This is my second year of teaching French in a 95%+ immersion classroom with the Organic World Language (O.W.L.) Method.  I credit the success the students and I have experienced thus far in this program to the strong community we have built together, one which encourages risk-taking, making mistakes, and being silly.  Without a strong community, students might fear ridicule or simply not take chances while speaking French.  Each class acts like a "family" with its own distinct personality.  Students are applauded when they try and are consistently reminding one another of the three expectations:  Respect, Participate, and Speak French!

Here are the steps I took to help build these communities:

1.  Remove the furniture.  Before desks and chairs prohibited my students to move freely and pair up with a maximum number of different partners or groups.  By speaking to various people during the class period, students can move outside their comfort zones and use different vocabulary to find out about each other's interests, thoughts, and experiences.  Students write in composition books, on post-its, or on index cards while in the circle which allows for more sharing, and ultimately, growth.

2.  Encourage silly games, touch, and movement.  While silly games encourage students to take risks and see one another in a different light, they also provide an opportunity to take a necessary break from the intensity of an immersion experience while remaining in French.  Touch pushes the students to challenge their comfort level, and movement keeps their minds sharp while encouraging other forms of communication.  Acting out a vocabulary term is one of the three skills taught in the class to stay in the target language, along with drawing and circumlocution.

3.  Present community-building activities and challenges.  Approximately once every two weeks, I will present a community-building activity or challenge.  Examples such as forming a shape with a rope while blindfolded, vocabulary team challenges, passing a hula-hoop around the circle, or lifting a roll of duct tape as a class with only one finger force the students to work together as a team.  They also provide opportunities for learning new vocabulary as students need to negotiate rules or give instructions.  In fact, I don't need to schedule these challenges; the students regularly ask me for these activities or bring new challenges to the class.
4.  Create time for self-reflection.  Providing students with time and opportunities for self-reflection about their language acquisition journeys helps them understand what we are doing as well as inspires new insight into how they learn.  Every two weeks, students write in digital journals responding to prompts about how they contributed to the classroom community, how they overcame a frustration, or what new words they learned and how they remembered them.

Creating a community that applauds mistakes, encourages students to laugh at themselves, and supports a safe risk-taking environment has pushed my students to embrace a growth mindset.  They understand that in order to achieve their language proficiency goals, they have to get messy with the language, ask for help, develop a persistence for understanding, and figure out new strategies to communicate their thoughts and opinions.  The class community is the safety net that supports each student in the process.

Thank you for your continued support.  Merci beaucoup!

Erin Ménard