Teaching French from an early age is the best time to teach a foreign language. At early ages children acquire any knowledge very quickly and effortlessly. Rather than having to memorise lists of new words like they do later on at school, in younger children, the learning takes place automatically. The children are just having fun and they absorbed the new language "like a sponge" and before you know it, they are singing "Frère Jacques" with a perfect French accent!
However, the business of learning a foreign language is not just about learning vocabulary and gaining fluency; it is also about discovering different cultures, ways of living and traditions. It is a way to make children aware of the wider world around them. Moreover, children are more likely to grow up as more understanding and more tolerant young adults, who will have the confidence and the desire to travel abroad and to see the world.
We believe that thanks to the different activities and the way each of our session is delivered, children acquire the French language rather than learn it. Learning a language usually requires a lot of effort, but acquiring a language is a gradual process which takes place naturally without conscious effort. Very quickly, the French acquired is used as second nature. Acquiring a language is believed to be more effective than learning a language as the language is less likely to be forgotten because it becomes imprinted in the mind.
Every activity and song is designed to provide the children with the opportunity to repeat and practice the new French words and sentences. The repetition can be group repetition, when all the children repeat/say together the words. It can also be individual repetition, when one child at a time repeats the word out loud in front of everybody. Finally, very often, children are being asked to speak to each other in French all at the same time while performing a group task. Even if the children are learning the same sentence (ie; "bonjour, je m'appelle…" ) for 2 or 3 sessions, they are practicing this sentence through different activities using different props and requiring different skills.
Children are also being exposed to french words and expressions used by the group leader during every session. (ie; merci, vite!, mettez dans le sac jaune", fermez les yeux - thank you, quick!, put it in the yellow bag, close your eyes..) Children are not actually repeating this vocabulary themselves but they understand the meaning and they learn very quickly how to respond to the French instructions. This exposure to authentic French language is important as it develops the children's listening skills. It also tunes their ears into understanding real French being spoken in a normal communication context.
Many of the songs and activities require the children to be very active and to use actions and gestures. This method reinforces the meaning of the words and enables children to associate the French words with the action, and to make it easier for them to remember the French words. For example, marching, jumping up and down, pointing to things. By being active in their learning, children are also more motivated as they are having fun whilst taking part in the educational games.
Another way to help children remember the vocabulary more easily is to use some familiar constructs. Thus, some of the songs used in the sessions are traditional French songs, but many are tunes of nursery rhymes well known to the children (old Macdonald, head shoulder knees and toes etc). Similarly, we use games and activities they are familiar with (ie; Jacques a dit - Simon says etc). Because children know the activities or the tunes, they can just concentrate on the new vocabulary.
One key element in our sessions is repetition. It is paramount for children to repeat the words and sentences they are learning over and over again. So, all the sessions have a set number of songs which are repeated at every session (with a variation of 2 or 3 songs not always sung). The more they sing the song with "tête" showing their head, for example, the more the children will know that it means head.
Another important aspect of our sessions is progression. Even if our session revolves around the same songs, there is progression within the songs themselves and within the various tasks performed by the children. Once the children are familiar and know the French words for 3 farm animals in the old Macdonald song for example, we add some more animals. Then, we use these animals in a different song where they are linked to colours, then we add more colours to that song, etc.
We also make sure that once the children have acquired some vocabulary, it is NOT put aside to make room for new vocabulary. We always have activities and recap games to make sure that no previous vocabulary is forgotten. For singing teddies after school club in primary schools where French is taught within the curriculum, we liaise with the French teacher to make sure that what we do will complement his/her lessons and that there is a progression in their French learning.
The singing teddies organisation was originally designed to teach children aged between 3-5, mainly in the context of nurseries and pre-school classes. But very quickly, due to a growing interest, it spreads to other venues and different age groups. None of them require any prior knowledge of French from the adults taking part.
Bored with the English nursery rhymes? Do you fancy something different?
If so, the French singing group for Mums and Toddlers and Mums and babies is for you!. No knowledge of French required; just lots of fun for you and your child while learning basic French.
This session is designed for babies up to about 18 months. Mums are singing and miming and gesturing the songs to their babies. This session enable babies to become familiar with different words, intonation and new songs. Hand and finger puppets are used as well as musical instruments to make it more fun and develop the babies' visual and auditory senses.
Mums find these sessions very refreshing as it makes a nice change from the usual English nursery rhyme classes. Many of the mums admit having negative memories from French lessons at school, but with these sessions they rediscover French as a fun thing to do. Then, they can pass their interest in the language to their babies and children. Usually, mums are very keen to take a song booklet home in order to practice and to sing the new songs to their babies.
These sessions are usually with children aged 2-4. Some of them can speak more than others. Nonetheless, everyone is involved during the session as all the activities are adapted to the level of the children. When the tasks require some moving around and speaking, mums help their child and repeat the words themselves. For these sessions, the stress is put on using familiar cuddly toys (Iggle Piggle, Pooh Bear, Peppa pigs etc) as well as mystery and guessing games. After a few sessions, even the children not speaking too much in their own language, start saying the words in French along with their mums. Mothers are also keen to take home their own copy of the song book to be able to sing with their children at home.
See Existing classes to sign up today for the class near you
This is a lovely way to experience French for the first time in a fun and educational atmosphere. In these sessions children are encouraged to be more active and other elements are included in the sessions. (See main descriptive and use of props and activities)
In addition to the singing, activities and tasks are performed by the toddlers. All the songs and tasks are designed for the toddlers to respond to the French words (i.e.: touch their head when they hear "tête") and also for them to produce the language themselves. To start with, the children repeat the words but after a couple of sessions, they are saying the words all by themselves.
Children really enjoy these sessions especially the activities where animals pop out of a box. They love shaking hands with them, saying such things as "bonjour, canard" (hello duck!). During the sessions, children really feel they are achieving and they really love receiving special French stickers when they can repeat, say a word or a full sentence in French.
Very often, the nurseries practice the French songs during the week with the children (with the help of the song booklet). They might also develop children's knowledge of France and French people, through making displays about France and also talking about the cultural differences.
Delivering the sessions for children in primary school provide a nice way to start learning French through songs and fun activities. If the school teaches some basic French in the curriculum already, it is a very good way to reinforce any French done in the classroom in a less formal set up and to use their knowledge in a more relaxed way.
Children, being older, respond to the different tasks and activities very quickly and they sing and dance very readily. Children get involved straight away and thoroughly enjoy all the activities. By the end of the 1st session, they know most of the songs from memory and they can remember lots of the new vocabulary in the songs. Through these sessions children really acquire lots of French knowledge and vocabulary without conscious effort as they are just having fun doing the activities.
We can do some sessions in childrens indoor play centres. The sessions provided there vary from mums group to after school clubs for older children. The usual set up is children having one session with the singing teddies and the second session playing in the play area.
Classes every Wednesday from 9:45 - 10:30
Fees: £2.50/session/child. + £1.50 per extra child.