Using Majority Language poetry to develop minority language skills

Last week, I unexpectedly managed to make the most of Majority Language (ML)  poetry homework. Poem learning is a cornerstone of French primary school education and a headache for my handling of ML homework in the minority language (ml). 

Poetry has an important role in primary education, so as to foster the children’s good memory, teaching them rhymes and developing their ear to the melody of the language.

As explained in “8 benefits of using the minority language as Lingua Franca to the Majority Language homework”, I use the ml as lingua franca to ML homework. It works pretty well with maths and language homework, but poetry has always been a pebble in my strategy’s shoe. The reason being there is nothing to explain in the ml to the child but simply the parent having to listen to the child repeating the poetry in a loop, and correcting or prompting in ML where needed. Or so I thought…

Whilst reciting her latest poem, my eldest daughter kept getting confused in the text. She kept associating the wrong nouns to the wrong actions. It hit me she did not have a clue as to what some of the words she was reading meant, otherwise she would have matched the sentences correctly. 

So I started asking her if she knew what such and such word meant and when she could not tell, I translated them to English. For some words, I could tell the penny dropped, for others she still had no clue what they meant. So it was also the opportunity to define some of the English words she did not know. And when she recited her poem again and got lost, I now prompted her with the English word, and she remembered her text straight away. It felt pretty cool. I would have never thought I could get so much out of a ML poem! 

So far it was the kind of homework I hated most, as I felt it was the one I would not reap much English use from. How mistaken I was! It is in fact a great tool to:

  • check my child’s understanding,
  • show the use of a dictionary,
  • expand her vocabulary,
  • talk about the content,
  • and to teach translation basics.

Now, it might become my favourite kind of homework…and there usually is lots of poetry homework! 😉

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