La Semaine du Français 2003, an example of how to set up a successful National French Week at a High School

 I pulled this out of my archives to show the basic plan for a National French Week production at New Trier High School.  This is pretty much the format that we used every year with modifications here and there.  Here’s hoping this could be something of use to a current French teacher who needs an extra resource of information.

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November 3rd November 4th November 5th November 6th November 7th
French food in the cafeterias French food in the cafeterias French food in the cafeterias French food in the cafeterias French food in the cafeterias
    Immersion Day Film:  400 Coups AP & Conversation classes teach on the Freshman  Campus


  • Please locate folder from LSDF2003 on the MCL server folder!


  • Film night, Thursday, November 6th, in a large enough, well-equipped venue
    • Presenter/moderator to set up the film and guide discussion (film teacher from the English Department chosen for this)
    • Film choice:  400 Coups
    • room setup :  « U » shape
    • Refreshments provided at low cost by French Club
    • Publicity:  10 posters enlarged on the poster machine,
    • e-mail:  to administrators and WL and ENGLISH departments


  • Field Trip from French classes to local elementary/middle schools to teach a lesson
    • How many students solicited to teach?
    • From which classes:  AP &  French Conversation and 4th year


  • Movable Bulletin Boards placed in main lobby/meeting area of school with info


  • Poster Contest
    • Voluntary and stated to all French classes


  • Public Relations
      • Yearbook
      • School newspaper
      • School Video Yearbook
      • Public Relations person for the district
      • District Webmaster
      • group e-mail to all teachers and administrators


  • Immersion Day (Students are required to sign a pledge to speak in French all day, in all classes; teachers of the other classes need to sign a permission form for it)
    • 4th, and 5th year students (special permission for some 3rd year students)
    • wear “bleu, blanc, et rouge”
    • Wednesday, November 5th
    • permission slip


  • Trivia Contest
    • Production of questions / answers
    • Duplication
    • Collection
    • Purchase of croissants  / jelly at either Costco or Sam’s club to provide adviser room (homeroom) breakfast
    • Monies to purchase breakfasts
    • Delivery of breakfasts on Monday, November 10th..
      • to five adviser rooms


  • Staff Dining Room and Student Cafeteria
    • contact people in charge of above and ask to provide something French each day
    • Different menu each day
    • walls
      • get permission to decorate the bulletin boards in the above (Le Petit Prince Paintings and/or posters)


  • Signs in school / Decorations
    • Placement by October 30th …the official date we meet after school to do the job
      • Various French classes


  • Selling of  “French” baked goods by classes to make money for Trivia Breakfast


  • Removal of posters/signs at the end La Semaine du Français
    • from walls of school
    • from Staff Dining Room and Student Cafeteria
    • classrooms


  • Thanks you notes to appropriate personnel for their part in the success of La Semaine du Français 


Questions for next year:

  • Have we thanked everyone, forgotten anyone? 
  • Current monies in our account, do we need more fundraisers? 
  • changes?

©2010 RJK


This Phonetic Labyrinth

Throughout my entire teaching career, I have used this poem in my classes.  Since “pretiring,” I have continued to share it with all the colleagues I can.  It is a most amazing poem and has made my students understand the reality that English is inherently hard and therefore French isn’t actually any harder to learn.  I got this, I believe, in my sophomore year in college, maybe freshman, from a very dear French professor. 

My tact in using it is to have the students read the poem aloud until a mistake in pronunciation is made.  At that point, the next student takes over.  They are always amazed at how they have been tricked and/or how hard it really is, and how little they really know.  Granted, some of the words are a bit archaic and/or a bit “British” rather than American, but it really gets the idea across and is a great educational tool.

As far as I know, the author is unknown, I have printed it exactly as I received it just about forty years ago.


The following was written during World War II by a Dutchman whose knowledge of English was very extensive.  It was published in “Vrig Nederland,” a publication produced by Dutch refugees.  USIS Paris wishes to pay its respect to the writer and acknowledge its indebtedness to the unknown benefactor-author.

Dearest creature in creation, studying English pronunciation,

I will teach you in my verse, sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse,

I will keep you, Susy, busy, make your head with heat grow dizzy;

Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear–so shall I!  Oh, hear my prayer!

Pray console your loving poet, make my coat look new, dear, sew it!

Just compare heart, beard, and heard, dies, diet, lord and word,

Sword  and sward, retain and Britain (mind the latter, how it’s written!)

Made has not the sound of bade;  say–said;  pay–paid;  laid, but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you with such words as vague and ague,

But be careful how you speak, say break and steak, but bleak and streak,

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via, pipe, snipe, recipe, choir,

Cloven, oven; how and low, script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery, daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,

Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles, exiles, similes, reviles;

Wholly, holly, signal, signing; Thames, examining, combining;

Scholar, vicar and cigar, solar, mica, war and far.

From desire, desirable;  admirable from admire.  Lumber, plumber;  bier but brier;

Chatham, brougham, renown but known from knowledge;  done, but gone and tone;

One, anemone;  Balmoral;  kitchen, lichen;  laundry, laurel;

Gertrude, German;  wind and mind;  Scene, Melpomene, mankind;

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather, Reading, reading, heathen, heather.

This phonetic labyrinth gives moss, gross, block, brooch, ninth and plinth.

Billet does not sound like ballet;  bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;

Blood and flood are not like food, nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet gives no clue to parquet, which is said to rhyme with darky.

Viscous, viscount;  load and broad;  toward, to forward, to reward.

Your pronunciation’s okay when you say, correctly, croquet;

Rounded, wounded;  live and grieve;  friend and fiend;  alive and sleeve;

Liberty, library, heave and heaven;  Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.

We say hallowed, but allowed;  people, leopard;  towed, but vowed.

Make the difference, moreover, ‘twixt mover, plover, and then Dover.

Leeches, breaches;  wise, precise;  chalice, but police and lice;

Camel, constable, unstable;  principle, disciple, label;

Petal, penal and canal;  wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal;

Suit, suite, ruin;  circuit, conduit, rhyme with “shirk it” and “beyond it.”

But it’s very hard to tell why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular;  goal;  iron;  timber, climber;  bullion, lion;

Worm and storm;  chaise, chaos, chair;  senator, spectator, mayor;

Ivy, privy;  famous;  clamour and enamour rhyme with hammer.

Pussy, hussy and possess.  Golf, wolf;  countenance;  lieutenants;

Hoist, in lieu of flagg, left pennants.  River, rival;  tomb, bomb, comb;

Doll and roll and some and home.  Stranger does not sound like anger.

Neither does devour like clangour.  Soul but foul, and gaunt but aunt;

Pont, front, wont;  want, grand and grant;  shoes, goes, does.  Now first say finger,

Then say singer, ginger, linger.  Real and zeal;  mauve, gauze and gauge;

Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.  Query does not rhyme with very

Nor does fury sound like bury.  Doest, lost, post;  doth, cloth and loth

Job, Job;  blossom, bosom;  oath.  Though the difference seems little.

We say actual but victual;  seat and sweat;  chaste, paste and caste;

Leigh and eight and freight and height;  put, nut;  granite and unite.

Feiffer does not rhyme with heifer, nor does reefer rhyme with zephyr.

Dull, bull;  Goeffrey, George;  ate, late;  hint, pint, senate and sedate.

Scenic, phrenic and pacific;  science, conscience, scientific;

Tour but our;  and succour, four;  Core provides a rhyme for door.

Gas, alas, and pass, and was–Dickens started off as “Boz.”

Sea, idea, guinea, area;  psalm and charm;  Maria, malaria;

Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean;  doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Look but alien and Italian;  dandelion and battalion,

Sallied, allied;  yea and  ye–eye, I say, aye, why, hey, quay!

Say, over, but ever, fever, neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.

Never guess–it is not safe;  we say claves, valves, half, but Ralph.

Heron, granary, canary, crevice, and device, and eyrie;

Face, but preface and efface;  phlegm, phlegmatic;  ass, glass, bass;

Large, but tarter;  gin, give, verging.   Ought, out, joust and scour;  and urging.

Ear, but earn;  and wear and tear do not rhyme with here, but there.

Seven is right and so is even, hyphen, roughen, nephews, Stephen,

Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk;  asp, grasp, wasp;  and cork and work.

Tunnel surely rhymes with funnel?  Yes, it does– and so does gunwale.

Islington and Isle of Wight, Housewife, verdict and indict.

Aren’t you mived up, reader, rather, saying lather, bather, father?

Finally, what rhymes with tough?  Though, through, plough or cough?  Enough!

Hiccough has the sound of “cup”–

My advice is — “Give it up!”

Language Class can be fun?

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Who said that language class cannot be fun?  One of the most interesting units I had along with my colleague, Adrienne, was the wonderful unit where we would bring out the paint and create canvases.  The initial reaction of my students was always interesting. “I cannot even draw!” I would quickly tell them that, number one, I wasn’t an art teacher so the criticism wouldn’t be heavy duty and that it was set up so that anyone could have success.

The Unit was on Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) and was oh so much fun.  I would have asked them ahead of time to bring in some paint, some brushes, a canvas, and some newspaper. I always had paper towels and usually had leftover materials from previous years just in case they forgot, and someone always did.

The way it worked was that I had made transparencies of the illustrations in the book to be put on an overhead projector.  The illustrations, by Antoine de St. Exupéry, are quite simple and yet rich in visual beauty.  I would have several overhead projectors set up and we would go to work.  The students would project the transparency of interest right on the canvas.  They could pencil it in and then paint.  I told them that they could do whatever they wanted with creativity, change colors, add to it, whatever.  Initial concerns of “I cannot do this” quickly changed into delight as the focus of class had totally changed for a moment.  It was a great break from the usual activities.  More often than not, a majority of the students managed to get the outline of the picture they were doing and some actual acrylics on the canvas the first class period.  I believe, if memory serves me well, it took no more than one, at the most two class periods beyond this to finish.  The resulting canvases were displayed around the classroom as they dried.

We generally planned for these to be made prior to National French Week, which was a very large undertaking in the school.  We had all sorts of things planned.  National French Week (la Semaine du Français) also coincided with parent/teacher conferences and the display always made students and parents very proud.  French is not as popular as Spanish, obviously, and French teachers need to be very pro-active in making sure that the enrollment stays up.  The crazy idea that Spanish is easier was omnipresent and false, to say the least.  It is a phonetic language, but let me tell you, get into the heavy grammar and French is easier.  Can we talk “subjunctive?”

 The pictures were then displayed in the halls and in the Staff Cafeteria with their names and class displayed.  The students were oh so proud of them and I have to say that they always came out beautifully.  They were like jewels decorating our building.

Students always fondly remembered the painting unit and I have to say that it was probably one of the biggest successes during the year as students, even if not the most competent French speakers, could revel in their success as “artists!” 

A special thanks to Adrienne who picked up this unit from a Seminar she attended.

Oh, and by the way, the images you see are actual paintings done by the students and totally representative of the final product.

The student requirements:

1 canvas (12×16 or larger)

1 small set of acrylic paints

2-3 brushes, assorted sizes (these can be shared by several people)

(optional) 1 fine paint marker for outlining

1 small sponge for different effects

1 small cup, several paper towels, and a newspaper section