The study of French is of utmost importance at Bishop Hamilton Montessori School where students begin their daily language study while still in the Casa program. As students progress through the levels their mastery of the language intensifies as does their understanding of Francophone culture and literature. Harnessing Ottawa’s geographic location and bilingual nature the French program conducts field trips, culminating in annual trips to visit nearby Francophone cities of Montreal and Quebec in grades six through eight. Students graduating from grade eight of the Junior High program have successfully completed the French immersion language curriculum that is introduced at grade 10 in the public immersion system. By molding students’ linguistic capabilities from such a tender age, and in small-group settings, they can become fully assimilated into the bilingual mosaic of Canada’s National Capital Region.
Our French program is introduced at the Casa level. The primary focus is on oral language. Daily lessons are presented naturally, humourously, imaginatively, and without English usage. Reinforcing Montessori principles, vocabulary is introduced via concrete items. Stories, rhymes, mime, games, songs, art activities and puzzles are integral to the program. Correct habits for pronunciation are instilled. The group lessons consist of eight to ten students, which allow for individual attention and oral interaction. In the Junior Elementary classes, French lessons continue on a daily basis. The classroom provides a rich background for learning a new language. A living dictionary surrounds the child. Written activities are introduced when, following the Montessori philosophy, the child is ready. This is generally by early spring when the child has already experienced success in reading, is becoming more adept at writing, and has a greater French comprehension. In the Senior Elementary classes oral proficiency continues to be the main focus. Listening and reading comprehension, grammar, spelling, and phonograms are introduced. Students are encouraged to write using concepts learned. Third year students travel by train to Montreal for one day to visit the sites and practice their French. At the Junior High level, French is taught with an equal emphasis on listening, speaking, reading and writing. The learning and application of French is achieved through formal and informal conversation, daily homework, interactive activities, projects, and a variety of exercises to stimulate usage of the language. The students have a four-day trip to either Montreal or Quebec City. They use this trip to practice French, enjoy the French milieu and experience Canadian history through visits to historical sites.