Using les Jeux Olympiques as an Opportunity to Learn About Cognates

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For one of my grad classes I will be developing a mini unit of instruction this semester. I have already written one of the lessons, which I will teach to my classmates, and I thought I would share it here. I have seen so many great resources on Twitter and in the blogosphere about the Olympics that I thought this topic would be great for a lesson. After perusing the French version of the Vancouver Olympics website for ideas, I realized that learning the names of the winter sports would be pretty easy since so many of them are cognates, so I centered the lesson around introducing the concept of cognates to students. The lesson finishes off with an assignment that asks students to use their knowledge of pop culture as well as cognates to decipher ads in French that I found on the Vancouver site. This is a pretty short lesson (20 mins) so in a real world setting it would probably only take about half the class. If you haven't already, I strongly recommend perusing the French edition of the Vancouver website for lots of opportunities to practice your French, as well as the Education Center for some great teaching resources! Also see the Sports & Leisure vocab page for general sports terms.

Grade Level - Beginner

1. Build students’ vocabulary pertaining to winter Olympic sports
2. Increase students’ awareness of cognates in French and English
3. Connect a current event (the 2010 Olympics) to the curriculum

1. Pictogram Worksheet (Foreign Language House has a free one!)
2. Large visual representations of Pictograms (Find them here)
3. “Les expressions des Jeux Olympiques” worksheet
4. Koosh ball or similar to toss around classroom

Instructional Process
• When the students enter the classroom, they will see a cluster of words in French relating to the winter Olympics displayed on the board (this could be a Smart Board or projector).
• Once class starts, the teacher asks the students if they recognize any of the words in the cluster and their meaning in English, and finally if they know what connection all these words have.
• Teacher asks students how they knew what some of the words were, such as Jeux Olympiques (similarity to English), and explain what role cognates play in French and English, especially in sports
• Teacher distributes Pictogram worksheet, with the 2010 pictograms for each of the 15 winter sports. Students have 5-7 minutes to complete the worksheet individually or with a neighbor, matching the French terms with the correct pictures, relying on their ability to find cognates along with process of elimination
• Teacher goes over correct answers with the class, using photos or projections of large pictograms as a visual aid for the students to follow along with. Teacher will demonstrate pronunciation and have students repeat. Students will correct their answers and write the English word underneath the sport. Teacher can remark on how some of the sports are named. After going through all of the answers, teacher will review pronunciation again.
• Students will rely on their knowledge of cognates and popular culture to complete tonight’s homework, which is a worksheet with five current advertisements by sponsors of the Olympics. Students will answer the questions about the ads. Teacher distributes assignment and explains it, then students put it away and clear desks.
• At the end of the lesson, every student stands up and must answer a vocabulary or grammar question related to the lesson (eg what’s the French term for downhill skiing?) before they may be dismissed. The teacher has a koosh ball, and asks students the question, and students who know the answer may raise their hands and the teacher will toss the ball to a student. Once they answer correctly, they can sit down, and throw the ball back to the teacher.

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