beginning French

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  • Jonessa16

    Hi there!

    I’m needing some French curriculum help…

    I have a 7 year old (grade 2) and a 4 year old; none of us speak French. I had planned to go with Speaking French with Miss Mason and Francois, because that is what is recommended here on the SCM website, but after doing some more reading I am not so sure.

    I have read different recommendations, such as to wait on the Gouin-type series for a couple of years, and in the meantime just focus on exposing the kids to vocabulary, songs, poems, and stories (all spoken word only); others say to do those things along with a series.

    I also don’t even know where to start as far as finding resources for songs, stories, and poems! Being unable to speak French myself, I don’t think it would be best to rely on me reading things to them on my own, as my pronunciation may not be correct. Although I do love the look of two old books, “Le Livre Rouge” and “Le Francais Pour les Jeunes”, if I could actually find them! How does one go about incorporating things like songs and poems? Do I feed them a bunch of vocabulary first, and then introduce songs, etc? Just let the children listen to them and start memorizing the lines? Or do I offer them the translation as well?

    I know I don’t want a resource that has a computer-based visual component, whether that’s pictures or video. I have no problem with sound being computer-based – I just prefer the visual component of a program to be book-based.

    The one resource I think would be helpful, whichever route we go, is a set of flashcards, for vocabulary, that have a picture on the front, like a cat or a man or a spoon, with the French word and English word both on the back – so that all the child needs to see is the picture and I read him/her the word.

    I feel like I have really muddied the waters by so much reading and researching! Perhaps I would have been better off just taking the SCM recommendation of the Cherrydale Press books at face value and left it at that! 🙂 At any rate, here I am, and I am in desperate need of some hand-holding!

    Thanks in advance for your help!


    One option you could look at if you haven’t already is L’art de Dire from It’s supposed to be for kids grade K-3 and I think it is largely speaking, playing games and it says it includes picture cards. I haven’t used it (I have one child using L’art de Lire) but it might fit what you are looking for. Just a suggestion!


    The Easy French resource has music CD to sing with and a book with a story to follow, and activities.  The junior version is for elementary.  They use CM methods.

    You said you don’t want video, but we have been happy with Little Pim DVD sets discs 1-6, 30 min. each.  All spoken in French with French word/phrase on the screen, optional English subtitles to turn on.  Great for beginners to hear pronunciations and see how it is written.


    What about listening to the Bible in French?


    Thank you for all these great ideas! I also found a great website, called Mason’s Living Languages, that has lists of resources for poems, songs, vocabulary, series, and primers. I think I now have a plan! 🙂


    Youtube. 🙂 Seriously. I speak French fluently, but in the early years circumstances constrained me to prioritize other things over French. I’m working on it now with my two children, who are 8 and 10. As it happens, I can read books to them and I do so regularly. But youtube is great if you know where to look. You can find playlists of “comptines” – nursery songs and just play them as an audio resource without letting the children watch the screen. There are fairy tales, too, you just have to know the titles in French and search them. “Petit chaperon rouge” is “Little Red Riding Hood”, for example. Some of Charlotte Diamond’s songs are good, too. Silly, but great for retaining the sound of French and anyway it’s ok to be silly! “Je suis une pizza” is one of my kids’ favorites. That’s a silly one. Really helpful vocabulary building songs by Charlotte Diamond are “J’ai des souliers; je peux marcher” and “Y’a un chat”. The videos that go with these two songs are actually really helpful. You watch and do the actions along with the shoes song – marcher/walk, courir/run, sauter/jump, etc.  We make a game out of the cat song by hiding in the places the song mentions or adding our own verses with other places. “Y’a un chat SOUS LA TABLE” and we all squeeze under the table. “Y’a un chat DANS LA CUISINE” and we all rush to the kitchen.

    “Head shoulders knees and toes” can easily be sung in French, although it actually says feet, not toes.

    Tête, épaules, genoux et pieds (Genoux et pieds)

    Tête, épaules, genoux et pieds (Genoux et pieds)

    J’ai deux yeux, deux oreilles, une bouche et un nez

    Tête, épaules, genoux et pieds

    Once you know some of the body parts yourself, you can lead your children in playing “Simon Says” or, “Jacques dit”, as it is called in French.

    I play Noah’s Ark go fish with my kids to practice the animal names. You can play any type of go fish (as long as it is not just different types of fish!! Not very useful, that!). “Maman, as-tu le lion?” “Mommy, do you have the lion?” Response is “oui” and you hand it over or “non, vas a la peche” and the person fishes.

    Any old children’s memory game set will do if you know the words yourself. Train your kids to say the word as they turn each card over. Our set has, among others, the following matches: doll, ball, keys, train, sun, cat, dog, rabbit, duckling, present, cake, apple, banana, and other every day objects. Great words to know and you can just incorporate vocabulary practice into your game.


    We also have a good local library that has dvds available with French language tracks- any Disney animation (obviously, we prefer the classic ones) will have this, as will short kids’ shows like Mighty Machines. This is one area where I don’t mind videos, because having grown up overseas, I have known people who learned their English from American movies. I’m thinking of one lady in particular, from Norway, who had no foreign accent when she spoke English and she learned entirely from watching American movies on tv as a child.

    If you really want a good book resource, my sister (who also speaks French) has been using this with her kids and loves it. It’s dialogue and other audio pertaining to daily life around the house, etc., and includes some songs.

    Hope that helps some although it is not about a specific curriculum set.


    Hannah, thank you so much – wow!! So many great suggestions, and I’m excited to put them to use! 🙂 🙂

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