French is taught at the Waldorf School of Princeton in grades one through eight. Native-speaking teachers inspire students to embrace a culture as well as a language.
In the early grades, language is taught to the children in the ways in which they are most receptive: by imitation. The teacher speaks in French almost exclusively, and the children's powers of imitation, which are so strong in the early years, enable them to imitate what they hear in a seemingly effortless manner. The teacher avoids written work and keeps the class focused on songs and short conversations. Through songs, poems, rhymes, games, gesture, pantomime, and drama, children receive a whole language experience.
In the fourth grade, reading and writing are introduced, but the emphasis on the spoken word continues with new songs, poems, folk tales, and dramatic opportunities. The rudiments of grammar are brought into focus for the first time by the end of the fourth grade.
In the middle grades, studying a foreign language begins to nurture the intellectual capacities unfolding in the child. French is no longer primarily a living experience of the senses, but slowly becomes a skills class that requires consistency, practice, and analytic thinking for its success. During these years, children learn proper uses of grammar, syntax, and daily oral expression. They also receive a dynamic introduction to the social studies of the culture from which the language comes.
In the upper grades, vocabulary acquisition, grammar, working with authentic documents, original writing and dialogs, and impromptu conversations are the central components of French language classes.