Family, Friends, and Français: Literacy Activities

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By Sarah Dodson-Knight
Photo credit: rick

Now that you’ve had a chance to see some classic and modern books in French about friends and family, it’s time to get creative, do some fun literacy activities, and help your young children make their own poems and books about the people they love!  Many of the ideas listed here will work in any language, not just French.

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.

Let’s begin with short literacy games.

  • If your children are literate in French, they might enjoy this crossword puzzle about family members or these online vocabulary exercises: fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice.
  • You can make them a word search with vocabulary words and names of people they know using a template like this one.
  • Another game that appeals to children is Hangman (le pendu)–take turns guessing words related to family and friends or their names.  (Bonus: the players have to pronounce the letters of the alphabet in French!)
  • Also, most French textbooks are now accompanied by online exercises and games; borrow a textbook and check to see if its website offers activities corresponding to the chapter on family members.


Even children who can’t write yet in their first language can help you design and decorate greeting cards.

  • Help them figure out what to say to create Valentine’s Day cards, birthday cards, Mother’s/Father’s/Grandparents’ Day cards, holiday cards, and more.  (You may wish to refresh your memory of relevant family/friend vocabulary in French first.)
  • If you’d like a format to provide more structure to making cards, try these downloads from Foreign Language Fun for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, which include quotes in French to choose among.
  • Or if you’re not feeling artsy, send a free virtual card in French!


Children have poetic souls.  Why not exploit that tendency and ask them to write poems about their family and friends?

  • Giving them a format to follow–and explaining that poems don’t have to rhyme–makes it less daunting.  For example, in an acrostic poem, you write a word (soeur, maman, grand-père) or a name vertically, with one letter on each line of the paper.  Then you add words, expressions, or sentences that begin with that letter and describe the person.  See some examples in English, then try it online!


Shape poetry (called “calligrammes” in French) is also a lot of fun.

  • Draw the outline of a person, your home, or a favorite pet, for instance, and then write words and expressions that describe the subject of your poem around the outline of the picture.
  • Some examples in English, both simple and elaborate, can be found here.
  • Other popular forms of poems are haikus (a three-line poem with the following pattern: 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables) and cinquains (a five-line poem that can follow various formats)


Next, let’s look at more prosaic and practical literacy activities: writing about what you and your family do around the house.

Here are some real-life examples of what your kids can write in French (or whatever your target language):

  • Label rooms and belongings (la chambre du bébé, le vélo de papa)
  • Make a grocery list
  • Write down a recipe that you have created (you may want to read some easy recipes in French with your children first)
  • Design coupons to trade favors with family members (for example, je cuellirai des fleurs pour toi, je te lirai un livre)
  • Make a chore jar, where each slip of paper names a different household task (faire la vaisselle, ranger les jouets, etc.)
  • Label photos and write descriptions in albums and scrapbooks
  • Write and illustrate directions for taking care of a baby sibling (such as what you might leave for a babysitter)
  • Leave a note for a family member letting him or her know where you are going and when you will return
  • Write messages on index cards to put in siblings’ (and parents’!) lunch boxes
  • Send an email to a friend who speaks the target language
  • Write letters to family members telling them why you love them


Finally, let’s explore some longer writing activities.

Depending on your children’s skills, you may need to do more of the writing, but make sure they participate while you do so, and of course read them the results on multiple occasions!  (Repetition is essential for language learning.)

  • Create an “All About Me” book (example in English with directions)
  • Write and illustrate a booklet about friends using this template, about “My Dad and I,” about “My Father,” about “My Mom and I,” about “My Mother,” about “My Grandfather,” or about “My Grandmother” (use these templates in English as a springboard to creating your own books in French)
  • Write questions for a family trivia game or a family memories board game
  • Create a comic book featuring you and your friends or you and your family
  • Make a newsletter or newspaper with articles and photos about your family, your pets, your class at school, or your friends
  • Begin a family blog in the target language, with photos and posts by each family member (younger children can dictate what they want to say)
  • Make a book about your children–their daily routine, their friends and family, their school, their interests, like this book I made for my nephew in French using just a word-processing program and copying in photos, or this alphabet book that I created for my son using digital scrapbooking software.


I’d love to hear your ideas and see your examples about writing activities for children that focus on our theme of friends and families!  Please share by leaving your comments and links below.

The final installment in this series, Tactile and Kinesthetic Activities, will appear on Multilingual Living in 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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