Simon Dit


Type and Purpose of Learning

Through language play-based learning students explore new words, listen, ask and answer questions, and develop their vocabulary. Physical play can reinforce language learning by having students move their bodies to make connections with the sound and sight of the words. In doing so, students also demonstrate an increased sense of community and belonging.

It was period four on a rainy day and the children had not yet been outside nor were they expected to go out that day. They needed to release energy to be ready to focus, learn and put forward their best effort. We started with a game of Simon dit (Simon says), which modelled the sentence structure we had learned the previous day: “Il est _______.” or “Elle est ______.” This play supported our unit on matching adjectives and animals.

The activity kept the students listening and thinking “en français” as we all used gestures to demonstrate understanding rather than resorting to the need for English translation.

When the teacher said: “Simon dit: Il est grand” the students created various poses to demonstrate “big.” The students thoroughly enjoyed making their bodies “petit,” “féroce,” “rapide,” etc. The teacher used this opportunity to introduce the difference in the sounds and spelling of masculine and feminine adjectives, highlighting the different end sounds of the adjectives when using sentences like “Simon dit: Elle est petite.”

A few students were unsure of the vocabulary and shy to perform the Simon said sentences at the start of the activity. But with the encouragement of others along with repetition, every student achieved success. Those who did not understand a word observed their peers to gain comprehension.

In our version of this game, no one was ever “out” to ensure that each student experienced the full benefit of the practice. If a student did an action to a sentence that did not start with “Simon dit” they would say “ah, zut!”. There were lots of smiles, giggles and friendly “cheating” – the students knew the goal was to have fun while learning.

Once the students had a strong grasp of the sentence structures and vocabulary, we divided into small groups and students lead the game. The small group atmosphere helped the children feel safe in exercising their oral communication skills and gave each an opportunity to practise.

Some students relied on their references and others took risks, adding original ideas but everyone was able to achieve success at their own level. All had fun while expanding and solidifying their knowledge. By addressing the fact that the fact of a rainy day demanded a change in plan, the class improved behaviour and focus.

We expanded our vocabulary and grammar knowledge, practised the listening element of the French as a second language curriculum and integrated some daily physical activity in one fell swoop. The kids needed to get moving and building it into the class was essential to help everyone be successful – the students and teacher!

Instructional Focus

Reinforce new vocabulary and demonstrate an understanding of oral language.

Lesson Focus

Students will use French vocabulary in a game situation.

Lesson Plan

Assessment/Reflections for Future Lessons

Observation and a checklist should be used as a formative assessment to ensure that each student is able to demonstrate understanding of oral language. This information should be used to help shape how to proceed with the lesson the following day. The learning from the game should be extended into reading and writing activities which address the same vocabulary and sentence structures.

Curriculum Expectations

Grade 5 Core French

(Ref: Ontario Ministry of Education. The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 4-8: French as a Second Language: Core French, Grades 4–8, 2013)


  • Use visual and verbal cues to understand what they hear.


  • Present tense of être, avoir and some regular –er verbs with a plural pronoun or noun subject;
  • Agreement, in gender and number of regular adjectives with nouns;
  • Basic vocabulary; and
  • New words from units of study and words from personal word lists, class lists.

Introduction (MINDS ON)

Introduction: The students will look at (not read) a vibrant, engaging text[1] of a selection of short paragraphs describing an endangered animal with accompanying pictures. The teacher plays a game of “eye spy” with the class, asking them to find various animals or details in the photos using previously learned sentence structures along with new vocabulary that are “cognates” (words in French which are similar in sound/spelling and have the same meaning as in English) like: “Trouve le tigre.” “Où est un éléphant?” The teacher needs to ensure the students grasp the idea of cognates and foster the students’ confidence in their ability to take the risk to make a connection between the words they hear in French and the ones they know in English.

Teacher-Directed Lesson

Introduce some key adjectives to describe the animals, first using previously learned vocabulary, then cognates, followed by a few new words. Use pictures and gestures to explain the new words rather than English translations.

Have the students stand up and explain the rules of “Simon dit.” (For example, “when I say, ‘Simon dit: Il est féroce,’ the class needs to show “féroce” with their bodies. If I do not start the sentence with, ‘Simon dit,” do not do the action.) Establish the expectations for behaviour and highlight any obstacles in the room of which the students need to be aware. When students do an action although the teacher did not say, “Simon dit” they should say, “Ah, zut!’ and continue to play the game.

The teacher leads the game using the easiest vocabulary first. When the students show they understand and are confident, add new vocabulary with the teacher initially acting out the words to ensure students grasp the correct meaning.

Student Tasks (WORKING ON IT)

In small groups, a student who is feeling confident in his/her understanding of the vocabulary (perhaps a student needing enrichment opportunities) should lead the game as the teacher did. As other students feel confident, they may take turns leading.


Students with a physical exceptionality or injury can create actions which suit their physical needs. Oral instructions can be accompanied by written words or pictures on flash cards. Rather than acting out the vocabulary, students could draw pictures to match the new words.


Students who are auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners are reached through this activity as each modality is used in our game.

Other Applications (Extensions)

This game could be applied to any new vocabulary that could be acted out – think science, social studies and health.

Impact Quotes (Impact Analysis)

Now that my students have completed the unit on animals, I observe they have a clear understanding of the meaning of adjectives and can accurately apply this understanding to listening, speaking, reading and writing tasks. The initial “training of their ears” in this activity provided the building blocks upon which they expanded their abilities in all areas of their communication.

I was particularly excited as a teacher about how well my students could express their understanding when I posed oral questions about our animals under study. In French, I would ask students, “Is the blue whale small or big?” and each student could give me a full sentence in response, identifying the correct quality. Furthermore, many students would correctly respond that I was wrong if I gave them the choice, “Is a tiger gentle or slow?” or suggested, “An elephant is thin.” There were many ways that we worked together to expand students’ vocabulary in this unit. I feel that giving the children a physical outlet and dramatic opportunity to make connections helped them to develop a clear understanding of our topic and therefore encouraged success throughout the unit.

Research Quotes

  • “Play’s differentiation from more regimented learning makes its educational benefits unique and its influence on identity formation significant. For a group of junior intermediate learners who favour flexible, active, self-direct, concrete, relative and cooperative experiences, play offers an ideal space for learning within all developmental domains.” (Kelly, p.6).
  • Games solidify concepts in a student’s memory. Students can later draw upon these memories and apply their knowledge in new situations (Gee, 2008, p.21).
  • “[P]hysical exercise throughout the school day benefits the cognitive performance of students eight to eleven, most notably concentration and attention … exercise works to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.” (Kelly, p.13 – from Motta, Kuligowski & Marino, 2010)
  • “… the pleasurableness associated with play causes the brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which functions to increase the cognitive processing of new information and its commitment to memory.” (Kelly, p.9)

Establishing a Safe Place to Learn

The teacher should establish norms including the rules of the game and how to play to make every student feel included and comfortable. Also, the teacher and students need to be aware of any physical obstacles in the room to avoid injury.


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