French Learning Scenario:
Familiar Animals

Authors: Dorothy Cox & Leah Sequeira
Level: Novice (Elementary School)

In this scenario, students learn about familiar animals, how they are similar and different, and how to describe them. They learn vocabulary related to animals, write a “report,” and present the memorized report in class.

ACTIVITY SET 1: Learning Animal Names and Sounds
The topic of familiar animals is introduced to the class using a French children’s story or picture book about animals. The teacher reads the book, and—using the pictures in the book, pantomime, and animal sounds—helps learners understand the gist of the story or what is said about the animals, their names in French, perhaps the French animal sounds, etc. Students then repeat the vocabulary as they review the pictures in the book and make animal sounds in “French.”

Learners continue practicing vocabulary for animal names in a variety of ways: using animal sounds (make the sound, say the name), pantomime (act like the animal whose name is drawn), a memory game (show 5 pictures, remove one, and children guess which one is missing), descriptions (using French words and gestures), playing Pictionary, etc. They also learn French rhymes and songs about animals and compare them to songs they know in English such as Old McDonald (see Expansion Ideas for other examples).

ACTIVITY SET 2: Imaginary Animals
Students are divided into teams, and each team draws and colors an imaginary animal composed of 5 different body parts from 5 different animals. They use a vocabulary list provided by the teacher to label the parts (see Expansion Ideas for examples) and show their animal to the class. Each team member participates in describing the animal using French words from the vocabulary list or previously learned vocabulary.

ACTIVITY SET 3: Animal Report
Students choose an animal they wish to learn more about from a list provided by the teacher, or a list is compiled from the children’s suggestions. They receive a teacher-provided word bank that includes the following categories: parts of the animal body, numbers 1-5, verbs describing animal actions (hop, fly…), adverbs related to the verbs (slowly, silently…), colors, and adjectives (see sample vocabulary list in Resources). Next, learners examine grade-appropriate resource books on animals in English and in French if available. They also visit Web sites on animals selected by the teacher to learn about their animal. Finally, students receive a fill-in-the-blank form that they complete for their “report.”

Sample Fill-in-the-Blank Report

     Animal Name

      Il / Elle est   _____________________.
      (circle)                        color

      Il / Elle est  _____________________.
      (circle)                     adjective

      Il / Elle a  _________     ________________.
      (circle)        number         part of the body

      Il / Elle _______________   ________________.
      (circle)           verb                     adverb

       __________________  est   _______________.
              animal name                       adjective

Students fill in the blanks with appropriate vocabulary of their choice. After their rough drafts are corrected, they copy the entire report to turn in. Students also memorize their report for an oral presentation in class. For the presentation, students bring their “animal” as a visual aid; it can be stuffed, plastic, real, or a picture if the other options are not available. Presentations are videotaped and shown on Parents’ Night. Written reports are displayed in the hallway, or a class animal book is compiled.

ACTIVITY SET 4: Field Trip to the Zoo
The class pays a visit to the local zoo. Students take their vocabulary list and check off every item they find at the zoo, e.g., paws, tiger, big, claws, stripes.

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Targeted Standards

  • Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretative, & Presentational Modes
  • Cultures: Practices & Perspectives, Products & Perspectives
  • Connections: Access to Information, Other Subject Areas
  • Comparisons: Concept of Culture, Influence of Language & Culture
  • Communities: Within & Beyond the School Setting, Personal Enrichment & Career Development

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  • Vocabulary list
  • Fill-in-the-blank report
  • Animal picture books or story books for children in French and English
  • Video camera

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Reflections on How the Standards Are Met

Communication: Interpretive mode is used in listening to the story and in researching their animals. The interpersonal mode is used in vocabulary games. Presentational mode is used when students recite their animal reports.

Cultures: Students learn about the culture of children in France through their rhymes and songs.

: Students use French to connect to science as they read and learn about animals.

: Students compare French children’s rhymes and songs to the ones they know in English.

: Students use the language beyond the school setting during their trip to the zoo.

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Expansion Ideas

  • Teach students French children’s rhymes that are about animals. For example:

        Une poule sur un mur

        Qui picote du pain dur

        Picote, picota,

        Lève la queue et puis s’en va.

        Petit escargot,

        Porte sur son dos,

        Sa maisonnette,

        Et quand il fait beau,

        Et quand il fait chaud,

        Il sort sa tête,


        L’araignée Gypsi

        Monte à la gouttière;

        Tiens! Voilà la pluie,

        Gypsi tombe par terre.

        Mais le soleil,

        A chassé la pluie

  • Teach students French children’s songs about animals. For example:

    Une Souris Verte
    La Famille Tortue

  • Teach students French children’s games about animals. For example:

    Le Furet
    Le Chat Perché

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Cronan, M. & Mahoney, J. (1985). Teach me French. Minneapolis, MN: Teach Me Tapes, Inc.

Delassus, S. (Ed.) (1998). Souvenirs d’école, jeux et comptines de la récré. Turin, Italy: Editions Mille et Une Nuits.

Garabedian, M. & Lerasle, M. (1999). Les comptines bleues des petits lascars. Paris: Didier Jeunesse.

Les Editions Didier. (1997). L’écho des colors. Paris: Author.

Mahoney, J. & Cronan, M. (1989). Teach me more French. Minneapolis, MN: Teach Me Tapes, Inc.

Marks, A. & Balayard, S. (1996). The Usborne French songbook for beginners. Tulsa, OK: EDC Publishing.

Ministre de l’éducation nationale, de la jeunesse et des sports. Les jeux du patrimoine tradition et culture (1989). Paris: Editions Revue E.P.S.

Simundson-Olson, M. (1993). Rhyme time, a global approach to enhance the learning of French. Palm Beach Gardens: Global Rhyme Time, Inc.

Valette, J.P. & Valette, R. (1990). Songs for French mastery. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Co.

Zovi, L. (1991). Cantiques rythmes et rimes chants. French adaptation by Virginia Voges. Albuquerque, NM: Vibrante Press.

Sample Vocabulary List

Les parties du corps
Les couleurs (masc./fem.)
les pattes the paws brun/brune brown
Les ailes the wings noir/noire black
la queue the tail blanc/blanche white
les griffes the claws vert/verte green
les plumes the feathers gris/grise gray
les rayeurs the stripes bleu/bleue blue
la tête the head violet/violette purple
le poil the fur rouge/rouge red
la nageoire the fin jaune/jaune yellow
les cornes the horns rose/rose pink
les yeux the eyes    
les taches the spots Les adjectifs (masc./fem.)
la bosse the hump gros/grosse large
l'aileron the fin (shark) petit/petite small
les oreilles the ears gentil/gentille nice
la crinière the mane doux/douce soft
le bec the beak long/longue long
les écailles the scales court/courte short
    dur/dure hard
Les verbes féroce/féroce ferocious
marche walks amusant/amusante amusing
court runs court/courte short
saute jumps, hops dur/dure hard
nage swims féroce/féroce ferocious
grimpe climbs amusant/amusante amusing
rampe crawls    
vole flies les nombres
    un one
Les adverbes deux two
vite quickly trois three
lentement slowly quatre four
bien well cing five
beaucoup a lot    
en silence silently    

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