Modern foreign languages - Head lice on holiday

An imaginative task that gets pupils pretending they are nits

Catherine Paver

Getting pupils to write a dialogue between two head lice is both liberating and funny. This exercise for pairs allows pupils to practise basic introductions, enquire about feelings and discuss plans and general views on life.

The set-up is that an English louse and a French louse meet on the head of a pupil on a school trip to France. Give the class English-French dictionaries and relevant vocabulary - for example, voler (to fly) and sauter (to jump). Get them to find basic facts about head lice from a French article or leaflet. (For example, head lice reproduce when only two weeks old. They grow up fast, and that includes learning languages.) But let them retain some words if they are scratching their heads. When they perform their dialogues, you can supply the French as needed:

"Bonjour. Je m'appelle Maurice. Et toi, comment tu t'appelles?"

"Bonjour. Je m'appelle James."

"ca va? Tu as l'air un peu deprime."

"I'm not depressed - it's just ... j'en ai marre d'etre un pou. On passe notre temps a boire du sang et a nous cacher."

"Garde le moral. That's French for 'Cheer up'. Nous aussi, nous pouvons vivre des aventures."

"Comment ca? Nous ne pouvons ni voler ni sauter."

Pupils finish this for homework and you mark it. They then perform their final, corrected versions. By now, the English louse speaks fluent French:

"Comment ca? Nous ne pouvons ni voler ni sauter."

"C'est facile. Nous n'avons qu'a nous promener d'une tete a l'autre le long de cheveux humains. Les enfants sont parfaits pour ca quand ils se mettent tete contre tete et se chuchotent des secrets."

"C'est vrai. Mais a tout moment, un peigne a lentes peut tuer nos petits. Notre existence est si fragile."

"Fragile, mais amusante. Nous apprenons les langues rapidement et nous voyageons a travers le monde gratuitement. Allez, on ne vit qu'une trentaine de jours. Allons-y."

Finally, let the pupils role-play. They can then meet and speak spontaneously to a new head louse - completely in French.

Catherine Paver has taught French in England and English in Italy and South Africa.

WHAT ELSE?

For a lively French head lice leaflet with creepy cartoons, take a look at Poux ... Poux ... Poux.

Read about lice in another language with KidsHealth's Spanish web page.

In the forums

Do you ever encounter language snobbery from native French speakers? Can French be taught properly by someone with an English accent?

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Catherine Paver

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