Arts & Crafts

The Arts and Arts and Crafts were chosen as themes for National French Week because of the enduring principle that students learn by doing and that both French language and French-speaking cultures can be expressed by the practical arts as well as the performance arts.

The arts related to French language and French-speaking cultures comprise a wide range of artistic and performance expression, including art, visual arts, music and dance, theater, film, literature, as well as artistic expression in new and evolving technologies. Arts and crafts are generally associated with encouraging student artistic expression and involve some of the areas listed above. Most teachers of French incorporate arts and crafts in their teaching, because they give students many opportunities to use and practice French in different kinds of practical applications. While students can be involved in the arts in different kinds of performances, they can also develop appreciation of the æsthetic values of world-wide contributions to the arts by French speakers. The incorporation of the arts and arts and crafts into the French program gives students a deeper understanding of French language and cultures, and, in addition, it enables them to develop an appreciation for the arts and provides them the means to the creative expression of their knowledge.

Students can:

  • create posters, pictures, drawings, paintings, and sketches for display in public places;
  • create real or virtual historical timelines, geographical charts, and maps of French-speaking areas of the world;
  • develop Francophone displays in the school and in the community (libraries, civic centers, business groups, malls, in the lobby of the Board of Education, or the President’s office);
  • develop posters, buttons,  and other items on the theme “Why Study French?”;
  • create scenes of special events in the Francophone world, such as the French celebration of la Coupe du Monde or scenes from the French Revolution;
  • design costumes and wear them, after having researched details of the costume and the period in which it was worn, as well as modern haute couture fashions or research background information and create costumes for a Qui suis-je? contest;
  • create real or virtual greeting cards in French and share with administrators and parents;
  • organize design competitions, such as a bumper-sticker contest, a poster contest, a button or sticker contest, a banner contest, a tee-shirt design contest;
  • create a mural, which may be three-dimensional and which can be displayed in local shops, banks, or theaters;
  • draw cartoon characters in stories, such as Babar, le Petit Prince, Cendrillon, la Belle au bois dormant, le Chat botté for a display in the community or to decorate the lobby of hotels, restaurants, or in elementary schools;
  • write and decorate invitations to parents and members of the community for special events at school during National French Week;
  • decorate doors with imaginative French themes during National French Week. Prizes can be awarded. In addition, students can decorate the school office, cafeteria, auditorium, or other public places;
  • create imaginative story books for younger children, and give the students who have developed the best books an opportunity to visit and read their stories to younger children;
  • research and plan a display featuring a map of the world highlighting where French is spoken along with a display of flags of Francophone countries;
  • build three-dimensional displays of famous French monuments, such as the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe;
  • participate in a project for display in local museums called effets de neige in which students create impressionist-style paintings of winter. This can be done in collaboration with the school Art Department. The paintings can be labeled and described in French;
  • design commemorative stamps for a display which shows aspects of culture from French-speaking countries around the world, and exhibit these in the local post office. Suggested topics might include scenes of Québec, animals of a Francophone country, Bonhomme Carnaval, or the seasons;
  • decorate classroom windows by making “stained glass windows” based on French cultural themes: (1) Draw the picture on 12×18 inch black paper; (2) with an exacto knife, cut out the design leaving lines to show the lead line; (3) add different colors of tissue paper to the back of the picture and, if possible, laminate the “stained glass window;”
  • design perfume and cologne bottles and create names for the designs such as parfum volcan, minuit noir, bleu, blanc et rouge, etc. These can be displayed in local shop windows and boutiques;
  • work on a celebration of la langue française dans les pays francophones: (1) students divide into groups and select a French-speaking country, region, or province; (2) they research the culture, history, and geography of the area and develop a campaign to convince classmates and visitors why they should vacation in that area; (3) students prepare visas, passports, and informational sheets with important facts about the climate, food, clothing, art, music, dance, traditions, sports, history, and geography of their region; (4) students plan a dinner, and each group prepares a table design with the colors of the flag and a centerpiece, place mats of the flag(s), dinner with typical dishes, invitations to students from French-speaking countries attending local colleges and universities and who could bring a typical dish from their country, decorations, recipes for the food being served, and menus for the dinner. Guests could include school administrators and members of the board of education and community leaders. At the end of the dinner, students present their projects which might include videos, skits, discussions, and songs;
  • work on a West African Adrinka Art Cloth Project. Materials needed: a chart or information showing the adrinka African symbols (symbols and their meanings can be found online), a large piece of off-white cotton or cotton blend fabric, 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheets of white paper; straight pins, fine-line black fabric paint, small paintbrushes, and plastic to protect the work surface. Directions: (1) study the symbols and their meanings with the students; (2) teach them the equivalents in French for each of the meanings. Then students choose four symbols from the chart which they feel best fit their view (family unity, honesty, the past, etc.); (3) the teacher marks off in pencil on the fabric the layout for the designs. Each student has a space the size of a standard sheet of paper. Between each student rectangle, space is left to draw a line pattern. Space is also left at the edges for a border; (4) students fold the sheet of paper into four rectangles and draw a different Adrinka design in each rectangle. They trace around the edges of the design with a black marker; (5) spread the plastic on the work surface and lay out the fabric. Students pin their paper with the four designs under their square. The design should show through enough so that the student can copy over it with the fabric paint; (6) when all the designs have been painted and the paint has dried, unpin the paper and remove it from the back of the fabric. Hem the edge with colorful embroidery thread and display;
  • hold a Marché aux Puces which is a fundraiser where the following activities can be held: guess how many jelly beans are in the jar; sell chocolates or baked goods, jewelry, scarves, perfume, posters or art work; have booths which offer make-a-button, portrait artists, fortune telling, face painting, hair beading or braiding, create-your-own chapeau designs; organize a Guignol theater, set up a café-restaurant. Directions: (1) plan the Marché with administrators, parents, students, and custodial staff; (2) select a chairperson and committee; (3) ask for assistance from the Art Department for ideas for decorations and handicrafts; (4) prepare a calendar for future meetings; (5) meet with custodial staff for planning the set up of the Marché, for wiring for café-restaurant, and for assistance during the Marché; (5) invite dignitaries; (6) get publicity on local television and cable stations and in the newspaper; (7) contact parents, friends, and businesses for contributions to the Marché aux Puces and for the tombola;
  • take a field trip to visit a local French bakery where students decorate a gâteau with a French theme and bakers from the area judge the most beautifully decorated cakes. For example, different colored frostings may be used for decorations depicting Mardi Gras or le 14 juillet.

Gladys Lipton (MD)
Harriet Saxon (NJ)
Davara Potel (OH)

Reprinted and adapted from the AATF National Bulletin, Special Issue, Vol. 24 No. 5 (May 1999)