8 French Songs for Kids: Teach French Using the Magic of Music
Capturing the attention of kids can be quite a challenge.
You’ve got to keep it simple and you’ve got to keep it fun.
And what’s more fun than teaching them using French songs?
After all, songs do wonders when it comes to improving students’ listening skills. What’s more, your students retain information more easily when singing.
If you’re interested in using French songs in your classroom, check out our list of the eight best songs for teaching kids the French language, as well as which language skill each one enhances.
- Magical Songs for Teaching French to Kids
- 1. “Nous n’irons plus au bois” (We’ll Go to the Woods No More)
- 2. “Au clair de la lune” (By the Light of the Moon)
- 3. “Frère Jacques” (Brother Jack)
- 4. “Une souris verte” (A Green Mouse)
- 5. “Le bon roi Dagobert” (Good King Dagobert)
- 6. “Alouette, gentille alouette” (Lark, Kind Lark)
- 7. “Sur le pont d’Avignon” (On the Bridge of Avignon)
- 8. “Dans la forêt lointaine” (In the Far Forest)
- How to Teach Kids More Effectively with French Songs
Magical Songs for Teaching French to Kids
1. “Nous n’irons plus au bois” (We’ll Go to the Woods No More)
“Nous n’irons plus au bois” is a captivating and historically rich song that connects students to French culture. Composed in 1753 by Madame de Pompadour, it was a gift to the children of Evreux after King Louis XV presented her with the Palace of Evreux, now known as the Élysée Palace.
The song’s jubilant melody and phrases like “sautez, dansez, embrassez qui vous voudrez” (jump, dance, kiss whomever you want) evoke a sense of freedom. While it carries hidden meanings like “the laurels are cut,” referring to the closure of certain establishments, these subtleties need not be discussed with students.
It serves as an ideal introduction to negation and present participles with concise sentences. Furthermore, it enriches vocabulary related to nature, featuring references to trees, flowers, fruits, and animals.
2. “Au clair de la lune” (By the Light of the Moon)
This famous 18th-century lullaby, whose author remains unknown, is a beloved French classic. Its poetic lyrics are etched in the hearts of all in France. Additionally, it’s a fundamental piece often taught to music students as they embark on their instrumental journey.
The song narrates a tale of a boy who can’t study in the dark and seeks a light. He initially turns to his friend, Pierrot, who, already in bed, advises him to inquire with their neighbor.
Leverage this song to engage students in real French dialogues. The present tense, combining first and third-person narratives, facilitates conversational skills—initiating speech using “I” and reporting actions with “he” and “she.” It’s a valuable resource for budding language learners.
3. “Frère Jacques” (Brother Jack)
“Frère Jacques” is a popular French song, perfect for introducing students to French culture. Its first and second verses, identical and sung in a round, make it easy to remember. The song tells the story of a friar oversleeping and being asked to ring the matins, early morning prayers.
With numerous repetitions, it’s excellent for learning simple sentence structures like questions and imperatives. Encourage creativity in students by having them create their lyrics using similar structures. For instance, dormez-vous? (are you sleeping?) could become comptez-vous? (are you counting?), and sonnez les matines (ring the matins) could transform into allez à la ville (go to the city). This approach makes learning enjoyable and intuitive, enhancing language skills.
One interesting way of sharing videos w kids is to show them on FluentU, which is an innovative language learning program that has a special version for teachers. Its videos include interactive subtitles, so you can show your students the song with accurate subtitles and when a word isn’t familiar, you can click on it to see all the information available about that word and a list of other videos where that word appears.
4. “Une souris verte” (A Green Mouse)
“Une souris verte” is an 18th-century song with an anonymous author, widely recognized across the French-speaking world. Although it has various versions, the first verse typically remains unchanged.
The song whimsically describes catching a green mouse and transforming it into a “hot snail” by dipping it in oil and water. Some suggest that it subtly references the War in the Vendée, an uprising during the French Revolution, with the green mouse symbolizing a captured officer.
This song serves as an effective tool for teaching three essential tenses: present, imperfect, and imperative. Its use of reported speech and dialogue further aids students in grasping these structures, laying a strong foundation in grammar.
5. “Le bon roi Dagobert” (Good King Dagobert)
“Le bon roi Dagobert,” a children’s song dating back to the 1750s, emerged during a period of French monarchy questioning. So iconic that the Saint-Denis town hall clock alternates it with “Le temps des cerises” (“Cherry Season”) for hourly chimes.
The song humorously centers on King Dagobert, Franks’ King from 629 to 634, and his counselor, Saint Eligius, the patron saint of metalworkers. It satirizes King Dagobert’s alleged clumsiness, highlighting his wardrobe mishaps and bumbling with a sword.
“Le bon roi Dagobert” offers rich vocabulary, teaching clothing names, hobbies and related objects. Moreover, it features instances of Saint Eligius advising the king, making it a valuable resource for introducing giving advice in a friendly context.
6. “Alouette, gentille alouette” (Lark, Kind Lark)
“Alouette” is a beloved French nursery rhyme that captures the attention of children with its catchy tune and playful lyrics.
The song revolves around the charming theme of plucking feathers from a lark and is an excellent way to teach young learners the names of body parts.
With each verse, children sing about a different body part, making it both educational and entertaining. The repetitive nature of the song encourages active participation and memorization, making it a staple in French language learning for kids.
7. “Sur le pont d’Avignon” (On the Bridge of Avignon)
“Sur le Pont d’Avignon” is a delightful folk song that transports children to the iconic bridge of Avignon, France.
The catchy melody and playful lyrics invite kids to dance and act out the song’s actions, creating a lively and memorable learning experience.
The repetitive chorus makes it easy for young learners to sing along and remember the lyrics. This song not only introduces them to the French language, but also provides a look into the culture and landmarks of France.
8. “Dans la forêt lointaine” (In the Far Forest)
“Dans la Forêt Lointaine” invites children to explore the forest while learning about different animals and their sounds.
With its lively tune and interactive lyrics, this song encourages kids to engage with the animal noises and actions described in each verse. It’s a fun and immersive way to teach children animal names and sounds in French, fostering both language development and an appreciation for nature.
Through this song, children can develop their language skills and broaden their knowledge of the natural world while enjoying the joy of singing and storytelling.
How to Teach Kids More Effectively with French Songs
Warm them up
When you first hear a song on the radio, you don’t start singing along right away. First, you have to listen to it a couple of times. Nobody “teaches” you the song, but after a while, you’re able to memorize it and sing with confidence. Kids are the same way: They need to gain familiarity with a song before they can remember it.
To help them learn a song naturally, start by playing it in the background: Play it while they are doing something else, without specifically drawing their attention to it, and then casually ask what they think it’s about. What kind of feeling do they get from the song? Do they like it, and if so, why? What does it remind them of?
This process is especially important when introducing a new song to kids: It’s important not to focus only on the words. Let your students be inspired by the melody, the rhythm, the tempo and, if applicable, the dance and gestures.
Tell them a story
Once you’ve gotten their ideas on what they believe the song is about, proceed to explain to them the overall theme of the song. Discuss the meaning and general story behind the song, then check for understanding. However, don’t get bogged down by details. Ease into the words gradually: Knowing the overall storyline is enough to get them excited initially.
After they’ve grasped the meaning of the song, you can teach any difficult words using drawings, flashcards or even real-life objects like puppets.
Another fun way to introduce new vocabulary is through guessing games, such as charades or tongue twisters. You can also use visualization by drawing pictures of the words in question on the blackboard.
Repetition is key. It’s important to get your students comfortable with the song before expecting them to start singing on their own. While doing so, don’t be afraid to play it multiple times: The more they listen to it, the more they will get familiar with the lyrics, melody and beat of the song.
Don’t be afraid of boring them: Kids often enjoy listening to the same songs over and over! And if you notice that certain songs are a particular hit with your class, take advantage and incorporate them into many different activities.
Et après ? (What’s next?)
Once your students have mastered the lyrics, it’s time to challenge them!
One fun activity for this is a singing version of “fill in the blank.”
The rules of this game are simple: Play the song, then pause it. Your students should be able to finish the lyrics and sing the rest of the song on their own, without hesitation. Do this multiple times throughout a song. It generally gets them laughing.
Now you know the most magical songs to teach French to kids.
Use your best voice and start singing along.
Who knows? Your students might just ask you for more!