Verb, en Francais, was the word inside the Maple Ridge Secondary School gymnasium Thursday morning, May 26.
Canadian Parents for French Ridge Meadows sponsored a district Verbathon competition involving French Immersion (FI) students from four elementary schools: Pitt Meadows, Eric Langton, Laityview, and Golden Ears.
While being cheered on by boisterous schoolmates, students from Grades 2 to 7 raced against the clock, and each other, during an event focused on conjugating French verbs. Students sorted cards with different verb forms, and had to place them as quickly as possible in the correct order.
FI students from Maple Ridge Secondary volunteered as timers and judges during the competition.
Verbathon is the invention of FI teacher Emmanual Escueta, who coordinated and emceed the district competition.
Escueta, who teaches Grade 2 and 3 FI students at Irvine Elementary in Port Coquitlam, created Verbathon as an occupational survival tool in the classroom back when he was teaching in Manitoba.
“I had a very challenging first year of teaching,” Escueta recalled. “I had students who I had to really work with to try to motivate. These were Grade 7/8 kids. I was challenged to create and to become more and more inventive on how I deliver the curriculum.”
In any language, verbs are vital, and most who have taken French in school have what Escueta describes as “post traumatic verb-learning stress syndrome.”
So he decided to address an issue that he has to deal with every day in the classroom. The challenge was, how does he deliver the competition in such a way that would motivate students while at the same time allowing them to have fun?
So he came up with the INFINITE principle. INFINITE is an acronym for INclusive, Fun, INteractive, Integrative, Teamwork, and Empowerment.
“It makes for a very powerful teaching tool in the classroom,” Escueta said.
Verbathon has reached beyond B.C. boundaries and now includes schools in Quebec, Ontario, and in the U.S. There are French, Spanish, and German versions of Verbathon.
“It’s like a snowball that’s gathering more and more steam,” said Escueta, who holds a national competition every two years.
“I ask teachers from across Canada who have Verbathon to participate, and they register,” he said.
The teams were determined at their respective schools, and the winning time in each age group (Grades 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7) in School District 42 will be compared to schools from across Canada, to determine a national champion.
“This makes the Verbathon tournament a unique experience because the other schools from Quebec and Ontario don’t have to come here,” Escueta explained. “They send me their results and their video.”
Originally from the Philippines, Escueta didn’t begin learning French until he was in Grade 11 in Winnipeg.
“I was actually discouraged to take French when I first started high school. This shows you should never grow up, and follow your dreams,” Escueta said.
For more on Verbathon, visit www.verbathon.com.