5 No-Prep Games for Practicing Listening Skills in Maternelle

Do you remember attending birthday parties as a child?

I’m not sure if it’s because I am from a small town that has grown a lot since I was young (we didn’t have a movie theatre, indoor pool or playground, etc. until pretty recently), but I find they have changed a lot.

When I was young, birthday parties were often held at my friends’ homes (or at McDonald’s haha… I still miss that pizza!), and we would play party games like telephone, pin the tail on the donkey, etc.

Now, my students go swimming, see a movie, or hang out in bouncy castles.

Parties these days are definitely less work for parents, but one thing that I’ve discovered as a maternelle teacher is that a lot of those party games we used to play are GREAT for practicing pre-reading skills and conscience phonologique!

Since your students might not be playing these at parties anymore, why not make some adjustments and incorporate them into your teaching?

Read on for 5 SIMPLE, no-prep, mostly-birthday-party-inspired games that you can play with your maternelle students to help them develop their ability to listen for and hear certain sounds. 

Looking for simple, no-prep ways to help develop your French primary students' listening skills? These 5 quick, simple games are a great way to help your students hear sounds before working on more complex conscience phonologique skills!

Listening Game #1: D’où vient le son?

For this first game, you will need four students to be the “noisemakers.”

You’ll have each of the four students sit in one corner of the room. The rest of your students will sit in the middle of the room, with their eyes closed.

The students in the corners will keep their eyes open, and they’ll watch for your signal.

When you point to a student in a corner, they will make noises. You could have them say a comptine, make an animal sound, make another pre-decided sound, say a sentence – whatever you like.

You could also give each “noisemaker” maracas or a tambourine and have them shake them on your signal.

When the noisemaker makes their noise, the students with their eyes closed point to the corner they hear the sound coming from.

After a noisemaker makes their sound, they will come to the middle with the rest of the class, and a student who correctly identified where the sound came from will go to their corner to be a new noisemaker.

The purpose of this game is to help students practice listening closely to be able to tell the direction from which a sound comes.

Listening Game #2: Entends-tu le son?

This game is for practicing listening for certain phonemes in words.

If you use my “Trions les sons” resource with your students, then the general idea of this activity is similar, except that they can listen for the sound anywhere in the word.

I find that a stack of vocabulary cards or flashcards (any theme) is helpful during this game, as it gives my students something to look at.

Plus, if your students are just learning French, the images will help them associate the words you are saying to what the objects actually are.

To start, choose ONE target sound (phoneme). The easiest to hear are long consonants, such as m, s, l, r, v, j, etc. Be sure to have your students repeat/produce the target sound often – both before you get started, and throughout the game.

Go through the flashcards, one at a time, saying the name of each object s-l-o-w-l-y. Ask your students if they can hear the target sound within the word, with a yes or no response.

You can have them shout out yes or no, or use thumbs up/thumbs down.

I like to have a T table on my board and sort the cards like that, but you can also make piles of cards or sort them however you like.

Make sure this game doesn’t go too long! Two or three minutes at a time (10-15 words) is probably enough!

Listening Game #3: Le jeu de cellulaire

This game is just like the “old-fashioned” telephone game that I’m sure you know!

Have your students sit in a circle. You will choose a sound to whisper in the ear of the student sitting next to you. This could be an animal sound, a letter sound, or another kind of sound.

One at a time, each student will whisper the sound into the ear of the student beside them, until the sound makes it all the way around the circle.

The final student says the sound out loud. I like to have my students give a “thumbs up” if the sound is the same as what they heard or a “thumbs down” if it’s different.

This is a quick way to tell where things went wrong, if they do!

After your students master this game with sounds, you can use words (I like to use vocabulary words from whichever set of words we are learning at the time) or even sentences.

This game really helps students learn to listen closely! Plus, it’s a sneaky way to add more vocabulary or sentence structure practice later in the year.

Listening Game #4: Qui fait le son?

To play this game, you will need a space big enough for your students to make a circle standing up, with one student in the middle.

The student in the middle will be blindfolded. They are the “detective”.

You will point to one student in the circle. That student will make a sound of their choice (they need to make the sound with their voice for this game).

The student who is blindfolded will both try to identify the student making the sound and from which direction it is coming.

Once the blindfolded student is successful, remove the blindfold, and that student will join the circle.

The student who made the sound can now be the detective.

Listening Game #5: Où est l’animal?

This game helps students practice differentiating between quiet and loud sounds.

It’s kind of like the “hot/cold” game that we used to play as kids, where one person hides something and tells the other if they are “hot” or “cold.” The hotter they are, the closer they are to the object…the colder they are, the farther away they are from it.

For this game, you will need at least one toy animal. The toy doesn’t need to make a sound, but the animal you choose should make an easy-to-produce sound – for example, a cow that says “moo.”

You can switch out the animals to practice different vocabulary each time you play, if you want.

One or two students will be the “farmers.” They will hide their eyes while another student hides the animal somewhere in the classroom.

You may need to send your farmers out into the hallway for a minute or blindfold them, if they have trouble not peeking. ;)

You will want to get all of your students walking around the classroom while the animal is being hidden, if your farmers stay in the room. This will help “camouflage” the sounds of the student hiding the animal.

Once the animal is hidden, the rest of your students go back to their desks or to the tapis, and your farmers will walk around the room together, looking for the animal.

The rest of the class will make the animal’s sound to help give clues.

The louder they make the sound, the closer the farmers are to the animal. The quieter they make the sound, the farther away the farmers are from it. The farmers will use those clues to help them find it.

Once the farmers find the animal, switch jobs and play again!

Let’s be honest – times have changed!

Our students are no longer doing the same activities, playing the same games, and singing the same songs as when we were kids.
And in lots of ways, that’s great!
Birthday parties and gatherings have never been easier for parents (which I appreciate – poor Leah is two and hasn’t had a real birthday party yet haha, I’m waiting as long as I can!), and kids are getting lots of opportunities to be social and active together. 
But, why not keep some of the birthday party games from when we were kids alive, and use them to help our students practice some key listening and pre-reading skills?
What are some phonemic awareness games that you play for practice in your maternelle classroom (birthday party-inspired or not!)?

Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for simple, no-prep ways to help develop your French primary students' listening skills? These 5 quick, simple games are a great way to help your students hear sounds before working on more complex conscience phonologique skills!

PS – Are you a member of my FREE French Resource Library?? It’s FULL of freebies perfect for the French primary grades. Enter your info below, and I’ll email you the password and access instructions!

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