I often have fellow teachers ask me about books I might suggest for elementary Core French. It’s a valid question – but there’s often more to dig into before I’m able to answer. So, please allow me to back the train up for a moment (or two).
I do like having a variety of super simple picture books in my classroom for students to browse – some enjoy flipping through nostalgic favourites from their younger years and seeing them in French. Much like kindergarten students who “read” books when they haven’t yet fully grasped reading, my expectation is simply that students flip through and use the images to help determine the main ideas, occasionally identifying familiar words. If the book is very simple, with lots of visual support, repeating sentence structures, familiar words and familiar contexts, they may be able to read it – but most commercially available French picture books are often beyond this level of difficulty.
As far as reading instruction in the FSL class goes, we have to be careful not to overcomplicate reading. We also have to be cognizant that a lot of reading at this stage will be very visual and often not involve books.
In general terms, all elementary Core French students should be working towards the goals from the CEFR A1 level.
At this level, reading should not be a major focus – have a look for the “R” in the pie chart below, which gives us an idea of the ratio of listening, speaking, reading and writing instruction that we should aim for:
According to the CEFR A1 guidelines, the goal for reading at this level is, “I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.”
When you read the full descriptors for more detail, you find a bit more information:
Reading for orientation
- Can understand simple everyday signs such as ‘Parking,’ ‘Station,’ ‘Dining room,’ ‘No smoking,’ etc.
- Can find information about places, times and prices on posters, flyers and notices.
- Can recognize familiar names, words and very basic phrases on simple notices in the most common everyday situations.
- Can understand store guides (information on which floors departments are on) and directions (e.g. to where to find lifts).
- Can understand basic hotel information, (e.g. times when meals are served.)
- Can find and understand simple, important information in advertisements, in programmes for special events, in leaflets and brochures (e.g. what is proposed, costs, the date and place of the event, departure times etc.).
Reading for information and argument
- Can understand the simplest informational material that consists of familiar words and pictures, such as a fast-food restaurant menu illustrated with photos or an illustrated story formulated in very simple, everyday words.
- Can get an idea of the content of simpler informational material and short simple descriptions, especially if there is visual support.
- Can understand short texts on subjects of personal interest (e.g. news flashes about sports, music, travel, or stories etc.) written with simple words and supported by illustrations and pictures.
- Can understand very short, simple, instructions used in familiar, everyday contexts such as ‘No parking,’ ‘No food or drink,’ etc., especially if there are illustrations.
- Can follow short, simple written directions (e.g. to go from X to Y).
Reading as a leisure activity
Pre – A1
- Can understand short, illustrated narratives about everyday activities that are written in simple words.
- Can understand in outline short texts in illustrated stories, provided that the images help him/her to guess a lot of the content.
When choosing texts for the FSL classroom, I will choose a book once in a while, but I try to focus more on authentic texts.
To help support this, I’ve put together a Google Slides file with some pictures of various signs and text one might find when travelling in French speaking places. Not all of these examples are something a student at the A1 level would be expected to understand independently – some are much less common circumstances and also the images may be “close ups” and therefore lacking important context clues that would ordinarily support meaning making. Feel free to make a copy of the file and edit it to suit your needs. Just click on the image below:
In addition to pictures of signs and other environmental texts, it’s also great to use:
- Cineplex website (there’s a link to toggle to French at the top)
- Various shopping websites (e.g., Amazon, IGA, Bureau en gros, Shoppers, Apple, etc.) – many of them also allow you to view current flyers, which is great.
- Transportation websites (e.g., STM, Air Canada, Via Rail, etc.)
- Tourism websites (e.g., Carnaval de Quebec, Tour Eiffel, etc.)
As soon as I expanded my view of “text” beyond books – it’s evident that it’s everywhere and super easy to access, especially digitally.
I personally choose to not purchase publisher-created texts (e.g., text books, readers) as I find I am much more able to be responsive to my students’ current interests with digital resources – not to mention the fact that printed resources go ‘out of date’ quite quickly and are expensive to replace.