The nature of the learners
Children enter the early years of schooling with established communication skills in one or more languages and varying degrees of early literacy capability. For young students, learning typically focuses on their immediate world of family, home, school, friends and neighbourhood. They are learning how to socialise with new people, share with others, and participate in structured routines and activities at school. Typically they have little to no experience of French language and culture.
French language learning and use
French is learnt in parallel with English language and literacy. Learning in the two areas progresses at very different levels but each supports and enriches the other. French is used in classroom interactions, routines and activities, supported by the use of visual and concrete materials, gestures and body language. At this stage, there is a focus on play and imaginative activities, games, music, movement and familiar routines, which provide scaffolding and context for language development. Oral language is developed through listening to the sounds, shapes and patterns of French through activities such as rhymes, songs, clapping and action games, and through imitating and repeating sounds modelled by the teacher and aural texts. Learners experiment with simple formulaic expressions and one- or two-word responses to prompts and cues. As they progress to using French for interactions such as greetings or asking and answering questions, they notice that language behaves differently in different situations and that French speakers communicate in some ways that are different to their own. Creative play provides opportunities for exploring these differences and for using French for purposeful interaction, for example, asking for help, sharing ideas, challenging each other or expressing surprise.
Contexts of interaction
Learners interact with each other and the teacher, with some access to wider school and community members. Information and communications technologies (ICT) resources provide additional access to French language and culture experience, connecting learners’ social worlds with those of French-speaking children in different contexts. Students may also encounter ideas about France and the French language outside the classroom, through travel, the media or popular culture.
Texts and resources
Learners engage with a variety of spoken, visual and written texts. They listen and respond to teacher talk, share ideas and join in stories, songs, play and simple conversations. Written and digital texts include stories, wall charts and Big Books, and teacher-generated materials such as games, labels, captions and flashcards. Writing skills progress from tracing and copying high-frequency words to writing modelled words and sentences independently (for example, greeting cards, captions or labels) and co-creating shared resources such as word walls or storybooks.
Features of French language use
Students become familiar with the sound systems of the French language, including pronunciation, rhythm, pitch and stress. They learn to pronounce individual letters and letter combinations, including unfamiliar sounds such as -eau, -u, è, é, ou, r and g. They recognise and use the intonation patterns that distinguish between statements, questions and exclamations. They use simple basic sentence structure and learn to write single words and simple phrases, noticing the use of accents and how these change the sound of letters. They become familiar with the idea of grammatical gender and know how to use singular and plural forms. They notice similarities and differences between French and English and begin to develop curiosity around the idea of difference and culture.
Level of support
Rich language input characterises the first stages of learning. Learners are supported via the provision of experiences that are challenging but achievable, with high levels of scaffolding and support. This includes modelling, monitoring and moderating by the teacher, providing multiple and varied sources of input and stimulus, regular opportunities for revisiting, recycling and reviewing, and continuous cueing, feedback, response and encouragement.
The role of English
Learners are encouraged to use French whenever possible, with the teacher providing rich and supported language input. English is used as a medium of instruction and for explanation and discussion. This allows learners to talk about differences and similarities they notice between French and their first language(s) and culture(s), to ask questions about language and culture, and to consider how they feel when they hear or use French and about how they view different languages and the people who speak them. This introduction to the ‘meta’ dimension of intercultural learning develops the ability to consider different perspectives and ways of being.