Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: Middlebury Interactive Languages French 1

Last school year, we had the privilege of reviewing Middle School French from Middlebury Interactive Languages when Melissa was in 8th grade. It was her first real exposure to the French language, and she was hooked! We had a positive experience with the program, and Melissa desired to further her French studies in high school this year. I was SO overjoyed to again have the opportunity to review a course from Middlebury Interactive Languages this school year. Since Melissa is in 9th grade, we decided to pursue High School French I.  

What is Middlebury Interactive Languages? Middlebury offers extensive foreign language courses in Spanish, French, Chinese, and German for all ages and grade levels. The courses are online and completely interactive for the student, with an intricate, detailed grading system that allows the teacher or parent to know exactly how the student performs, whether they are familiar with the language or not. The program is based on the principles of learning the language by immersion, and exposes the student to real life language situations, while also teaching grammar, context, and culture.

Does the parent need to know the language? No! Especially in the high school level, the student works independently with the program, and the parent is in a supervisor role.

What courses are available for French? In high school, Middlebury offers French 1, 2, and 3, as well as French Fluency 1 and 2, and an AP French course. If desired, a student could take a course for all four years of high school, and fully develop their French language fluency by the time they are completed. The AP course is designed to prepare the student to successfully complete the AP French exam. Each course is designed to last an entire school year, and fulfills one high school credit.

Does French 1 have a pre-requisite? While prior exposure to French instruction might be helpful, there is no pre-requisite necessary for taking French 1. It starts off with basic greetings and vocabulary, and quickly progresses to simple reading and listening skills. Since Melissa took Middle School French last year, some of the topics in the beginning of French 1 have been more of a review than new material, but it has been very helpful review for her.

What is the program like? Middlebury is completely interactive and very interesting. No boring pages of repetitious vocabulary lists. It makes the vocabulary come to life by showing how it is useful in everyday situations.

Here is an example of a 'Speaking Lab' which helps the student practice greetings they have learned.

When the student signs on to the program, they are greeted with their own individual home page, which consists of a calendar of assigned lessons to keep them on track, and a table of contents to show where they left off. I love the fact that the Table of Contents checks off each lesson as it is completed, so the student can start right in on their next assignment without any difficulty.

As the student works through each lesson, there is a nice variety of lessons, both printed and video, as well as an assortment of methods to practice those concepts. Each unit contains practice exercises, journals, comprehension quizzes, and tests. 

The practice exercises use varied methods such as matching, fill in the blanks, and listening skills. While concepts are constantly reviewed and repeated, the methods used to review are not. This makes for a very engaging experience, as the student certainly cannot get bored with so many different presentations of the material! Journal assignments allow the student to practice writing the language, and quizzes test the memory banks for vocabulary words. Tests incorporate all the concepts together and review the entire unit. 

Middlebury has an option that allows the student to record their own French speaking to have it graded, or even just to hear themselves speak the language. 

Exercises and quizzes give instant feedback to allow the student to know whether their answers were correct or not. 

The teacher's favorite part: Middlebury has one of the best teacher grading records of any online program that I have used. It is simple and easy to navigate. I click on the gradebook and am able to get not only an instant course average, but a breakdown of the grades of each assignment and quiz that has been taken, and the date is was taken on. There is also an option for the teacher to view the actual assignment to see the particular question that was missed.

How we are using it: Melissa uses her Middlebury French 1 course four days a week. She typically completes 1-2 lessons each day, depending on how long they are. It takes her about 20 minutes per day. Our goal is to complete the entire course by next Spring.

What we think: Melissa absolutely loves this program. She looks forward to using it everyday, and her best compliment is that it is actually teaching her to read, understand, and USE the language, not just memorize lists of vocabulary words. As a mom, I think this program is extremely effective. It is enjoyable to use, which is half the battle when trying to learn a new language. I enjoy the French culture videos that are interspersed throughout the lessons, as I think they inspire the students with a real purpose to not only learn the language, but also learn about the people that use that language.

I have been so impressed with how much French Melissa is learning and retaining. She is able to read and interpret paragraphs of written French, and several times we have come across a French speaking person who will ask her a question in French and she is actually able to answer them - in French! If just working through this program for a short time has instilled that much understanding, I look forward to how much French she will know after completing the course! I highly recommend Middlebury Interactive Languages for your home school.  

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