Teaching Kids To Read a Second Language

Last week, I had my first really big ‘a-ha!’ moment. As a group, we learned to read. And we did this by understanding Les mots amis.

Les mots amis are, in a basic translation, Word Friends. A mot ami is a word in French that you recognize as being incredibly similar to an English word. So similar, in fact, that you can figure out the French word based on the definition that you know of the word in English. So, to try and figure out the texts that we were reading, we broke them up in chunks, and paragraphs. Just a little bit at a time. We read a text that had to do with Remembrance Day – a big text, that I’ve actually used before in French Immersion. We then spent time, breaking down paragraph by paragraph, and highlighted all of the words that were familiar to us. Something like what you see below:

In green, words that are familiar to the students are highlighted. In yellow, "Word Friends" are highlighted.
In green, words that are familiar to the students are highlighted. In yellow, “Word Friends” are highlighted.

In the classroom, we just did it in one color, but this is all the color that you saw on our smartphone when we did it together. And I was so impressed. From there, we looked at all of the words from the paragraph that we know. So for example, “If we know the following words out of the paragraph, what do we think the sense of the paragraph is?” Voila! We read. We made sense of it! And it was marvelous.

The kids were so encouraged. I’m now really pushing it home, so that they can get used to reading in French. The students are encouraged that they feel like even though they might not know all French words, they are still understanding the general sense of the text. It’s baby steps. But more importantly, these are baby steps that are bringing us in the right direction. My goal is that by the end of the year, our texts will be mostly highlighted.

I’m so encouraged that there was a little spark in our classroom. There are only more and more light-bulbs that will go off as kids feel encouraged about being successful in French. This will just grow us as a community. Here are to many many more.

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