Thursday, June 5, 2008

UNIT PLAN: Le Cirque

I use a lot of booklets from Enchanted Learning with my SK classes. They are little thematic collections with great pictures for the kids to colour in. I find that my SK kids really need independent seatwork time; they can't sit on the carpet for thirty minutes straight. Colouring is great for kids this age because they can do it independently, and it's not so complex that it throws them if I come around and chat with them while they work (which is really where the important learning happens!) To get an idea of how I use these books, here's what I did for Le Cirque, our last unit of the year, which we completed today.

Intro Lesson: With my puppet, M. Le Bec, I told them we would be learning about the cirque. They already knew many of the animal words (le tigre, le lion etc.) from our animal unit, but the people (acrobate and funambule) were new to them, so I had M. Le Bec demonstrate using a metre stick as his platform. He proved a fairly capable acrobate (the kids all ooh'd and aah'd as he balanced on his bec and his ailes in various dramatic poses) but not so good a funambule. I used his many mishaps to reinforce 'il tombe!' which they had learned earlier in the year.

Secondly, I went through the book with them page by page, giving them a second to look at the picture and jump in if they knew the word, then saying it for them clearly and prompting them to repeat. When the book was done, I gave them the first page (the cover page) to colour.

Subsequent Lessons: Our carpet time always begins with some general comment ca va, le jour, le mois for 2-3 minutes. Then I spend a few minutes doing some sort of mini-lesson with them. For Le Cirque, this was generally M. Le Bec practicing his little circus acts while the kids all watched and chimed in with 'funambule!' or 'il tombe' or various other related phrases. I had predetermined that M. Le Bec would not be successful at the funambule until the very last lesson!

I generally give them the books one page at a time (or else you have impatient ones who scribble on all of them and then have nothing to do for the rest of the week!) so for every class, I would copy one more page for them. Before sending them to their tables with it, I take a minute and go through my model book again, showing them each page and letting them say the word. After 3-4 days, they can generally do this unprompted; I flip the page, they say the word, and we go through it in less than a minute. Sometimes, if we've gotten through the rest too quickly and have some extra time, I'll stop and ask questions about certain pictures, for example "le tigre, il est grand ou petit?" or "de quelle couleur est le lion?"

When we hit the 15-minute mark (or thereabouts) I'll send them to their tables with the page of the day. While they are colouring, I'll go around and chat with them about what they are working on. It's a great chance to review classroom words with them ("est-ce que tu colorie avec un marqueur or avec un crayon?") and to reinforce the unit vocabulary in a fun way ("oh! M. Le Bec fait l'acrobate sur ton oreille!") The children are also allowed to talk to each other, but my rule is that they must use the French words they know. I allow the occasional English word with kids this young, but I do remind them if I hear them say in English a word they know in French (or if I hear whole conversations in English!) They can also get extra tickets (which can be traded for prizes when they have enough of them) for things like saying a whole sentence by themselves, or using a word in an appropriate context and not just for the sake of using it. They are highly motivated to get the tickets, so it encourages them to try and push themselves, using as much French as they can.

Sometimes, the colouring goes quickly and if many seem finished, I'll stop a few minutes early and we'll play a game. The two favourites right now are Beep (which reviews numbers) and Vrai ou Faux (which reviews a lot of things!) I'll post more about these another time.

Last Few Classes: They generally take at least two classes to assemble the books. The pages tend to get a little tattered as they collect them, so I'll give them some class time to glue each onto construction paper. When they have all their pages glued, I staple it together and they can take them home.

I did a special activity for the end of the circus unit, because it was our last book of the year. I staged a circus for them in class. Some of the kids brought costumes; I let them get themselves organized with those, then got them on the carpet and brought our M. Le Bec, who has been practicing his funambule. Hourra, he finally got it. They all cheered from excitement. Then I had various stations set up around the room:

Jongleur: They had to juggle a ball between their two hands
Funambule: Tightrope walk across two metre sticks
Clowns: Some little bristol block men they could link together
Acrobate: Hula hoops

They went in groups of four to each station in rotation and played each game. Then I gave them some Barbe a Papa (cotton candy) as a special treat.

It was amazing. I combined two of my classes for the afternoon, and both of them wound up staying to watch the fun. I took pictures for their class scrapbooks. My one regret was forgetting to bring music. And, I wish we had more time, but that it always a concern for most teachers. I talked it up for a few days before it happened, so the kids were all quite excited, but they behaved beautifully and took turns with all the equipment. The principal came in to visit and was impressed that they knew the French words for everything!

Le Cirque was an excellent unit and went exactly as I planned it to. It was a wonderful way to end my SK year.

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