When in Doubt, Take ’em Out


View of the Flatirons from Boulder

View of the Flatirons from Boulder, Colorado

French lessons at the preschool are wrapping up as the school year comes to an end. My “regulars” – a small group that greets me when I arrive each Friday, all of them bouncing like Tigger, grabbing my hand, and asking, “are you going to do French today?” – made this experience more than worth it. Coming up with lessons each week engaging enough to hold a preschooler’s attention is no easy task. But they are interested. Their earnest eyes study me as they repeat my words, putting all their concentration into speaking a foreign language, and having fun while doing it. I hear from other parents that their kids are using French at home – words, pretending to read in French, even correcting their parent’s pronunciation. For them, French is exciting, cool, and thus I say: Mission Accomplished.

Over the past few weeks, the snow melted and the Colorado sun finally warmed things up. My group, understandably, has dwindled down to a loyal few. The past couple of lessons, I began with 6 to 8 kids but after a few minutes, the playground beckons, and they drop their puppet or crayons or whatever else we are working on to run outside, hardly acknowledging my “Au revoir !”

I told one of the teachers, “I’m fighting a losing battle against the great outdoors, I’m afraid.” She suggested we do a French lesson outside. “When in doubt, follow their lead,” she wisely advised.


So we took them outside. All it took was the mention of a field trip to the “soccer field” to do a French lesson, and I had twelve kids clamoring to join me.

It might have been the most fun lesson yet. We played American games translated into French: “Duck, duck, goose” became “Canard, canard, oie!”; “Red light, green light” became “Feu rouge, feu vert.” I learned a new game: Mr. Fox. The kids call out, “Mr. Fox, what time is it?” And the leader responds with things like, “It’s time to jump forward six times!” Each game is easily adaptable to French (and my husband tells me that the French have a version of “Simon says” that works well too). Each is a great way to get the kids talking, following directions, and counting in French. By the end of class, all of them had said at least one thing in French, and all had definitely responded to simple commands. Having a group of English-speaking kids enthusiastically shout, “Oui !” in response to my question, “Vous-êtes prêts?” had me grinning and feeling like a great success.

Plus I got to run around on the grass and play like nothing else in the world mattered.

God, I love being around kids.

So when in doubt, take ’em out. Play with them, follow their lead, and sneak the French in there. They won’t even notice they’re working. Neither did I!


Truth be told, given the option, I'll always choose outside, too.

Truth be told, given the option, I’ll always choose outside, too.

22 thoughts on “When in Doubt, Take ’em Out

  1. I organized a mini summer camp where we did almost all the French lessons outside. I brought a picnic blanket everyday for our “literature lesson” where I read a short story in French with all the kids sitting around me on the picnic blanket. I felt like Maria in the Sound of Music. 🙂

  2. Loved this! I learned from my kids in Bordeaux that “Simon Says” is “Jacques a dit¨, and “one, two, three stop!” is “un, deux, trois soleil!”

      • Woah I hadn´t seen this! It´s the game where one person counts to three with their back towards a wall and the rest of the group tries to reach the wall, then when the counter says “stop!” everyone has to freeze and whoever moves an inch has to go back. The first person to reach a wall wins and gets to count!
        It’s really fun! Maybe not all of the US plays it??

        • Sounds similar to ‘Red Light, Green Light’ – where one person turns his back to the others, calls out “Green Light!” and the group runs to reach him, then he turns and shouts “Red Light!” and whoever doesn’t stop has to go back and start over.

  3. Hi, This is a weird question and kind of pointless, but I was wondering if you know Frederick Pichon? He is associated with Alliance Française in Denver.

    That’s really all I was wondering. Blog on!

    Barbie Beaton

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Hey Barbie-

      We haven’t gotten involved with the Alliance Française here, and I haven’t met Frederick. Maybe someday!

      In the do you know game – I have a dear friend named Barbie who recently relocated to Montana (she’s from there), so your name gave me pause for a moment! My friend is in Bozeman!


      • How funny! It’s not a common name, and I battled with using the diminutive in my blog. I, however, am quite attached to it and prefer the informal of Barbie over Barbara.

        Great to converse with you and get to know you via the blogosphere. If you’re ever in Montana, you are most welcome to come to Missoula for a visit.


  4. You are so blessed to be having these incredible experiences with kids. Your time teaching them and empowering them will make them such interesting and caring adults… And yes, French very Is cool! 😉

  5. I thoroughly agree with all of this. I’d go as far as to say there’s possibly even more educational potential outdoors than in. Glad you and the kids are enjoying yourselves! 🙂

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