Learning French With the Middlebury Language Program (a Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Last year I had the opportunity to review Middlebury Interactive Languages with the younger girls. We studied French during the course of the review but didn’t have the opportunity to finish the course. I was excited to have the opportunity again to review the Elementary Grades 3-5 level in the French Courses.

A review of Middlebury Interactive foreign language program

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We received a six month subscription of Elementary French 1, Grades 3-5 for one student. This is an online program, and there are two options for subscribing- with a teacher or without. We received the “without teacher” option which can be purchased for $119 for a semester on the site. Our subscription was for one student, but because I have two who are very close in age- grades 5 and 6, I allowed them both to watch the the videos. Only one student can submit answers in the interactive part of the program, however. The girls especially enjoyed learning French this time around because their older sister is also studying French for high school.

The online language learning from Middlebury uses videos to teach through immersion. Then the words and phrases in the videos are used to teach students how to speak the language. There are interactive exercises that allow students to choose the correct words and that give students the opportunity to practice saying the words and phrases they are learning.

A look at how it works…

When we log into Middlebury, there are several ways that we can view the program. The current lesson that the student is on shows up as the next lesson ready to play.

We can also view the calendar. The calendar schedules the lessons as one per day. Using the calendar, we can also rewatch previous lessons.

We can also take a look at the gradebook. The gradebook will show the interactive exercises that the student has completed and what the score was. The activities that involve matching the French word with the English word or phrase will show a score of the number correct. The speaking exercises are just marked as completed. The girls can record themselves speaking, but using the “without teacher” option, the pronunciation isn’t really evaluated. They can play the correct speech and then record themselves imitating it. It’s nice that their older sister is also studying French because she helps with pronunciation.

The first lesson of a unit involves a story. In unit one it was Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood).

After the story, the girls have opportunity to practice words and phrases. Each unit has a different focus, and by the end of the units the student will have covered:

  • Greetings
  • Numbers
  • Family
  • Body
  • Animals
  • Colors
  • Days of the Week
  • Calendar
  • Weather
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Home
  • School/Classroom
  • Professions
In unit three, after listening to the story of The Two Brothers, the student practices words that have to do with the family.

What did we think?
The method of presenting a story and then using that as a springboard for the lessons in the unit is a great one. It catches the girls’ attention and gives them something familiar to use in understanding the words and phrases presented. Both girls have enjoyed watching the videos and figuring out from pictures and context what the French words mean.

Immersion language teaching just works. When I was a classroom teacher, I remember the first year we had a Spanish teacher begin giving weekly classes to our elementary students. She was Latin American with Spanish as her native language. She breezed into the classroom the first day…and spoke only in Spanish! I thought it was crazy. How would the kids learn if they didn’t know the words she said?! I quickly learned the beauty of immersion in a language. As the year progressed, not only did they start to catch on, they could understand more than I who had been taught high school Spanish in a way that definitely was not immersion. But immersion works. As the kids watch the videos and listen to the French stories and songs and hear the questions asked in French, they are truly learning. 
I think the balance of teaching through stories and songs and then giving the student opportunities to interact by completing actvitites is a good one. The interactive sections give the girls feedback and help them to really see how much French they are learning.

We have definitely enjoyed Middlebury, and it’s been effective in teaching the girls beginning French. If I were to keep on using it for higher grade levels (They have classes for K-12, including AP classes.) I would use an account for each girl, so I could keep records of their scores, and I would consider paying the extra price for a teacher who would evaluate their work.

The Facts:
Age- Grades 3-5; French is offered for grades K-12
Price– $119 for six months, without a teacher
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 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

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