Last night I spent four hours at EABJM (the school) for the Reunion Parents – Professeurs (Meet the Parents/Meet the Teachers) for primaire (elementary) and college (middle school). Two hours each. Two hours of a thorough review of the curriculum and program for the kids in the adaptation programs. I took notes like a crazy women except when Sarah’s science professeur was speaking because he doesn’t speak English. Then I put down my pen and just starred blankly. I noticed others doing the same and wanted to curse the few parents that were nodding and laughing at his apparent jokes. I don’t like to be a step behind. In any case, it was a tremendous evening. These kids are going to be pushed to the limit this year in so many ways, but the experiences they are going to have; well, I’m a bit jealous. Let me share a few highlights:
First, the school they are attending is EABJM, Ecole Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel. The mission of the school is “to promote international understanding through the bilingual education of a multicultural community of students, the fostering of pedagogical innovation, and the constant exploration of best practices in the context of an ever-changing global environment.” You can check out their on-line brochure for more details http://www.eabjm.org/en/online-brochure.
All three kids were accepted into the adaptation program. There are approximately 100 students (K-12) in this program every year. Sarah has 15 in her class. Elizabeth and Julian have nine (but they are combined with adaptation 4th graders for their French lessons so that class is 18). Their classes will be 85% French, 15% English. The 15% English is English class (and science for Elizabeth and Julian). The goal is they will be able to speak, read and write in French by the end of the year so that they can (if they were to stay) move into a true bilingual environment the next year: 50% French, 50% English. Then they would also begin Mandarin, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Everything they do will be focused on the global perspective which is quite cool. They have a few “specials” during school and lots of extra-curricular but the school is focused on developing international understanding based on education. They believe full immersion means not just learning a language, but learning a culture.
Elizabeth and Julian are in CM2. CM stands for cours moyen which, simply translated, means “average”. It is the year after they have developed their basic skills in education before moving on to college (middle school). 5th grade. Just like in the States, they are the oldest kids in the primaire school. Here is what they have going on this year:
They have French every day for many hours. But it’s divided into programs that include videos of everyday life in France where vocabulary is introduced, memorized work, spelling, 2-3 minute speeches in French every Monday morning on their weekend (cannot be read!), and a skit at the end of the week pulling together all they have learned. They all read aloud from a French story they are reading together and they take a field trip once a month during French class to the market, the boulangerie (bakery) and so on, to experience French in it’s setting. They are encouraged to be in an extra-curricular activity that is in French, not English. Both of them are playing soccer with coaches and most players speaking French, so that’s good.
Math is the same for adaptation as for the “regular” students…but all in French. And all with a fountain pen.
They have sport twice a week. Monday is in the gym. Thursday mornings they walk down the street and swim for 90 minutes. All year.
They have art on Fridays and computers begins in October. They also keep a class blog where they are posting in French.
Their larger field trips include trips like attending the La Boheme exhibition in November and studying the painter Raphael at the Louvre. They will have a larger field trip in June.
They have theatre every other Friday and on opposite Fridays is Geography and World/European/French History.
Their English class includes literacy anthology, dictation, vocabulary, spelling (had a test today) and several novels they will read together as a class.
Science will have a different topic each trimester: electricity, mixtures and solutions and solar energy.
Cursive is huge here and I can see their handwriting changing already. Both Sarah and Elizabeth came home the first day and said, “I need to print out a cursive page and practice”. Elizabeth was so impressed by the handwriting of some of the other girls in her class. Gives her a bit of incentive to write! They are also loving the fountain pens. Julian is all about the engineering of the pen and how it actually works.
Sarah is in 4eme (quatrieme) which is considered the fourth or central cycle. They count years backwards here so next year she would be in 3eme (troisieme). Here is what she has going:
Their French focuses on grammar, vocabulary, literacy and punctuation. They will be doing lots and lots of copying and writing at home so that class time is left for speaking. They believe in interaction so they will take them out of the classroom almost once a week to use and learn the language. There is going to be a lot of creative work and theatre sketches.
In English, 4eme focuses on Greek mythology, anthology from the U.S., vocabulary and a new novel to read during each holiday (vacation), of which there are four. They had five books to read over the summer.
In geography, they begin with the world, then Europe, then France. Beginning with the world is easier when you are just learning French.
In history they will cover the French Revolution, Napoleon and recent history (the 1700’s). Isn’t it funny what they consider recent??
Math is hard. I couldn’t even begin to take notes. Thankfully Sarah is a wiz at math. Again, homework in fountain pens. All in French.
Science is an integrated program with four labs each week and one theory session. They are beginning with the solar system (because it’s simple to learn in French) but will cover topics like investigating pressure, processing data from capillarity, food chains and the combustion of glucose, the carbon cycle, ions and molecules, embryo comparison, physics and sea urchins. Just to name a few. In French. Teacher doesn’t speak English. Are you exhausted yet?
Art is heavily emphasized because they believe art is a universal language. When they take field trips, they in integrate art history with French history with the science or engineering of a work of art with the French language. There are numerous art extra-curricular activities and one of the art rooms is on the roof so they can “create” outdoors.
She has her own school email and access to the school website with all their homework assignments. Parents are not to lord over this website. In fact, students were told not to share their passwords with their parents because it is their responsibility to check the site and get their homework done, not their parents. (There was one mother last night that was having a very difficult time with this concept.)
Sarah also has two gym days and they are full 1/2 days. Some units are required and others they have selected. I believe we are currently in swimming and rock-climbing. Badmitton is later along with some others. I can’t remember everything she picked.
Her schedule changes from day to day as far as when she gets out. There are also some built in study sessions for French and science. Currently all are required to attend but eventually it will just be the kids that have questions or kids that are asked to stay to get extra help.
She also has some bigger field trips incorporated into the year. They will head to the opera, Notre Dame, many museums, Versailles and a larger trip in June.
Wednesdays are 1/2 days so everyone is done by 12:45. Wednesday afternoons are when many have their extra-curricular activities and music lessons. Lunch is long: 90 minutes. College-aged kids like Sarah are encouraged to use the time to study and do homework after they have eaten. Elizabeth and Julian’s classes go across the street to a larger outdoor area for basketball, etc. After school most younger kids are picked up. The older kids hang out at a cafe across the street. It is a mob over there!
All have friends and are arranging dates and get-togethers. Apparently the adaptation kids get very close because, especially at Sarah’s age, you are going to every class together and experiencing everything together. A couple days ago Sarah said they all walked to the Seine with their French teacher and were all trying to skip in unison with linked arms. I believe that is a good sign.
When I sat down to write this, I was planning to tell you about my day today. I guess that will have to wait for another time. It’s time for me to cross the river and walk them home. Sarah is already coming home by herself. Another sign of independence, I guess.
I’m quite certain the synapses in their brains are firing like crazy these days. Ready for the weekend and a bit of down time.