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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 3, November/December 2004

L’Alphabet Vivant

by Kathleen Cherry

With music, movement, artwork, and stories, L’Alphabet Vivant inspires, interests, and teaches the ABCs to French-immersion students.

The book is the brain child of three Kitimat teachers: Madeleine Christiansen, Audrey Rainville, and Maureen Atkinson. Christiansen and Rainville wrote the text; Atkinson provided illustrations.

The alphabet book incorporates music, movement, art, and stories for use in Kindergarten through to Grade 2.

"We wanted to present the alphabet in a way that would stimulate and use all the senses, and we knew the resource wasn’t out there."

They created a simple version for use in their classrooms. "It was just a framework. Originally, we had no intention of publishing. It was meant as a classroom resource."

L’Alphabet Vivant has come a long way since those early days, and it has taken the teachers into book publishing, recording, and, most recently, conference presentations. Authors Christiansen and Rainville presented at APPIPC, (Association Provincial des Professeurs d’Immersion et du Programme Cadre), October 21–23, in Richmond.

"It was a very exciting step for us," Rainville said.

The project has involved a number of exciting steps and hard work.

"We took that very simple framework and wrote alliterative stories for each letter. We also set them to the music of traditional children’s songs like London Bridge or Frère Jacques. We would go around humming and laughing. It was a lot of fun," Christiansen remembers.

The work was originally completed for a masters of education course through the University of British Columbia.

"Later, we decided to try for publication. We sent it to about nine editors. Of course, we got some rejections, but we did get a positive response from Éditions Soleil Publishing. We were delighted, although I don’t think we realized the time and effort involved before actual publication," Rainville explained.

As illustrator, Atkinson had some of the hardest work. She had to take her original ink drawings and make them into larger black-and-white water colours. She also assumed responsibility for the front cover and drew several full-colour pieces for final selection by the editor.

"That pretty much took care of one summer," she said.

Even more challenging, Rainville and Christiansen were asked by their publisher to develop a CD to accompany the book.

"This was something we had not expected, but we found a recording studio in Terrace and spent many, many hours there. When we hit a wrong note, we had to go back and redo it," Christiansen said.

"I had not had voice lessons, so this was quite new to me," Rainville added.

Even the weather acted up, and both Christiansen and Rainville remember a particularly snowy drive that made them decide that the life of a recording artist might be more dangerous than glamorous.

Despite obstacles, Rainville, Christiansen, and Atkinson are thrilled with the end product.

"It is very concrete, very visual. It is specifically written for French-immersion students, and it is very Canadian. I think it offers a valuable resource to teachers and something that will interest, excite, and teach students," Christiansen said.

Anyone interested in L’Alphabet Vivant may contact Éditions Soleil Publishing Inc. at 1-905-788-2674 or the fax order desk 1-800-261-0833.

Kathleen Cherry is a district counsellor, School District 82, Coast Mountain.