Tomorrow, at daybreak

There’s a poem by Victor Hugo that I used to teach in my French III/IV/AP class called “Demain dès l’aube.”  It describes a pilgrimage that a man (Hugo) takes to visit his daughter’s grave. It’s quite comprehensible for that level with just a few introductory activities.

Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

Victor Hugo

One of the aspects of the poem I loved the most was this beautiful feeling that, while Hugo and his daughter had long ago passed, each time that I read the poem with my students he was taking that trip again and by doing that I/we were honoring both of their memories. 

My sister, Amber, died on October 8, 2022 – a casualty of the opioid epidemic.  Having become addicted to pain killers she had been homeless for over eight years and was, at the time, living in a shelter.  Her heart, damaged from years of abuse, finally stopped.  She had just turned 45.

Before addiction took over, my sister was my best friend.  We could not have been more opposite.  She once told my dad, “We have some questions about why we are so different.” While my sister was in high school, I did her Spanish homework and when she got to community college I did her French homework for her too. (I didn’t mind conjugating verbs and she hated it.)  Terrified of flying, she didn’t travel and when I did my teaching exchange in France, she called me one day and told me to “stop f-ing around and come home.”  She never understood why I had to go.

My sister was funnier than me, bolder than me and ten times more outgoing.  

Amber hated the morning, so no need to leave at daybreak.

Silence would not be tolerated, so I will listen to gangster rap.

When I arrive, instead of flowers, I will put on Tommy Boy to watch with her.

And then I’ll read her a book, just to annoy her.

Me and my sister.

Demain dès l’aube

Day 1:  


Give vocabulary in your favorite way.  I use pictures and gestures for these words.

Word Catégorie sort.

Give the students the words from the poem in no particular order and ask them to sort them into categories.  There needs to be at least two words per category and the name of the category can be in English.  For example: Nature words, or words that start “s”, or adjectives or places.  

Day 2:  

Fast Dictée

A fast dictation is where you read too fast for students to get every word.  The dictation for this is basically the poem.  One morning a man leaves at dawn to go visit his daughter’s tomb.  Because it is said too fast, students end up with holes in their dictation.  In groups they have to figure out which words are missing.  They’ll use the complete dictation to do 

Numbered Heads Together, but Standing Up

I don’t know what this activity is called.  One member from each group goes to the front with their dictation in hand and you ask questions.  They can look at the paper until they raise their hand with the answer, then they can’t look any more.

Day 3:

Brief introduction to Victor Hugo

Read/listen to the poem. As students listen, have them highlight words that have to do with nature, the body, sadness.

Illustrate the poem.

And sometimes I would have the student write their own versions, with a trek/important task that they had to do.