According to Elizabeth Roberts, French teacher at The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, learning a second language at a young age is a true gift. The benefits to the students stay with them their entire lives and help shape them into well-rounded, global citizens.
"At ACS, we offer an early-start, long-sequence French Language program," said Roberts. "Pre-K students get an introduction to it, and as they get older, they work up to four classes a week. In seventh grade, students correspond with a pen pal from a school in France, and can visit them (using a family-stay program) and even attend a few days of school there, giving them true immersion into French culture."
A few months later, in eighth grade, ACS students can host French students who visit the U.S. as part of this direct student exchange program. "It's a great opportunity for our students to return the favor, and to offer the French students a fun and educational immersion into American culture to help them learn English," added Roberts.
Roberts helped develop a curriculum called "Real Language Right Away", which offers a communicative approach to learning French using partner conversations. "We only speak French with our students from the beginning, and the early years especially focus on oral communication," said Roberts. "During middle school, students begin to analyze the language and study more grammar and writing." Most students place into French II Honors or French III when entering high school, giving them a distinct advantage over their peers.
The program's highlight is the eighth grade trip to Quebec. "The whole class participates in the trip, along with several French-speaking chaperones," explained Roberts. "We have developed a system for our immersion trip, and the students speak only in French the entire week. We visit Old Quebec, the Huron Wendake Village, and a Sugar Shack to learn about maple syrup production. It’s a wonderful immersion experience as the students complete our French program." For more information about the French Language program at ACS, please contact:
The Avery Coonley School
1400 Maple Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515