MFL - Creature features

19th April 2013 at 01:00
Use sock puppets to find out how our furry friends are feeling

Every one of your students can have their very own "talking" pet in this lesson. All they need is a sock, some basic vocabulary and lots of imagination.

Teach them the vocabulary and expressions of basic needs before you allow socks into the classroom. You do not want to compete with those for attention. Build the target language first. Tell students in a serious voice that it is going to be their sole responsibility to keep their sock alive and happy by meeting its needs. Start with simple nouns - ask the class for these and put them on the board. "Water", "food" and "sleep" are obvious examples. "Exercise", "shelter", "warmth" and "medicine" will make them think further about how to keep an animal alive and well.

Next, teach some expressions for describing and enquiring after basic needs. English does this differently from some other languages. In English, we say "I am cold", but in French, for example, we say "J'ai froid" - literally, "I have cold".

Now let each child have a sock and put it on one hand to form a simple puppet. In pairs, children ask each other's sock puppets how they are feeling. Keep the key terms and expressions on the board so that students can practise them. They can also act out the different states.

Get them to start using these expressions in different conjugations. If this involves a lot of new language for them, let them have it on a worksheet for reference. One sock could feel another's forehead and exclaim: "You are hot!" and the other could agree: "Yes, I'm very hot!"

An excellent way to teach or revise body parts is the question "where does it hurt?". It will be so funny when a sock complains about its tummy that children will be more likely to remember the word. They could then go on to learn the language of looking for signs that an animal is unwell. Keep it simple: "My dog has a limp", "My goldfish is not moving".

Show students the wonderful Aardman Animations' Creature Comforts. These are available on YouTube in French, Spanish, German and more. Horses in Spanish, bats in German and armadillos in French - they all explain how they can't sleep, need fresh meat and so on. Students could watch these, note down new vocabulary, then use it in extended role play with their sock puppets.

Real pets don't talk, of course. Yet it is good for children to follow in their pet's pawsteps. It helps them to understand that animals' needs are basically the same as ours.

Catherine Paver is a teacher, freelance journalist and songwriter. Visit


Catherine Paver brings together multilingual versions of Aardman Animations' brilliant creations.





Inspire your class with these picture and word cards for all the animals that appear in Camille Saint-Saens' The Carnival of the Animals.


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