Teaching Oral Language

In general, there are three parts to an oral lesson:

  1. The 'warm-up', where students talk with each other using vocabulary and structures they have already used; one student often plays the role of the teacher (mini-prof), or leads the discussion;
  2. The principal part, where students learn new structures and vocabulary relevant to the theme they are discussing;
  3. A concluding activity, where students use the new vocabulary and structures in a wider context. 

In the principal part of the oral lesson, there are eight steps to follow that have been especially developed to enable students to learn to communicate easily. The steps help the learners to use and re-use, in different situations, a small number of sentences and words to express a personal message. It is by using a relatively small number of structures many times that students are able to develop their implicit competence, or internal grammar. The teacher always gives a model first so that the students are able to create sentences themselves in order to participate in the conversation.

This is an example of how the steps work.

After all the steps are completed, the students use the structures they have just learned in a more informal activity.

There are also two teaching strategies that are used during all oral activities in the classroom. Their use is crucial to the learning of a 'non-conscious' or internal grammar.

  1. The use of complete sentences by the students when answering a question. This strategy is necessary in the beginning stages of learning the new language in order to develop an internal grammar.  An internal grammar is composed of connections between ALL the elements of a sentence. It cannot be developed if the student is using only isolated words or parts of a sentence.
  2. Immediate oral correction, and immediate re-use, of the corrected sentences.  If the students’ oral use and re-use of the language is not accurate, the student's internal grammar will not develop accuracy. Oral accuracy is a skill; it is not dependent upon having a knowledge of grammar rules. In Intensive French, oral correction replaces the teaching of many grammar rules.

Teaching Reading and Writing

For both reading and writing, there is also a recommended sequence of eight steps based on a conception of learning literacy skills that is specific to a second language.

For reading, students must first learn the new relationships between the sounds and the way they are written.  This contributes to preparing them to learn to write the language; this is where external grammar is taught. Grammar is always taught in a context. See the following example of the steps for reading.  

For writing, there are also eight steps to follow. As with oral development, the teacher first creates a model for the students. Then they write their own composition.  

For more information, consult this CASLT document about teaching literacy in a second language.

Importance of Projects

In Intensive French, language is always used to express messages; it is never analyzed out of a context. This is why, to direct the learning, each teaching unit includes two or three mini-projects, as well as a final project closely linked to the unit’s theme. The emphasis is on the message that the students wish to express about the subject being discussed. Internal grammar cannot be acquired by doing exercises; students must be concentrating on the message they are trying to get across, not the forms of the language being used, to develop the 'non-conscious' or internal grammar necessary to use the language spontaneously. 

Keeping in Touch With Parents

It is important for teachers to keep in touch with their students’ parents. Usually parents like to know what is happening in their child's classroom, especially if they do not speak French themselves! Here are two examples of letters addressed to parents.

Interview with Michel Paradis

Teachers who may wish to understand more about the development of implicit competence, or an internal grammar, may also like to listen to this interview with Michel Paradis, Emeritus Professor at McGill University, a researcher and specialist on language acquisition, who developed the neurolinguistic theory of bilingualism on which the Intensive French approach is based.