French Café brings a little corner of France to Arden

Posted on December 13, 2017

Arden Anglican Junior School staff and students enjoyed the opportunity to immerse themselves into a wonderfully authentic French Café experience during late October and early November. 

Mrs Marina Clark, French Teacher initiated the French Café at Arden eight years ago.  Since then the Café has been a much anticipated event at Arden, bringing a little corner of France to the school. 

All Kindergarten to Year 3 students enjoy this incursion which is directly related to Arden’s French curriculum as it supports the cultural aspect of the program.  “The French Café incursion provides the students with a chance to practise some of the French they have been learning in class and lends meaning and authenticity to the language learning experience,” summarised Mrs Clark.

Describing the Café experience, Mrs Clark shared:  “The school tennis shelter is converted into a French café with red checked tablecloths, hot chocolate is served in bowls French style and traditional French breakfast fare is consumed appreciatively by the students.  All of this is done to live accordion music, with a chance to join in the singing as well as attempting the ‘Cancan’.”  She continued: “The students are encouraged to come dressed in something French – moustaches, berets and toy dogs in baskets are quite prevalent, but occasionally the theme becomes more specific, such as the French Art theme last year, when some students dressed as Monet, Van Gogh and even Picasso!”  During the incursion the students also learn about a variety of French historical and cultural facts, discover ways in which Christmas is celebrated in Francophone countries and enjoy decorating a French Christmas cake.

The students loved this year’s Café, with Lucinda Durston (Year 2) commenting:  “I loved when the chocolate croissants melted in my mouth when I ate them.  When I heard the accordion music I felt like I was in France.”  Justin Bugeja (Year 2) “found it interesting that the French put real candles on Christmas trees.”  While Olivia Zhang (Year 2) shared:  “An interesting fact I learnt was that Napoleon made a mistake going to Russia during Winter and when he went back to France not much of his army was remaining.”

Discussing why Arden teaches students a language in Junior School, Mrs Clark explained:  “Starting to learn a language at a young age is a marvellous opportunity for children.  They are more likely to acquire a good accent and the method of learning is based on songs and games – a fun filled, positive experience that sets them on the path to learning other languages as well.”

This year’s Café is bittersweet for Mrs Clark as she is retiring at the end of the year.  Mr Graham Anderson, Arden’s Principal, said:  “Marina has been a much loved French teacher who has promoted a love of the French language and the French culture throughout her 11 years at Arden.  Many children have loved her puppets, especially her frog, as she has introduced and used many everyday situations to promote the practical application of the French language.  I am certain that Marina’s spark and passion for the learning of languages have been much appreciated by students, staff and parents.”

Reflecting on how teaching has changed over the years, Mrs Clark shared:  “I do think that teaching has changed in general over the last decade and certainly it has in Languages Other Than English.  Inevitably technology has become an additional teaching tool.  It is now possible to Skype schools in other countries, email students overseas and get responses almost straightaway, social media makes staying in touch with families and friends so easy and instantaneous and the Internet provides a wealth of information about other countries, travel, history and traditions.  Youtube has many clips with songs and films which are also easily accessible.  Despite all this it is still essential to provide the students with the chance to experience face to face teaching with all the traditional things such as songs, games and book work.  Nothing ever really quite beats the many laughs and fun times both the students and the teacher experience in classroom interactions.”