Family, Friends, and Français: Art and Drama

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By Sarah Dodson-Knight
Photo credit: rick

When you’re teaching a minority language to your children, you need to make it as interesting and as relevant to them as possible so that they see the language as useful and they really want to communicate in it. What better topic to focus on than friends and family!

If you’re a French speaker who has been following this series, you’ve already gathered the vocabulary you need and learned lots of songs and rhymes.If you speak other languages, or if you’re a new reader, welcome!

The art and drama activities we’ll look at here can occur in any language, and they will provide you and your children with lots of opportunities to use that language in a meaningful context as you discuss your friends and family.

In “Family, Friends, and Français,” we’ll explore the following:

Join us on this romp through the French family tree! A new article will appear on Multilingual Living every two weeks.

Part Two: Art and Drama


First, let’s explore some art projects; you decide how in-depth to go depending on your children’s ages and abilities in the target language. If your family doesn’t speak the language on a regular basis, you might want to designate a certain table or part of the house as the “French (or whichever language) Studio” and then consistently do art projects (or read books, etc.) in that language in that specific space.

  • Cards: Make greeting cards for friends and family members; adults and older children can write expressions and sentences in the target language while younger children decorate the cards with drawings, stickers, and/or photos.
  • Family crest: Design a shield or crest representing your family. Write your family motto in the target language! (You may need to discuss this as a family first.)
  • Family quilt: Ask each family member (including extended family members) to illustrate an 8.5″ x 11″ (or whatever the standard size in your country) construction paper or card stock sheet with drawings about him or herself. Alternatively, have your children decorate pages about their family members. Attach the pages side-to-side in the shape of a rectangle to make a family quilt and hang it up proudly in your home.
  • Family tree: Draw (or download) a family tree; add photos or drawings of family members; then label with their names, relationship to your children (using the terms in the target language, like these in French), and any other information you want to include. You can make your tree more elaborate by writing each person’s name on a green leaf-shaped piece of paper, a leaf rubbing, or a real leaf. Or try this handprint family tree picture or this 3-D family tree made from a real branch!
  • Friendship bracelets: Follow these directions to make knotted bracelets for your children to give to their friends; older children and teens can probably make them by themselves.
  • Handprint rainbow: Work together as a family to create a colorful arch with paint and your handprints.
  • Paper dolls: Design and decorate your own paper dolls depicting family members or use any of these templates or perhaps these.
  • Placemat: Create a collage on a large sheet of paper about each family member, with photos, illustrations, pictures cut out of magazines, and words and expressions in the target language describing the person; laminate each collage to use as a placemat at the table.
  • Portraits: Draw pictures of friends and family members. Consider framing them and hanging them on a wall in your home as in a museum gallery!
  • Portraits (life-size): Trace two outlines of each family member on butcher paper, then draw in facial features and other details on one outline. Staple the two outlines partially together, stuff with tissue paper or newspaper, then staple closed. Now your children can dress the figures in real clothing! Or try life-sized portraits of your children and their friends in which they decorate the outlines with drawings, photos, and information about what they like to do with their friends.
  • Thumbprints: Use stamp pads to make thumbprint figures and decorate them to look like family members or friends.

Of course, as you explore these projects with your children, engage them in conversation in the target language about what you’re doing together and whom you’re depicting!

And now for some drama activities!

Whenever your kids play house, play with dolls, or have their stuffed animals talk to each other, they’re engaging in role play–now encourage them to do so in the target language. Here are some other drama activities that you can do together while enacting scenes about friends and families:

  • Charades: In a group, take turns acting out what people in your family typically do (professions, chores, favorite activities, sports, and so on) without using any words or sounds. See who can guess first the person being depicted!
  • Dollhouse: Simply act out stories about friends and family with a dollhouse as the setting. (Need a refresher on French vocabulary about homes and furniture? See this article.)
  • Finger puppets: Make finger puppets to tell stories. Try attaching faces cut out from photos to finger puppets you already own, decorating clothespins, using paper dolls, or creating any of these puppet projects.
  • Masks: Make masks out of life-size photos of friends and families’ faces or design them yourselves with card stock, paper plates, craft supplies, yarn, and so forth. Interview a family member or friend about his or her interests, accomplishments, favorite things, and childhood memories, then wear the mask depicting that person and speak as him or her. Then pretend you’re all at a party; interact with each other while you’re impersonating each other!
  • Online animation: Using Microsoft Agent and Mash software, animate characters who will act out a skit for you about friends or family.

We hope you’ll enjoy getting creative with your kids in the target language!

Still to come in this series: Literacy Activities (Part Three) and Tactile and Kinesthetic Activities (Part Four).Join us on this romp through the French family tree!  A new article will appear on Multilingual Living every two weeks.

Need a refresher on expressions in French to describe friends, family members, and love? See our vocabulary round-up here in the introduction to this series.

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.

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