I believe that a strong foundation in oral French is essential and that learning French should be fun. These beliefs are very evident in everything I do and that you see in my classroom. In my classroom, there are many incentive-based strategies systems, which are used to encourage students to take risks. French is the language of communication in my French Immersion classroom. In order to build students confidence and ease in using French to communicate, there are a number of systems in place that promote risk-taking and communicating in French. Part of risk-taking is trying even when you don’t have the right answer and being okay with being wrong sometimes. With time, practice, patience and support, you can develop independence and confidence in your abilities. These systems are based on positive reinforcement and reward students for using French, for reminding others to speak French and for encouraging students to support others who need support in speaking French.
Les Billes - Marbles
This system rewards individuals for their efforts speaking French and the whole class as well. I have two containers in my classroom – one that is labelled La classe and another one that is labelled M. Hartnell. To begin, I fill the container labelled M. Hartnell with marbles (les billes). As students speak French, they can take one of my marbles and place it in the container labelled La classe. Students typically win between one and three marbles if they speak to me in French. Gradually, as the students speak more French, they take the billes from the teacher’s container to the classroom container. The goal is for them to transfer all of les billes to the classroom container. When this happens, there is a draw, where seven students are chosen at random to receive a prize from the prize box. The amount of marbles they win is in direct relation to the complexity of what they are saying, how much risk is involved and whether it is frequently practiced language that is a classroom expectation. This is also dependent on the time of the year, as at the beginning of the year, students are just coming off of summer vacation so they are rewarded for most of what they say in French. As the year progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to gain more marbles. As their French develops, so do my expectations – both in quantity and in quality.
Another system that I have in my classroom is Francocraft. I developed this system based on my students’ love for Minecraft. This system tracks how much French students speak on a daily basis. All students start at Level 1 (Niveau 1), which is the grass level – to represent the grass in the game Minecraft. In Minecraft, characters dig below the surface to find different stones and gems. As students speak more French, they break through the grass level to get to the dirt level. The more French, they speak, the higher the level they will attain. Each level represents a different aspect from the game – the higher the level they are, the rarer the gem they are. I track their progress with a game board in the classroom that is always displayed. Their levels are displayed with actual items that represent the grass/dirt/gems from the game Minecraft. They move up in levels gradually as the year goes on, depending on the amount of marbles they win. Therefore, if a student speaks frequently in French, that student will receive marbles, which in turn increases his/her level in Francocraft.
Once students have demonstrated a strong commitment to the language by making a concerted effort to always speak in French with the teacher and their peers, thereby helping to create a truly French environment, then they are awarded the distinction of Petit Prof. This distinction is only provided to those who have achieved the highest level in Francocraft, which is the Emerald level. Becoming a Petit Prof entitles the student to certain privileges but also requires some extra responsibilities as well. Petit Profs are identified by either a bracelet or a necklace that says Petit Prof and these students chose our weekly P.A.T. game. P.A.T. stands for Preferred Activity Time and is a part of Fred Jone’s Positive Classroom Discipline, which I follow in my classroom. The class earns P.A.T. through their positive behaviour. During P.A.T, we play a game that reinforces what we are learning in class. The Petit Profs are given a selection to choose from and vote on which activity they would like for the class to do during P.A.T. As part of their responsibilities, which they accept once they become a Petit Prof, they are also required to provide assistance to students who need help speaking French. When students need help speaking in French, they are advised to seek out a Petit Prof as a resource before coming to the teacher for assistance.
La pioche diamant – Diamond Pickaxe
Each week, the diamond pickaxe – pioche diamant is awarded to one Petit Prof who has demonstrated exceptional dedication to helping his/her peers in any way he/she can. In addition to it being a high honour to receive this award, the student can actually carry the pioche diamant with him/her for the day as a trophy and trade it in at the end of his/her time in French class for their chose between various different rewards.