French tales

18th March 2005 at 00:00
I have been using traditional tales for teaching French to a group of primary schoolchildren aged seven to 11. In essence, the approach is one that many infant teachers would use in their English literacy lessons.

We focus on one tale for several weeks (we only have one session of French a week), using a simple French picture book as a starting point each time. The stories chosen all have plenty of repetition and are well known to the children - for example, The Little Red Hen, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs.

The activities that follow might be found with the same stories in an English reception class - matching pictures to words and phrases, sequencing chunks of the story, acting out with puppets or masks.

Each story is then extended by linking to topics as appropriate - for example, animals, colours, numbers, houses, members of the family.

The children are all highly motivated and have become used to hearing language in context, and they are learning that not every word needs to be understood for comprehension to take place.

It is a pleasure to watch them answering questions about the story and joining in with gusto - all in a foreign language.

Even the seven-year-olds can now sequence 10 to 12 sentences to retell a story and all lose their inhibitions in speaking French when using a puppet to join in with a repetitive phrase such as "Pas moi", dit le cochon.

Also used to great effect have been model animals and people to create tiny scenarios, experiment with sur, dans, sous and so on, and to play "hide-and-seek" games.

Cross-curricular learning is obviously taking place when a child asks in a literacy lesson, when a list of prepositions has just been asked for:

"Please can we include French prepositions in our list?" - especially as the word preposition has never been mentioned in the French club.

It is also easy to find materials on the internet, on French sites that focus on younger native speakers, as there is a wealth of activities related to traditional stories. These can easily be adapted for use with the children.

Joanne Jones

Literacy co-ordinator, Gipsey Bridge Primary School, Lincolnshire

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