learn about other cultures and countries beside their own. The students have developed their co-operations skills when they were challenged to create a video for other children in French to teach about the island. Furthermore, learned to empathize with others and think about how live can be different for others. We have had many conversations about what it would be like to live on a small island that has a lot of cyclones and volcanic eruptions and how we would feel living there. We have discussed why tourism is so important to the people of Reunion and why it is important to learn about the rare and endangered animals that live on the island.
Students at the British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park learn how to do important things in French like count from 1-20 but they also focus on learning what counts. French is a perfect opportunity to help make them citizens of the world.
Adam Hopps is a French teacher and aspiring leader.