How We Teach
Step 1: Learning French
From the very first day of class, our students are gently introduced to French through songs, stories, games, and hands-on activities. Most children understand quickly, although they vary in the amount of time it takes them to start speaking. Since all of our kindergarten and preschool classes have a bilingual teacher’s assistant, children can express themselves in English until they feel comfortable speaking French.
Our immersion method means that our students learn this new language the same way they learned their mother tongue: in a nurturing environment, with lots of encouragement, gentle repetition, and physical cues as needed. And thanks to an hour per day of English, they also build their vocabulary and reading skills. By the end of their second year at EB, the vast majority of our students are fluent speakers, with age-appropriate literacy skills in both French and English.
Step 2: Learning In French
Once children are bilingual, they can learn about the world around them in both languages. Starting in third grade, our students spend 50% of their time with English-speaking teachers and 50% with French-speaking teachers. Some subjects are covered equally in both languages (literature, history, social studies and math). Some subjects are covered primarily in French (art, music, computers and PE) while others are covered primarily in English (science).
What does a bilingual curriculum look like?
Letters and numbers may have different names in French, but the underlying concepts are the same. So for instance, even though addition and subtraction are taught in French, once a child understands the basic concepts, she can do math in either language. Likewise, once a child learns to read in one language, the skills transfers quickly into the other language. We learn to read only once.
We cover both the California curriculum and the French curriculum in history and social studies. For example, in third grade, children learn about California’s geography and indigenous peoples from their English program teacher, while studying human origins and prehistory with their French teacher. In fifth grade, they learn about the American Revolution from their English teacher and the French Revolution from their French teacher.
In math, California standards require that children learn both fractions and decimals, both English and metric systems of measurement. Here at EB, decimals and the metric system are a natural fit for the French curriculum; fractions, pounds and miles are taught in English. Our students master both systems without having to cover the same material in two languages.
Whatever the grade and whatever the topic, what makes our curriculum so successful is the energy, creativity, and dedication of our faculty, who have over 30 years of experience balancing a bilingual curriculum.Our teachers work to make sure that our curriculum is fully integrated across both languages.
In Social Studies, for example, the students use a French textbook to study world religions, ancient cultures and sustainability… but discuss those topics in English.
In math, faculty members team-teach to make sure that students know how to draw connections between the material they learn in French and the material they learn in English.
In literature, the students frequently cover similar themes in both languages. They might read the Song of Roland in French and Beowulf in English, for example, or discus Rousseau’s state of nature and Michel Tournier’s Vendredi ou la vie sauvage while reading Lord of the Flies in English… and then camp out on Angel Island with their class.