French flavour at St Laurence’s

THE first question I had to answer on my first day in French class at St Laurence’s Primary School in Leongatha during my journalism work placement at The Star was, “Is the Eiffel Tower bigger than our school?”
What a beautiful question. Of course it is, but how could you realise if you only have seen it in a book.
The Eiffel Tower in the French capital, Paris, must appear to them so beautiful, so high and so far away, like the simple idea for me to teach French in Australia one day.
That’s what I’m doing though. Twice a week since I arrived in Australia I drive my car and park in front of Saint Laurence O’Toole Primary School in Leongatha and join teacher Margareth Gatehouse for one hour of class.
There, students for the most have started French one month ago, which doesn’t prevent them from telling me “Bonjour, comment ca va ?” (“Hello, how are you?”) every time we cross each other in the hallways.
At their age, I was only able to say dog and cat, maybe little more.
French students gather in the library three times a week.
The voice of the French teacher over the speaker is like a rallying cry.
“Les anges de la langue sont attendus à la bibliothèque” she says, (“Language angels are expected in the library”.)
Once we get together, we learn the basics: the pen, the eraser, the pencil sharpener. And as they learn these words in French, I learn some of them in English. I take this opportunity to thank them for the word paintbrush. I’ll think about them every time I’ll use it.
At St Laurence’s, students are not the only ones struggling with French.
Every teacher needs to get started too so students can speak French in every class all week long. It’s always very funny to hear teachers during lunch time. I feel more confident in English as a result.
Back in the days in France, I only had English two hours a week; just enough to learn some words and forget them until next class.
Here in Leongatha, students speak French all week long while in no case is French essential for their futures.
Students spend three hours a week with Mrs Gatehouse and school has set up a point system which encourages students to practise speaking their foreign language.
They say “bonjour” when they arrive somewhere, “au revoir” when they leave the place and use French to express all the basic actions you could do in a classroom. The reward is to win pastas, with the final goal being to have your jar full of macaroni!
St Laurence’s is one of the very rare schools to experiment with this way of learning a foreign language.
Margareth Gatehouse said in long term, she would like to go further and use different colour ribbons as a reward. Every colour could represent a different step in the new language learning.
“My French is not incredible but sufficient to teach young students” she said.
Playful aspects take a central place in Mrs Gatehouse’s way of teaching.
“We focus on what could be very useful for them. Language is all about human exchanges. To me, the main reason of learning a new tongue is sharing with others” she said.
Mrs Gatehouse is in charge of writing the scripts for the teacher as they can be able to teach French world relayed to their own subject.
Is there a best way to learn something than work on it every day?
At the end of the year students would definitely be able to ask their way in Paris and exchange with a French baker as they work on the dialog “how to order a baguette.”
Fair enough. I would only have to buy cheese for our picnic under the Eiffel Tower.

Oh la la: from left (gauche) to right (droite), Eve Hansen, Margaret Gatehouse, Leo Van Rossen, Lydia Giles, Thomas Gromotka, Katie Blackshaw, Zara Gannon, Kelsey Landry, The Star’s visiting French journalist Tom Hertig and Matthew Patton gathered in Leongatha’s St Laurence’s Primary School library for the usual Thursday morning French lesson.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=24650

Posted by on Apr 10 2018. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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