Working with Schools part 3: French is not just France

This is the final post in a three-part series on working with schools. The previous posts are here and here.

This two-part workshop (either in two one-hour sessions or one two-hour session) is aimed at students aged 12-15 and focuses on the fact that French is a national language of many African countries today. It explores where and why that is, as well as some of the questions that this poses. It is organised around discussions around a large map of Africa, followed by a shadow puppet performance prepared by the students. French is used as much as possible as a supplement, drawing on students’ prior knowledge and reading strategies (including cognates, context and L1/general knowledge), to encourage students to manipulate it in a supportive and encouraging environment.

This workshop will be of interest to teachers of French, History, Drama and PSHE, and aspects of the discussions (including the amount of French used) can be tailored to the group. It has been delivered to groups with no prior knowledge of French as well as groups with two years of language study. Year 8s (13-14) were chosen as a crucial year to work with, building on the early enthusiasm of Year 7s and attempting to keep them engaged as lessons generally move away from games and songs and towards exam preparation. It is an opportunity for students to see French as a language used in a variety of situations (both in terms of where it is used in the world and in terms of them using it creatively) and to start thinking critically about the relationships between language, history and identity.

If you would like the resources for this workshop please contact Camille at



  • To familiarise students with the place of the French language in the world
  • To develop an awareness of the issues surrounding the French language in Africa, including aspects of colonisation and empire
  • To develop students’ reflective use of reading strategies
  • To increase confidence in using French to voice opinions
  • To develop students’ understanding of French pronunciation



  • Students will be able to name (in French) African countries which have kept French as a national language
  • Students will be able to explain why the French language is a national language in some African countries
  • Students will be able to read short texts (or sentences) in French and find the matching translation in English
  • Students will be able to formulate simple sentences to give an opinion about keeping French as a national language
  • Students will be able to perform their opinion through a short shadow puppet performance
Part 1


5 min


Welcome and introduction




Race: in two teams, students compete to place French names of countries colonised by France on map of Africa in the 1960s with country outlines. Facilitators give support in French using au nord, au sud (etc.), à côté de, entre, près de, loin de.


10 min


Whole class discussion: What is ‘colonisation’? What do you know about it? (building on knowledge of British imperialism)


7-10 min


Small group discussions followed by whole class: Why did France want (some) people to speak French in those territories? What happens if you can’t speak that language?


10-15 min


Whole class discussion: What is ‘decolonisation’?

Followed by race: in two teams, students compete to match the countries on the map with their new flags (helped by the names of countries in English – to be matched with the names in French).


7-10 min


Small group discussions: How many countries do you think kept French as a national language at independence? Why? Place French flags on the map on the countries you think kept French – make an educated guess!


5 min


Facilitators then read out the list of countries (in French) who kept French as one of their national language at independence, while students count how many they got right.


3-5 min Plenary drawing on previous discussion (depending on level: names of countries in French, geographical indications, what is colonisation/decolonisation, which countries kept French)


Part 2
10 min


Starter: facilitators recap reading strategies, then students match French and English quotes on attitudes towards the French language in Africa (colour-coded words for support)


5 min


Facilitators explain shadow puppet activity: imagining we are at independence in the late 1950s/ early 1960s, each group will present their puppet(s)’ stance(s) on whether to keep the French language as a national language. Within each group, the puppets can all agree (and stage a demonstration for example), or they can disagree (and have a debate). Students are split into groups of 4 or 5 with different roles (président.e, professeur.e, homme.femme d’affaires, de rue, etc.), and given materials including French vocabulary support.


20 min


Students make shadow puppets (single individuals, groups, placards) and write their script, which needs to contain at least one opinion sentence in French. Facilitators circulate to offer support.
15-20 min




5-10 min Plenary (either oral or written): students draw/are given different questions to be answered in French or English depending on the level of the group (one thing you’ve learnt today, one word you’ve learnt today, summarise today’s session in one sentence, give one reason why some countries in Africa still speak French/chose to keep French/chose not to keep French, which reading strategy(ies) did you use today, what would you do differently, etc.)




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