The aim of the French Department is to enable pupils to understand and communicate in the target language. In the process, we would hope to be able to broaden the boys’ social perceptions and to promote a positive image of France and French-speaking countries. In the Junior School we build upon the boys’ natural enthusiasm to communicate as well as feeding their cultural curiosities, as we seek to introduce them, in a lively way, to a language with which some of them may have a certain familiarity. Communication is assessed in both oral and written form, with progress being regularly tested and monitored internally, in preparation for Common Entrance or PSS exams.
From the Junior School through to Year 4, the emphasis in lessons is very much on listening and speaking. From the outset, the target language is the language of the classroom as much as possible and creative activities provide enjoyment and intellectual stimulation. In the early days, the French curriculum is tailored so that boys can be engaged and stretched at every level. From Reception to Year 2, boys have one French lesson per week. A variety of strategies are employed in our teaching, including mime, song, drama, language games, quizzes and competitions. Whilst the spoken word is key at every stage, listening skills are gradually built up and as the boys progress they are encouraged to develop an understanding of the written word. By the time they reach Year 3, boys will have two lessons per week some of which take place in the ICT room which allows boys to work individually at their own pace to explore extended aspects of the work they have covered as a group. Topics covered include personal information, food and drink, pets, colours and clothes. Culturally we consider areas such as School life in France, French cuisine, geography and iconic events such as the Tour De France.
From Year 4 onwards, boys spend some lesson time in the I.T. Room and increasingly on laptops, where they have the opportunity to work on language and vocabulary-based tasks and games to support the work they do in the classroom. Several websites are accessed during these sessions, for example, www.linguascope.com, www.languagesonline.org.uk, www.frenchrevision.co.uk , and www.zut.org.uk and some are also available to boys as an additional resource out of school. From Year 5 onwards, reading and writing play an increasingly important role. The French section in the Senior School library has been expanded to provide texts suitable for whole class library sessions, particularly suited to Years 4 and 5. Authentic recorded material is used to accustom boys to a range of different accents, voices and intonation and they attempt many different written tasks in the form of short messages, postcards and informal letters. Our aim is to encourage an understanding that the language, whilst being a tool to be used in the classroom, is also a key to a broader society, and that French is very much a living language rather than simply a sterile classroom pursuit. By the age of 13, all pupils should be able to cope orally in practical situations, with varying degrees of accuracy and with a reasonable French accent. They should also be able to bring their linguistic knowledge to bear on situations outside their immediate experience, displaying a certain flexibility and mastery of vocabulary and structures. Reading for pleasure is encouraged, with classroom time regularly given over to Allons-y, Bonjour and Chez Nous magazines, as well as to more formal resources such as the A La Carte scheme.
In Year 7, boys begin to correspond with pupils from our partner/Exchange school, the Collège Henri Matisse in Linselles, near Lille. They are encouraged to maintain regular email contact as well as sending traditional letters, via a bulk mailing at several points throughout the year. In Year 8, this develops into a full exchange, with Hall boys spending 4 days with their host family in October and welcoming their ‘correspondants’ for a similar period in December.