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French comic strip workshop with Year 6: Susie Cornish

Title: Translating French comic strips
To develop an understanding of the processes involved in translation and apply these to produce a translation of a one-page comic strip. To have fun with language.
Age group:
Year 6 (age 10–11)
Participants: one class of 24, one of 25
1 hour 55 minutes

What we did

The session started with a warm-up game of “Jacques a dit” to get the children into a French mind-set. This was followed by a look at an English-language comic strip (Calvin & Hobbes) and a French-language comic strip (Boule & Bill), in order to identify the features of comic strip writing, such as limited space, the use of speech and thought bubbles, the use of non-dialogue text and punctuation, and the presence of the pictures to help tell the story. The children then split into groups of six to work on a one-page comic strip per group. First, they looked at wordless versions of their comic strips to try to establish the “plot” using the pictures. After that they were given the versions with the words and a glossary, and used them to produce a rough translation of the text. After a short break, we had a game of Pictionary to remind the children of the importance of the pictures in the comic strip genre. They then applied their literacy skills to polish up the translations produced with the glossaries, working in pairs within their groups. Each group then presented their final translation to the whole class.

What we got out of it

I ran the workshop for both Year 6 classes at the school on consecutive days, and received very positive feedback after both sessions. One of the class teachers was particularly impressed by the complexity of the French that the pupils had successfully translated. The children engaged enthusiastically with the genre and got to grips with the glossaries very well; they showed great creative flair when polishing their translations, thinking about tone and register in spoken language. Some of them were enjoying producing their translations so much that they stayed in after morning break had started as they wanted to carry on working on them. Although they had learnt some French during their time at primary school, at the start of the session many of the pupils lacked confidence in their foreign language skills. They were thrilled to have become translators by lunch time!