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  • Gestures

    How long do the students need to gesture to communicate?

    In fact, the students never talk with the gestures! There is extensive guided speech production in AIM – where the teacher gestures for the students to speak during whole-class activities. This technique called Teacher-led self expression allows students to have enough practice with the language to begin to speak spontaneously on their own – without any need for gestures often within 100 instructional hours!

    Why use gestures?

    Many studies have shown that gestures are a wonderful enhancement to the acquisition of language and to retention of information. Some key points include:

    • Gestures help students rapidly internalize language. AIM’s gesture approach is multimodal, stimulating several areas of the brain at once.
    • Acquisition is faster / more deeply embedded.
    • Gestures pass directly from sound to meaning, without the need for translation.
    • Syntax and grammar are also simultaneously presented visually, kinesthetically and editorially.
    In this unique, never-before-seen manner, the students acquire these concepts rapidly as well!

    Do students need to gesture all the time?

    In an AIM classroom, students are not required to gesture, except when the teacher introduces a word, or during kinesthetic reviews. They may gesture if they wish, or they may choose not to gesture. For some, gesturing while identifying a teacher’s gestures and speaking at the same time is too challenging and may be causing students to feel overwhelmed. Make sure that at least 50% of the AIM program is spontaneous so that the students feel connected to the gestures and see them as meaningful.

    The gestures might work well for elementary students but aren’t they much too baby-ish for high school students?

    There are many AIM teachers of high school students who say that these students appreciate very much what AIM offers. Some testimonials include:
    • “I have had five years of French class and for the first time, I finally understand what the teacher is saying!”
    • “I have learned more in the first week of classes with AIM than I did in the past four years.”
    It is essential that the teacher be positive, passionate, relaxed, confident and truly believe in AIM and success will be guaranteed!
    Read Robert Slabodnick’s article to learn more

    I am at the end of my career – isn’t it exhausting to learn all of those gestures?

    Some teachers do say this, then quickly realize that they had nothing to fear!
    • The gestures are natural, intuitive and teachers say they are very easy to learn.
    • One only needs to learn as much as will be taught in the next class!
    • Each day, review all that students were taught in the previous classes. It is simple and scaffolded – designed to be easy and repetitive.
    • The teacher very quickly becomes proficient – especially if s/he teaches more than one language class a day.
    • Teachers say that the use of gestures will open up communication that they never believed possible and have never before experienced
    • Making teaching much less exhausting and definitely more rewarding!

    We have heard form numerous teaches who are close to retirement that now that they are finally teaching the language they will change their plans to retire and continue teaching!

    Proficiency and Skills Developed

    By what time do students begin to speak and write with beginning proficiency?

    Most have reached what we call ‘critical proficiency’ (an ability to communicate spontaneously – express basic needs, requests, state facts, ask questions, write 800 – 1,500 word stories) at the latest by the end of the second Kit – some by the end of the first Kit. The second kit (hours 51 to 100) of the program is where we see the most significant progress made in the development of proficiency.

    I have heard that AIM helps students to speak but they will not have enough opportunities to read and write - is this true?

    Although AIM always ensures the development of oral language skills – this is what is uniquely successful about AIM – there is an equal emphasis on the development of excellent oral and written language skills!

    The following are some of AIM’s reading and writing opportunities:
    • reading the play in a variety of forms, many times throughout each kit (as a whole class in the big book or on overheads, in the Partner/Group activity, reading to the teacher, when reading in order to respond to questions, when rehearsing in small groups)
    • reading each of the language manipulation activities (each activity is two to six pages long)
    • writing responses to all language manipulation activities
    • reading each of the over 100 total questions
    • writing responses to these questions
    • reading each of the over 100 partial questions
    • writing responses to these questions
    • reading all their own responses to these activities
    • reading the sentences and words when playing games such as Words in action, Questions and Answers, Opposites, Complete the sentence and guess the word
    • reading and writing the whole-class cooperative story retelling (usually between five and ten chart paper pages long);
    • reading and writing the whole-class cooperative story extension (usually between five and ten chart paper pages long)
    • reading and writing the cooperative story retelling written individually in discussion with a partner (usually between five and ten chart paper pages long);
    • reading and writing the whole-class cooperative story extension written individually in discussion with a partner (usually between five and ten chart paper pages long)
    • reading the stories/poems/raps published by other students in the class
    • reading the songs on the posters as they rehearse the songs
    • reading the rap rules
    • reading the words in either My Book of Words or on chart paper when writing creatively with a partner
    • reading their stories to others in their own class or when sharing with reading buddies in other classes
    • reading the cultural unit story and the questions related to it
    • writing responses to questions based on the cultural unit
    • reading their weekly journal entries
    • writing their weekly journal entries
    • reading stories that they or other students have written based on the creative writing activities People in Action! And Life in Action!
    • Writing the creative stories based People in Action! and Life in Action!
    • Expanded reading and writing opportunities beyond the core kit:
    • AIM Cultural Literacy Pack
    • AIM readers
    • AIM Assessment Activities

    Research had shown that pupils should start writing in a second language only as soon as they write grammatically correctly in their first language. Why do AIM students begin writing immediately?

    The belief that students should only write in their second language once they write in their first language has been discounted since the 1960s with the proven success of the Canadian immersion programs.

    • French Immersion students begin to write in their second language before they begin to write in their first – or as they are beginning to write in their first. Studies have shown that students from early immersion programs score higher on literacy overall in their first language.

    • Any exposure to literacy in any language is beneficial for students. In fact, in my experience as a core French teacher, I found that opportunities to write in the second language supported the development of first language literacy skills and as students developed literacy skills in their first language, student writing also improved in my second language classes.

    • Research has shown that there are so many benefits to the acquisition of all language skills in a foreign language – students who do acquire a second language (reading, writing and speaking) have a better overall understanding of grammar systems in general over time.

    • We are really giving our students a gift when we teach them to speak, read and write in a foreign language. My grade one and two students who produce beautiful stories with inventive spelling (as they still use inventive spelling in English) are so incredibly proud of their accomplishments –and they should be! They read and re-read their stories to me/parents/others students.  It is really a beautiful thing to see. I can’t imaging holding back and preventing this opportunity from occurring!

    Themes, Vocabulary and Other Content

    What ‘themes’ are covered?

    • ALL traditional themes are covered from the beginning – starting with most high-frequency words within a theme (e.g. sports, food, clothing, weather etc.) and in each kit adding a few more words included within that theme while repeating all words previously introduced to make sure that students don’t forget! This is the concept of holarchical design.
    • Relationships among friends and family, morality questions are embedded in the stories and critical/creative thinking activities

    What is the PDL?

    It stands for Pared Down Language. These are the highest frequency, most functional words introduced first for authentic communication!
    • Verbs are key. Word associations are key to acquisition of thematic vocabulary. The verb (base) e.g. ‘eat’ extends to include practice with food and locations where food is eaten at home, school, elsewhere.

    • Nouns relating to clothing, food, sports, locations, the classroom are introduced and constantly reviewed through daily entry routines and embedded in the plays, songs and associated activities.

    • Vocabulary is selected based on scope, reliability and frequency.

    • Teach across verbs (eat, run, sleep, can, want, do, know etc.) rather than through (as when conjugating) to maximize function rather than form, thus focusing on the development of proficiency.

    Where are AIM activities and grammar concepts introduced in the kits?
    I have heard that AIM Students can only talk about the plays, not about real-world stuff. Is this true?

    The following quote from AIM teacher Cheryl Roper contains the truth about what AIM students can do:

    I was reminded, at the Summer Institute West, that I never reported on how my Europe trip turned out. Our group consisted of 8 high school students (4 boys/4 girls) including 3 of my French students and 5 Spanish student from my school, one parent, my husband, and I. As I stated earlier, we were combined with two other high schools from our area for a twelve day tour of Paris, Provence, Barcelona, and Madrid. I am glad to say that it was AMAZING! I was so proud of my high school AIMers, with all of 2-3 years of experience in the language, walking up to native speakers in France and Spain and communicating without hesitation. Even the students from the other groups traveling with us who had more years of French or Spanish sought out the AIM experienced students whenever they wanted to ask directions, buy something, or order at a restaurant. My wonderful students tackled the metro, street vendors, the streets, the markets, the beaches, and all the tourist sites with confidence and courage. I could have NEVER done that when I was in high school (even though I took 6 years of French, starting in junior high) with my theme-based textbook. Thank you Wendy and all the folks who make this company work!

    I want to use the gestures alone with a thematic or other approach – can I combine AIM with other programs?

    AIM was carefully designed as a stand-alone resource – it has proven to have a powerful, synergistic effect through the systematic combination of gestures with story/theatre/drama and language manipulation activities. For all language learners, and especially for young students, a context is essential for the development of word-concept. The use of story and drama allow the kinesthetic effect of gestures to be enhanced by the stories ability to provide an emotional-kinesthetic context that brings meaning to the gestures and a reason for using the vocabulary learned. It also provides a wonderful focus and sense of security to children at the early stages of language learning, especially important for very young students.
    Teachers who have used gestures alone, or who have used the play alone, or who eliminate one or more aspect of AIM, never see the same benefit in language acquisition to the implementation of AIM correctly and in its entirety. We have many testimonials from teachers who have tried to combine AIM with another program and they soon realize that the reason why AIM works is due to its philosophy which often does not correspond to that of other programs.

    I want to use the gestures alone with a thematic or other approach – can I combine AIM with other programs?

    AIM was carefully designed as a stand-alone resource – it has proven to have a powerful, synergistic effect through the systematic combination of gestures with story/theatre/drama and language manipulation activities. For all language learners, and especially for young students, a context is essential for the development of word-concept. The use of story and drama allow the kinesthetic effect of gestures to be enhanced by the stories ability to provide an emotional-kinesthetic context that brings meaning to the gestures and a reason for using the vocabulary learned. It also provides a wonderful focus and sense of security to children at the early stages of language learning, especially important for very young students.
    Teachers who have used gestures alone, or who have used the play alone, or who eliminate one or more aspect of AIM, never see the same benefit in language acquisition to the implementation of AIM correctly and in its entirety. We have many testimonials from teachers who have tried to combine AIM with another program and they soon realize that the reason why AIM works is due to its philosophy which often does not correspond to that of other programs.

    I hear that AIM is just a play – is this true?

    AIM is a rich language and literacy approach that builds student language skills in
    • dramatic arts,
    • choreography,
    • music,
    • language manipulation activities,
    • oral storytelling,
    • the writing process,
    • the editing process,
    • public speaking,
    • spontaneous interaction and
    • authentic, meaningful communication.
    The teachers learn the AIM techniques and strategies and using the play as a starting point, reach far beyond the play itself to bring meaning to the language acquisition experience.
    The play allows for successful scaffolding into more challenging linguistic interactions. The play is an anchor that provides security, predictability and stability in what is commonly an anxiety provoking experience.

    Everything that happens spontaneously in an AIM class is gestured. Teachers constantly look for ways that personalize the program so that it is meaningful to the students. As a result, students feel connected, successful and they want to continue to learn.

    What if some students don’t connect with the play (i.e. they don’t like it) and you are using it for an entire year!

    Some teachers misinterpret AIM, believing that all we do for 50 hours is a play, yet the play is only part of it! Over 50% of what we do in an AIM classroom should be spontaneous interaction, not necessarily play-related. The remainder of the activities are not necessarily based on the play. For example:
    • Use the play as a starting point, have students place different characters/people in these roles.
    • Ask questions that promote critical thinking so that true discussions occur! What specifically don’t they like? Why don’t they like it?
    • Have students take ownership and in their story retellings and extensions, they should design stories that they do like! This should take up 1/3 of the entire kit!

    Meeting All Students’ and Teachers’ Needs

    How does AIM provide for differentiated instruction?  What if students are gifted or struggling?

    AIM reaches ALL students – for the first time students with learning differences are sometimes the BEST in the foreign or second language class!

    Remedial:

    Recommended support includes:
    • give students the level of support that one would with grade one students who are
    emergent readers/writers (e.g. assistance from the teacher, a peer, allowing them to circle or underline rather than write the words, and in story writing, the partner is the scribe so that they may still contribute fully to the experience of story writing.)
    • students complete fewer activities always work with a partner for support (is part of AIM philosophy for all)
    • expectations will be individualized

    All students really can succeed with AIM!

    Enrichment

    Students:
    • create questions, games,
    • write longer stories,
    • add to/enhance the play,
    • are expected to have higher degree of accuracy in writing/speaking
    • are expected to write with higher level of creativity
    • write songs and raps,
    • choreograph and present journals from the perspective of the characters
    • ask more higher level, critical-thinking questions.

    You have to have an outgoing personality to use AIM! 

    There are highly successful teachers with many different personalities using AIM – quiet, outgoing, dramatic, calm. We can see these variations among our exceptional facilitators! For success with AIM, what matters is that the teacher believes in the methodology, becomes well trained in order to implement it correctly so that s/he achieves the best possible results.

    AIM only works if a teacher has high language skills

    Check out AIM and teacher language skills to learn more

    What if I don’t have my own classroom?

    Check out Teachers who don’t have a classroom to learn more

    Selection of Kits

    My school has JUST decided to implement the AIM French kits. Do I use a step one kit for grade one, a step two play for grade two and a step three play for grade three?

    If this is the first year that your students have had AIM instruction, then all classes must begin with a level one play. Doing a step two play assumes that the students (and you!) know all the gestures (approximately 550) from the step one kit. Doing a step three play assumes that you and your students know all the gestures from steps one and two (approximately 800 gestures).

    Even if your students have had some language instruction before, you must begin with a level one play when you begin with AIM – regardless of the age/grade level/prior language instruction.

    I have taught students from immersion, francophones, students with no French experience and those with several years of FSL. I start them off with a step one play when beginning AIM. Even though they know some words in the language, stronger students have something new to learn – AIM’s gestures, the play, dramatic arts and public speaking skills, choreography, creative writing and the editing process etc. Their (initially) stronger language skills allow them to be leaders in the classroom. Due to the accelerative nature of AIM, within the first kit, some new students gain proficiency so rapidly that they catch up or surpass the skills of the initially stronger students. The class becomes much more homogeneous as you move into the second step and beyond.

    We have various step one French plays:

    For students ages 5-7, La Poule Maboule
    For students ages 8-9 Le chat et la lune
    For students ages 9-11 Les trois petits cochons
    For students ages 11-13 Le garçon qui joue des tours
    For students ages 13-17 Salut mon ami !

    AIM is too expensive!  My school won’t invest in any resources so the money is coming out of my pocket. 

    For what is provided in a kit (everything a teacher needs for 50 hours of instruction) AIM is one of the least expensive resources available to language teachers – yet by far the most effective – an ideal combination!

    By purchasing a kit you:
    • are investing in your personal training to improve your practice as a teacher
    • improving your chances of employment
    • giving the gift of language to your students
    • will have such a positive teaching experience
    • will receive supportive comments/appreciation from parents
    • are supporting a small Canadian publishing company, started by Canadian educators

    Proof of Success

    Where’s the research?

    Check out Research Studies to learn more

    How is AIM supported by recent research in Brain-based learning?

    Check out Why AIM Works -Supporting Research to learn more

    Does AIM meet Ministry guidelines?

    We have created alignments to many Ministry guidelines and are happy to send these to you, upon request.

    AIM in Other Programs

    AIM in Immersion

    Check out AIM in Immersion to learn more

    How does AIM differ from TPRS?

    Check out AIM and TPRS to learn more

    How does AIM work in an IB/PYP program?

    Check out AIM in IB to learn more

    Is AIM appropriate for Intensive French?

    Check out Intensive French and AIM to learn more

    Can AIM be used in a Homeschool environment?

    AIM was developed in a classroom situation and is powerful in part, due to the group work opportunities – large and small. The power of the group and cooperative learning strategies are an integral component to the success of the methodology. AIM has been used in Homeschool environments successfully, but is only effective if the following conditions exist:

    1. There should be at least 5-6 students in the group, ages 5 and up.
    · This is to ensure that AIM’s supportive use of gesture works effectively to help weak and shy students see and hear others around them.
    · Partner/Group Activities are an essential part of every AIM classroom. It is important that students engage in ALL written activities with a partner and that they experience different partners throughout the year.

    2. The purchase of a Kit is essential as it provide all the supporting materials. The second integral component for success is training on the part of the teacher. A one-day workshop is recommended and also that the teacher follows our Foundations training online, which will provide ongoing instruction and support throughout the first Kit.

    Can AIM work in a Montessori school?

    Check out AIM and Montessori to learn more