A very French tradition, the galette des rois

Every year on January 6 in France, we celebrate a popular tradition called the "galette des rois". This is a puff pastry cake, which is usually filled with frangipane – a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar – and a "fève". This traditional cake is shared at Epiphany, a Christian tradition celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem. Originally, it was a pagan festival of the winter solstice celebrated by the Romans for one day, during which a king or queen was chosen by means of a white or black bean hidden in a cake. In the 18th century, the fève was a porcelain figurine representing the nativity and characters from the crib. Nowadays there is a wide range of different fèves to gather the famous cake.

Grade 5 make their own galette des rois

At ISP, students in Grade 5, all coming from different countries and religions, learned how to make their own galette in class and invited younger students to celebrate the kings and queens!

On Monday, January 22, our students went to the nearby Maison Felippa in the 16th arrondissement to taste a galette des rois together. French seniors from the Residence Mozart were also invited to join the group in a lively atmosphere. Children and seniors shared a warm and friendly moment eating a delicious galette and singing songs together!

Grade 5 make their own galette des rois

Grade 5 make their own galette des rois

This intergenerational meeting was also an opportunity for our students to practice French, share their home cultures with the seniors and learn about French traditions. The next day, ISP students expressed their feelings and opinions about this intergenerational exchange during their French class:

J'ai adoré partager de délicieuses galettes maison avec les résidents. En plus, j'ai eu la fève et j'étais un des rois!

J'ai apprécié de pouvoir présenter des chansons que nous apprenons à l'école, les résidents étaient très enthousiastes et tapaient dans les mains!

J'ai aimé parler à des résidents que je ne connaissais pas encore

J'ai découvert qu'un des résidents parlait un peu italien, comme moi!

Je pense que nous apprenons à bien communiquer avec les résidents et avec respect. Nous avons pris des risques en présentant des chansons et des danses!

Grade 5 make their own galette des rois

Does intergenerational learning have a positive impact on students' motivation in language education?

The research literature explains the positive effect of intergenerational education on children and young students living in a foreign country: learning and practicing the language with the local community, understanding its customs and traditions, and learning to accept and share other cultures different to theirs. Intergenerational programs also develop emotional aspects of their personality as empathy, respect and love towards seniors.

" .. in the contact with seniors, young people and children obtain a sense of responsibility, generosity and solidarity, and they learn to tolerate the differences of another generation and see them as a gift, not as an obstacle"
Ctibor Határ, Petra Jedličková, & Marianna Müller de Morais (Journal of Language and Cultural Education, 2017).

ISP's intergenerational learning programs have been presented and commented on in the Leading Edge report presented by myself during the school's Leading Edge research conference in October 2017.

See the presentation

New technologies have already been implemented at ISP in order to motivate students to learn more easily and effectively. In the French Initiation class, we introduced monthly intergenerational programs as a new method to encourage ISP students to put their French skills into practice beyond the classroom. Since the programs began 18 years ago, intergenerational activities such as teaching seniors how to use the internet, playing educational French games (Scrabble, loto), reading workshops and cultural exchanges (concerts, tasting the galette, etc.), have all represented a meaningful opportunity for our students.

The positive effect of these programs has been proved at ISP: changes in young students' attitudes towards elderly people; improvements in the relationships between students and seniors and breaking generation gaps between them; personal development; increasing self-confidence; growth to their social responsability. As a result, these students have even achieved better results in class.

Professor Mattiew Kaplan from Intergenerational Programs and Aging, Penn State University, wrote about the International School of Paris as being

"the first international school in Paris to have included intergenerational programs in the language class curriculum. Encouraging an intergenerational program affirms ISP's commitment to engaging with cultural differences, investigating the changing landscape of identity, and helping students understand what they can learn by collaborating with and serving others."
Ideas for Intergenerational Living newsletter, December 2017)

Read the Ideas for Intergenerational Living newsletter online

If you would like to share your opinions and comments, please contact me at

Monica Devos
French Teacher

Read more about integenerational learning at ISP