Vive la France! Bringing the French Revolution to life through drama
As a trainee primary school teacher specialising in Modern Foreign Languages, I was tasked with creating a five-week research project with a group of enthusiastic Year 6 pupils. My research set out to explore if increasing children’s intercultural understanding of France would increase their motivation for learning French. I wanted to make the project really creative and I was looking forward to getting started!
I discovered the Multilingual Performance Project at the Language Show at Olympia in London in 2019. Glancing through the brochure of events, my heart leapt when I saw their workshop on teaching with drama. As a drama enthusiast who is passionate about using creative methods in my teaching, I knew I had found something to help with my project. In an entirely practical MPP workshop, full of language enthusiasts, we participated in a range of highly original and fun exercises and games designed to enhance language learning. After lots of fun and laughter, I walked away full of ideas for my project.
As soon as I was back in the classroom, I started trying out some of the games we had played in the workshop like the number game ‘Sevens’; to my delight, the children didn’t want it to end! I was inspired by the fun they were having learning languages and I knew using drama in my project would be a great way to build upon this enthusiasm.
When beginning to plan the lessons, I got in touch with the MPP’s director, Daniel Tyler-McTighe. He explained that a great way to learn about another culture is through its key historical figures and suggested bringing these characters to life, getting to know them through drama exercises like hot-seating. Instantly I thought of the French Revolution; what more famous figures in French history could there be! I was filled with excitement as I started imagining the lessons.
My plan was to spend the five weeks teaching and learning about the French Revolution through a variety of activities and build up to the children preparing their own performance. This was something they were very keen on, they even wanted to come back at lunchtimes to practise. Drama was infused throughout each lesson to promote the children’s creativity, using different exercises and games I had learnt from the MPP such as ‘What are you doing?’/ ‘Qu’est-ce que tu fais?’ We had great fun with this; lots of creative ideas left the children clutching their stomachs with laughter.
When the children had a good understanding of the events of the French Revolution, we began hot-seating the key figures to inform our performance. I was amazed at how fantastic their characterisation was and the thoughtful, well informed questions they created. Marie-Antoinette was threatening everyone with the guillotine, whilst Louis XVI was demanding a feast from his servants! As a result of the hot-seating, the children were able to independently put together their own performance of the French Revolution. I scaffolded them by using the Multilingual Performance Project’s ‘First Line, Last Line’ exercise to frame the performance, and they were off!
They performed their piece to the rest of their classmates and it went down a storm. I gathered their feedback on the project, analysed their discussions and my own observations and it was clear that they all enjoyed the project, had increased their intercultural understanding of France, acquired new vocabulary and all said they were keen to learn more.
The MPP really helped me to develop my early ideas about using drama in language learning into this full five-week project, which was a great success. I learnt so much from the process and I am excited to continue to build on this, bringing more drama into my Modern Foreign Language lessons as I begin my career as a teacher.
If, like Amy, you'd like to introduce some drama and creative exercises in your MFL teaching, please check out our downloadable MPP resource packs here.