It’s a snail’s pace for French students

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Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake Glacier High School senior Kimberly Frownfelter builds a hammock Wednesday morning for the snail shell she "adopted" in Stephanie HIll's French class. Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 in Kalispell, Montana.

The upper-level French students at Glacier High School are all new parents.

Of escargot, that is.

French teacher Stephanie Hill has her class participating in a program called “Adopt an Escargot.” The program adds a bit of whimsy to learning and practicing the French language through various projects about the escargots.

“They have to say everything in French,” Hill said.

When the little boxes containing single escargot arrived to the classroom, a baby shower was held and each snail was adopted by students who filled out French adoption papers and a parent survey (in French, of course).

The students didn’t actually adopt live snails — just the shells — under the premise that the snails were “shy” and hid inside the shells.

“This gives them a theme for the entire year. It’s a little out there, but the students embrace it,” Hill said. “The snails come with their own personalities.”

Personality cards typed in a scripted French were translated by students. Sometimes words get lost in translation.

Senior Alex Benedetto first thought his snail was afraid of toasted ham and cheese mittens, but on closer research was afraid of the boogieman.

Hill said this was a good exercise in translating an unfamiliar term such as “croque-mitaine.”

“He knew ‘croque-monsieur’ was a toasted ham and cheese sandwich and ‘mitaine’ for mitten, but I told him to try a different translator. ‘Croque-mitaine’ is actually slang for boogieman,” Hill said.

Often the likes or dislikes of the escargots were in conflict with each other. Students had to figure ways around those conflicts when completing assignments that involved writing about their snails’ day-to-day activities. 

“I ask them questions like, ‘What did your snail do yesterday?’ and they practice using past tense,” Hill said.

They can also email the le Grande Escargot (loosely translated to the great snail) the character behind “Adopt an Escargot,” for advice.

Junior Kimberly Frownfelter’s escargot, for example, is afraid of snow and mountains but likes to ski. She thought about having her snail go water skiing, but the escargot of her friend, junior Brooke McCann, likes to water ski but is afraid of boats and water. 

Frownfelter translated another odd quirk about the escargot she named Oliver: “[He is] afraid of Martha Stewart when she’s in the kitchen.” Frownfelter laughed. 

 On Oct. 3 the juniors put finishing touches on their escargots’ handmade homes. To make Oliver more complete, she crocheted a head and body. 

“This project is fantastic,” Frownfelter said. 

Frownfelter said she would like to continue learning French after graduating from high school and eventually travel to France.

 Nearby, Benedetto finished writing a script to produce a video and upload to YouTube as one of his class projects.

“I’m going to do a short video welcoming the snail in the world from a father’s point of view,” Benedetto said.

Students also have to practice their pronunciation and fluency by introducing their escargot to other teachers. 

“The other teachers have been really into the project and are picking up French words,” Hill said. “This project gets everyone involved.”

Hill is taking the project outside the state by reconnecting with a former colleague in Wisconsin who is also participating in the “Adopt an Escargot” program. Both teachers plan for the classes to become pen pals.

When the end of the period bell rang, students tucked their snails safely away before heading to their next class.

 

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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