King Cake – A French Tradition

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In order to teach my children all about French culture, I decided to start a new tradition: bake a king cake for Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day, which is January 6th. Traditions vary from region to region. This year, I wanted to make a cake. Next year, I may opt for a galette (pastry) instead.

King Cake and breakfast

King Day Breakfast

We had a lot of fun with it. I hid a LEGO mini-figure in the cake and asked the youngest member of the family to sit under the table and decide who should get each slice.

King Day Traditions

The youngest sits under the table and decides the order of the slices.

The person who gets the slice with the mini-figure gets to wear a crown and be king or queen for a day. Continue reading »

I am no Martha Stewart, but I managed to manufacture a card stock crown while the cake was baking. My daughter glued some beads on it and we stapled it to close it. In France, bakeries will sell the cake with a paper crown.

Girl with mini-figure for King Day

She happened to get the mini-figure in her slice

What do you know? She got la fève (fava bean in French, which is traditionally what they put in these cakes a long time ago). Maybe I should look for a baby for next year, as I hear they also use them in these cakes.

Girl wearing crown for Epiphany

We crowned her queen for a day.

We had fun and thus started a new family tradition, all the while learning something extra about French culture. Vive la reine!


Petra Lingua Revisited

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Petra Lingua is our curriculum of choice for learning French. We read books in French and I talk to them in French in the afternoon, but we build vocabulary in a systematic way with Petra Lingua.

I have written before about this website: here and here. You can learn many languages, like German, Chinese, Spanish, Italian and even Swedish.

In the fall, when it became clear that my local homeschool community did not really have an interest in our French Play Group, I put Petra Lingua to the side and focused on reading to the kids in French. I also tried using French on a more consistent basis with them, in the afternoon.

Then life happened: the holidays in November and December; my father’s passing in January; the flu in February. While they lingered on the bed with no energy, I read to them a lot, but then I also put a laptop in front of them to see if they had any interest and energy for Petra Lingua French. They did!

Children studying with Petra Lingua

My children study French with Petra Lingua while having the flu

So much so, they fought over who to do the exercises. Continue reading »

 They brought the account we have with them from 25% accomplished to 40% and, a few days later, 50%. I was happy to see the progress, and then wondered if we could do this on a more consistent basis, say twice a week. When I grew up, we took French and English in school, starting in middle school. Every week, we had two hours of French and two hours of English. If you applied yourself, you could become an advanced speaker by the time you finished high school, and some of us did.

Children study French online

My children’s energy came back as they worked through the exercises on Petra Lingua

Petra Lingua is not very expensive, it is fun for young kids, and it provides lots of repetition to facilitate memorization. You can purchase it online or on CDs and DVDs. The mascot, a dog named Oiffy, is adorable. You can even get a hand puppet to use with your youngest audience.

They do offer me this software for free in exchange for an honest review. I am here to honestly tell you that this program works if you work it. My children sing along and remember words and phrases many weeks after the lessons. Here’s to consistency in teaching languages!


Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

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So glad to be reviewing one of the French Courses from Middlebury Interactive Languages. You know me, I love a good French curriculum for my kiddos. This came available to me through the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. It doesn’t get better than free, right?

Boy and girl watching Le Petit Chaperon Rouge

My kids watching Le Petit Chaperon Rouge

I was entrusted with Elementary French for grades 3-5, obviously, geared towards students in grades 3-5. You might say, “Wait just a minute, Adriana! I thought your kids were in first grade and PreKindergarten. How come you are putting this curriculum in front of them, when it’s for higher – albeit elementary – grades?”  Continue reading »

Provided you said all of the above to me, including “albeit,” I would answer with a reassuring smile: “Never fear, dear friend! I am no pushy mama. My kids can handle this because it is a series of cartoons in French, followed by interactive exercises. I have been teaching them French for five months now, using other resources. Sure, the vocabulary in this course might be a bit over their head, but that’s where learning comes in. They get challenged to learn new words while repeating words they already know. The cartoons keep them riveted to the story line. My kids might even get some words from the context on the screen.”

Middlebury French Course Elementary

What we got out of it was lots of listening to French. Plus, my son, who can read in English and Romanian, was able to peek at the French captioning on the screen while the cartoons were going on – so a gentle introduction to what French sounds look like when you spell them out. Yes, this curriculum is great that way. You can hear AND see the words being said right on the screen.

The exercises are interactive. Kids either listen and choose the right words, or arrange numbers in order or click and move words around on the screen to match concepts etc. They are so varied. After watching the cartoons, which are classic stories like “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge” (“Little Red Riding Hood”), the students get to answer questions which drill vocabulary.

Middlebury Interactive Languages

The price for this is $119 per student per semester.

The curriculum repeats the cartoon after a few exercises. Repetition is the mother of learning, right? This is especially true with languages. After that, more exercises, including – I am not kidding – a language lab! How cool is that? Using your device’s mike, you can record your own voice and hear it back in order to correct your pronunciation.

Middlebury French Course Language Lab

There are also tidbits about culture, called CultureGrams, which allow the kids a window into how people who speak French interact with and greet each other.

Of course, this company offers several courses for different age groups, as you can see below.

Middlebury Courses

For your information, Middleburry Interactive courses for the K-2 crowd include a total of 35 lessons for the semester, while the Grades 3-5 program (what I worked with) has 45 lessons per semester. They recommend two days a week for Grades K-2, and 2-3 days per week for Grades 3-5.

Both the Middle School and High School programs have a total of 90 lessons per semester, with the recommendation that students complete a lesson per day for 18 weeks. All levels are self-paced, so the student can speed ahead or slow down as needed.

We were definitely self-paced. When my kids get into something, they can’t stop. They watched almost all the videos the first session. I sat and translated through them all, then guided them through a few exercises. The following session, they just wanted to watch the videos and do no exercises. I had to tell them we will not be watching any more videos until they work through the exercises.

So even though we did only two sessions per week, we got rather far, but we skipped over some of the drills. My plan is to go back and systematically work one lesson at a time and make sure we cover all the drills available. Otherwise, I don’t think they will remember the vocabulary.

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French Friday, Petra Lingua Review

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We love French in our homeschool. I have started teaching my children French on a regular basis this spring. We joined the Alliance Française of Knoxville, signed up for Popi, and watched Caillou on youtube. However, I felt the need for a systematic approach to learning French. Enter Petra LinguaContinue reading »

Full disclosure: they are one of my sponsors. But I would not be writing about this curriculum if I did not think it was great or if I did not use it with my children.

French learning for kids under 10 - Petra Lingua

French learning for kids under 10

So Petra Lingua is for younger elementary kids, say ages 3-10. However, if you are an adult who needs to study French and enjoy animation, this is a great product for you, as well. I would add that if you feel intimidated by language learning, you should definitely consider Petra Lingua. Their mascot, a cute doggy named Wuffy, will become your best buddy – while teaching you French.

I know my kids laugh every time he enters the screen. He makes an entrance in a different way every time.

The lessons contains songs, repetition, a chance for you to repeat back what the speaker said, as well as exercises to practice what you learned.

Also, you should know this product comes in two versions: an online version and a DVD kit, which offers a booklet with exercises and a music CD, as well as the DVD for the lessons. At the end of the 20 lessons, you will have learned 500 basic words in French and, hopefully, you will have gained some confidence toward more lessons.

They even have a lesson plan you can follow so that you know what to expect (or what to do) for each lesson.

The online product costs $4.99 per month for six months. How’s that for a bargain? You can do one lesson a week and be done in 20 weeks, with no stress and without breaking the bank. If you wanted the DVD kit, which also contains a Wuffy Dog Handpuppet and a set of playing cards to practice vocabulary, it is $75.

So it boils down to how good your internet connection is. I use this set to teach my French Play Group at the library and their connection is not so good on some days. The result? The songs get interrupted a lot as the laptop keeps buffering. I have learned to bring the DVDs instead.

My kids love Wuffy and they play with the handpuppet a lot. They sing the songs and request certain lessons just because they like them. For instance, my daughter really, really likes the Vegetables and Fruits – which happens to be available for free on their website. My son prefers the lesson about counting to 20 – things come in train cars and he loves trains.

If you want to watch the free lesson, go ahead and sign up. You will receive a code for 15% off when you do decide to purchase. How cool is that?

As we progress through these lessons, I will be back to tell you some more about them. Until then, au revoir!


French Friday – French Play Group Lesson Plan Numéro 1

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About two months ago, I had a burning desire to start a French Group. All the details have been worked out and, in a few days, we will have our first meeting. So, so exciting.

This is a post for all the parents bringing their children, but I thought it might inspire others, too.

 

Here’s the lesson plan for the first French Play Group:

1. Start with Bonjour, bonjour les amis, a song from the CD Whistlefritz, Allons Danser. I will have the kids sitting on the floor, girls on one side and boys on the other side. That’s to demonstrate the difference between masculine and feminine nouns and adjectives in French. Also, to be able to point at the girls when we say “copines” and to point at the boys when we say “copains.”

I will bring the CD and we will sing along twice. I am making up some hand motions.

You can listen to bits of the song on the Amazon link above, to get an idea. I have not found a youtube video for it. – 5 minutes

Whistlefritz French Learning Allons Danser CD

2. Read several books to them:  Continue reading »

a. L’Été – for simple vocabulary about summer time; Reading A-Z is a great source of French leveled books; our e. selection below is also from the same website

b. Popi magazine article – for the story about Petit Ours Brun – Moi, j’ai un copain – in the May 2014 issue

c. Popi magazine article – for the story called Coucou, bébé – in the June 2014 issue – to learn another way to say hi

d. Madeleine – it’s a rather difficult book for them at this stage, but they must be challenged a bit. Plus, Madeleine will be one of our French friends throughout the year and we must introduce her. Our end-of-the-year party, in May, will have a Madeleine theme, definitely. Maybe.

e. Chaud, froid – to reinforce the words for hot, cold, which are also found in our Bonjour song

Reading should take 10-12 minutes. Our children are young, but I hope they can make it. I don’t know them very well, either. So I will adjust. If they get antsy, I will keep one or two books for another time.

 

3. Sing “Dans la forêt lointaine.” I will bring a felt nature background with a faraway forest and I made two puppets, a cuckoo and an owl, to go with the song. We will go through it twice. – 5 minutes

 

4. PetraLingua.com French Lesson nr. 1 – Woofy, the Petra Lingua mascot, will teach us, hopefully in person. This is our curriculum for the year and we will do one lesson per meeting. I am expecting a package from them (they are in Croatia), which will have an actual stuffed animal Woofy – it’s a hand puppet. If it does not arrive by next week, we will have to make do with admiring him online. It will increase the anticipation for next time.

Petra Lingua - online languages for kids

The plan is to connect my laptop to the TV screen in the room. I will ask an older child or several to come and do the exercises on the laptop and then all can see it. 10 minutes

 

5. Free play time – bring toys that do not require batteries to “work,” please. – 20 minutes

I will bring wooden blocks, a Madeleine puzzle, a Lincoln Logs set and similar things. No video games, 3D Angry Birds or toy guns, please.

The kids will speak to each other in English for now. Those of us who speak French can play with them and point out a French word here and there.

 

6. Clean up – 5 minutes

 

7. Sing Au Revoir – twice, from the same Whistlefritz CD – 5 minutes.

 

I have saved several documents on our Sevier County Homeschoolers Facebook page: guidelines for the group; a calendar showing the meeting dates and rooms we will be using at the library throughout the year; the titles of our lessons for the year; and lyrics and vocabulary for the songs.

 

À bientôt!

 

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