Tag Archives: french

Meet Our Teachers: Lesley Jorge

Lesley Jorge teaches French in Upper School and Middle School, having joined the Morgan Park Academy faculty this fall after 13 years in a similar role at a K-12 school in Evanston.

She holds a B.A. in English and French from Butler University and a Master’s in curriculum and instructional design from Wichita State University.


What do you enjoy most about teaching?

For me it’s all about the kids. I feel so lucky to have found a profession where I get to interact in an important and meaningful way with teenagers. I love being around these young ladies and gentlemen. Their passions, perspectives, and voices have so much to offer the world. Plus, they keep me young!

Continue reading

Spotlight on French

MPA is proud of our long-running French program. We currently introduce French in the preschool and continue French exploratory classes through 4th grade. In 5th grade, students can choose to take French full-time and study the language through the rest of their education at Morgan Park Academy. Our teachers, Mandala and Madame Haskins, love sharing their expertise and enthusiasm for French and Francophone culture with their students. In the early years, Madame teaches basic skills and vocabulary through dance, song, rhyme and movement. In our full-year program, Madame and Mandala add reading and writing skills, conversation and cultural competency. Additionally, our teachers plan both local field trips and Project Week trips abroad (in the Middle and Upper School) to give students an opportunity to use the language outside of the classroom.  

DSC_0029xIt’s easy to understand why French has enjoyed such long-time popularity in World Language departments all over the country: it is one of the most-spoken languages in the world, with 220 speakers on 5 continents. It is one of the official languages of the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, and the Olympic Games, as well as many multinational companies. In addition to being one of the most spoken languages in the world, it is also the third most used language on the internet – ahead of Spanish!

This may surprise you, but students don’t necessarily need to leave the United States to put their French skills to work. Did you know that French is the 4th most common language spoken at home by Americans, after English, Spanish and Mandarin? Nearly 1.6 million people in the United States speak French as a first or second language, and the number of immigrants coming from French and French Creole-speaking countries is on the rise.

However, the reasons that students choose to study a language often have little to do with these statistics. Our students are attracted to French for a variety of personal reasons as well. Some are interested in the language’s connection to their cultural heritage. Others love the way it sounds.  Some are also drawn to French because of their interest in fashion, art, cuisine or travel.

We know that we are unique for a school of our size in that we are able to offer a choice of three languages to our students. We believe that by teaching French, along with Spanish and Mandarin, we are fulfilling our commitment to educating the global leaders of the future.

Sources and further reading:

  1. 10 good reasons for learning French
  2. A Big Advocate of French in New York’s Schools: France
  3. La Francophonie Official Website
  4. Why French Matters


By Lisa Camastro

Ms. Camastro teaches Spanish II, III, and IV in the Upper School and is our curriculum leader for World Languages. Read more in her Q&A.

The Computerized French Language Lab at MPA

Most linguists argue that languages should not be prescriptive, but descriptive. They simply mean almost all languages are spoken, but not necessarily written. In other words, spoken language precedes written language. For example, a baby learns how to speak a language, then he/she may learn how to write it a few years later. Therefore, rules that guide syntax and word structures in a language are the result of the way that language is already spoken in a natural way. That is also one of the reasons most linguists prefer to focus first on spoken language, then later on its written forms – especially when it comes to learning a second language. Now, the real concern for second language learners is finding opportunities to practice the target language when they are away from classrooms. At Morgan Park Academy, we have put in place a computerized French language system (lab) to supplement and support our classroom language instructions in order to assist our students in developing their language proficiency, particularly the listening and speaking skills.

MandalaLearning a second language requires hours of practice. In our French classes, we discuss concepts of the French language, we use French in individual and group activities, and we play games that target vocabulary, grammar, syntax and conjugation in order to reinforce what we study. We also talk about francophone culture and compare it to our American culture. That way, our students develop a sense of respect of other cultures.

However, learning a second language goes beyond the classroom setting. Unfortunately, once at home, students don’t have a chance to practice French because most of them live in environments where French is not spoken. At Morgan Park Academy, we unlocked the secret and made it easier to our students to practice their French beyond the classroom, wherever they are and whenever they want. We use a computerized language system on top of the traditional teaching. It is an audio-visual learning experience both inside and outside MPA that our students can access using a computer or a tablet. The program is based on D’accord textbooks developed by Vista Higher Learning (VHL), which come with a user-friendly interactive software. My students interact with their classmates (or with virtual native speakers) through well-constructed and computerized French activities which allow them to practice their French in a free and meaningful way.

One of my objectives is to allow my students to understand native speakers when interacting in natural settings. By my experience, many times when students learn second languages, they speak them well enough, but they will still have trouble understanding native speakers. Besides our professional and structured pedagogy, the computerized language system (laboratory) exposes our students to the target language, allowing them to practice over and over until they start deciphering the language.

Each of my French classes meets at the MPA computerized language lab once a week. During lab sessions, students work mostly on their listening and speaking skills under my supervision. My students can also access their lab anywhere outside MPA, creating a virtual immersion environment for them in order to continue practicing French whether they are on a bus, at home, in a park, or anywhere else using their computers or tablets. The program allows them to listen to native speakers and respond to some commands using French. Every listening and speaking activity is recorded in the system, which allows me to go over the activity and assess their language skills. This feedback (for them and for me) tells me what students have learned and where they are still struggling, so I can plan my future lessons accordingly.

The French language lab also allows me to follow each student individually while others work independently. That way, they will not interfere with each other. The lab reflects a true fresh environment that takes students away from their traditional classroom setting once every week. I am proud of my students when I listen to their recordings or to their discussions in the classroom. Their French intonation and accent get better every day.

In short, a language lab offers many advantages in the learning of a second language. Among the many advantages of using a language lab are: accent and intonation improvement, clear pronunciation that facilitates imitation, increased pace of comprehension, and increased individual attention which results in a better retention of the concepts. It is amazing to see how students develop all these four language skills simultaneously.

By Thomas Mandala

Mr. Mandala teaches French in the Middle and  Upper Schools.

World Languages & Reaching Global Competency (or: How We Met Elvis in San Antonio)

haskins-riverwalkGrateful for both the professional opportunity and a break from the Chicago weather, we were excited to head to San Antonio, Texas, last month for four days of inspiration, learning, and battery-recharging at the annual conference of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

We had the opportunity to attend pre-convention workshops and three days of mini-sessions focused on many different areas of language teaching. As teachers, we are well familiar with educational concepts such as flipped classrooms, cultural competency, can-do statements, and meaningful homework, and being able to focus on them with an eye to their implementation in language classrooms was invaluable.

Here are some highlights from our conference experience!

Continue reading