AATF Exemplary French Program with Honors

Fairmont High School, Kettering, OH
AATF member: Mary Townsend

Fairmont High School, Kettering, OH

Fairmont High School in Kettering, Ohio is an International Baccalaureate Diploma School and on the College Board AP Honor Roll, offering 2400 students 35 AP and IB classes and college credit. Kettering City Schools is an Ohio Department of Education School District of Excellence with Distinction. This excellence can be found everywhere on campus: in the IB science labs, on the walls bedecked with student art, in the Calculus III classrooms, in our nationally recognized music program, in AP English classes, in IB seminars with international authors, and in our French, German, Latin, and Spanish classrooms. We are fortunate to have developed a culture of success where students believe they can achieve, regardless of their background or economic status.

 Over the course of the past several years, the character of the French Department has changed. Becoming an IB school has expanded our school approach to global citizenship: becoming proficient in a world language is an important component of the international focus. Thus, preparing for successful IB assessments necessitated developing our French curriculum into a more substantial and rigorous offering. We updated our courses across all levels to increase learning in the four aspects of reading, writing, listening and speaking. We aligned the curriculum to include Ohio and National Standards as well as AP and IB global themes, and bolstered achievement goals all along the way. We speak in French at every opportunity in each level for comprehensible input. And this year, we welcome a full section of eighth graders enrolled in French to the high school, eventually increasing the language offering at Fairmont to a five-year program.

Technology is playing a greater role in the way we teach and students learn. All FHS classrooms are equipped with Smart boards and Ladibug projectors. Moreover, as part of our Race to the Top funding, all students are issued Chromebooks. The French Department recently received money through a local grant to purchase a library of almost 30 French and Francophone films on DVD for use in the classroom as well as for student check-out so they can watch and learn at their own pace. Activities include writing film reviews, re-enacting scenes, describing and developing characters, writing poems, changing endings -- all providing subjects for meaningful class discussion. These activities can be adjusted for any level of learner.

From the novice level on, students practice their presentational and interpersonal skills with individual and group projects. While similar in nature, they are articulated, differentiated, and scaffolded based on student level. For example, French I students prepare a presentation on Paris monuments and then open the class to discussion. The following year they research and present on a region in France, including departments, important cities, natural resources, and cultural venues. In year three, students present the weather from a Francophone location, including conversion to metric for temperature and wind speed, researching facts about their Francophone region and signing off à la française. These projects lead to the culminating year four project of a major presentation of a Francophone country, including everything from how the area came to speak French, birth and literacy rates, politics, religions and languages spoken, geographical features, traditional cuisine and customs to their present-day challenges in the 21st-century world.

Throughout the year, Fairmont French students participate in AATF activities. In the fall, we celebrate National French Week by writing and submitting essays for the AATF annual essay contest. We festoon the room, enjoy traditional foods, and decorate the school display case. Each November, French IV students participate in Wright State University’s excellent Journée d’Immersion experience on campus.

In the winter, we prepare for and take the Grand Concours. This year, almost 200 FHS students took the AATF National French Contest. We are pleased that Fairmont had 13 national winners, 3 state/chapter honorees, and 28 honorable mentions; most students received Certificats de Réussite. Preparing for the Grand Concours helps the students fare better on all high-stakes tests; it acclimates them to the test culture and bolsters critical listening and thinking skills. Both the number of students taking the AP and IB exams and their scores have steadily improved.

 In the spring, we tap and induct new members into the Société Honoraire de Français. This year, we also honored a senior student with the AATF Outstanding Senior in French Award. The AATF provides avenues for teachers to promote the significance of learning French as well as individually recognizing students for their achievements.

Fairmont has a vibrant French Club that offers various types of cultural and social activities. Some activities include our annual t-shirt design contest, cheese-tasting event, French movie nights, learning songs and dances, making (and eating!) traditional dishes and pastries, mini-plays, and celebrating French holidays. Following the tenets of the IB learner profile, we “adopt” children at Christmas and annually support local and international charities.

We host a “Day at the Museums” excursion, traveling to regional museums to see French works of art. For example, last year, we attended the Toledo Museum of Art where we saw “LeNôtre’s Gardens: Landscaper to the Kings” temporary exhibit and a great mosaic wall of Matisse among other notable works of art. We then continued on to the Detroit Institute of Art where we viewed their French and African collections and Rivera’s mural. This summer, the Club will visit our local Dayton Art Institute. We are already planning a cross-curricular trip with the IB Theatre class to visit the Art Institute of Chicago in the fall.

Every two years, French students travel overseas. I have developed a curriculum to accompany our trips, where students have the opportunity to research selected historical sites we will visit before departure, continue their research as we visit the venues, and then upon return produce a compendium of what they have learned. They receive a semester credit through our credit flex program. Fairmont High School is humbled by and grateful for the award of Exemplary with Honors bestowed on us by the AATF. My colleague Michele McCarty and I acknowledge our incredible French students and engaged parents, former Fairmont French teachers, support from the Ohio AATF Chapter and Ohio Foreign Language Association, and excellent leadership from the Wright State University French Department.

 For full information on applying for Exemplary Program status, click here.  

Created: July 20, 2015
Last Update: July 20, 2015