Modern foreign languages - Worthy of discussion

31st August 2012 at 01:00
What are a child's rights? Take two books and start a debate

Have you ever written "discuss" on a lesson plan and been met with blank faces? Discussion needs planning, especially in a foreign language. Arm yourself with questions, pictures, anecdotes and provocative statements. Then you can guide the discussion, prodding it if it snoozes and calming it if it snarls.

A text provides a focus. J'ai le droit d'etre un enfant and its new English version, I Have the Right to Be a Child, are ideal. Both books are based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The French version by Alain Serres, a former teacher, translates parts of the convention into accessible language.

Beautifully illustrated in block colour, it is not photocopier-friendly. However, pupils can easily share copies of these large, bright books. The French and English versions look the same, and children love finding differences between things, so it can be fascinating for them to compare the two.

Pupils will need a reasonable level of French to do so, as the English edition is a creative and not a literal translation. The most striking change is that it takes the statements of the French original and turns them into questions. This stimulates debate. There are other provocative differences to discuss. Disability is described differently in the two books - ask your pupils to decide which is the better version and explain why.

The pictures alone can stimulate discussion. What about that polar bear eyeballing the child dancing on its nose? Does it care about her rights? How can rights help you in a world where there are dictators? Pupils could study countries where children's rights are not observed.

With these books, pupils will revise verbs while thinking about someone other than themselves. Children have a very strong sense of justice. Who knows? You may have future international lawyers in your classroom.

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

What else?

Check out ciara5's PowerPoint about youth concerns and children's rights.

For more resources on children's rights, try www.droitsenfant.globaleducation.chaccuel and www.droitsenfant.comindex.htm

Organise cross-curricular teaching combining citizenship and French with Unicef UK's wants and needs cards.

In the forums

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