AATF Exemplary French Program with Honors

Glenbrook North High School, Northbrook, IL
AATF member: Kelleye Guzik

Glenbrook North High school is located in Northbrook, Illinois and is approximately 25 miles northwest of downtown Chicago.  At Glenbrook North High School, we are extremely proud of the work our French program has accomplished.  We have created new curriculum for all five levels of French, implementing best practices and engaging our students.  We have immersed our students in French and Francophone culture.  We have also advocated for our programs in middle and elementary schools, and we have seen growth in our own enrollment.  We pride ourselves in giving our students the best possible language experience.

During the 2015-2016 school year, all three of the French teachers collaborated to revise our curriculum to reflect best practices.  The focus for our classes is communication.  We encourage students to concentrate on understanding and communicating a message.  Our goal is that students leave the classroom everyday with confidence in their ability to communicate in French.  To support this, we transitioned from using a textbook to employing thematic units derived from the AP thematic units.  The units are tied to essential questions and can-do statements.  Before the unit begins, we present the can-do statements and final assessments to help guide students in their studies.  We also align specific lessons to can-do statements to remind students of their progress.  Finally, we ask students to reflect on their ability to complete the can-do statements at the end of the unit, which permits us as teachers to reflect on our own lessons.

One of the many results we have seen with this curricular change is a higher level of student engagement.  By using authentic resources, such as articles or instructional videos from a specific country, students are generally more interested in improving their linguistic skills.  We are teaching them to survive in the target culture by providing materials that they would actually see in an international setting.  In addition, we found that creating interactive notebooks helped students concentrate and stay in target language for extended periods of time.  They are in control of their own “individualized textbooks,” which permits students to personalize the class to their own interests.  Essentially, they are creating a portfolio of things they can do with the language that they can brag about to their parents or friends.  We have had a lot of success with these notebooks, and the feedback from parents and students alike is overwhelmingly positive.

Another way we engage our students at GBN is by immersing them in French and Francophone culture.  We practice 90% target language usage in all our classes, and we strive for our students to reach this goal, as well.  In the past, we have had competitions to inspire students to speak more minutes in French.  We provide common classroom expressions to students so that they do not break into English, and they are constantly praised for appropriately utilizing these expressions.  Total immersion in our classrooms has strengthened our program and united all of our classes with this common requirement.

While total immersion has greatly aided our pursuit of student engagement, immersing students in cultural activities and celebrations has had an enormous boost of morale and energy.  We have made an effort to include cultural comparisons into every day of our lessons.  This past year, we planned various cultural celebrations to unite and advertise our program.  For example, we planned a Mardi Gras celebration with five different activities in which all classes participated.  At each station, students engaged in various cultural activities, such as trying jambalaya and king cake.  We also have smaller celebrations, like writing Valentine’s to a local nursing home in French and English or telling jokes for Poisson d’Avril.  These activities are fun for students and teachers, and we love planning them to get students excited about continuing their French studies.

After developing all of these aspects of our classes, we knew that we needed to effectively advertise our program.  Our French teachers participated in middle school French program activities when invited, such as a French Cultural Fair.  We took students on a field trip to their former middle school in order to discuss the benefits of continuing French, and the students loved sharing their personal experiences.  We spoke in an elementary school and middle school to promote classes at the high school and middle school levels.  We are active in the Northbrook community, as well.  Our students prepared a presentation for the Village of Northbrook’s Celebration of Cultures event, where local groups shared various elements of their culture. 

As teachers, we regularly engage in many different professional development opportunities, such as Oral Proficiency Interview training, the Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages conferences, Training for the Assessment of Language Learning in Illinois, and the American Association of the Teachers of French (AATF) meetings.  Two of our teachers have served on the Executive Council for the Chicago/Northern Illinois chapter of AATF.  One of our teachers is an ACTFL OPI Rater and Tester.  We aim to be leaders in our field, and we appreciate all opportunities to improve our craft and to assist other French teachers to do the same. 

We have worked extremely hard at creating a fun and interactive environment for our students at Glenbrook North High School.  We are proud of the goals we have achieved, and we look forward to achieving new goals in the future to push our students to a lifelong love of language learning.

Pétanque Le Grand Concours - Students scored in the 75th, 95th, and 85th percentile respectively.
French 4 field trip to the Art Institute

French 4 students painted in the style of a famous Impressionist artist during our Impressionism Art Unit.

French 2 field trip to a restaurant

Valentine’s cards to North Shore Place

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

Created: October 16, 2016
Last Update: October 16, 2016