Middle School Video Chats with a School in France
Our Middle School students were recently offered a wonderful opportunity to video chat with an 8th grade class in Montauban, France. Current Upper Elementary parent, Cynthia Hill, is a long-time friend of their English teacher, Laurence Marlier. As a result of that connection, we were able to engage in a lively conversation with students from Olympe de Gouges Middle School, about 40 minutes outside of Toulouse. During the hour-long chat, small groups of our students took turns conversing with their new acquaintances and answering questions about life in an American middle school. The experience was designed to support the French students with their current unit of study, that requires them to compare French and American schools and write an article in English about their findings.
True to the Montessori philosophy, preparation and process were essential to the success of this endeavour. The day prior, our students created their groups, read questions sent by their counterparts in France, and thoughtfully prepared answers using simple language that would be easy to follow for English Language Learners. They discussed ways to make the conversation more enjoyable for all participants, such as speaking clearly, at a reasonable pace, and avoiding idioms or American slang. On the day of, Spanish teacher Nuria Perez (who also happens to speak French!) was on hand to offer language support.
Although the purpose of this experience was to allow the students from Montauban the opportunity to practice speaking English and to gather information, the benefits were definitely felt on both sides of the ocean. Encouraging students to become effective communicators is a goal of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program, and our students were enthusiastic about the entire process. During a follow-up discussion after the camera was turned off, they were reflective about what aspects went well and what elements provided opportunities for growth that they could take with them into future conversations, including with each other! Patience, respect, active listening, and thinking before speaking were just a few of the keys to communication that they identified. All in all, it was a memorable learning experience for everyone involved!