March 1, 2024


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What is this place where kids are “calm and bold in English”?

What is this place where kids are “calm and bold in English”?

“Attention, be ready and do your best!” » (“Attention, be prepared and give your best!”) Ecole des Vertus (3rd arrondissement) CE1 students play a sock race. Apart from the fact that the teachers and assistants here speak English, everything seems like a classic play activity for children. Here, this Tuesday, At the Academy of Languagesrue Cambon in ParisFor an exclusive preview visit, in the middle of a busy week, promised by the company that opened its doors in September, and will be opened on Friday by Anne Hidalgo.

“It's great to give Paris to students who can't afford to leave,” enthuses the director of Vertus School. “This idea is one of the most segregated academies [socialement] of France, to advance social and educational diversity and to provide the best conditions for success to all students, regardless of their social origin and their history”, explains Patrick Bloch, Deputy for Education to the Mayor of Paris. The system created by Paris City Hall and the Rectorate is completely free.

Here, we learn by doing

Students affected by the initiative come from CP, CE1, CM1, CM2 and 6th grade and are welcome for a week during school hours. Practices for high school students are organized during short school holidays and short periods. Academy teachers speak to the children only in English, with some attempts at French only if necessary. For now only the language of Shakespeare is on the program, but eventually the idea is to organize immersion weeks in German, Spanish or Italian. Adults also have access to evening classes and neighborhood residents are invited to activities in English Bicycle repair shops.

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“Kids don't come to do English lessons, they come to do things in English,” explains Marie Automne Thebot, co-director of the Language Academy, who works on the concept of third spaces and is interested in popular education. Because the Academy of Languages ​​is not really an educational place in the high-sounding sense of the word. Here we like sports, a “relaxed and liberating” mix, the manager believes, where the main thing is for people to be interested in another culture, another language.

Children show off their drawings inspired by New York artist Keith Haring. – AL / 20 minutes

New York atmosphere

Walking upstairs occupied by two more classes from a traditional elementary school leaving in July, we find the middle class singing. You put your right leg in » (“Put your right foot in”…), in front of Keith Haring inspired drawings. Here the atmosphere is New York, and the children are very proud to show their production, faithfully The painter, who was inspired by pop art and graffiti, died in the 1990s. Further up, we find CE1, this time drawing the bagpipes. “And you, have you learned any words of English?” to the question of ”, everyone nods their heads with a big “yes”. “Bagpipe [cornemuse]Flower [fleur] », quotes Maxim, 7 years old. He continues: “It gives me little quizzes and I like to hear myself speak English. ” “Floor [sol] », Mathilde seems to say, before being taken back by her companions. “Oh, throw it [jeter] », the girl tries.

“What we are doing with the Language Academy is to show that public schools are capable of having spaces for innovation and taking initiatives to renew themselves,” believes Patrick Bloch, interested in the experiment that school and extracurricular hours are no longer boundaries. Activities are carried out and designed together.

Marie-Automne Thébaut, co-director of the Language Academy, shows the diplomas and passports awarded to the children at the end of the immersion week. – AL / 20 minutes

Authors pocket ideas

At the end of the week, the children receive an all-important “real” diploma and passport, and during the ceremony they can eat “shortbreads” (Scottish shortbread biscuits). Prepare and present their productions, dances and songs to their classmates from other schools. “After a week, the little wolves have loosened their tongues and become bolder! », notes Marie Automne Thebaut.

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For adults too, the experience should be enriching, because the idea of ​​the language academy is that teachers return to their institution “motivated and methodical”, in the words of Patrick Bloch, and above all with ideas of activities. Do it in English throughout the year. A resource center should soon flourish in the middle of the academy, which will also become a training space.