Authentic Language Learning at ISB

On Thursday 30 March, four classes of Middle School students took a trip to the International School Le Verseau, in Wavre, to visit their pen pals. The purpose of this project, a newly introduced collaboration between schools, was to help the ISB French C students practice their French and Le Verseau students practice their English in an authentic context.

Beforehand, each student from both schools had made a video in their learning language in order to introduce themselves. A few weeks later, ISB students had received and watched the videos from Le Verseau. Their teachers assigned them a partner, and they started to exchange emails or messages on Snapchat or Facebook... The rule was to play the game and use the language we were learning.

The great day arrived, and during the 30 minutes bus ride to Le Verseau, ISB students were at once excited and anxious to meet their Belgian pen pals. As an icebreaker, Le Verseau had provided a delicious breakfast for their guests, which included croissants, doughnuts, cookies, cake, fruit, and many other homemade tasty treats. While eating, pen pals had to find each other - an easy task for some, a more challenging one for reserved students. Then, the students from Le Verseau gave ISB students a tour of their school, introducing them to their surroundings for the day. After this, the ISB students attended two classes with their buddies, which varied from Math to French to PE. This immersion in a Belgian classroom not only allowed ISB students to practice their French, but also to observe and compare class sizes, student-teacher relationships, assessments, and pedagogy. During lunch, students ate outside, as the weather was hot and sunny. Several pen pals stayed together for the entire lunch break, chatting and finding common interests, playing soccer or baseball together, having fun in English and French. After lunch, ISB students made a presentation about ISB to Le Verseau, through videos and speeches in French. The rest of the afternoon was spent outside playing games in French and doing team building activities such as 3 legged races, human knot challenges, and an Easter activity. Then, they had to say goodbye to their buddies to head back home. Several pen pals exchanged their phone numbers, and some even planned to meet the following weekend.

This experience has not only helped us, students, to improve our language skills; it has allowed us to learn in a more relaxed environment, free from the pressure of a classroom and required topics. Both partners could express themselves in a natural, fun way, and encourage each other in improving their language skills. Also, it was an opportunity to meet students from another culture, and start a real interaction with them. We can't wait to invite them to ISB, and continue this beautiful adventure.

Written by the ISB Middle School News Team: Grace Bassett, Eliza Levitt, and Morgana Angeli