Beyond the Basics is a project started by the QDF in collaboration with Canadian Parents for French (CPF) and the Government of Canada in 2009.
Its aim is to teach French to young children (ages 3-5) using theatre games and techniques. Taught by actors and with the help of the educators in the classroom, the first experience has been quite successful. The program is twelve weeks long (as well as an extra week just to meet the kids and play with them), about forty-five minutes to an hour per session, with a different theme each week and a list of about ten French words or more to teach.
The idea was not to get the children to be able to speak French fluently, but to give them a fun start to speaking the language before entering a Francophone kindergarten. Some already spoke some French, some spoke little English and some barely spoke at all, but overall, the project was a lot of fun and had a great impact on the children at the schools. They looked forward to the weekly visits, to putting on shows for the class and eventually for their parents as well. At the beginning of each class, everyone did the “Réchauffement” in which all the body parts and numbers were always repeated to remind them, and the class usually ended with “Poulet chaud” or just “Poulet” where a small stuffed animal chicken was passed around the circle and everyone told Poulet something they learned that day in French. They also went on treasure hunts in the classrooms and adventures in the jungle, got to go outside, sing songs, made sock puppets, and even helped to write their own scenes, all while learning French words that they would be able to use every day.
Megan Bradley and Jade Hassouné (both graduates of John Abbott College’s Prof Theatre Program in Acting) began teaching at four different schools in January of 2010. As this was a pilot project, the number of schools was more than was initially planned. Then the word started getting around about the success of this new project and teh result was that the school boards wanted the two instructors to go to multiple schools! The first schools in the Pilot Project were Coronation School in Côte-des-Neiges, Centre de la Petite Enfance des Bois-Verts in D.D.O., Sunnyside Elementary in Stanstead and Greendale school in Pierrefonds. Each group was a little family on their own, and Jade and Megan were welcome to join each one. They were all so different, and yet fundamentally the same – every child wanted to help, every child was participating in the activities and almost every child wanted to share; there was a special bond between the instructors, educators and students that will not be forgotten.
Prospects for the future are promising. Everyone had an amazing time growing, learning and sharing. Jade and Megan are looking forward to another year of more groups and more children to play with, as well as some of their professionally trained friends to help them out.