Importance of the Sequence:
Speaking ▶ Reading ▶ Writing
A distinguishing characteristic of the Neurolinguistic approach is the following teaching sequence: speaking ▶ reading ▶ writing.
This sequence is the foundation of a literacy-based approach to language learning, that is, an approach that focuses on learning to use the language rather than learning about the language.
In the oral part of a lesson, the teacher uses a model sentence first so that the students can create their own sentences based on this model, in order to participate in the conversation. The teacher also takes care to ensure that the students understand the conversation. To assist the students’ comprehension, the teacher may use gestures, mime, objects or pictures, but during the oral part of the lesson he or she does not write anything. At least half of every lesson concentrates on the development of oral language as this helps the student develop the internal grammar, or implicit competence, which is essential to be able to use a language spontaneously. When the creation of an internal grammar precedes the learning of external, or 'conscious' grammar, which is used for writing, learning a second language proceeds more rapidly, and more effectively, than when one learns grammar rules first. It is also more natural. Think about how you acquired your mother tongue. Learning about the relationships between words and their written form, or external grammar, implies conscious learning, and comes later in specific steps of the reading and writing lessons.
After the oral part of the lesson, reading begins. The students learn to read what they are able to say. At the same time as the students learn to read, they also enrich their vocabulary and begin to develop their external, or conscious, grammar. In this part of the lesson their attention is drawn to the connections between sounds and the way they are written, as well as of verb forms and, in French, masculine and feminine agreements of adjectives. This sequence is the natural way to proceed, as it is what occurs in mother-tongue development.
In the third phase of the lesson, students learn to write what they can say and read. With the students’ help, the teacher writes a model for the text the students will write. The students propose sentences relating to the teacher’s life experience and that are connected to the current theme, and the teacher writes them on the board or on the screen. Afterwards, all together, they examine the text to organize it properly. Then the students write their own paragraphs, based on the model but adapted to their own life experiences.
Lastly, the students integrate their three skills by reading and discussing each other’s compositions. When this is done, we say that they have completed the literacy “cycle”.
Specific Teaching Strategies for Each Skill
Teaching Oral Language
In general, there are three parts to an oral lesson:
1. The 'warm-up', where students speak with one another using vocabulary and structures they have already used; one student often plays the role of the teacher, or leads the discussion;
2. The main part, where students acquire new structures and vocabulary relevant to the topic they are discussing;
3. A concluding activity, where students use the new vocabulary and structures in a wider context.
In the main part of the oral lesson, there are eight steps to follow that have been especially developed by teachers to enable students to learn to communicate easily. These steps help the learners to use and re-use a small number of sentences and words in different situations to express a personal message. It is by using a relatively small number of structures multiple times that students are able to develop their implicit competence, or internal grammar. The teacher always gives a model first so that the students are able to create sentences themselves in order to participate in the conversation.
Here is an example of how the steps work. Click here to view video
After all the steps are completed, the students use the structures they have just learned in a more informal activity.
Two of these teaching strategies are used during all oral activities in the classroom.
1. The use of complete sentences by the students when answering a question. This strategy is necessary in the beginning stages of learning the new language in order to develop internal grammar. An internal grammar is composed of connections between ALL the elements of a sentence. It cannot be developed if the student is using only isolated words or parts of a sentence.
2. Immediate oral correction, and immediate re-use, of the corrected sentences. If the students’ oral use and re-use of the language is not accurate, their internal grammar will be faulty. Oral accuracy is a skill; it does not depend on knowing grammar rules. In Intensive French, oral correction replaces the teaching of many grammar rules.
Teaching Reading and Writing
For both reading and writing, there is also a recommended sequence of eight steps based on a literacy approach that is specific to second-language acquisition.
For reading, students start by observing how the language is written; this is when external grammar begins to be taught. It should be noted that the teacher does no more than point out the particularities of written language. Grammar is always taught in a context. See the following example of the steps for reading.
Click here to view video
For writing, there are also eight steps to follow. As with oral development, the teacher first creates a model for the students. Then they write their own composition, adapted to their own experiences.
Keeping in Touch With Parents
It is important for teachers to keep in touch with their students’ parents. Parents generally like to know what’s happening in their child's classroom, especially if they do not speak French themselves!
Importance of Projects
In Intensive French, language is always used to express messages. This is why, to direct the learning, each teaching unit includes two or three mini-projects, as well as a final project closely linked to the unit’s theme. The emphasis is on the message that the students wish to express about the subject being discussed. Internal grammar cannot be acquired by doing exercises; students must be concentrating on the message they are trying to get across, not the forms of the language being used, to develop the 'non-conscious' or internal grammar necessary to use the language spontaneously.
Interview with Michel Paradis
Teachers who wish to learn more about the development of implicit competence (an internal grammar) may like to listen to this interview with Michel Paradis, Emeritus Professor at McGill University, a researcher and specialist on the brain and language acquisition, who developed the neurolinguistic theory of bilingualism on which the Intensive French approach is based.
Click here to view video(in French only)
Training Sessions and Guides
Participating in a Training Session
To understand the fundamentals of the Neurolinguistic Approach and learn how to apply the teaching strategies that are necessary to make the approach work, teachers need to participate in a training session. Some universities offer NLA training, as do a number of independent consultants and organisations.
To understand the fundamentals of the Neurolinguistic Approach and learn how to apply the teaching strategies that are necessary to make the approach work, teachers need to participate in a training session. Some universities offer NLA training, as do a number of independent consultants and organisations. email@example.com
Training sessions are also offered by provincial or territorial Departments/Ministries of Education or by school districts. Normally, these training sessions are given every summer either in one five-day session, or in a two-day session followed by another three days in the early fall. Consult the French Program Specialist at the provincial/territorial Departments/Ministries of Education, or the CASLT website (Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers, www.caslt.org) for details about where these summer sessions are published.
Training offered in 2021
(The list will be updated as more information is received.)
To our knowledge, no in-person training sessions will be offered in Canada in 2021, in order to abide by the public-health precautions required to counter the spread of Covid-19. Some organisations and consultants offer partial training (theory and principles of the NLA) online. For more information, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teachers who attend in-person training sessions receive a copy of the Teachers’ Guide for Intensive French, which contains all the teaching units and suggestions for the content of each lesson. There is a guide for each level of the program: Pre-Intensive French, Intensive French, Post-Intensive French I, II, and III, and Post-Intensive French IV, V, VI and VII. The guides are distributed only to those teachers who have participated in a full training session.
All teaching materials are in French. However, the introduction to the Teachers’ Guide, written by the co-authors of the program, is available in English, courtesy of the Province of New Brunswick, and may be consulted here: Post-Intensive French, Grades 6, 7 & 8
To be able to facilitate a training session, it is necessary to have completed a training session designed for NLA teacher-trainers. Such a training session can be organized upon request. For more information, please write to email@example.com.