Chantons, dansons, parlons le français

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Chantons, dansons, parlons le français

Marian Rose

Thank you for coming to this workshop. It is my goal to leave you with songs, games, dances and inspiration to use in your French immersion classroom. First of all, here are some of the ways in which music and movement can help in learning a second language:

  1. Language is an inherently rhythmic pursuit, and thus learning is greatly enhanced when combined with rhythmic activities, especially those that require a variety of physical movements.

  2. Musical skills such as intensive listening, pitch discrimination, imitation and improvisation are also essential when we are learning a second language.

  3. After we sing and move to a song, it continues to play in our heads, providing extra hours of effort-free practice.

  4. Music and movement address diverse learner characteristics such as intelligence, aptitude, learning styles, personality and motivation.

  5. Humans are emotionally attracted to music, a fact which has proved beneficial to advertising, the film industry, religion and politics. Why not L2 teachers?

  6. Songs present a wide range of vocabulary and idiomatic expressions.

  7. Music is intimately linked to culture and history.

Introducing a song

The ultimate goal in using music in the language class is to develop fluency by hearing and singing the words many times. However, it can take awhile for the words to sink in, and children and adults alike can be reluctant to sing if they are unfamiliar with the music. Therefore, I like to find ways for my students to hear a song several times in different contexts before they are asked to sing.

  • Play the song in the background as you do other activities.

  • Use a recording of the song to do your warmups.

  • Give them a cut-up version of the song which they must put in the correct order.

  • Do a passing game with the song (see below)

  • Clap the beat and the rhythm of the words. Beat = pulse, rhythm = words.

  • Mouth the words.

  • Do exercises in dynamics: loud/soft, fast/slow, different styles

  • Call and response

Rhythmic Passing Game

Everyone sits on the floor with one shoe (or other object) in front of them. While singing, everyone makes the following rhythm: tap-tap-pass, tap-tap-pass, tap-tap-pass, etc. Continue until everyone gets their own shoe back. Then try the opposite direction.

This game works for a large majority of children’s songs in 2/4 or 4/4 time, although you may have to adjust the rhythm of the passing pattern a bit. If the song is in 3/4 time, your tapping rhythm will be: tap tap tap pass (2,3) etc. This tends to feel much slower.

Songs in 4/4: Passe passé passera / Lundi matin / Sur le pont d’Avignon / C’est l’aviron /

Ah vous dirai-je maman

Songs in 3/4: Un Canadien errant / Fais dodo / Partons la mer et belle / La laine des moutons

La Cloche du vieux manoir / Sous le ciel de Paris / Isabeau


I use this as a warm-up for the grammar or vocabulary lesson I have planned.

Start by setting up the rhythm: tap – tap – snap (claque en français). Then take turns naming things in a category such as numbers, ordinal numbers, days of the week, months of the year, colours, animals, verbs, opposites, masculine/feminine, etc. Try to always say the word as you snap.

This can also be done in pairs facing each other. One partner calls out a word and the other person replies with the matching word.

Time ballet

Students show the time presented by moving their arms to the position of the hands of a clock. The exercise as presented here assumes that your students know how to tell time on a conventional clock. I use the William Tell Overture (about the last four minutes) and play the powerpoint file, (see resource section). You can easily adjust this to the level of your students.


Na- hands in a V over head to make a hat,

po- right hand on left shoulder

léon left hand on right shoulder

avait clap twice

cinq cents pat one thigh, then the other

soldats two marching steps

Marchant du même pas March in place.

Je ferme la porte

Clap hands together.

Je ferme la porte, je la barre comme faut

Slowly hide the key behind your back.

Je cache la clef derrière mon dos

Bring the key back into view with the other hand.

Je retrouve la clef encore une fois

Turn the invisible key.

Et je tourne et je tourne et je tourne comme ça

Have your hands together by the time you say ‘puis’

Et puis, je rouvre la porte - AIEEE!

Buvons un coup
I have met a vast array of francophones, both Canadian and European who know this song. It is one of those goofy tongue-twisters that people learn at summer camp when they are young and later on they sing to each other after having a few too many beers, and then later they teach it to their children. Par hazard, it is also a great phonetic workout.
The idea is to sing the song first as written, and then substitute all of the vowels for one vowel. The first verse is done for you, and the rest you can work out for yourself. Attention! Some of these can be tricky!

A, E, I, O, U, OU, É, È, OI, UI, OUI, AN, IN, ON, UN, OIN…

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