MFL - Soapsud shanties

7th September 2012 at 01:00
Use song to combine pirate life with everyday vocabulary

"I'm a pirate, look at me!Stealing, sailing, wild and free!"

That sounds fun. But how do you give a lesson on pirates to secondary children without teaching useless vocabulary such as "cutlass" and "doubloons"?

You could start with a song. In Spanish, there is Yoho, Yoho, Un Gran Pirata Soy!, and in Italian, Yo-Ho, La Vita di Un Pirata Per Me! Both are lively ways to practise the first-person plural. In French, there is La Fiancee du Pirate, a dramatic way to practise first-person singular and the future tense.

Pupils could listen to the song while reading the lyrics, with necessary vocabulary. The whole class could then speak, sing or chant the words together. Whichever way you do it, the rhythm helps pupils to memorise the language.

Then ask them this: what do pirates do when they're not pirating? Pirates have to get along with each other somehow. Tell pupils that pirates in the old days voted for their captain. They had a democracy and shared their tasks. They had rules about things such as not fighting each other at sea, only on land.

Now give them whatever language of everyday life you want. Healthy eating, doing housework, feeling sick: in the mouths of pirates these things are hilarious and therefore memorable.

Divide the class into groups, each with a different everyday topic to work on. Each one writes a new verse for the pirate song. "Demons of the sea! We do the washing up!" "Demonios del mar! Lavamos los platos!" One group could write a refrain that the whole class sings at the end of each verse, for example: "We always share the cooking and we leave our pets in kennels while we're gone."

When it is time for the groups to perform, surprise the class with an inflatable parrot. Give him a grumpy personality. Make the parrot shout things like "Vamos!" at pupils as they are getting ready. Use him to revise imperatives. At the finale, the parrot can help you fling chocolate coins as the pirates take their bow.

For written work, pupils could write a pirate's diary, or a letter home to a girlfriend or boyfriend. Pupils could use the language of everyday life in these, to make them convincing or absurdly funny.

Pupils could also write very short stories. For ideas, give them the exciting origins of the word "pirate". It comes from the Greek peirates (one who attacks); then the Latin gives us pirata (sailor, sea, robber) and periculum (trial, experiment, risk, danger). There is also the modern meaning of "to pirate": to take another's work without permission. Pupils could pick one meaning and research the vocabulary they need for their story. Then swap books or read them aloud, to see how far you can travel with just one word.

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

What else?

For pirate songs in French, Spanish and Italian, check out CatherinePaver's profile on TES Resources. bit.lyQ6YEPn

Help your sick classroom pirates to explain their illnesses with French resources from LNortcliffe. bit.lyUg3Wcc

To make sure Spanish pirates are eating well, try rhawkes' healthy eating lesson. bit.lyPRR0J9

And for a treasure hunt vocabulary quiz in any language, try sommersprossen's resource - a great way to wrap up a pirate lesson. bit.lyPUtDMo.

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