Wednesday, 14 November 2012


By: Kelsey Patton
M.A. M.T (Master of Teaching)
French Teacher
Voice Intermediate School

“Language learning has three ingredients: risk taking, vulnerability and intuition”
John DeMado

These words above were shared with me  at an AIM Language Learning conference this summer, and I look to them at every turn as my students and I co-create our French experience this year. This program utilizes a gesture-based approach and incorporates drama, music, and dance to help kids gain fluency, confidence and a joy of language learning. As part of the program, we work toward a big goal: “Seulement en Francais” (French only) during class. This is a huge undertaking! It calls on students to take risks outside the comfort zone of English and to be willing to experience the vulnerability of a new language. It calls upon teachers and students to value intuition and to make space for it to grow.

As part of this process, one of my students suggested that we make crepes in celebration of our immersion efforts. I was thrilled by the idea and gathered all the necessary ingredients. I found a Québécois recipe and bought milk, sugar, flour and of course, lots of butter and maple syrup! But I was missing one last ingredient: the students themselves. Once they dug in, the activity took on a life of its own.  We mixed ingredients, spilled milk, and congratulated each other on that perfect "flip"; and we were able to bring our whole selves to the classroom. The class shared stories of making meals together with their families, laughed over cooking mishaps, and sat together eating and chatting, all in French.
I watched carefully and attentively as they collaborated to mix ingredients, bringing care and connection to their learning. Others carefully flipped crepes, taking pride and ownership of their work, and that perfect golden hue. There were plenty of smiles, and a ton of laughter, as we ate together -- celebrating our work, and sharing good food and good company. 

A friend asked me: “Why cook during French class?” It’s simple! For me, it’s all about my students engaging in language learning with their heads, their hearts, and their whole selves, and allowing me to appreciate the diversity of experience and personality they bring to our learning community.

The class ended with a friendly “merci”. All I could do was thank them in return, for bringing their enthusiasm; their willingness to take risks, to be vulnerable and to trust their intuition. This shared activity reminded me once again that, "education is not preparation for life. It is life itself!
                                                                                                                   John Dewey