A couple of months ago I was asked to tutor a five-and-a-half-year-old girl in French, as one set of her grandparents lived in France but her parents spoke very little French. Having taught French to pre-school children for more thirteen years, I had a picture book, flash cards and various other materials, but I decided it would be a good idea to have a workbook to go through. I found French Club Book 1 on Amazon and was pleased to see that it had an accompanying CD.
The book is recommended for children aged seven to eight but I haven’t found it beyond the capabilities of my pupil, who hasn’t quite reached her sixth birthday. Author Rosi McNab has taken a very systematic approach to the learning of the language while at the same time making it fun with the use of stickers, drawing and colouring. The book begins with a section on animals at the zoo; this makes sense because many of the French words are very similar to our English words except in pronunciation. After this, numbers up to ten are introduced and used initially along with the animals already presented. The numbers then provide an opportunity for the child to learn how to say how old they are in French. There is an activity where various children state their ages, and the child draws the appropriate number of candles on the birthday cake.
The next vocabulary topic is colours, where the child colours in different styles of hats and caps, each with a combination of two given colours. Following this there is an activity that involves sticking a number of kites in the correct place, again with two colours each time, and then there is a rainbow to colour in. I particularly like the fact that there is more than one activity per topic, which obviously helps to reinforce the vocabulary. Other topics included in the book are appearances, parts of the body, school equipment, clothes, days of the week and a visit to the circus. There is an answer key at the end.
Every so often there is a section entitled “Le détective” which focuses on spelling patterns and pronunciation. Examples include the fact that ch in French is pronounced like sh in English. Accents are also dealt with, as is the question of gender.
Since I only have a limited time with my pupil once a week, I give her the CD to listen to at home. With the pre-school children I teach, I find that French songs are a great way to get them involved and to repeat certain vocabulary. I’m sure the songs on the CD help in this way, although it would be necessary to have a parent or teacher who understands enough French to explain the meaning of the lyrics to the child.
If you want your children to learn a foreign language, it’s best to start when they are very young. My pupil, not quite six, is managing very well so far with French Club Book 1. As there is some reading and writing involved, I wouldn’t advise using it with a child younger than that, but there is no need to wait for the recommended age of seven or eight. The fact that activities using stickers, drawing and colouring are included makes it an engaging way of learning for the very young, and the addition of songs on the CD is a great bonus.
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