Learning Through Poetry: “Le Jardin” by Jacques Prévert Posted by Josh Dougherty on Apr 7, 2016 in Vocabulary
La poésie (poetry) isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea, and reading and trying to understand it in a second language can be daunting. That being said, there are plenty of poems out there that are appropriate for any level. For beginners, I always recommend Jacques Prévert. I’ve taught a few of his poems, and my students seemed to both understand and enjoy what was being presented. There was even willing discussion (a teacher’s dream!).
A while back, I presented Prévert’s “Le Message“ and gave a few ideas I’d used in my own classroom. Today, I’m presenting another one of his poems and a few more methods you can use to get the most out of the text. Let’s get started!
Do you remember your first kiss? Where did it take place, and what was it like? Were you nervous? Excited? Break your students into small groups and have them answer these questions together. Tell them to describe the scene as best as possible. It’s perfect for both first and second semester students: they can review places, clothing, seasons, and feelings. Walk around and help the students find their words and give examples if needed. After a few minutes, ask the groups what they came up with. Write these words on the board. You’ll probably get a wide array of answers – anything from fireworks to bad breath.
Distribute copies of the poem and read it aloud. If the activity is performed with first semester students, you may need to act out some of the text (où tu m’as embrassé, for example). See what words they understand. If it’s for second semester students, ask them what verb tenses they recognize.
Des milliers et des milliers d’années
Ne sauraient suffire
La petite seconde d’éternité
Où tu m’as embrassé
Où je t’ai embrassée
Un matin dans la lumière de l’hiver
Au parc Montsouris à Paris
Sur la terre
La terre qui est un astre.
Thousands and thousands of years
Wouldn’t be enough
To speak of
The short second of eternity
When you kissed me
When I kissed you
One morning in the winter light
In Montsouris Park in Paris
The Earth that is a star.
Ask a few comprehension questions to see what the students understood. A few you could consider:
- Is the narrator part of the poem? How can you tell?
- How many people are in the poem?
- Is the narrator male or female?
- When and where did this couple’s kiss take place?
- How long did the kiss last?
- Was it a positive or negative experience for the author?
- What words in the poem relate to time? Location? Size?
Let’s delve a little further…
- What is the significance of mentioning that Paris is on Earth, and Earth is a star?
- Based on the text in the poem, how do you imagine the park?
- What kind of music would you add if you were making a video based on the poem?
- How does this kiss compare to your first kiss?
- Can you relate this poem with any scene from a book you’ve read or show you’ve watched? How is it similar? Different?
- What would you change in the poem if you had written it?
Once the class has finished analyzing the poem together, you can assign final projects. These can range from research and presentation on the author or Montsouris Park, making a collage or video from your feelings on the poem, rewriting the poem from another perspective, or even poetry recitation. The possibilities are endless!
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