Play teaches French through gestures

Diana Yeager/NNSL photo Krystal Mateus, right, puts finishing touches on stagehand Rylee Robillard's makeup before a French-language show at Harry Camsell School on June 16.

Diana Yeager/NNSL photo
Krystal Mateus, right, puts finishing touches on stagehand Rylee Robillard’s makeup before a French-language show at Harry Camsell School on June 16.

A different approach to learning language has resulted in a year-end play for youngsters studying the French language at Harry Camsell School.

The Accelerative Integrated Method – AIM – bases its approach on using gestures to visually aid children in language retention.

French-language teacher Marla Mateus worked with her students to create a theatrical presentation completely in French using just gestures as the children’s prompts.

“They naturally learn to speak, read, and comprehend,” said Mateus. “But the last semester they are able to retell the story and add to it. They can rap and sing and dance, and by doing so they internalize the language.”

On June 16, Mateus’ students in Grade 1 and Grade 2 treated an audience to a completely memorized production of Chicken Little.

Honey Graham is in Grade 2.

“I was excited, and a little shy,” she said. “I was trying my best to do my words and gestures.”

Mateus was coaching the students with exaggerated gestures as they spoke but no other visuals or prompts were used to carry out the dialogue.

Suzannah Groenewegen, a Grade 2 student, said the play has been a long time in the making.

“We’ve been practising since the beginning of the year,” she said. “I’m glad to be done.”

Millie Hunt had the role of a cat in the play. She said she had the whole thing memorized.

“It’s hard with all the actions,” she said. “But it helped me remember what to say.”

Mateus said the students are expected to follow a strictly-French rule during the production.

“The pas d’anglais rule allows the students to take ownership of the language,” she said.

Mateus said she was very proud of her students’ performance and their ability to learn through gestures.

–Diana Yeager