Back in 2018, I made a video about the resources I was using to teach French to my two young daughters–then just 4 and 6 years old. Since then, I’ve adapted our approach quite a bit. We’ve kept some elements, done away with others, and added new resources as our goals and abilities have changed. Because I have been getting a lot of questions lately about what I’m using now, I thought it would be a good time for an updated post.
New Stages, New Goals
Back when I made that video, my daughters were still so tiny. I was focused on simply introducing them to the language in a gentle way. As they got older, and began feeling comfortable with some early vocabulary, I began to introduce more and more listening and speaking into the picture. Once they were both confidently reading and writing in English, I felt like we could take it up a notch in French. Last autumn, I jotted down some broad goals I wanted to focus on for the year ahead:
- Continue developing their confidence with listening and speaking, and really focusing on using French together in our day-to-day lives (not just when we’re doing lessons)
- Introduce reading and writing in a relaxed way
- Be consistent and intentional with our French studies
- Bring more native speakers into our lessons
Despite an off-kilter patch during a move to another state, we’ve been pretty consistent and we’ve made a lot of progress this year. I think it has a lot to do with the resources we’re using now.
TalkBox.Mom had been on my radar for awhile, but I’d been hesitant to jump in. Boxes run around 80.00 USD each, which is quite an investment. But I figured if I used each box over several months, and we came away with better fluency as a family, it would be worth it to give it a shot. I’ve decided to work our way through three boxes during the 2021 / 2022 school year and see what happens.
We completed Box 1 between October and March, taking most of November, December, and January off from it during a move. We’ve enjoyed it a lot, and the girls and I use the phrases from it pretty much every day. The theme was “snacktime,” which made it easy to insert the phrases and vocabulary into our lives right away. We’re going to use Box 2 for April – June, and it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun! It’s quite physical, incorporating action commands and rooms of the house through fun games similar to “Simon Says” and hide-and-seek. I’m really looking forward to it.
So far I am pleased. I chose it mostly because it was developed by native speakers, and the subscription boxes come with audio of native speakers saying each and every word and phrase. The audio is very well organized, and it’s been really easy to use.
After completing the first three boxes, I will write a review post about TalkBox.Mom to share more of my thoughts.
One last note: While most of the other resources I share about in this post would work best if you already speak the language you’re trying to teach, TalkBox.Mom would be a great fit for parents that want to learn the language along with their children. This is because of the intentional design of their curriculum, the native audio app, and the supportive community they provide, which are all created for families to learn together.
Emergent Readers and Other Resources from Teachers Pay Teachers
I’ve used Teachers Pay Teachers since our journey began. Way back in 2018, I purchased a bundle of emergent readers from a shop called For French Immersion. You can find that shop by clicking here. This is one of my favorite places to look for things for us to use, but we especially love the emergent readers. They’ve all been updated since we first bought them, and now they’re even better. They each come with black and white and color versions of the materials. There are large “teacher” versions of the readers as well as smaller “student versions,” and the student versions include some very light writing practice and a cut-and-paste activity. In the photo below, you can see the emergent reader for “springtime” from For French Immersion. We spend about 1 – 2 weeks on each of these together, maybe around 5 minutes per day. By day five, the girls can usually read them very well on their own.
We use other resources from For French Immersion, too. I particularly like the seasonal reading comprehension package. We try to do one of these per week right now. I’ve also purchased a few other resources that I’ve set aside to use in the future.
We also really like La Classe de Madame Angel. I usually choose one “activity bundle” from this store to use each season. For spring (April – June), I’ve chosen her “springtime activity bundle.” This purchase came with a bunch of great stuff we’ll use over those three months: vocabulary cards, playing cards, a printable board game, and a “scrabble spelling” packet, among other things.
Another favorite shop is Maternelle avec Mme. Andrea. The bingo game in the picture above came from that shop.
I print and save the items I want to use from Teachers Pay Teachers. When we finish a unit, I usually tuck the teaching materials into a large sheet protector or sandwich bag to come back to the following year.
French Pen Pals, Zoom Classes, and Letters From Margot
A while back, I connected with a teacher in France named Margot through Instagram. She has truly improved our French experience in so many ways!
Margot organizes a pen pal program each year. Blake and Brice each have French pen pals that they receive letters from and write letters to every few months. I’m not sure if all pen pals in the program are the same, but we write and receive letters in both English and French, so every child gets to practice reading and writing in their first and second languages.
Margot also leads regular Zoom classes, which the girls really enjoy. These began as a “once a month” class and have since increased in frequency. I believe there are now multiple classes a month. We’re not able to attend all of them, but we always love the ones we do attend. Margot is always well-prepared with activities, conversation topics, and more. The classes are engaging and fun, and the time goes by very quickly. The last class we attended focused on pets. They played pet bingo and learned a lot of new vocabulary.
Click here to learn more about the Zoom classes and the pen pals program. Please note that there may be a waitlist, as a limited number of spaces are available each year.
Margot is just about to kick-off another wonderful program, a snail-mail letter subscription all about France and French culture called Letters From Margot. Each month, subscribing families will receive a creative letter from France in the mailbox, covering topics from language and culture to geography and lifestyle.
Margot also has a beautiful shop full of printables, flashcards, and her bilingual children’s book, The Forest Trap.
You can also find her on Instagram: @letters.from.Margot and @lessons.Books4Kids
Books, Videos, and More
To round things out, I like to include additional books, videos, and songs.
Each year, I try to add a few new familiar children’s books in French to our collection. Over the years, I have collected several Eric Carle books, Gerald and Piggie books, and classics such as Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Where the Wild Things Are. I also have several familiar fairy tales in our collection, and Ramona the Pest (which I’ll introduce to the girls in the next year or two.) I usually read one book several times per week, and we cycle through them all multiple times per year. The girls never really tire of hearing them again and again on a rotation. I order most of these through a website called French Books Online.
In addition to the books I read to them, I like to collect early readers for the girls to read. I’ve received several of these from a friend in Canada and ordered a few on Amazon, but most of them come from French Books Online. I usually choose one book for each child to work on each month. I start out reading the book to them, then help them as they learn to read it, and we end with them reading it multiple times to me or to family. This practice has made a huge impact on them this year, and they’re really beginning to read confidently in French.
French Books Online is really a wonderful store, run by a small family. In addition to books, they have workbooks, games, and more. Our orders have always shipped promptly and are packaged with care. They also have plenty of books for me to enjoy on my own.
For videos and songs, we are trying out Fluentu this year. Fluentu specializes in pulling video and audio clips from everyday media–children’s shows, movies, news programs, cooking shows, etc.–so that you’re exposed to language being used organically. It is a bit pricey, at around 240.00 USD per year for annual billing, and I’m still not sure if we’ll continue on when our year is up. I do love the abundance of clips available, and how easy it is to find what I need. But I’m not sure it’s worth the price, given the way we use it right now. I feel like if we used it as our primary language-learning program, and used all of the tools and resources the way they’re designed to be used, the price would probably be worth it. But we’re really just using it as a library for videos and songs, and aren’t really taking advantage of the full program.
We also stumbled upon a website called The Fable Cottage. The Fable Cottage provides animated versions of classic tales like Rapunzel and The Little Red Hen, told in French (and Spanish, German, and Italian.) Each story includes video, audio, and text files. Our membership was 40.00 USD for a year, and I feel it’s been worth it. The girls love these videos and watch them again and again. Some of the stories also include classroom activities and worksheets, which are helpful for reviewing events and vocabulary from the stories. They are always adding new stories, too, though they do take quite a long time to produce. I’m fairly certain we’ll renew our membership again, as we’ve really enjoyed adding these videos to our week.
Putting Everything Together
Here comes the tricky part–putting all of these resources together in a cohesive way. I am really still figuring this part out, but here’s where I am so far:
- We spend about 20 – 30 minutes on French lessons each day. Our Zoom classes are longer, taking up about an hour of our time on those days.
- I make time for TalkBox.Mom during each session, in one way or another. We might spend a few minutes listening to the native audio for the words we’re working on, play a game or do a fun activity (either suggested by TalkBox.Mom or made up on my own), or practice conversations where we use the phrases we’re working on with each other. This is usually our “warm-up.”
- After that, I choose ONE main activity to do that day. I might read a book to the girls, or we might watch a video (or two), work on an emergent reader together, complete a reading comprehension page, play “I spy” or bingo or “tapette à mouches” with our seasonal vocabulary, learn a new song on Fluentu, write to our Pen Pals, or attend a Zoom class with Margot.
- At the end of the session, the girls work on the early readers with me individually. We spend maybe 3 – 5 minutes per child on this.
I have a PDF document I created to help me plan out one three-month period at a time. In that document, I write down the early readers I want the girls to work on, the emergent readers we’ll work on together, the read-aloud books I want to focus on each month, the videos I’d like us to watch, the seasonal vocabulary and games I’ve chosen, the TalkBox.Mom challenges and activities from the box we’re working through, and a list of vocabulary words and phrases we are focusing on for that season. As we either complete or master each thing I’ve listed, I highlight it on the printed-out document. This makes it easy for me to see what we have and haven’t covered when I’m planning out our week.
While this process still feels a little “jumbly” to me sometimes, it’s working for us. I think it helps that we pretty much stick to the same format each day (warm up with TalkBox.Mom, complete one main activity from all of the resources I’ve gathered, and end with early reader practice) and that we limit ourselves to one TalkBox.Mom box per quarter.
In addition to our designated “lesson time,” we work really hard to use our vocabulary and phrases from TalkBox.Mom in our day-to-day lives. In the beginning, I literally set reminder alarms on my phone to help me remember to use the phrases with the girls. Eventually, it became a natural part of our routine, but I still have to remind myself from time to time to be intentional with this.
At the end of our “spring” quarter (April – June 2022) I will make a video to show you my plan starting out, highlights from the quarter’s activities, what worked and what didn’t, what we used from my plan and what we skipped, and my plan for the next quarter. I’ll post that video here at that time.
I hope this helps some of you to find some good resources you can use in your own homes for learning French. If you’ve come across anything you’d like to add to the list, please comment below!
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