Nouns, definite and indefinite articles and colour card magic tricks

This last week @EWoodruffe and I have been busy training groups of staff at individual school CPD sessions. We worked in one school where the children in Year 4 to Year 6 are moving on in their language learning and the staff were keen to find ways to support their growing inquisitiveness about the grammar of the French language.

As part of the CPD we looked at nouns and how to practise knowledge ,recognition and application of definite and indefinite articles. Here are the games, step by step. You will be able to revisit these games over and over again as the children learn more language and hopefully this will increase the children’s growing confidence in how to use articles before nouns.

All you need  for the games in French are six coloured paper squares to represent le ,la ,un,une, les and des. (If you apply these games to other languages then you will need n amount of different coloured cards to represent the amount of definite and indefinite articles you are practising in that specific target language)
You can reduce the number of coloured cards and still play the games if you r focus is just on definitie and indefinite singular articles or definite and indefinite plural articles.
Each child will need their own sets of these coloured squares too.  

We are making the assumption here that the children already know a series of nouns within a context such as animals. The children also already are aware that in French there are two singular definite articles and a plural definite article and they have had exposure to the indefinite articles too . You can play the games below and go through the steps just to practise definite articles in the singular and plural or to practise the change between definite and indefinite singular articles . It's a mix and match opportunity to practise a grammatical structure :the use of definite articles "the " and indefinite articles "a/some " with nouns in the target language.

Step One
Discuss clearly with the class the noun magic trick the class have become aware of- whether this is different words for" THE"/ how to change "THE to A" in the target language or plural words for "THE and SOME" we have become aware of ….

Reveal an empty table on the flip chart.This table below has four rows and three columns…. because we are looking at the big picture and assuming that the children are ready to practise changing between singular and plural definite and indefinite articles .But why are there four rows?
Well all will be revealed!

First we ask the class to go on a noun class hunt .In this instance we are looking for animal nouns and for three specific animal picture cards concealed on the room . You can  pretend to be explorers with language hunting binoculars and look carefully around the classroom for cards that have been concealed e.g.

“Cherchez le serpent/la souris/les poissons” 

Place the animal pictures in the second row of the table and then remove and replace the cards when you have collected them all with the correct definite article when the class are confident to tell the teacher  the noun  with the correct definite article.

Remember we were playing these games as part of staff CPD and the great thing is to have Emilie our native speaker teacher supporting too. The teachers  loved hearing how Emilie is teaching her own little boy to speak French and always says the noun with the definite article in French when they meet new nouns together.This came about from a question by a teacher about “Well how do children in France learn if it’s le or la?” Thanks Emilie – it’s great to have native  hands on knowledge like that! We thought you may also like to know this and share with your children too.

So in the second row write the definite articles in French after removing the pictures of nouns (le serpent/la souris/les poissons)


In the fourth row place the indefinite articles after  discussing  how you are now looking  “a snake/a mouse/some horses”.
Go on your animal hunt   using our imaginary binoculars…talk about how this time  you aren't  specifically looking for a specific snake etc. 

As we  are no longer looking for a very speicifc snake etc one of the teachers on CPD suggested that we should therefore have more than one picture card of “le serpent” etc so that children could make a random choice not an exact definite choice. Good idea!

Once again place your pictures on the chart,but this time in the third row. 
Remove the pictures and replace the pictures with the correct written indefinite articles 


So why have we got additional rows?
Well now we need to add our magic trick colour coded guide! Take a look!


The colour blocks represent the article below them, green is le , blue is la etc …..

Step Two
Practice your magic trick by checking that if “the teacher” holds up a coloured piece of card the children can respond  by calling out the correct definite or indefinite article

Step Three
Look at a list of known nouns (e.g here our focus has been animals in French) with definite articles, written as a list for the children. 
Call a colour  and the children have to select a noun that they can use to say the correct definite/indefinite article with that noun
e.g. If “blue “ is called in the target language , then the response from children must be a feminine noun ( noun preceded by “la”) but if brown is called in the target language then the children’s response must be a noun in the  plural with the indefinite plural article “ a plural noun of the animal preceded by “des”

Step Four 
Make this a pair game 
Call a colour pair game. Simply ask the children to practise as a game "step three" but this time in pairs.

Step Five  
Show a colour, say a colour and can a child give you a full sentence with a correct article and noun?

Step Six  
Make this a pair or group game 
Simply play step five as a pair or group game .

Step Seven
Ask the children to order their coloured paper squares in any order they wish and to challenge a partner to say animals with the correct definite/ indefinite article in the order that has been arranged with the coloured squares for them by their partner.

Step Eight
Ask the children to play last article standing.
They just select a coloured square and stand up holding the square clearly in front of them. The teacher selects one of his/her coloured cards from a bag and says a noun which has a corresponding definite or indefinite article before it .
If the children are holding the coloured square that corresponds to the definite /indefinite article that the teacher has used,they must sit down. Who will be the last children standing?

Step Nine

Play the game above as a table game.
Make this a pair or group game 

Teachers at the CPD session felt that over time they could confidently grow n their own competent use of definite and indefinite articles by playing and practising the games and steps with their classes- not necessarily all the steps at one time or all the definite and indefinite articles singular and plural at one time.
We felt that over and over again we can come back to these simple games and play some or all of them to reinforce children and teacher knowledge of definite and indefinite articles with nouns. 

Hope you find these steps and simple games useful too!