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All around the world — Paris

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By John Davisteacher and freelance writer

In our new globe-trotting series, we explore the largest cities in each of the six continents. This month: Paris

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is one of Paris’ most recognised landmarks

Some 12 million people live in Paris and the surrounding area. Always a popular destination for tourists of all ages, Paris is steeped in history and culture and is considered by many to be the fashion capital of the world. As with the rest of the locations in our around-the-world series, Paris provides excellent examples of significant places and environments – an integral part of the locational knowledge section of the QCA Programme of Study in Geography for children in Key Stage 2.


1. Route planner

Ask the children to investigate different ways of travelling to Paris from their homes in the UK. Give them scale maps and atlases to find out the distances involved or provide information from travel agents. Ask the following questions: How long would your journey take? How much would it cost? Encourage the children to explore different methods of travel, including a direct flight to Charles de Gaulle from a regional airport in the UK, a car journey using ferry crossing and a train through the Channel Tunnel. Ask the children: Is it true that the journeys that take the least time are the most expensive?

2. Road, rail and river

Explain to the children that the roads of central Paris are notoriously congested. The best way for tourists to travel around the city is using either the Métro or the River Seine. Paris’ Métro first opened in 1900 and has 15 lines running along almost 200km of track. Ask the children to plan a river tour of Paris from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame, travelling east. Ask: What sites can be viewed on this stretch of the river? Is it France’s longest river? Where is its source? Where does it flow into the sea?

3. Towering above

Use pictures and photographs to study Paris’ most iconic image, the Eiffel Tower. Ask the children to find its location alongside the River Seine. Ask: How high is it? When was it built? Why was it built? Who designed it? In small groups, give the children basic materials, such as drinking straws, card, scissors, paper fasteners and sticky tape and ask them to design and build their own free-standing girder-like tower structure. Who can build the tallest/strongest structure?

4. Le Louvre

The Louvre in Paris is both a museum and an art gallery. As a class, examine photographs of the famous pyramid entrance. Made of glass and metal, it enables visitors to see the buildings around the palace, while allowing light down into the underground visitors’ reception area. Challenge the children to build a large skeletal version of the pyramid using straws and pieces of modelling clay at each vertex. They can stretch clingfilm tightly over the framework to create the glass effect. Ask: What type of pyramid is the one at the Louvre? How does this pyramid differ from a tetrahedron?

5. Parisian art

Encourage the children to find out more about the paintings inside the Louvre. Explain that one of the most famous is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or La Gioconda. Set up some portrait drawing activities with charcoal, crayon or pencil. Encourage the children to try to capture the characteristics, as well as features of the subject. Find out more about the work of other artists associated with Paris, for example: Musée Rodin (Rodin), Musée d’Orsay (Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Renior and Cézanne), Espace Montmartre (Dali).

6. Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral, which is situated on an island in the middle of the River Seine, is perhaps Paris’ most striking church building. Collect photographs to explore and study its most notable features, such as the towers, the 90m high spire, frightening gargoyles and flying buttresses. Explain that Notre Dame has highly decorative stained-glass windows. Challenge children to make their own stained-glass window designs using black sugar paper and coloured cellophane or tissue paper. Find versions of the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame by the French author, Victor Hugo (1802-1885), who also wrote Les Miserables.

7. French history

Les Invalides on the Quai d’Orsay was originally built for wounded and homeless soldiers. There are military museums here, and in the Dome Church is the tomb of Emperor Napolean Bonaparte, one of the most important people in French history. As a class, put the main incidents of his life onto a timeline. from his birth on Corsica to his death in exile on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. Assess the contribution he made to his country.

8. Bonjour, ça va?

Practise simple French words and phrases that would be helpful on a visit to Paris or in role play in the classroom: Hello (Bonjour), Goodbye (Au revoir), Thank you (Merci), Sorry (Pardon), Please (S’il vous plait), My name is John. (Je m’appelle John.), I am ten years old. (J’ai dix ans.), I would like an ice-cream. (Je voudrais une glace.) You could include days of the week, numbers and basic food items. Subscribers can play the vocabulary game Interactive resource, ‘French matching words – food’. Also, see the Poster, ‘French picture dictionary’ and accompanying activity sheets for related activities.

9. Fashion capital

Many people believe Paris to be the fashion capital of the world. Names of French fashion houses, such as Christian Dior, Chanel and Christian Lacroix are known worldwide. Talk about children’s fashion tastes. Challenge them to produce their own designs for a range of occasions (school wear, the beach). What colours and fabrics would they use?

10. Bastille Day

The French love parties and one of the most important in Paris is on 14 July when they celebrate Bastille Day. Encourage the children to find out more about this occasion – in 1789 the people of Paris captured a fortress called the Bastille. It was the turning point of the French Revolution. Today on 14 July there are torch-lit processions, military parades and firework displays. People decorate their houses with flags and dance in the streets well into the night.

Don’t forget!

Subscribers can download our fantastic Interactive resource, ‘All around the world — Paris’ for a virtual guided tour of this magical city. All readers can also download the Poster, ‘French picture dictionary’ and accompanying activity sheets.

Our ‘French matching words’ series of MFL games also starts this month. The first in the series has a food theme and is available to all readers. Later themes will be available exclusively for subscribers. If you would like to subscribe to Junior Ed PLUS, click here.