In November I teach my students about family. We learn the names of the members of the family, reinforce "le" and "la," and introduce "mon," "ma," "ton," and "ta." We also learn how to ask for family member's names and ages, and how to use possession with "de." Today I'll share with you some of my favorite activities to use all this vocabulary and grammar in context.
1. Voici ma famille project
I still do an "old-fashioned" family tree project. It seems old-fashioned to me because I remember making one in 7th grade, but old-fashioned isn't always a bad thing. I give the students a lot of options when making their tree so it suits their interests as much as possible. They can do the standard poster or book (see above), they can do a video (I've gotten some really creative ones), a PowToon, a Prezi, a PowerPoint, or just about any other medium they want. The poster doesn't have to be huge, either. Students decide to make either their own family or an imaginary one. A lot of kids choose the imaginary one because it gets their creative juices flowing. Other students enjoy the opportunity to find old photos of family members and are proud to show them off to the class. For each person on their tree, they must state the relationship of that family member to them, their age (unless it's a real person who's uncomfortable having their age published), and their nationality. Then they must state their own name, age, and nationality. I think it's a good way to reinforce "il A 12 ans" versus "il EST américain," which confuses students to no end. Students do a rough draft on paper and peer review before making the final project. On the day it is due, they present them in small groups. I've refined this project quite a bit over the years, and at this point I still feel it is a worthwhile way to reinforce and assess these common structures. That said, I'm always open to what other ideas might be out there.
2. Quelle famille
This is a really fun activity I made up where students get to wear stickers on their foreheads. First, as a class (all in French of course), we make up 3 families and draw the family trees on a sheet of paper. Each family has a brother, sister, mom, dad, and aunt or uncle. Each family has the same set of names, but where the names go varies ever so slightly from family to family. Then, students have a small sticker placed on their forehead with the number 1, 2, or 3 on it, and they go around asking each other "Comment s'appelle ma mère ?" etc. until they have figured out which family they are in.
3. Imaginary Family Whiteboard Practice
This is pretty simple. I have the students draw a family diagram (I have one on the SMART Board for them to copy), then I read off family members for them to draw. I usually state who I am (not necessarily me, but who the central figure is) and then say things like "Ma soeur s'appelle..." To make it harder, you could state what the family members' relationships are to each other as opposed to just the central figure. Sometimes instead of names, I just say ages.
4. Article: Famille : Qui vit avec qui ? from Géo Ado
The past couple years I have had students look at this article and find information about French families in it. They learn what percentage of French kids live in blended families, who most often the single parent, and other statistics. Then we compare those statistics to what the common situations are in their home country.
5. Create a Family with Questions
I have the students create a family diagram on a white board in groups, then write 4 questions about the members, such as "Qui est Charles," or "Comment s'appelle le frère de Lisette," or "Quel âge a la fille." Then, the students pair up with another group and ask each other the questions.
The classic brain-teasers. "Qui est le frère de ta mère ?" "Qui est la soeur de ton oncle ?" Sometimes these questions have more than one answer. The kids really have to think hard about these, because they are just getting used to the idea of possession with "de," which throws them off.
AudioLingua is a fantastic resource for listening activities. I find myself using this most when teaching family because they've got some great clips. I have the students listen a few times then ask them some questions. Here are some good novice level clips:
-Henri parle de sa famille
-Sylvain: Nous sommes une grande famille
-Guy présente sa famille
-Camille: Ma famille
8. Ask the Teacher
I have the students write down a "personal" question for me - using our family vocabulary. They might ask me what my mother's name is or how old my cat is, or, instead of asking a personal question, they might ask me a "trivia" question about their own family. If I had their older sibling, they might ask me what their name is or how old they are now. Of course, I always get this question:
But that's okay! They can ask whatever they want, but I don't always answer all of them.
What are your favorite activities for a family unit?