Le 14 juillet

Celebrating the French national holiday

Le 14 juillet (Bastille Day in English) commemorates the start of the French Revolution in 1789 and celebrating this historic event is one of my favourite days in the school calendar. At my school, all of Key Stage Two go off timetable for the day and take part in a carousel of activities, both in and out of the classroom, to introduce them to elements of French culture and give them the opportunity to use their language learning in a “real-life” setting. Below are a range of ideas and resources that might be useful for planning your own 14 juillet celebrations.

Clips to use in the classroom:

This great little clip from the fantastic 1 jour, 1 actu website, explains the origins of La fête nationale française and how it is celebrated today, all in French.

And if you’re looking for a clip in English, this one by Primary Languages Network is a good starting point.

For me, every 14 juillet celebration day begins with an assembly to get the children really excited about the day to come. This year, I showed the clip below on a loop as the children were coming in and they were absolutely transfixed. It was a nice way to open up discussion about what the fireworks might be celebrating and what the music they were hearing was.

French café:

Every year, a couple of weeks before our Bastille Day celebrations, I teach / revise with the children a range of vocabulary items to use in our French café. Year 6 pupils act as servers for the classes as they visit the café and give their food and drink orders in French. For the last couple of years, we’ve been very lucky to have a local accordion player sit and play for us during our café sessions, which has really added to the atmosphere. Approaching the Community Champion at your local supermarkets can be a great way of getting support in terms of supplies.

Our French café, waiting for its first visitors.

Playground pétanque:

This game, particularly associated with the South of France, goes down well every year with the children. Pupils go out onto the playground and use plastic sets, which are widely available in supermarkets and online, to play against each other. This little clip is a great introduction and can be show before the children go out to play to give them some background about the game.

Cheese tasting:

French President Charles de Gaulle once asked, “How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?” This little map shows the incredible variety of cheese that France has to offer and I always like to give the children an opportunity to taste some examples, as well as a rate them.

A brilliant map for showing the variety in French cheeses. How many do the children know already?

Arts and crafts:

The Languages in Primary Schools (LiPS) Facebook group is an incredible source of ideas for everything language-learning and Bastille Day is no exception. Below are a few ideas inspired by resources that have been shared in the group and that I have found to work really well.

Eiffel Tower Construction: Give children a range of building materials (cardboard; cereal boxes; old newspaper; doweling rods; spaghetti and mini marshmallows) and see if they can select and use them to create the tallest Eiffel Tower model possible. A good competitive session, which really gets the children engaged. The videos below might be useful for a bit of background for teachers and younger pupils.

Cocarde-making: worn in the hats of the revolutionaries of Paris, une cocarde of red, white and blue symbolised the revolution and its colours would eventually go on to become those of the French tricolor (before that it has been a blue flag with golden fleurs-de lys, which had been used by the Kings of France since the times of Clovis). This blog post shows you one way to make cocardes, but it is quite challenging (although the results are great). They can equally be created by cutting three different sizes of card circles and sticking crepe or tissue in red, white and blue onto them, before stacking them up one on top of the other and gluing into place.

Ben Heine Art: in a fabulous idea shared by Marie Allirot, the work of Belgian artist Ben Heine acts as the inspiration for the children to create their own works of art. Heine mixes both photography and pencil drawing to stunning effect in his pieces and the children can do the same, reimagining and filling in the missing elements on a range of famous Paris landmarks. These templates, uploaded by Marie, are a great way to explore the work of this incredible artist and could act as a great front for a postcard, with writing in French on the back.

Other ideas, resources and books:

Make your own Paris: these templates from ‘Made by Joel’ can be downloaded, printed and coloured to create a miniature version of Paris in your classroom.

Colour Paris: this giant map of Paris, which can be purchased online, would make a fantastic wall display.

Drive Paris: fancy taking your class on a drive around Paris with a French musical accompaniment? This site allows you to do just that by selecting ‘Paris’ from the right-hand menu.

Paris Guides: Lonely Planet have produced a couple of lovely children’s guides to Paris, one for slightly older readers and the other – a pop-up book – for younger learners.

Le loup qui explorait Paris: everyone’s favourite wolf travels to Paris in this sweet book, written in French.

Bonne fête nationale!

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