How to Get Your Students to Speak More French (using puppets & big books)

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As teachers, we have SO MUCH to do.

So many things to juggle, so many outcomes to cover in fun & engaging ways, and so much coffee to drink. ;)

And if you know anything at all about me, you probably know I like prepping as little as possible.

Having a life outside of school is super important to me, and I try and find as many ways as I can to ensure I provide my students with awesome learning opportunities, while never spending more time prepping an activity than my students spend doing it.

(exception - Giant Sight Word Twister)

I seek out effective and low/no prep activities, and when I find them, I sing their praises from the rooftops!

I am always on the hunt for engaging activities to get as many students speaking as much as possible, because one area where my students seriously struggle is communication orale.

In maternelle, I'm sure you know plays and puppet shows are both great ways to get your students speaking #allofthefrench.

But, they can also be SO. MUCH. WORK and waaaay more prep time than performance time.

So when I do things like puppet shows with my class, they are NOT elaborate.

But they are fun and awesome and get all of my students speaking en français, and they hit a lot of outcomes - for both communication orale AND understanding texts (lecture).

Read on to learn about how I use Big Books and inexpensive clip art to get my maternelle students to speak in front of a group, show their understanding of a story, and say a whole bunch of French words and phrases!

Looking for a fun way to get your French primary students speaking more, and to help them understand what they read? Check out this blog post for instructions and ideas for creating EASY puppet shows with your students to go with your shared reading books!


How to get started


First of all, you will need to choose a book. Don't forget to consider the number of characters in the book and the simplicity of the text.

You will be practicing the book a bunch of times during shared reading, so it's okay if the text is above most of your students' reading levels.

Of course, you don't want it to be too complicated.

I like using big books because I find my students are more into the "shared" part of shared reading when the book is gigantic and they can see the words well.

One of my favourite big books to use for a puppet show  (you will see it in the pictures in this blog post) is called Une autre maman by Jill Eggleton, and published by Chenelière.

Looking for a fun way to get your French primary students speaking more, and to help them understand what they read? Check out this blog post for instructions and ideas for creating EASY puppet shows with your students to go with your shared reading books!


(If you work for the CSAP like I do, as far as I know, the board bought a copy of this book for all of the maternelle classes this year!)

If you don't have access to big books, many other simple storybooks can work, too. Again, you want simple text and 2-5 characters.

A few that come to mind (affiliate links) are: Gros grognon, Bzz fait l'abeille, the Gérald et Rosie books, and J'ai besoin d'un câlin.

Once you have chosen your book...


After you have chosen your book, spend the week reading it during shared reading and doing other activities with it.

You want your students to know the book inside out and backward!

Une autre maman has suggestions for activities right inside of the book.

(If you are looking for activities to do with Gros grognon or J'ai besoin d'un câlin, I have reading strategy packs to go with each of those books in my TPT store.)

After practicing the book all week, I like to plan to practice and perform the spectacle de marionnettes on Friday.

You will need to divide your class into groups depending on the number of characters in the story.

For Une autre maman, I had planned to have four groups of four students - I have 16 students so it would have been perfect.

Naturally, three of them were absent on puppet show day... but we made one group of five with two serpents and it all worked out fine, so you can totally double students up!

Puppet time


Next, you will need to make puppets. I find black and white clip art on TPT of the characters I need and print them out.

Easy!

Have your students colour in their puppets and tape a craft stick to the back.

Looking for a fun way to get your French primary students speaking more, and to help them understand what they read? Check out this blog post for instructions and ideas for creating EASY puppet shows with your students to go with your shared reading books!
(If you can't find an emu and use an ostrich like me, it's okay. Really!)

Looking for a fun way to get your French primary students speaking more, and to help them understand what they read? Check out this blog post for instructions and ideas for creating EASY puppet shows with your students to go with your shared reading books!


You can also have your students draw the characters themselves.

I usually print out the clip art because this is a communication orale/lecture activity for me - not an art activity.

Also, I get my students to decide who is going to be which character among their groups.

I find it can help with "chicanes" to have one of each character right in front of them - otherwise, you may end up with two students thinking they are (and therefore both drawing) the same character.

And, if your students draw the character themselves, you may end up with teeny tiny puppets that are hard for the audience to see.

But it's completely up to you!

Speaking of deciding who is going to play which character - we often have a few disagreements. ;)

We use "rock, paper, scissors" to solve them.

It's binding in our class, ha!

Practice makes perfect


Once the puppets are ready to go, students get back into their groups and practice.

Depending on the story, I will either float between groups to make sure they stay on task and let them handle the whole script on their own, or I work with one group at a time using the big book.

Using the big book as the script is helpful if you are going to perform for other classes because it ensures everyone performs the same play they practiced ;)

The shows they come up with on their own are awesome and hilarious, but our five-year-olds can have a hard time remembering how to stay on track and follow the same script during subsequent performances - especially since most of them can't efficiently write the script down to reread later.

When you use the big book, you read the story as the narrator, and stop and let your students do the speaking parts in character.

It helps everything stay organized, and means you need fewer rehearsals :)

Looking for a fun way to get your French primary students speaking more, and to help them understand what they read? Check out this blog post for instructions and ideas for creating EASY puppet shows with your students to go with your shared reading books!


Performance time


Finally, it's time to perform! 

We usually do performances for our classmates first (one group at a time), and if those go well, we go on tour and each group performs for another class in the school. 

During those performances, I get the non-performing groups to read along with me, choral-style, as the narrators.

I also spread a green plastic tablecloth from the dollar store over a table for my students to perform behind. 

This magic tablecloth seems to be the inexpensive special touch that makes it a "real" show! 

We even bring it with us when we go on tour ;)

After we are done performing, the puppets go in a basket for the next week or so and my students often return to their puppets to put on little shows during free play. I love it!!

If you need some more ideas...


If you are still looking for a bit more guidance in having your students perform a puppet show after reading a story together, check out my latest reading strategies pack on TPT

It goes with the book J'ai besoin d'un câlin by Aaron Blabey, and inside, I provide instructions for a puppet show and the clip art you will need for each character. 

There are also other activities to do to help teach and practice reading comprehension strategies all week long!

Click right here to see it on TPT.

If you give this a try, I would love to know about it!

Write me a comment below and let me know if your students had fun :)

Looking for a fun way to get your French primary students speaking more, and to help them understand what they read? Check out this blog post for instructions and ideas for creating EASY puppet shows with your students to go with your shared reading books!


PS - Are you a member of my FREE French Resource Library yet?? If not, enter your name & email below and hit the button. I'll send you the exclusive password and instructions for getting your hands on every freebie I have ever made - and will ever make!

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