After just over two years of teaching the French AIM program at Calvin Christian School, I find that I’m really enjoying it!
Here is a description of the top 4 things I like about the AIM program:
From the start of class time until the end, we sing songs, move around, read, and speak together using French. Each grade is learning a dramatic story with amusing characters which make us laugh as we listen to, read, and retell the story. With its emphasis on developing listening and speaking skills, students are actively engaged in hearing and producing French for the whole class time. Each French word is gestured by me, the teacher, so students can actually watch the language unfold, and be prompted by each gesture to speak with confidence and accuracy in French. Aural, visual and kinesthetic learners can easily remember vocabulary, and can actively engage their whole bodies in learning the language.
Sometimes, learning the AIM way is so different, it almost seems weird! Weird in a fun way. Gone are the vocabulary lists to memorize. Gone are the formal verb conjugations. Gone are the endless sentences to rewrite. Gone are the lengthy paragraphs to decode. AIM provides meaningful, engaging, authentic communicative activities. As a result, students first listen, then speak, then read, and then write in French (strictly in that order), which is the reverse of how many of us have learned French (but is, in fact, how one learns a first language)! Because the gestures help the students speak with accuracy (grammatically and with correct pronunciation), they gain confidence in speaking French right away and develop strong listening comprehension skills. From there, the vocabulary embeds in their brains, so that when the written word is introduced, it has strong meaning and can be easily retained. In addition, a big difference from traditional programs is in verb conjugation. Instead of introducing all forms of regular and irregular verbs, AIM uses conjugations in first person because these conjugations all sound the same. In order to express the plural, AIM uses conjugations for “on” (we) and “tout le monde” (everyone). These controlled verb conjugations allow students to create full sentences, which then increases their ability to effectively communicate complete ideas right from the start. This increases fluency, which increases satisfaction, which increases desire to communicate more - all of which increases teacher, student, and parent happiness!!!
It offers full support.
During class time, the teacher is the main support for the student, guiding the choral French speaking using gestures, and prompting students individually to speak with gestural support as necessary. Outside of class time, AIM teachers and students all have access to the AIM web portal in which we can view and hear each song, story and play. In addition, each word and gesture that we learn is accessible for review. For parents, the web portal and website offer more info on the AIM philosophy and methodology, and a means to encourage and help their child in learning the vocabulary of his/her specific kit. For AIM teachers, there are excellent resources and supportive networking opportunities with AIM professionals and colleagues. Parents: if you would like to get your child connected to this AIM web portal in order to review at home, please email me for login info at email@example.com
The kids are speaking French! Teachers share with me that they hear their students using French phrases appropriately with their peers during other classroom activities. In the hallways, students are greeting me and each other in French and carrying on short, impromptu interactions using French. Parents tell me that their kids are conversing in French at home, as well as noticing French on signs and packaging. Some kids are even singing the AIM songs at birthday parties together! Their brains are absorbing it, their mouths are producing it with confidence, and their hearts are enjoying it. Ça, c’est fantastique! I’m pretty sure that primary and junior CCS students like the AIM French program for the same reasons that I do! So, just ask them: “Est-ce que tu aimes la classe de français? Pourquoi?”, and please report back to me! :)
Madame Van Eek