The Prince’s Government is one of this learning platform’s partners.
Should we say “ils ont levé leur tête” or “ils ont levé leurs têtes” in French? How do we differentiate between a word’s type and its function? How do you write the sound [z]? Direct object, indirect object… what’s the difference? Native speakers and learners alike know that the French language is full of rules, which in turn are full of exceptions and subtleties.
These are all pitfalls that make it easier for spelling mistakes, careless errors or more serious transgressions to appear in what we write. Result: helping the children with their homework can be pretty stressful!
This is how Philippe Denain, as the father of a little boy, came up with the idea of creating the Myclass platform. It is an online tool, partnered by the Prince’s Government. The site contains 22 lessons, which cover 64 fundamentals of the official French curriculum, for CM1-CM2 (UK years 5&6, US grades 4&5).
The educational content was designed and approved by the teachers of the National Education Directorate of Monaco. For just one euro per lesson (the first one is free), all you have to do is choose the theme you want to work on with your child.
So how do these lessons work? How is the child motivated? Can (s)he practice afterwards? At Monaco Tribune, we wanted to check that our core skills were well and truly in order; so we decided to test this very comprehensive tool.
In little Sacha’s mind
It all starts with a ten-minute video with computer-generated images. We meet Sacha, a little boy aged about ten, in class with his teacher and his classmates. The teacher asks a question and off we go into the pupil’s head, in Cerveau City.
This is where Mémo and Erreur live, two colourful, fun characters, who each try to find the right answer, in their own way. They are helped out by the ‘Gardiens de la Gramaxie’: Grammy, Graphy, Lexico and Conjugo, who are specialised in grammar, spelling, vocabulary and conjugation respectively. They help Mémo and Erreur find the right answer, while fending off the evil Billy the Stress.
At the end of the video, the child can do practice exercises, but also develop a mind map: a simple diagram, to print and memorise.
Very colourful and cheerful, there is no doubt that children will be easily drawn into these short cartoons, with their amusing and endearing characters. Each of them has a distinct personality: Memo is wise and intelligent, Error is lazy and clumsy, Grammy is authoritarian… Children are able to identify the characters quickly and become attached to them.
Cerveau City, which consists of the “phraseur”, the “motusarium” and the “CCL” (communication and language centre) is a great concept, and it helps understand how to think about the question that is being asked. Is it about grammar or spelling, for example? Identifying the source of the problem makes it easier to solve.
The exercises and mind map at the end of each video have a dual advantage: first, the child is not always in a passive posture. They can practice, and if they get it wrong, they can always go back to the video to understand their mistake. But second and most importantly, the video and exercises explain the rules at length and give mnemonic devices to prevent doubts in the future. So this is not a case of learning by heart without necessarily understanding.
Fun, interactive and very affordable, this module is an excellent companion to school, enabling children (but also some adults) to master the language of Molière as it should be writ!