Learning French Around the Maison: Art and Drama

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By Sarah Dodson-Knight
Photo Credit: Posh Living, LLC

If you’re speaking French at home with your kids, like I do with my toddler Griffin, then you know that just about anything you do around the house is fair game for rendering in French, from playtime to mealtime to bath time to bedtime.

But what about activities specific to learning and practicing vocabulary words like prepositions, rooms in the house, and names of furniture? How about some songs and stories about homes that you can share with your children? Maybe you feel like some interactive games and art projects?

If so, then welcome to Learning French Around the Maison!

Learning French Around the Maison
Part Two: Art and Drama

Over the past month in this series we’ve looked at vocabulary, songs, and nursery rhymes in French about homes and houses.  Now it’s time to get creative with your kids with art and drama activities related to this theme!  As always, while the target language here is French, you can use these suggestions with the language of your choice.

You or your children can draw the floor plan of your own home, labeling the rooms in French, adding in the furniture, then draw the outside of the building, and finally make a map of the neighborhood to situate your home.

Don’t like to draw?  Then use clay, blocks, or other building toys to make models of the rooms.  Use the vocabulary presented here to identify and describe the parts of your creation.  Or if recreating your own home feels mundane to your children, then ask them to design their dream house and explain it to you.

If your children are still too young to draw anything recognizable just yet (like my son Griffin), then give them coloring pages with pictures of different types of houses. You could also cut up magazines and make a collage with relevant pictures or cut out pictures of décor and furnishing to add to the drawings.

While you are doing these low-stress projects, take advantage of this time to introduce relevant expressions or help your children practice what they already know, depending on their ages and familiarity with French. (You may wish to refer to this list of useful prepositions sur, sous, en face de, etc. — for these activities.)

Next, take these drawings a step further and use them in an “information gap” activity, where one person has to convey knowledge that the others don’t have yet.

For example, you can describe your childhood room to your own children clearly enough in French that they can draw in the furniture and decorations according to your indications. “Sur le lit il y avait un gros éléphant en peluche,” you might tell them, “et à côté du lit il y avait une petite table avec une lampe and toujours un tas de livres.”

To simplify the task, give them a drawing of the layout of the room or the home and small pictures of furniture that they place in the rooms as you describe how they were furnished. Then change roles and let the kids describe their friends’ rooms or their dream houses or the homes of fictional characters (from books, movies, or TV) while you draw what they indicate.

You could also try making your own three-dimensional buildings out of cardboard boxes–small ones to make a model of your home or large enough to use as a play house.  You can write words and expressions in French directly on the cardboard to label what’s what!

Once the kids have created their own artistic renderings of houses, huts, castles, and so on, encourage them to act out in French what takes place in the home.  For instance, play charades, in which the players take turn pantomiming household chores while the others guess what is being depicted.

Then, use these pantomimes as a springboard to role play while you and the kids “play house” the way you might in your native language–but try it in French this time!  “Cook” dinner in the toy kitchen, give the dolls their baths, pretend that the stuffed animals are siblings having an argument and their parents have to intervene.

In fact, you can act out entire stories, with or without props, all related to this house theme.  You can adapt a familiar tale where the house plays a starring role, like “Boucle d’or et les trois ours” (Goldilocks and the Three Bears), or improvise your own.  Mine the songs we discussed earlier in this series for material to act out, too!

Still to come in this “Learning French In and Around the Maison” series: literacy activities (part three) and kinesthetic activities (part four).  Have fun trying out these arts and crafts and role plays, and please tell us about the activities that you like to do with your kids that help them acquire house-related vocabulary!

Sarah Dodson-Knight has taught English in France and English composition, ESL, literature, and French in the US. She now coordinates year-round reading enrichment programs at the Lafayette Public Library (Colorado). You can find her at Bringing up Baby Bilingual where she writes about raising children with more than one language and records her efforts to teach French as a non-native speaker to her son (Griffin, age 2) and her nephew (Carl, age 4). On her blog, you will find profiles of bilingual and multilingual families, resource recommendations, book reviews, discussion prompts, descriptions of games and language learning activities, and stories about Griffin and Carl.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Gemma October 27, 2010 at 12:39 pm

My son’s go to a french Pre-primary school so its great they learning a second language. I went to visit them one day, bring a parent to school and during Physical Training i saw all these swimming babies and my kids were clearly having a good time. Viva Le France!!


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