Learning about penguins (activités d’apprentissage – manchots et pingouins)


Photo credit: son_gismo, Flickr

I’ve realized over the last few months that animals are great to teach/learn in French because: a) the kids really like them, b) they already know a lot about the subject just from observing their world, and c) the ideas are very concrete and observable (i.e. penguins lay eggs).

French Club – penguins

We started with a penguin relay. Each child had to waddle to the end of the course with a ball between their knees. They loved this! The vocabulary stuck too – each time my kids saw a penguin waddling in one of the books or videos we watched later, they would say “hey, maman, le manchot dandiner” (ok, we’re still working on our verb tenses a bit!)

Next we talked about the differences between “un pingouin” and “un manchot” using this link:  http://www.lililamouette.com/la-mer/les-animaux-de-la-mer/pingouins-ou-manchots#1
We went through the quiz on the site together.

For story time, we read  Des Millions de Manchots by Sonia W. Black.  This book was a simple overview of penguin life that fit well with the web information we discussed above.  I wish I could give you a link for it, but it doesn’t seem to be in print any more.  Our local library had it, though, so maybe yours does too.



The best part of the penguin day was this penguin “dance” that we did together several times.  It was hilarious to watch, fun to do, and a great way to reinforce the vocabulary for some parts of the body and a few actions (saute, saute, saute!):

We ended with penguin snacks. Everyone made one, but not everyone ate them because they are mainly olives (not a fan!).

Thank you to my dear friend Christa for suggesting the dance & snacks!

Reading & worksheets

After French club, we continued the theme for our French time at home for a few weeks.  Most days, we read through a few picture books (favourites listed below), and worked through a worksheet or two. I found most of the worksheets on Mille Merveilles. They have a large selection of penguin-themed material in their members’ area.

Favourite books

Une grosse surprise pour petit pingouin by Marie-Danielle Croteau et France Brassard. Cute story about a bear and pengouin friends. My kids laughed out loud at what the characters thought the balloon was that a visiting boat left behind.


Les manchots empereurs par Bobbie Kalman et Robin Johnson.  After reading this book, we completed this worksheet:  http://ekladata.com/laclassedestef.eklablog.com/perso/sciences/le%20vivant/documentaire%20manchots_stef_nath.pdf


Pingouin vole by Oliver Jeffers.  This is an unoriginal book about a penguin that wants to fly, but it was still fun to read.



Le monde des manchots – This is a fairly text heavy non-fiction book with some good pictures



Petit Pingouin et Pomme de Pin by Salina Yoon – penguin and pinecone become friends and penguin is sad when he has to bring the pine cone back to the forest. Comes back later as a tree. Predictable, but cute.



Tortue Pingouin – cute story about a turtle who pretends to be a penguin at school by Valeri Gorbachev




 Un ami très cool – by Toni Buzzeo – A Boy brings home a penguin from the zoo




This was the first time I’ve used movies to help with French teaching and it was reasonably successful.

La Marche de l’Empereur – We got this from our local library. I liked it, but I don’t think the kids did very much. They kept asking when it was going to be over. We watched it in two pieces. The dialog was slow enough for them to catch the words.



Les pingouins de M. Popper – We watched this one online:

The site is slow, so load it ahead of time and give it a few minutes to buffer. We all enjoyed this one. The dialog was quick in places but the kids could still follow the story.

Les pingouins de Madagascar – I tried for this one with a link I found on Youtube, but we gave up after a few minutes. The dialog was too fast and none of us could figure out what was going on. Maybe you’ll have better luck?

Other quick videos

Papa pingouin veut partir – This song is about a father penguin who wants to leave. After we watched it, I had the kids write down some reasons why he should stay and we discussed them as well. Caution: I would NOT use this song for a child whose father really had left the family or if he goes away on business a lot. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I wouldn’t want to give a child the idea that they should be able to convince their dad to stay (which is what ends up happening in the song.)  That disclaimer being said, my kids loved this one and asked to watch it multiple times:

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2 thoughts on “Learning about penguins (activités d’apprentissage – manchots et pingouins)

  1. I’m only familiar with “pingouin”, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of “un manchot”! So there you go, over 12 years of French Immersion education and I just learned something new 🙂 I wonder why there are not separate words in English to distinguish between the two? Also new to me, I didn’t know that there were penguins in the Northern Hemisphere. It seems my education is lacking in many respects LOL! I’m going to ask my 7 year old about that, she probably knows!

    • The word “pingouin” in French refers to another type of bird- not a penguin – according to the one site I looked at, but I could not actually figure out which one. So confusing!

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