Cultural links to a French institution
Over the past year or so, I’ve been reviewing and revising a lot of the scheme of work that I’ve been developing since I started as the MFL specialist at my current school. The scheme has evolved slowly, over time, but there have always been bits here and there that I’ve felt needed a bit of refining and since the children have had so much time learning remotely since the pandemic hit, I’ve had to adapt quite a few units to ensure that anything pupils may have missed when learning from home is revisited before we move on.
Another of my main objectives in tweaking the focus and content of some units, has been to weave more culture, both French and Francophone, through my scheme of work. In my French lessons we have always done lots of “celebration days” or one-off lessons on particular aspects of culture, but I really wanted this to feature more prominently in the overall scheme, with dedicated units allowing children to engage with the French-speaking world in a more tangible and sustained manner. For me, culture is what brings language-learning to life and creates a real buzz amongst learners. It is also a great vehicle through which to introduce new language and grammatical concepts in a relevant and engaging way and I really wanted to find ways to capitalise on this.
I always enjoy building units of work around books, particularly authentic French ones (although I also use translations such as the late, great Eric Carle’s Ours Brun, if the book structure really suits the language content I want the children to work with). Several months ago, I was pleased to rediscover at the back of my bookshelves the gorgeous, and fairly simple, Vive l’heure du goûter by Nathalie Desforges, which I’d brought back from a trip to France and then forgotten about. It introduces young learners to the French institution that is le goûter and I was keen to find a way to exploit its potential with some of my youngest learners through a brand new unit of work.
A tradition immortalised in oil paint by French artists Jean Metzinger and Léon Perrault, amongst others, le goûter – the afternoon snack that children eat straight after they get out of school at 4pm – is a French institution. As an eighteen-year-old jeune fille au pair in the town of Amiens, I still remember the importance of le goûter in the daily routine of the two little girls that I Iooked after. Turning up at the school gate without their favourite treats was not an option, since they were always hungry when the bell rang for the end of school! A traditional goûter used to be squares of chocolate inside a hunk of baguette, but nowadays it seems to be any sweet treat to keep children going until dinner, which is eaten much later in France than it generally is in the U.K. This lovely little clip explains all about the tradition and its role in the daily life of school children living in France.
I find any unit of work which includes an element of food-tasting always goes down well with everybody in the classroom – children and adults alike – and once children have tasted something new they are always keen to tell you whether they liked it or not, so why not do it in French? This little unit introduces the children to the tradition of le goûter, along with a range of vocabulary for these sweet snacks, of which some – for example le pain au chocolat – may already be familiar to them. There is plenty of recognition and pronunciation practice before moving on to a tasting session and an introduction to the opinion phrases j’aime and je n’aime pas. Children then begin to talk about their likes and dislikes, using a speaking frame to extend their phrases with the conjunctions et and mais, before finally creating a concertina book, as described here by the queen of minibooks herself: Clare Seccombe. I’m also hoping for time to take small groups to the kitchen to have a go at following this fantastic French recipe for madeleines (originally shared by Sylvie Bartlett Rawlings on the Languages in Primary Schools Facebook group) as an end-of-term treat.
Below is a downloadable copy of the planning for the unit, which can be adapted to suit the needs of your learners. If you would like copies of any of the resources mentioned in the document, please feel free to get in touch.