La Famille: A work in progress


Over the past couple of weeks a few of my virtual colleagues have requested suggestions for designing a unit on family. Being able to speak about your family in another language is an incredibly useful skill. Which reminds me, my best friend has recently been busy working on a family tree and I must ask her how she is getting on! The last time we spoke she told me that she had been using online newspaper obituary archives like this one: to track down her ancestors. I think it is so brilliant to see how far genealogical research has come over the past few years! I actually tried to compile my own family tree a few years back but now I know that there are resources out there like the ones that my friend is using I am tempted to see what else I can find out. What do you think? Do you know much about your family history?

Anyway, although this is a theme that I think almost all of us address in our level 1 classes, I haven’t yet gotten around to sharing my materials for this unit, mostly because I’m not completely satisfied with them. In the absence of any better excuse, I’ll blame timing. This is the 4th unit in my French 1 curriculum and it comes around in early November. Like many of you, I find this time of year a bit of a struggle. By this point, I’ve implemented all of the unit plans that I spent the summer creating and am trying to design four upcoming units while at the same time grading the endless stacks of papers for those units I’m currently teaching. I’m definitely not at my creative best at this time of the year! While I have put this unit as number 1 on my To Do list for this summer, I am sharing some activities that I used this year for those of you that might want to incorporate some of them in your own units.
As I mentioned in this previous post, I’ve chosen the context of an au pair for the IPA. I also think that becoming an au pair with a company like Cultural Care Au Pair is a great job to go into if they are truly passionate about learning a new language after they leave education. This theme provides an authentic context for using both family and adjectives for describing people, which are high frequency structures that are appropriate for these Novice Mid learners. Here’s a quick outline of how I prepare the students for the IPA. Most of these activities can be found in this packet.

Day 1: I begin this unit by presenting lots of comprehensible input with a slide show of pictures of my own family. I give each family member’s name and explain how each one is related to me as well as each other. I pause frequently during my presentation to check for understanding. Here are a few sentences from my (unwritten) script:« C’est ma fille, Bethany. Je suis la mère de Bethany. Comment s’appelle ma fille? Qui est la mère de Bethany. Et toi, Emilie, comment s’appelle ta mère ? Ta mère a combien de filles ? C’est mon fils, Richard. Richard est le frère de Bethany. Bethany est la sœur de Richard. Comment s’appelle le frère de Bethany? Qui est la sœur de Richard ? Qui est la mère de Richard ? Et toi, tu as un frère ? Il s’appelle comment ? Tu as une sœur ? Elle s’appelle comment ? » The students are therefore exposed to not only the family vocabulary but also the formation of possession with de and possessive adjectives. After this presentation, the students read Les Familles and complete this comprehension guide. (I’ve included a link to the book, which can be downloaded with a free trial subscription, in the packet.) At the end of the period, I play this silly song:
Day 2: I review the vocabulary using my family pictures and then have the students interview three classmates and fill in the table given. After these interviews they write about three family members in a presentational writing activity.
Day 3: The students begin the Lesson 2 by reading an infographic about blended families and completing a comprehension guide. After this interpretive activity they interview a partner in order to fill in his/her family tree. The time remaining is spent filling in the missing family words in the riddles, which is to be completed as homework.
Day 4: We begin this lesson by discussing the families on these “Awkward Family Photos” After spending time describing these families, first in small groups and then as a class, the students complete the comprehension guides for the two infographics about pets.
Days 5-8: The students spend the next four days completing these learning stations.
Reading: Students read three simple authentic picture books and completed comprehension guides.
Conversation: Students complete a pair crossword puzzle, played authentic 7 Familles games and the American board game, Guess Who.
Computer: Students take Canvas quizzes on these not-quite-authentic recordings and then completed online vocabulary review activities.
Note: These videos, along with corresponding quizzes are available at (See Presenter d’autres personnes on left side.)
Writing: Students write a script for the family presentation they will do.
Day 9: Family Presentations
Day 10: I introduce the students to what an au pair is by showing this video . The video includes English subtitles so that these Novice learners can understand it, and features a male au pair, making it more inclusive for my students. After the video I had the students complete this questionnaire with their preferences as future au pairs. After the students had completed the questionnaires, I passed out several posts from an au pair website and the students completed this graphic organizer and the map on the back. While the posts that I distributed are probably not available any longer, the graphic organizer is quite generic and could be used with most of the posts from this site.
Day 11/12: The students completed the IPA for this unit. Click here for the listening comprehension questions from the Canvas quiz that I used with my students. The video is called Caillou devient un grand frère and here’s a link . It’s only the first 4 minutes of the video (which includes several stories.)

While I’m looking forward to improving some of the activities in this unit, I’ve been pleased with the authentic context of this IPA. Several of my students have expressed interest in maybe pursuing an au pair experience of their own-a great motivation for continuing their study of French!

29 thoughts on “La Famille: A work in progress

  1. Kaleigh

    Thank you!! I love reading your musings and have incorporated several of your ideas into my classes. Thank you for being so willing to share!

    When it comes to grammar in French 1, how do you address it? How is it built into a unit like this one?


    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Kaleigh and thanks for reading. I don’t do much explicit grammar teaching in French 1. My students gradually acquire structures through the communicative activities that we do in this class. For example, after this unit, all of my students understood that they needed to say “Je suis” but “Il (elle) est” although I did not have them memorize the etre verb chart. They also began using mon/ma/mes correctly, although they did not specifically practice this structure on a worksheet. I hope I answered your question!

    2. Jean Rice

      Thank you so very much for sharing this unit on the family. You’ve given me great ideas and as a new middle school teacher I really appreciate how thoroughly you’ve organized the materials.

      With best regards,

  2. Cindy

    This an awesome resource. I have thought of similar things but when it comes to the authentic reading and listening you amaze me! I am grateful for the time you have spent to find the infographics What Caillou episode did you use for listening exercise?

      1. Kathy Zetts

        That particular link for the Caillou video did not work for me, but here is one that did:

        Thanks, Lisa, for including the multiple -choice questions (I have trouble coming up with good “wrong” answers). A warning to anyone who is going to use it–in Lisa’s version, the correct answer is always the same letter, so you might want to scramble things up a bit before giving that part of the IPA.

        1. Kathy Zetts

          Well, the link I posted a year or so ago no longer works either, but here is one….


  3. Barb Milliken

    Salut Madame!

    Merci encore et désolée si c’est la deuxième fois que j’ai laissé cette question mais j’ai des problèmes ce matin avec mon ordinateur (vraiment c’est moi qui est le problème, pas mon ordinateur:)

    I am not finding the crossword puzzle or cards for le Jeu de 7 Familles. I feel awful even asking for more, but do you know where I am going wrong in not finding them?

    Your Path to Proficiency ideas in my ones and fours are fantastique…. comme vous!


    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thanks for the kind words! I’m out of town for my daughter’s wedding, so I’m not able to check on the materials you asked about, but I’ll see what I can do in a couple of days. Sorry!

    2. madameshepard Post author

      Hi! I finally found a minute to check back at this post so I can answer your questions! I have several sets of Jeu de 7 Familles that I’ve bought in France, and that’s what I use at this station. Since it isn’t something that I’ve prepared, I wasn’t able to share it. As for the crossword puzzles, I don’t have scanned copies to share at this time, but here’s a link to an explanation of how to prepare these puzzles, which can be used for many topics at many levels and are very popular with my students.
      Let me know if you have any questions!

      1. Kathy Zetts

        Merci mille fois!

        aAquestions and comments…
        I want to buy the “7 familles” game so I searched the net….but there were so many versions, how do I know that I am getting the one you describe? Judging from your description I could probably create one, but I fear that would be copyright infringement, and I don’t want to go there. Is there something more in the title (or a sub-title) that I should be searching for?

        Since students are describing people in this unit, do you also include vocab like “les cheveux” and “les yeux” and ways to express “I like/he likes ______” and “I like/he likes to _______”? when?

        Apparently the idea of the “7 familles” game has been used to teach many other sets of vocab words. The site dessinemoiunehistoire (.com, I think–I only noted the “dessine moi une histoire” part for my future reference) has numerous sets (one on food, one on clothing, animals, etc) which are available for printing, gratuit! 😉

        Thank you for sharing the link to puzzlemaker, and for your instructions. Great site! I was able to quickly create a puzzle, and I didn’t even bother doing my list in a word or google document, just typed it into the text box. A tip for anyone about to use it for the first time: the site says that “size 30” is the standard size for the squares; however, when my puzzle printed, they looked very small, and the clues were printed in the type-face “flyspeck”….(OK, I admit my eyes are bad, but still…) so I will try to enlarge the puzzle at school, or re-do it with a larger size square.

        Thanks again!

        1. madameshepard Post author

          Hi, Kathy
          I think any of the 7 Famille games would work. All of the sets I’ve seen involve asking other players for various family members. I have a variety of different sets I’ve picked up in France that I use during this unit. When I began using the context of an au pair for this unit, I found that I didn’t need to teach the hair/eye color in the unit, but of course you could do so. I taught a unit on likes/dislikes before this one, so my students already knew those expressions. I’m glad you liked puzzlemaker. I only type my word list into a word/google doc in case I have technical problems while creating the puzzle–once I had to redo the whole thing and I don’t want to have to do that again! I agree that the print is impossible to see when the size 30. It’s definitely better to use a larger size, if possible. Lisa

  4. Alicia González

    Bonjour Madame: I recently came across your Famille IPA for Novice Learners. I have a question about the little bouquins you mention about Kimi and her family. I went on to the website and noticed that there are some free on-line versions but not all of them are available. Do you just order your own hard copy sets?

    P.S. I can’t tell you how awed I am by your treasure trove of authentic materials and the resources you provide. As I try to transition to IPAs and adopt the Keys to Learning, I so often feel lost trying to find appropriate comprehensible input for my students. Merci infiniment!

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thank you for your very kind comments! I bought the online versions of the stories I used and thought it was money well spent. They’re not very expensive and are very comprehensible even for early novices.

  5. Susie Hennessy

    I really am getting a lot out of this unit–thank you soooo much!
    I’m wondering about the Canvas quizzes. Is that a pay resource?


    1. madameshepard Post author

      I’m glad to hear it! Canvas was the Learning Management System that we used at my former district.

  6. madamekaiman


    I am trying to get a “free trial” so I can print copies of the authentic story you linked in the student packet. I am having difficulties doing so. Do you happen to have a digital copy? Does anyone?
    Merci mille fois!

    1. Nicole Jarvis

      Hi Madame Kaiman, you can purchase the set containing Papa et Maman for $15.00 – it looks like the free trial option isn’t available anymore. We cannot share the electronic copy because that would violate copyright law and Editions de l’Envolee is amazing and we want to support them. If you have never used the Du plaisir à lire series before, it’s amazing!! Here is the set of four books which contains Papa et Maman.

  7. Nicole Jarvis

    You are amazing, Lisa!! Thank you SO MUCH. I got an account for Editions de l’envolee (I already own a ton of their Du plaisir à lire series but as luck would have it I didn’t own this particular one yet, so I purchased an electronic PDF version of the set containing Papa et Maman. I really really appreciate that you included the link so I could purchase it!) $15 was super affordable for the four books.

    I love you, I love Edition de l’Envolee, and I love the unit. You are literally making me a better teacher – I use your Halloween IPA about Napoleon and the Citrouille d’Halloween, and I’m excited to use this IPA now that my students have already presented their family projects 🙂 I get super anxious about assessment, and in British Columbia I don’t think many of us are on the IPA bandwagon so I am thrilled to be able to show them these as examples and my students feel so much more confident answering when the reading comprehension questions are in English. I always ask colleagues – are we testing their reading comprehension of the test, or testing their reading comprehension of the questions themselves?

    Anyways, MERCI pour tout ce que tu fais dans notre groupe facebook et ailleurs… – si jamais tu aimerais visiter mon site web c’est 🙂

  8. Sandrine

    Bonjour !
    As others have expressed, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your resources and units. It is helping me to get away from the textbook, and inspiring me to create my own units.
    In this one, you move toward the Au Pair program and show them a video. However, the link isn’t working (it tells me that the video is unavailable). Do you per chance remember the title of the video so that I can look for it?
    Thanks bunches

  9. Holly Hammerle

    How clever! I used this au pair context this unit so kids didn’t feel awkward if their family life wasn’t something they wanted to delve into in front of their peers. You are such an inspiration!

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Jessica. I think it was just a video that an au pair made. I just did a quick youtube search on “ma vie comme au pair” and saw several videos that could work. As I recall, the video wasn’t necessarily comprehensible to the students, I chose it to give them a glimpse of what it was like to be an au pair. Lisa

  10. Cheryl Shank

    Bonjour…. i am now needing to come up with activities to continue online learning since my school has closed until further notice.
    I thought perhaps a Family unit might be easier to do with my level one students since many words are cognates, and they each have background info already about different families.
    I like this layout, but am wondering if some of the books you mentioned (Papa et Maman or Ma Petite Soeur) are available anywhere else. All I see is that i have to buy the book.


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