As the author of Excelerate French, I’d like to say, first of all, that teaching world language in public high school is what I did professionally for ten years. I’ve seen what works… and I’ve seen what doesn’t. When I started homeschooling my own children in 2003, it was fun trying out several world language curricula that were popular among homeschoolers. Some were pleasant enough– even downright cute– but we made very little headway with them. Others bored or frustrated us. Enter my experimentation phase!
Over the summer of 2007, I researched harder than ever for solutions. That fall, I offered a Total Physical Response (TPR) language class to the local homeschool community. What we found over the course of that school year was that students who used TPR felt confident and successful. I had never seen such smiley foreign language students! The following year, most of them came back for more, but they also seemed to be itching to do more. Enter the story phase!
When my group of (mostly) high school boys were given a lesson that employed both TPR and storytelling/dramatization, they beamed with satisfaction and rewarded me by speaking in paragraphs! Though I didn’t realize it at the time, we were actually employing Charlotte Mason’s idea of “narration” in our foreign language study.
The students were using whole language to express what they had seen and heard. And they did so in ways that were neither contrived nor merely memorized, but spontaneous, accurate, and totally internalized. Finally, the perfect fit.
After a happy, productive year of unprecedented results in my private classes, I began to feel badly for students and teachers all across America who were struggling– and suffering– their way through dry, rote, ineffective foreign language programs. If only there were a way I could videotape our lessons and make them available to others, I thought.
The first step towards making this vision a reality was writing an original curriculum based upon the sound teaching principles I had discovered to work best. To be efficient, it would have to feature high-frequency expressions (those used most often by native speakers). To be compelling, the material would have to appeal to the students in personal ways and through interesting and varied contexts. To enhance retention, lessons would need to capitalize on our human traits of empathy, appreciation for humor, etc. Excelerate SPANISH was born! but French was always a dream, and it was requested over and over by customers at conferences, in emails, etc.
After ten amazing years of sharing Excelerate SPANISH, I finally hired a team of professional translators to produce a French version. We were incredibly lucky to get my daughter, who holds a French degree from NCSU and who has studied abroad, lived, and worked in France, to do the video instruction. I gathered a nice group of volunteer subjects (most of whom had had little to no previous exposure to French), and the taping began. You will see in the videos that multiple age groups are represented. You see, since the language is taught using brain-friendly methods, and because the process mirrors early language acquisition, it works extremely well for most ages. I think you’ll see that in the faces of the video students. You’ll see it in the ear-to-ear grins of the younger (perhaps less self-conscious) kiddos in the videos. And you’ll see it in the mature and composed demeanor (sometimes referred to as “too cool for school”) in the middle and high school students.
Smiling and Successful!
With these videos, my main goal, the goal of offering a kinder, gentler, “golden rule” way of teaching French to anyone, anywhere, has been uniquely realized in the creation of the streaming membership. I invite you to “transport” your student(s) to our French class– vicariously, that is– and to join us for lessons that truly engage. At your convenience, on your schedule, and from the comfort of your living room.
Discover the Power of Story.