Friday, July 21, 2006


Meet my second cousins, Keira, Brianne, Lauren, and Megan, ages 4 to 7, who showed significantly more enthusiasm than my regular students when I recently suggested playing a game to teach them a song in French. They only knew a couple of words in French already--bonjour and voilà (which Lauren charmingly spelled "wala" on a homemade card for my mom)--but threw themselves into a translated version of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" with shouts of glee when they recognized the melody and felt very proud of themselves when they could figure out what tête, épaule, and all the rest meant. We practiced the eight body parts for the song by touching our own têtes and so on while saying the word in French. Occasionally I'd touch my feet, though, and say la bouche or something else that didn't fit, and they'd usually catch me on it. I also taught them two conjugated verbs--touchez (so we could then play Jacques a dit, or Simon Says) and fermez (so they could tell toddler Paul to "Fermez la bouche!", which they thought was the funniest thing ever). Including my words of praise to them (like fantastique! and très bien!), definite articles that I threw in inconsistently (sometimes le genou and other times just genou), and the structure for showing possession ("Touchez les pieds de Dad! Touchez la tête de Paul!"), that makes over a dozen words and expressions in French that they were able to recognize after only 15 minutes. And I never had to give them the English translation of any of them! Producing the words on their own was harder, of course, after such a brief lesson, but they managed to sing the song with me about an hour later to their parents, siblings, great aunt and uncle, and grandmother.

This is a lot more fun than what I normally do in the classroom (although on one notable occasion I had a group of 25 college students doing the Hokey Pokey in French to practice the vocab for body parts), but also much more exhausting!


Bouche (n.f.): mouth
Épaule (n.f.): shoulder
Fermer (v.): to close
Genou (n.m.): knee
Nez (n.m.): nose
Oeil (n.m.): eye (plural: yeux)
Oreille (n.f.): ear
Pied (n.m.): food
Tête (n.f.): head
Toucher (v.): to touch

1 comment:

  1. My cousin reported several weeks after this lesson that his daughters were still trying to sing the French version of this song!