NOTE: Finding François deals with grief and the death of a family member, which may be a sensitive topic for some students. Consider your class context, ensuring that you create a safe space for discussion and adjust any activities as required.

Connecting to prior knowledge

Before reading

Through a think-pair-share discussion, ask students to consider the following ideas from the text:

  • Who is in your family?
  • Who do you live with?
  • What do you enjoy doing together?
  • Who are your friends?
  • What do you have in common?
  • What makes you different?
  • How do you keep in touch and communicate with your friends and family?

(ACELY1789)   (EN1-1A)

Show students the front cover of Finding François and highlight a few of the details. We can see the name ‘Alice’ written on a piece of paper. Ask:

Might this be Alice on the cover? What do you think she enjoys doing?

Ask students if they have heard the name ‘François’ and if they can guess its origin (French). Get them to think-pair-share to discuss:

Who might François be? Why does he need to be found?

Also ask if there are any clues as to where Alice might be.

Notice and activate some understanding around the message in the bottle. Ask students if they have heard of or seen this idea before (and, if so, where). Ask:

Who might send a message in a bottle and why?

Read Finding François to the class. For this first read-aloud, simply allow students to follow along and enjoy the story.

(ACELT1587)   (EN1-8B)

After reading

NOTE: For the purpose of tracking page numbers, the first page of the story is considered p. 1.

Revisit your initial questions about Finding François and discuss any new thoughts or ideas that students may have had.

Draw attention to the ways in which Alice greets her friends, such as saying ‘hello’ in her letters to François, or speaking French to the children playing hopscotch (her question on p. 36 translates to ‘can I play with you?’). Ask students how they greet their own friends and if they know any greetings in another language. This could be the language(s) they speak at home. Also share a greeting in the local language of the Country on which you are teaching.

You might have students stand in a circle and take turns sharing a greeting, so that the rest of the class can repeat what they have heard.

(ACELA1460)   (EN1-6B)

Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’

Re-read Finding François. Ask students to recall some details from the text:

  • What is the main (female) character’s name?
  • Who does she live with? Who is in her family? How does this change throughout the book?
  • What does she like doing with her family?
  • Where does she live?
  • What does she like doing? Name at least three things.

Record their ideas on the board.

Ask again if anyone recognises where Alice is. Students may have noticed the stores with French names; someone might guess that it is Paris. Confirm this by showing them the illustration on p. 30 with the Eiffel Tower in the background. You may like to show them some images of Paris.

Through a think-pair-share discussion, ask students to consider why Alice wanted to send a message. Ask them:

What makes us want to communicate with other people and make new friends?

You may wish to take some time to further explore the idea of messages in bottles; ABC’s Behind the News has a useful video. Also discuss the ways we communicate with new and old friends and how this has changed over time.

(ACELA1470)   (EN1-2A)

Model writing a letter that Alice might use to introduce herself, her family, her home and her interests. Include an appropriate greeting and farewell, and finish by asking a question OR politely inviting the recipient to respond. You should also model how to list Alice’s interests using appropriate punctuation (commas) and conjunctions.

For example:


My name is Alice and I live with my Grandmother in Paris.

I enjoy …

Please write back and tell me about yourself.


Now ask students to recall the same details about François. They will work in pairs to write his response to Alice’s letter.

(ACELA1465)   (EN1-9B)

Rich assessment task

Working independently, students are to write a letter introducing themselves, their family and their interests to a new friend. On this occasion, they can handwrite the letter (talk about how this is often considered more personal). They should end by asking a question OR encouraging their friend to write back. They should also use an appropriate greeting/farewell and correct punctuation in listing their interests.

These letters could be displayed on a classroom wall or sent to a student in another class or school – perhaps even in the form of a message in a bottle!

(ACELA1465)   (EN1-9B)   (ACELY1673)   (EN1-3A)

Responding to the text

Encourage students to respond to the text by making different connections.


Through a think-pair-share discussion, ask students to consider:

What makes a good friend? What makes YOU a good friend?

Draw students’ attention to p. 6 of Finding François, the first mention of Alice’s wish for a friend her own size.

Ask students what they think this means. Discuss the idea that friends come in all different shapes, sizes and ages. List some examples of different friends from your own life, e.g. parents, partner, same-gender friends, opposite-gender friends, siblings, older relatives, friends from other places and cultures, colleagues, etc. You might like to share some pictures of your friends to highlight the differences between them. Tell a story or two about how you came to know or meet your friends.

Then ask students:

  • Who are the different friends in your life?
  • How are they different? What are the different things that you like about them?
  • What different things do you do together?
  • How did you meet?

You could optionally turn this activity into a show-and-tell and have students bring in photos of their friends to share with the class. Alternatively (or additionally), students could create a visual collage of their friends’ names and faces.

Re-read Finding François to the class. As you do so, ask students to notice and point out Alice’s friends. Discuss what Alice likes about them and the different things they enjoy doing together. Ask students to discuss through a think-pair-share:

  • What do you think these friends like about Alice?
  • What makes Alice a good friend?
  • What does Alice have in common with her friends?
  • How did they meet?

(ACELA1462)   (EN1-6B)


Draw students’ attention to Alice and François’s friendship. Ask them to think-pair-share to discuss the following questions:

  • What do Alice and François have in common?
  • What do you think they like about each other?
  • How are they different?
  • What makes them good friends?

Share with students Herman and Rosie, another book about friendship by Gus Gordon. Read this story aloud and ask students to think about how it is similar to Finding François. You can also watch a read-aloud by the author.

Together discuss the similarities between the two stories, guiding the discussion towards the idea of friends and friendship. Encourage students to notice how, like Alice and François, Herman and Rosie are sometimes lonely. Also like Alice and François, they find each other quite accidentally. Introduce the word ‘serendipity’ to convey the idea of this happy accident. Ask students to consider through a small group discussion:

  • What do Herman and Rosie have in common and what makes them different?
  • How did they meet?
  • What will make them good friends for one another?

Other books about friendship and loss include John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat by Jenny Wagner, illustrated by Ron Brooks; My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald, illustrated by Freya Blackwood; and Amy and Louis by Libby Gleeson, also illustrated by Freya Blackwood.

(ACELT1589)   (EN1-10C)   (ACELY1665)   (EN1-8B)


Highlight the fact that something sad happens in Alice’s life that makes her need a friend more than ever. Continue by discussing how Miss Clément was a good friend to Alice during this time.

Re-read pp. 22–29, from when we find out about Alice’s grandmother to when Miss Clément discovers the letters in Alice’s wardrobe. Sensitively discuss and explain what has happened in Alice’s life here. Be aware of any students in your class who may find this discussion difficult and need additional support.

You could make a connection back to Herman and Rosie, as they too suffer something difficult that leads them to find each other. Discuss these different difficult events and ask students:

Why are friends important at times like these?

Also discuss the length of time that passes before Alice is ready to re-engage with François (p. 28). Explain that Alice was experiencing grief, an emotion that is different to sadness or anger.

You might like to share an example from your own life where friendship helped you through a difficult time. If appropriate, you could invite students to do the same in pairs or small groups.

(ACELY1666)   (EN1-1A)   (ACELY1665)   (EN1-8B)

Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Model completing a character profile for Alice. Ask students to contribute ideas and record them in different sections on an enlarged shared text that everyone can see. You might like to use the template provided (PDF, 78KB) or adapt it as required.

Give table groups a different key character to focus on. Options include François, Alice’s grandmother and Miss Clément. You might even include Herman and Rosie, depending on how closely you have examined their story. Students will then create a profile for their assigned character, using information from the book to complete each section. This can be done independently or as a group, by hand or digitally.

Students can then present their character to the whole class. You can also create a class display from the finished profiles.

(ACELY1670)   (EN1-4A)

Rich assessment task

Students will work independently to create a character web for Alice showing all her friendships across the book. They should draw a picture of Alice in the centre and list the things she likes. Each branch of the web should connect to a different friend in her life. For each friend, students should draw a picture and list the things that Alice likes about them (e.g. personality traits, hobbies, feelings). Along the arm of each branch, students will write a short description or draw a simple image to show how the friends met.

As an extension, model how you can add branches between Alice’s friends to show how they are connected to each other (e.g. Alice’s grandmother and Miss Clément are also friends). Ask students to do the same on their own webs.

You could also invite students to create a web for themselves, showing the different friends in their own lives.

(ACELT1589)   (EN1-10C)

Examining text structure and organisation

Ask students what they know about narratives/stories. Ask:

What are the features of a good story?

Remind them that stories have an orientation that introduces the characters and setting.

Show students the front and back covers, the endpapers, and the title page of another picture book. Explain how writers/illustrators use these to help orient the reader to the story and give us clues as to what it will be about.

In pairs or small groups, students will examine a range of picture books from your classroom or school library. Ask them to look carefully at the covers, endpapers and title pages for any words or illustrations that might offer clues about the characters, setting and plot. They can then look through the rest of the book to familiarise themselves with the story. Did they notice any details from the covers, endpapers or title pages? Were any of their expectations about the characters, setting and/or plot confirmed?

Together examine the covers, endpapers and title page of Finding François. Draw students’ attention to specific details and ask what these can tell us about the characters, setting and plot. For example, we can see a book on the front cover, which indicates that Alice likes to read. What other questions and predictions can students come up with based on the words and illustrations?

Read the book aloud up to the end of p. 5, where we meet Miss Clément. Discuss what else we can learn about the characters and setting as the orientation and story continue. Again, draw students’ attention to specific words and details in the illustrations.

(ACELA1591)   (EN1-4A)

Remind students that stories also have one or more problems/complications. The first problem appears on pp. 6–7, which talk about Alice’s desire for a friend. Read this double page spread aloud and ask students to identify what the problem is.

Point out how the words tell us what the problem is and discuss why this is an issue for Alice. Then draw attention to the way the pictures also show us the problem (e.g. the stormy sky reflecting a change in mood, Alice’s facial expressions changing from smiling to frowning). Ask students to consider why Alice feels the way she does in each of the illustrations. How does this connect with her problem?

Continue reading to pp. 20–21, where Alice is showing her grandmother François’ letters. Ask students to put their hands on their head when they hear the point in the story when Alice tries to solve her problem (i.e. sending the message in a bottle on pp. 8–9).

Again, draw attention to how the author/illustrator, Gus Gordon, conveys that the problem has been solved. See, for example, pp. 16–17 in which Alice receives her first message from François. Highlight the words ‘thrilled’ and ‘excitedly’, which tell us how happy Alice is feeling. Note that the sky is clear and Alice is smiling once more.

Remind students that narratives can have more than one complication. Explain that a bigger problem can often provide what we call the ‘climax’ of the story. Ask students if they know or can identify the climax in Finding François. Re-read pp. 22–29 to recap what happens.

(ACELA 1463)   (EN1-8B)

Explain that the loss of Alice’s grandmother serves as the story’s climax because it is a very sad and sudden thing to happen. Highlight how the words and illustrations convey Alice’s feelings at this point in the story, particularly the double page spread in which she is looking at the rain (pp. 24–25).

Ask students how Gordon shows us that Alice is sad (e.g. her facial expression, the dark colours, the rain, how small she looks in her surroundings). You can also translate the words under the windowsill: ‘I’m sad, and the day for me will be like the night’. Ask students what they think this could mean. As this is a line from a famous Victor Hugo poem, you could optionally explore some other examples of French poetry with students.

(ACELA1469)   (EN1-8B)

If appropriate, you could take some time to explain that writers often include sad events in their books because they happen to us as humans. Reading about such events, and seeing how characters react to them, can help us if they ever occur in our own lives. Bear and Rat by Christopher Cheng, illustrated by Stephen Michael King, also explores friendship, love and loss.

Continue reading Finding François. Again, ask students to notice the resolution to the problem and how Gordon shows us that, over time, Alice starts to feel better. As they listen to the rest of the story, students should identify the things that help Alice to feel happy again.

(ACELT1590)   (EN1-4A)

Examining grammar and vocabulary

Gordon uses a wide range of adverbials (or circumstances) of time. Locate these throughout the book as you read it again. Ask students to consider their purpose and explain that they help to sequence the events in the story, as well as helping readers know exactly when things are happening. As you locate each adverbial, record it on the board:

p. 3 Every morning
p. 4 On Fridays
p. 8 One morning
pp. 11, 15, 35 Then
p. 17 for a whole week
p. 23 Then one day
p. 28 Over time
p. 29 One evening
pp. 29, 33 That night
p. 34 The next day
p. 35 In the morning
p. 36 When Alice arrived home

Another option is to print out the adverbials, cut them up and distribute them among students: one each OR one between two (PDF, 79KB). They will then raise their hand when they see/hear their adverbial in the story. The words can be attached or written on the board for later reference. You could also add any adverbials of time that you have seen in Herman and Rosie, or another book that you are reading in class.

Once you have located all the adverbials, students are to pick ONE and construct a sentence based on Finding François. Model how to do this first:

On Fridays, Alice and her grandmother enjoy going to the shops and the park together.

Students can do this orally, or they can write their sentence(s) on mini whiteboards or pieces of paper, which they can illustrate for a class display.

(ACELA 1463)   (EN1-8B)

Students know that Alice lives in France. Distribute copies of the text to small groups and have them hunt for French words (some are hidden in the illustrations). Display the found words and phrases on a class chart and translate them. The table below will help get you started.

French word or phrase English translation
moulins à poivre pepper mills
boulangerie bakery
poissonnerie fish shop
c’est beau it’s beautiful
triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit Sad, and the day for me will be like the night
couturière seamstress

Pay attention to the accents and diacritics in French. For example:

  • The hook under the ‘c’ in François is called a cedilla. It signals that the ‘c’ is pronounced like an ‘s’. This is very helpful for readers; we don’t often get this extra help in English.
  • When written correctly, crème brûlée has a grave, circumflex and acute mark to ensure correct pronunciation.

You can also talk about aspects of French pronunciation, such as the guttural ‘r’ and dropping the final consonant in some words (such as François). Google Translate may assist with this.

Rich assessment task

Ask students to create an additional page for Finding François. It should fit into the story after the last double page spread (pp. 36–37). Re-read these pages and discuss what might happen next (e.g. Alice might finish her grandmother’s knitting project; she might eat crème brûlée; François might come to visit). Record some ideas on the board.

Students will then choose one of these events (or come up with their own idea) as the basis for their additional page. They should include an illustration that clearly shows what is happening and how the characters are feeling through colour, facial expressions, actions, background details, etc. Students will also write at least one sentence to explain what is happening using an adverbial/circumstance of time (e.g. ‘On Saturday, Alice fell over playing hopscotch in the park with her new friends’; ‘Finally, Alice finished knitting the pink beanie her grandmother started and wore it out for a walk’).

(ACELY1671)   (EN1-11D)   (ACELY1673)   (EN1-3A)

Re-read Finding François to the class. As you read, ask students to focus on the different characters and notice what they enjoy doing. Point out some examples as you go along and ask students to join in as you act out some of the activities (e.g. on p. 1 we see Alice reading; show students how you would act this out and get them to do it with you).

Role play

Ask students to stand in a circle and think about an activity that they enjoy doing. They will take turns to say, ‘Hello, my name is … and I enjoy …’ (in English and/or another language), then act out their activity without saying what it is. The rest of the class will repeat the action. You will then ask another student to guess the activity. If they are correct, they will go next.

Now ask students to think of a character from Finding François. This time, they will have to act out an activity that that character enjoys without saying anything at all! See if the other students can guess the character and what activity it is that they enjoy.

Re-read pp. 32–34, when Alice and Miss Clément visit François and his father. Ask students to notice the different events that happen during this visit. Record them on the board:

  1. Alice and Miss Clément arrived.
  2. François’ father baked lemon muffins.
  3. Miss Clément told funny stories.
  4. There was a storm.
  5. Alice and François looked for whales.

Place students in groups of four and ask each group member to choose a character: Alice, Miss Clément, François or François’ father.

Each group will create a freeze frame or tableau depicting one of the events from the visit. You can assign these or let groups choose their own. Students should use facial expressions and actions to show what is happening and how the characters are feeling – as long as it is a still image. You may wish to model this by having one group demonstrate while you and the other students direct them how to act.

You could provide props and costumes, or give students time to make their own, and take photographs of the freeze frames to display alongside words and images from the book.

(ACELA1460)   (EN1-6B)

Return to p. 37 of Finding François and point out Alice’s plans for François’ visit. Ask students to identify the items on her list, and if they can think of anything else the two friends might enjoy doing together. Write their suggestions, as well as Alice’s ideas from the book, on the board.

Place students in pairs so that one person can pretend to be Alice and the other François. Each pair will create a series of freeze frames (at least three) to show the different activities the two friends do together on their next visit. Ask students to think carefully about the actions and facial expressions they will use, reminding them that each frame must be a still image. They should also practise moving from one frame to another. They can then perform their tableaux for the class and see if their peers can guess the activities that Alice and François enjoy together.

As with the group freeze frames, props and costumes are permitted. You can again take pictures to record students’ creative work.

(ACELY1667)   (EN1-11D)

As an extension, you could ask students to share what their character might be thinking in each frame. Explain that if you tap them on their shoulder, they need to share their thoughts and feelings in character. For example, if you tap Alice on the shoulder while she and François are drawing together, she might say something like: ‘I’m so happy that I found a friend who likes drawing mermaids as much as I do.’ François might say: ‘I’m hungry, I hope Dad brought some of his lemon muffins to share for afternoon tea.’

You could record some of these thoughts on the board for future reference, or to be written up and displayed alongside the photographs of freeze frames.

(ACELT1593)   (EN1-10C)

Rich assessment task

Following the role play activities, ask students to imagine that they are still in character (as either Alice or François) and are now sitting at home after a fun day together. Ask them to write in character about what they have done and what they are thinking and feeling about their new friend.

This can be structured like a recount, but from the perspective of either Alice or François. Model how you might write a diary or journal entry by recording the date. Also model how you might use time connectives to sequence events – you could provide an appropriate selection as a scaffold.

Encourage students to use words (verbs, adverbs, adjectives) that describe not only what they did, but how they felt. They can draw on details from the book; their own OR other students’ freeze frames; and things they heard or said in character as either Alice or François.

(ACELT1833)   (EN1-2A)