Tuesday, April 06, 2010

moi, the expert on France?

A friend has asked me to make a presentation about France to a class.

Her daughter's class.

Her daughter's preschool class.

Because I know more about the country than any of the parents in the class. (That makes me the local expert.)

So now on Friday morning I'm going to go try to get four-year-olds excited about France. I have 15 minutes, max. Any ideas?

I'm torn--I'd like to do something besides presenting the tired stereotypes of the Eiffel Tower, berets, baguettes, snails, and accordion music. (But I still want to pass around my stuffed Eiffel Tower and play songs for them.) And I don't want to spend a lot of time preparing this talk. (In other words, I won't be making crepes or individual French flags or mix CDs for each child.)

So here's what I'm planning so far:

--Teach bonjour/bonsoir/au revoir by walking in and out of the classroom and turning the lights off and on.
--Ask the kids what language that is and where it is spoken. Show them on a map of the world.
--Show them photos from calendars about sights in France, emphasizing that it's a small(ish) country that has Roman ruins, medieval villages, and high-tech modern architecture; cities and farms; ocean and mountains; and so on. Maybe show pictures of typical foods and see if the kids can identify them.
--Show a picture of a bridge again, and then play the folk song "Sur le pont d'Avignon," telling them what it's about, and then have them get up and link arms and dance in a circle while I play it again. (Here's a cute, short video of kids dancing to the song.)
--Review bonjour/bonsoir/au revoir, and then leave as they tell me "au revoir"!

I'll have Griffin with me, so it'll be interesting to see his reaction to this presentation! Maybe I should practice on Carl when I babysit him tomorrow, since he's four years old? Except that I am determined never to speak English to him! Let me know if you have any suggestions. Fifteen minutes just isn't long enough! This is why, some day, I would like to teach French classes for toddlers and preschoolers.


  1. I used to teach primary (teach high school in Guatemala now) and this sounds age-appropriate, interesting, and low-prep for you. Good luck!

    Benjamin Barnett

  2. I think your plan sounds good! One thing you could add would be a few tidbits about the lives of French children - the elaborate French public school lunches, for example, or the fact that they learn to write in cursive before they learn to print? Or maybe those would be better for 1st/2nd graders?

  3. Excellent plan, Sarah! You gotta teach them a cheese name, like Camambert or Rocamadour! I'm sure they'll be alla charmed by your presentation! Good luck!

  4. I'm not sure preschoolers are going to care that France has Roman ruins and Medieval architecture and modern cities. I think a building is just a building at that age.

    I like the idea of tidbits about French children. Maybe about how they go to school on Saturdays?

  5. You could also teach them some of the names for doll, teddy bear, etc. Things that might be relevant to their everyday play? First time commenting, just found you and I am so grateful that you blog about this. I am not fluent, but studied French in college and spent a semester in Paris studying, so am attempting to speak and read in french to my daughter (6 months old). Thanks for the inspiration and ideas! I would love to see more transcripted dialogues between you and your son...it helps with all the baby/kid words! Merci!


  6. Your ideas sound great so far. I know using some of the traditional information is kind of blah, but I would suggest bringing in some special food item for the children to have. I worked with that age group for about five years and the food always sticks =) Maybe a baguette, or Pillsbury croissants (even though they don't hold a candle to the real thing) so they can snack and look at your information at the same time =) Hope to hear that the presentation went well!

  7. I have a great foreign language website with for kids! French is one of the languages, maybe you can get some ideas. Let me know what you think!


    Have Fun!!!

  8. You could show them a clip or picture of little kids playing with those nice little boats in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

  9. I can sent you a template for a paper passport that you can hand out before you start.


    You can contact me at

  10. I saw a LOT of musketeers and princesses during Carnaval in that age group -- you could dress Griffin up if he'd like that (don't forget the swirly moustache!). Maybe that would be a good starting point for the next presentation and you could talk about castles and kings and queens and such. Jean Petit Qui Dance seems to also be a big favorite with that crowd. Have fun!

  11. Wow! Thanks for your suggestions and encouragement, everyone. I wish I had more than 15 minutes to squeeze everything in. Even if little kids generally aren't interested in buildings, I'm still going to bring in pictures of castles and a Roman aqueduct and the Arche de la Defense anyway. And if I can find a Jardin de Luxumbourg picture, that too. (Don't they do puppet shows there too?) Even little kids know what castles are, right? And rather than risk disappointing a kid who can only eat gluten-free foods, I'll just bring in some plastic breads and pastries to pass around. Plus the passport, especially since there will be other guest speakers presenting overviews of other countries. And I will figure out a way to mention a few things about French schools (like your ideas of elaborate school lunches, no school on Wednesday afternoons, school on Saturday mornings--although I've heard that is changing now?). It would definitely be fun to do lessons on cheese, Carnaval, other songs....maybe they'll invite me back. If not, all this brainstorming will serve me well when I do my own French classes for toddlers and preschoolers down the road! Thanks again.

  12. @KC--By the way, kudos for you for embarking on this journey to bilingualism for your daughter! Let me know when you get your blog up and running (it looks like you're planning to start one?), and I'll visit and leave comments based on my experiences with Carl and Griffin.

    In the meantime, here's a post that includes some baby dialogue and a link to a list of baby French vocab:



  13. @Tina and Chillola--Thanks for the link to your website and for the offer to share your template for a passport! I have emailed you to ask for it.

    Your website looks great--I love the whimsical illustrations and how you've introduced so much key vocabulary in different languages. Your slideshow of US monuments with descriptions in different languages is especially cool.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the activities that you will include, and I commend you on your goal of teaching culture, intercultural communication, and appreciation for different ways of life via Chillola.

    So often languages are taught in a vacuum with only superficial attention given to culture, or relying simply on the stereotypes. One of my challenges in teaching Griffin French will be also figuring out how to get him excited about learning about all of the countries where French is spoken--and why and what that means.

  14. @Jennifer--I have just seen that you and KC are in similar positions (albeit with different languages). Kudos to you too for teaching your baby German and keeping a blog about it! Let's keep in touch too. Let's all keep in touch! Yay blogging!

  15. This is KC, using my ID with our family blog, should have done that in the first place...oh well. Thanks for the link! Looking forward to 'staying in touch'!

  16. Hi, I am a native French speaker trying to raise my son (currently 4 months old) bilingual. I think your ideas were fine (not the one about the Roman ruins though). You could include a couple of minutes from Sesame Street in French, they might get a kick out of that, and bring snacks from France (cookies, like elephant ears). Show pics that include a lot of children