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French workshop with Years 5 and 6: Stacie Allan

Title: Making Head or Tail of French!
To introduce pupils to the process of translation through exploring puns and idioms
Age group:
Years 5 and 6 (age 9–11)
24 and 28
2 hours

What we did

The source text, Bénédicte Guettier’s Tête à Queue, is written through the punning of idiomatic phrases relating to body parts, particularly heads and tails. With this in mind, the workshop was designed to engage with the playfulness of language, whilst also building on any existing presence of modern languages in the classroom. The initial activities focused on reinforcing the pupils’ knowledge of puns and idioms, and we played ‘Jacques a dit’ (Simon Says) to introduce French through the different body parts appearing in the story. The book’s puns work with its illustrations, so the pupils explored plot, characterisation, and mood through the images. Attention then turned to the text itself, and we translated the pun in the book’s title as a class using a glossary. After a fifteen-minute break, playing Taboo refocused the class’s attention before each table translated a punned idiomatic phrase from the text. With the workshop’s focus on creativity, the pupils were encouraged to make a new pun in their translation. Once the pupils had perfected their translations, they were written on a double-sided A6 postcard alongside the image, with the original French phrase provided on the back. These postcards will be taken home and hopefully facilitate a discussion between the pupils and their parents about languages. The session ended with a reading of the book in which the pupils contributed their translations.

What we got out of it

The workshop is designed to engage with both key literacy skills and the French language. The focus on puns and idioms allowed the pupils to reflect upon the composition of their own language, whilst the story breakdown activity had them exploring the building blocks of narrative. Using Bénédicte Guettier’s Tête à Queue as part of the translation activities introduced French into the classroom in a fun and accessible way. Across the two sessions delivered, the pupils engaged well with all of the activities, and showed enthusiasm for working out the French text by using the glossary. Creating and delivering the workshop has contributed significantly to my own professional development: I am now able to plan engaging activities effectively, reflect upon my own practices, and make improvements where necessary.