In a recent listserve post (#90412) Donatienne wrote:

“Google Maurice Carême. Here’s a link I pulled up with a few of his poems. I think they are all little jewels. I met Maurice Careme at a book fair in Brussels when I was 15. I went with my mom who looked like my older sister. We had a blast. She was an “institutrice” and used his poems in her second grade classroom all the time.”

I respond:

Donatienne you met Carême! I love love his work. Oh my gosh. That got my heart skipping a beat when I read that. Those poets in that genre just flip me out, all the ones you and Erwan and all have been talking about.

Now just find me some space in my schedule to teach these gems, y’all. Of course, we could just present them to the kids straight up as a free standing poem, which I sometimes do on Fridays after a week of stories and reading. But there is also the enticing idea of embedding them in stories!

The idea of bringing songs and poetry into stories is just so rich! I tried to bring the first part of Christophe Willem’s Double Je in this week to teach some serious vocabulary around introductions. It really worked.

It wasn’t some lame thing of having the kids introduce each other (output too early in my opinion) – instead it was an authentic YouTube videoclip in which a very popular French pop singer is introduced to a group of adults. Of course I had their attention! I am just overwhelmed by this idea that songs and poetry can be used to gig up stories and CI. It’s the blending of three mighty forces – songs, poetry, and narrative teaching.

You know, we have so many choices in TPRS! Blaine has given us a formula (circling, cute answers) for fun, for energy in our CI classes. Lise said on the list yesterday that in the middle of a story she got her kids chanting a line from the story using Mary Had a Little Lamb. Words flowing naturally into a fun chant for a few minutes and then back into the story, who woulda thunk it ten years ago in our profession?

We can blend a song with introductions (Double Je above), as well as poems into stories, mixing, blending poetry and song and stories. There are probably hundreds of examples of this happening every day in TPRS classes around the world!

Back in the fall my class had studied this awesome exchange between Marius Pontmercy and  Cosette from Les Misérables:


Je ne sais même pas votre nom, chère mademoiselle/I don’t even know your name dear miss. Je suis fou!/I am crazy!  Qu’elle est belle!/How beautiful she is!


… dites-moi qui vous êtes/tell me who you are.


Je m’appelle Marius Pontmercy/My name is Marius Pontmercy.


Et moi, Cosette/And I, Cosette.


Cosette, je ne trouve pas les mots/Cosette, I don’t find the words.


Ne dites rien/Say nothing !


Mon coeur tremble/My heart is trembling.

And there is another line where Marius says:

C’est un rêve..?/Is this a dream?

And she says, putting up one finger and looking directly into his eyes:

Non…c’est vrai!/No…it’s true!

There have been many moments since that time some months ago when I have been able to insert this last part of this scene into stories, much to the protestations of my students who are at the same time fascinated by such declarations of love but feel compelled to yell “Gross!” in the middle of it.

I don’t mind, because I am a great singer and they love to listen to me sing, and, let’s not forget, when they hear such bits of songs in stories, they are awash in comprehensible input, while at the same time getting to see and hear some great literature.  

It’s incredible, really, how such “moments” from opera, literature and music can fatten up a story, and now we’re bringing poetry into the mix. It never ends!


One Response to “Donatienne”

  1. duke Says:

    maybe “sayings” (like proverbs, popular wisdom, quotes etc) are also useful.. why? words like “bird in the hand worth two in the bush” are valuable:

    * used often (generation after generation)
    * applicable in many situations
    * repeating persistent truths
    * keep conversations going
    * meaningful

    when explaining the meaning in a song or poem, common wisdom sayings can be a useful reference.. such sayings can be referred to over and over again when distilling the “compelling” overall “message” in a story..

    to really understand a saying, usually some kinda narrative context needs to happen.. i just learned “el que se lleva se aguanta” here in mexico which is kinda like “you can dish it out but you sure can’t take it” but less whiny and mas macho.. to learn it took a while, a couple of imaginary “for example” scenarios (stories)

    some sayings are common to european languages.. for example a saying in mexico is “pajaro en mano vale cien volando” (a bird in hand is worth a hundred (birds) flying).. similar to english, so there’s background knowledge, but different.. basically another way to say basically the same thing, so fits in comfort zone..

    before going too far out into songs, poetry, opera, literature etc, (fingers), maybe popular sayings are a useful point of reference (thumb).. sayings are used by everyone, not just those of use lucky enough to get an education in a school.. ancient oral tradition, arcing generation gap after generation gap.. vetted meaning.

    using authentic materials is great because it helps learners connect with real speakers, ie fatal bazooka? formidable!! maybe one of the most authentic materials in language are the most common sayings.. here in mexico anyway native speakers love it when gringo uses “dichos” (popular sayings).. great way to connect

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