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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

French: Chicken Pox

French I, kindergarten: Jai Scott's French immersion class uses the topic of chicken pox, from an Arthur book and a French song, and total physical response (TPR) movements to learn new vocabulary for the parts of the body. The class practices emerging literacy skills by matching vocabulary labels to a drawing of a person.



Jai Scott






Ecole Kenwood Alternative Elementary School, Columbus, Ohio

Lesson Date

November 11

Class Size



About 6 hours daily (immersion)

Video Summary

In this lesson, students demonstrate their knowledge of body parts. They begin by talking about the chicken pox and reading Marc Brown’s story, Arthur a la varicelle(Arthur has the chicken pox). Then they sing a song about the chicken pox that names different parts of the body. Finally, students do a cut-and-paste activity, labeling a drawing of a person with words for body parts that they had practiced in the song.


Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpretive, Presentational

Cultures: Products

Connections: Making Connections


immersion program
In this model, most commonly found in elementary schools, general academic content (the primary educational goal) is taught in the target language, and language proficiency is a parallel outcome. Individual districts design their programs such that English is introduced at a given grade level, with a gradually increasing percentage of time given to English language instruction. Partial immersion programs differ in the amount of time and number of courses taught in English and in the target language.

informal assessment
During an informal assessment, a teacher evaluates students’ progress while they are participating in a learning activity, for example, a small-group discussion. Results are typically used to make decisions about what to do next, namely, whether the students are ready to move on or whether they need more practice with the material.

kindergarten benchmarks
Kindergarten benchmarks identify what young learners should achieve during kindergarten. They include awareness of body parts, letter and some word recognition, control of tools such as crayons and scissors, and more.

Connecting to Your Teaching

Reflect on Your Practice
As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

  • How might you teach a new language to young students with limited literacy in their first language? How is this different from and similar to working with students who are already literate in one language?
  • How might you use children’s or young adult literature with your students?
  • What immersion teaching strategies can be used in other elementary, middle, and high school models?
  • In classroom interactions, how do you balance the use of the target language and the use of English for students who have a limited vocabulary but are eager to communicate?

Watch Other Videos
Watch other videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 library for more examples of teaching methodologies like those you’ve just seen. Note: All videos in this series are subtitled in English.

  • Communicating About Sports (Chinese) illustrates oral and written (character) language recognition of new vocabulary.
  • Holidays and Seasons (German) shows the integration of songs into a lesson.
  • People Who Help Us (Arabic) demonstrates how visuals can be incorporated into a lesson to serve different pedagogical purposes.

Put It Into Practice
Try these ideas in your classroom. Where it’s not already evident, reflect on how to adapt an idea that targets one performance range for application to other performance ranges.

  • Introduce children’s literature to help students understand, reproduce, and recall language in context. A story’s narrative — beginning, conflict/problem, developments toward a resolution, and conclusion — can help advance the meaning of new vocabulary. Children’s books usually have illustrations that help readers make sense of unfamiliar words. Mr. Scott’s selection, Arthur a la varicelle, appeals to children because they can relate to the character and to the childhood illness. Mr. Scott did frequent comprehension checks and allowed students to “take over” some of the story with their predictions and solutions. You could also use children’s stories with some middle and high school students; success depends upon the dynamics of the group and their interest in the story itself. Students with greater language proficiency can also use the illustrations to lead the story reading with classmates. You can devote time on an ongoing basis to reading sections of longer stories. Many popular children’s books are available in numerous languages.
  • Incorporate songs into lessons to reinforce and introduce authentic language, choosing songs that are appropriate for the grade level and the topics you teach. “La varicelle” (“The chicken pox”) mentions many parts of the body and repeats phrases with unusual words — such as itchy, scratch, and jiggle — that quickly become familiar. These words are fun to say in French, are quickly internalized, and, when spoken using facial and hand gestures, provide an opportunity for kinesthetic and rhythmic learning. Mr. Scott taught the song by first playing it and acting out the meaning himself, and then inviting students to imitate (or reproduce) his gestures and sing along. He also showed the text to students, an activity that could be done sooner with older students. Songs can be used with all age groups, although some classes may be resistant to singing at first. In those cases you may wish to concentrate on the lyrics and not require students to sing at all. Students can act out the lyrics with gestures or movement instead.


World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages create a roadmap to guide learners to develop competence to communicate effectively and interact with cultural understanding. This lesson correlates to the following Standards:

Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes

Interpretive Communication

Learners understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics.

Presentational Communication

Learners present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers.

Interact with cultural competence and understanding

Relating Cultural Products to Perspectives

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the products and perspectives of the cultures studied.

Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations

Making Connections

Learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and to solve problems creatively.


Lesson Materials
Brown, Marc. Arthur a la varicelle. Translated by Natalie Zimmermann. Paris: Les éditions Épigones, 1994.

“La varicelle,” L’album de Marie-Soleil. Performed by Suzanne Pinel. 50 min. Produced by Les éditions Clown Samuel, Inc., 1993. Videocassette.

Curriculum References
Columbus City Schools: World Languages Curriculum at a Glance

Ohio’s Learning Standards for World Languages

Jai Scott’s Additional Resources
Web Resources:

French Immersion Schools
Information about French immersion schools in the U.S., including details about each school organized by state

A collection of resources for elementary school teachers, including lesson ideas, classroom management tips, and discussion board

Series Directory

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 2003. 2016.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2