Friday, August 28, 2009

Taking responsibility for your learning, part 2

I took Eldest out to dinner at a French bistro-style restaurant last night. She had steak au poivre, I had skate. It was good! We rarely eat out, and never eat out in anything approximating style, but she'd earned this.

My musings in the prior post about taking responsibility for what you need or want to learn had precedent. Last year Eldest took AP French. Before school started I looked up her school's AP score distribution on language exams, and compared them to the national scores. Then I told Eldest that if she wanted to do well on the exam, she'd have to do some work independently.

Eldest nodded, and designed her own supplemental curriculum. Most of it consisted of reading the Harry Potter books in French. The known advantage to this was that she was already familiar with the stories, so she could figure out the vocab by context. The hidden advantage (which she only realized later) was that the books contain a lot of colloquial conversation. All the other books she read in French were written in the literary tense, which didn't teach her the colloquialisms she needed for the exam.

We also had a good time watching French movies together, like Au Revoir les Enfants, Manon of the Spring, and Jules et Jim. Eldest used the DVD programming options to dub Star Wars and other movies she knew into French, too. It was all very low-stress and fun. Eldest ended up doing well on the AP exam.

I can say croissant and chardonnay, but am otherwise ignorant of French. This is proof that I'm not a teacher, just an educational facilitator. Prior to going to high school, Eldest used French in Action from Yale as her curriculum. I highly recommend it: it's phenomenally thorough, and uses enjoyable videos (free online at the Annenberg site) and expensive listening CDs (yes, you really do need to buy them), along with texts and workbooks (get the books used).

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