Kate Guillou: Bilingualism in School

Bilingual public schools, there are not many. But it exists. For example, at the Charles de Bordeu School in Mourenx (Pyrénées Atlantiques), speaking English, “it’s so easy!” Classified as Rep, this school welcomes more than one hundred and twenty students and half of the school’s classes and projects are taught in English. Katel Guillou teaches English there in Cm1 and Cm1/Cm2. And she proposes a project around the work of the Irish author Stéphanie Benson and her work “Hannah and the treasure of the dangerous elf”.

At the Charles de Bordeuschool, all students in the sector, from the small section to CM2, follow a bilingual French/English training. This organization facilitates early linguistic immersion on a part-time basis to promote proficiency in English. An immersion they can continue in college in the CLIL system. These are not English language courses, but the learning of other disciplines, such as Mathematics or Physics, which is taught in the system’s foreign language – English here. Originally, it was the town hall that launched the project, “to provide priority education students, many from disadvantaged socio-cultural and economic backgrounds, with the opportunity to acquire an international language”. But it is also a national education project that places some of the messages on profiles of teachers and teachers who speak English. The grassroots team also plays an important role, especially the REP coordinator.

Ireland in all its states

“Last year, the theme of Ireland was chosen as the common thread for the bilingual classes, from kindergarten to university,” explains Katel Guillou. “As in the town of Mourenx the pupils are given a book every year, this year it was decided that it would be Hannah and the Treasure of the Dangerous Elf for CM1 as it is a bilingual novel and the characters of the book visit the ‘Ireland’ In the books of Stéphanie Benson, an author who specializes in children’s novels but also in bilingual novels, the degree of difficulty increases: at the beginning the reader encounters only a few words of English or small sentences, but the more one progresses in reading , the more the English language is present.All of the author’s novels are also about discovering the culture of an English-speaking country, something to introduce students to the language, but also the culture associated with it.

Because we don’t do half work in Mourenx, young and old Mourenxois also get the chance to attend a musical show about Ireland. The Municipal Media Library offered to discover Irish culture in the light of its mythical characters. “We also worked on a series linked to Ireland in each class. Next week there will be an exhibition in a room of the MIX – cultural center where the media library, a cinema, exhibition rooms are located…” explains Katel.

A play written and performed in English and French

“With my students, we staged a play that summarizes the book Hannah and the Treasure of the Dangerous Elf. The project is super lively because the students got hooked on the story, they wanted to know what happened next. Each time we listened to the audio version, the students followed in their books. I asked them what they understood, most could understand most events without translation or assistance. Then we worked on the English vocabulary, and they summed up the chapter,” says Katel. Then came the staging work. Roles had to be assigned. “Some were more comfortable in French, others were able to memorize a lot of text in English, mainly thanks to the pre-learning vocabulary. It was super lively.” Katel filmed her students and so there is a screening of the performance at MIX during the restoration. During the school’s year-end party, parents get the chance to attend a ‘real’ performance.

On May 31, all classes of cycle three of the school meet the author, who is going on a trip for the occasion. In each class, therefore, the students prepare questions about his life, his career, his books. It will also be an opportunity for them to present their staging work around the author’s work. “After this visit, we will make a poster with Stéphanie Benson,” adds Katel.

Lilia Ben Hamouda

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