REGINE BERTHET, French Immersion School, California
I have been teaching almost three wonderful years in San Diego, a French immersion school for pre-school to grade 5. The school offers native-speaking teachers who follow the French-based curriculum promoting French culture and the development of life values within our international community. The curriculum includes French language, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Arts and Social studies. Our students get a real immersion in French culture. The school’s population is diverse, with a majority of North Americans and French natives, but including Asians, Africans, South Americans, Russians and other European nationalities.he school follows the French Government Educational Curriculum. But we also incorporate American curriculum, especially concerning History and Geography for a genuine trans cultural and educational exchange environment.
As part of introducing French language and culture, I use typical French events or traditions. I always do special lessons to transmit our culture through some specific celebration or activity. We are used to working very close per grade with the other teachers, but also the Parent Teacher association. Parents always volunteer to chaperone our cultural field trips to museums or other outside-school activities.
Below are some examples of activities that I did with my students throughout these past years.
LA GALETTE DES ROIS – French culinary tradition – 1st week of January
It is one of the French traditions to celebrate l’Epiphany, every first week of January. There is a kind of pie called “la Galette des Rois”. Inside the pie, a charm is hidden. The lucky one who gets the charm gets to wear a nice decorated crown. This is a tradition to thank the three wise men who came to celebrate Jesus’s birth.
First I introduce the tradition during a History lesson. We read the story of this tradition online, where the students see pictures and get a visual idea about it. Then, the students find and copy the pie recipe on the ‘Writing Production’ exercises book. After that, during the Art activity, they make a crown and decorate it. Finally, in team, they share some tasks: some are going to get the recipe and some will be in charge of baking the pastries, including inserting the charm. We celebrate the happy kings or queens all together with the Elementary school during the recess at the end of week. The kids enjoy the “Galette” and the heritage very much.
For a week, I taught History, Writing Production, and Arts using activities for this event. In addition to this learning, they wrote the story of this French tradition in for Trimester School Newspaper, called ‘The Small Pen’. Some parents mentioned, that their kids baked the “Galette” again at home to share this tradition with friends and parents.
MARDI GRAS – Carnival parade
This is a whole school activity (192 students plus Parents) -3rd week of February.
The Carnival Parade is an important component of our traditional culture since the 15th century. This event followed France to her colonies. It is the last day before the Careme. People organize a big and crazy festival to eat, wear disguises, and enjoy pleasure before a hard 40 days of diet and restrictions until Easter.
At our school, it is a children’s fest. The highlight of “Mardi Gras” is the big parade where everybody dresses in costume.
To introduce the event, in first, I choose a topic for the parade. Then, we study it in class. The students have to search the representative costumes online. After that, we make the costumes and decorate masks during Art class. We try to keep secret our choice to surprise the parents who come to the school to see the Parade and share the lunchtime with us. In respect to the tradition, we also eat crepes made by our students of the school. Some rotations are organized between the different grades on this afternoon.
This cultural event gathers teachers, children and parents. We mix History lessons, computer skills for our research, and Art class for the costumes to teach this tradition.
The children particularly enjoy wearing the costumes they have made. They are motivated to learn the cultural heritage and share it with their parents.
INTERNATIONAL FAIR – April – Students from 1st to 6th grades about 90 students plus 24 parents
I organize an international fair in collaboration with the families of the school. Our school counts more than 20 different nationalities. It was a good opportunity to ask to the parents to do an exhibition of their cultures.
Parents and their child usually wearing a traditional costume, some booths are installed to display handicrafts, food specialties, maps, pictures, and arts are exposed. Some representations are visual, some videos or some folkloric dances.
In small groups, the students of the school come to observe, watch, touch, and listen the small conference. They have a real chance to experience those other cultures.
Before the event, students receive a questionnaire to ask some questions concerning the Countries History, Geography, and other main topics. They summarize the answers in their Geography exercise book. After the fair, we have a debate to know what they have discovered during this enriching activity.
DIALOGUE WITH FRENCH SCHOOL – ‘CLEMENT APLATI’ or Flat Stanley’ in original version
Class 2nd grade. 15 students – Exchange mailings with a 2nd grade class in Saint Charles Elementary School, located in France, 20 students
This is a children’s book written by an American Jeff Brown. It is the story of a little boy who has been flattened during a night by a heavy board with pictures and posters lung above his bed. He becomes a really special character who can visit his friends by being mailed in an envelope.
“Clement Aplati” became a famous school project. I took this opportunity for exchange with the 2nd grade class of SAINT CHARLES Elementary School close to Lyon in France. Since October 2014, every year we have been working on this project with our different students.
During the Art activity, each student creates and decorates a “Clement Aplati” looking like him or her. Then they write a letter explaining who they are, where and how they live. They take pictures with the ‘Clement’ pattern on different places around San Diego or in California. When all of the students finish, we mail it to France. A correspondence between the two classes takes place upon at receipt of our shipment. We exchange by email and skype. Usually all of our flattened Clement come back from beyond the Atlantic with pictures where the French students or their families have posed with him in front of monuments, buildings, museums or other tourist sites.
During Geography class, they search on internet the different places shown in the letters from France. Therefore, we study the map of France or map of the world following Clement’s travels. It is a motivating and enriching project to learn our culture. Students dialogue by skype, transmit videos and pictures by internet. It is a culturally broadening experience and links computer skills, Writing Production, Art, Geography, History and Civic Education.
Some friendships between the French and American students are created. They can continue their written exchanges to discover deeper the other culture through someone of their age.
CULTURAL ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE THE HOST SCHOOL
MEMBER AND VOLUNTEERING FOR FRENCH COTTAGE – Balboa’ Night – San Diego- first week on December
Every year on the first week In December – We celebrate the Balboa Park Holiday Nights. People come from different parts of California sometimes for this very famous event. In the most popular Park of San Diego, a special night is organized with foreign nationalities living in San Diego who have some small cottages to represent their cultures.
The French Cottage association traditionally serves French Onion Soup and Crepes. I am volunteer to help this association. We serve and inform the participants about our Culture. It is a really good exchange with people coming from different countries. During this floodlighted night, all San Diego’s population spends time to discover other cultures through the food, music and Art expression. Everybody enjoys that night. For me it is the opportunity to transmit my culture but also learn and communicate with the other foreign countries. This is a real exchange and really broadening event.
HIKE-BIKE – ALLLIANCE FRANCAISE DE SAN DIEGO – 2015 – 2016 – every one Sunday per month
The group from about from 15 to 20 people composed of some Francophones, Americans or other foreigners who enjoy practicing French . They are learning our French culture in different ways. We schedule each different trails adapted for all levels for a day of Hiking or Biking. On the trail we are exchanging ideas and stories, talking about our country and meeting new people. A picnic allows to sharing our food specialties. There are some francophone meals from Caraibes, Europe, Canada but also African or Asiatic as well. I am really enjoying this sharing culture.
Working in an immersion school in the United States has been a real chance for me and my international students to share so much about our culture and mixed cultures as well. I could mention so many other positive educational examples. I would like to get two more years extension to have the possibility to continue the language and cultural exchanges of the three past years, which flew by so fast.
I have enrolled in a Second Language class in continuing Educational at San Diego Mesa College, after my work to improve my English. My goal is to better communicate with parents and my American environment.
However, I will also get a higher certification. With it, when I go back to France, I would like better communicate and transmit my English skill to my students. In second hand, I want to experience further the American educational methods to learn some ideas concerning Teaching. It is always interesting to discover other methods leading to a more and more efficient learning.