Category Archives: French 2 Units

Halloween: Incorporating one theme across three proficiency levels


Every year my students look forward to spending a few days on communicative activities related to the theme of Halloween.  This is what I have planned for them this year:

French 1

Day 1: I’ll introduce some vocabulary associated with Halloween by showing them this video.  As we are watching, I’ll pause and ask questions—mostly about colors since their vocabulary is so limited at this point. After the video, I’ll pass out this vocabulary handout that the students will use as a resource throughout the mini-unit.  Next, I pass out a baggie of picture cards to each student for a Bingo game.  I created these cards by printing the 30 copies of this document on tagboard and then cutting the squares apart.  I strongly recommend using as many different colors as possible—This really helps when you find that one spare card on the floor! Once each student has a baggie of cards, I’ll instruct them to choose 25 of the cards and organize them on their desks in 5 columns of 5 rows.  (There are 30 cards, so 5 won’t be used). I then call one word at a time, and the students turn over that card if they have it. The first student who turns over 5 cards in a row is the winner and must say the words s/he used for the bingo before receiving a prize.  Although this game only practices vocabulary in isolation, it does allow the students to hear the pronunciation several times and begin to create meaning between the picture and sound of the word.  After several rounds of Bingo, I’ll have the students play “Go Fish” with a partner using their combined sets of cards (I make sure that each partner has a different color so that the sets can be separated at the end of the game.)  At the end of the period, I’ll play this video  as a closing activity.

Day 2: I’ll begin this lesson with this song and then review the vocabulary by asking questions about these slides.  (C’est une sorcière ou un vampire? La sorcière a un balai ou un os? La sorcière porte un chapeau pointu ou un masque ?) After a couple of quick rounds of Bingo and a quick introduction to prepositions using this video  the students are ready to begin communicating with the new words in this matching activity. For this activity, students are paired up and one is given a Partner A paper, while the other is given a Partner B paper.  Both papers have the same pictures but in a different order.  The students take turns describing a picture to their partner who will tell them the number/letter of the corresponding picture on their own papers. Both partners will then write their partner’s letter/number on the corresponding picture on their paper.  I like to follow up these matching activities with a short formative assessment in which I describe a picture orally, and the students write the number/letter of the picture I’m describing.

Day 3: I’ll start this lesson by reviewing the vocabulary using these slides of Halloween scenes.  I ask questions about the first few slides and then have the students describe the next few. (I give them a minute to describe a slide to their partner, and then choose one student to describe the picture to the class as a formative assessment). Next, the students will complete this Same/Different pair activity. As a final activity for this lesson, I’ll project one of the Halloween slides and have the students describe it in writing.

Day 4 – 8: Now that the students have practiced the vocabulary for a few days, I’ll divide them into groups for these learning stations, each of which will take one class period.

Speaking: The students will complete this matching activity (following the same directions as the Day 2 activity) and then a “Sticker Game.” For this activity, each student has the same set of stickers and a simple numbered grid.  Students face each other, with a notebook between them so that they can’t see each other’s grid. Partner A places her pictures on the grid, and then describes each sticker to Partner B, who places her corresponding picture on the same square on her grid. After Partner A has described all of her stickers, the students remove the notebook so that they can see whether their grids match.  Then the students repeat the activity, switching roles.  Here’s what it looks like:


Reading: The students will complete comprehension guides for three Halloween-themed stories. Two of the books, Le Couloir and Le Chapeau can be downloaded for a reasonable fee (which includes the additional books in each series) from this site: .  L’Halloween de Maria is found here: . A video of the story being read aloud is also available.

Writing: The students will describe a series of Halloween stickers (or pictures) that are found at their station.

Computer : The students will watch a video and answer comprehension questions.

French 2

I’ll begin this unit with the same vocabulary-building activities that I use with the French 1 students.  Because two-thirds of my French 2 students took French 1 at the middle school, they may not have been exposed to this vocabulary in the past.  Since most of these activities are games and pair activities, even those students that I taught last year don’t mind repeating them.  Here’s what the unit looks like for these students:

Day 1-3: Same as French 1.

Day 4: I’ll read the story, “Histoire Terrifiante” (p. 1, p.2,p. 21/2 p.3, p.4) aloud to the students, who then complete the comprehension questions in their packet.  Next, the students  will work in small groups on this manipulative activity, in which they put sentences about the story in order.  (I print the document on tagboard and cut apart each sentence.) The students will then complete a series of activities in the packet designed to introduce them to the use of direct object pronouns.  Although I do little direct grammar instruction, I have found that this particular structure is not easily acquired so I like to have the students work with it enough that they can recognize these pronouns when they see them.

Day 5: The students will practice summarizing the “Histoire Terrifiante” story using only pictures.  I’ll then choose a few students to present for a formative assessment.  They will then finish the direct object pronoun activities and complete this pair activity to reinforce these structures.

Day 6-9: Learning Stations (Stations)

Listening: Students will watch a series of Halloween-themed videos and answer comprehension questions.  (I’ve included the questions here, but have created multiple-choice “quizzes” on Canvas that I will use with my students.

Reading: Students will read a story called “Six Petites Citrouilles” (p. 1, p. 2, p. 3, p. 4, p. 5, p. 6, p. 7, p.8 )from a book called “L’Halloween de Napoleon.”  Some of the students read books about Napoleon (a dragon) as young children, so they love reading this story!  Because the print is hard to read on some of the pages, due to the background color, I typed the story in this document, which I will also pass out to students.

Writing: Students write a note to a French penpal explaining how Halloween is celebrated in the U.S.

Speaking: Students complete the same Matching and Sticker activities as the French 1 students, but also two additional activities (#1-a, #1-b, #2-a, #2-b) in which they discuss pictures in order to find the differences.

French 3

Because each of these students was in my French 2 class last year, they are familiar with the Halloween vocabulary.  Therefore, they’ll only need a quick review before beginning their learning stations.

Day 1: Students review vocabulary with a partner crossword activity. For this activity each partner receives a crossword puzzle (A, B) in which half of the answers are filled in.  The students must use circumlocution to help their partner fill in his/her missing words. When finished the read this article about Halloween and complete a comprehension guide.

Learning Stations

Reading Students read a story about a witch named Grasseboudine (p. 1, p. 2, p. 3, p. 4 ) and/an article about bats (p. 1 p.2) .

Speaking: The students complete three different activities in which they discuss pictures in order to find the differences. Here are files to the pictures: (#1-a, #1-b, #2a, #2b, #3a, #3b)

Listening: Students will watch a series of Halloween-themed videos and answer comprehension questions.  (As with the French 2 students, I’ve included the questions here, but have created multiple-choice “quizzes” on Canvas that I will use with my students.

If you decide to try any of these activities, I hope your students enjoy them as much as mine do!

Picture Credit:

How a little bird helped me with a challenging Can-Do

twitter-312464_640Last summer, when I decided to ditch my textbooks and develop a proficiency-oriented curriculum, I didn’t know for sure exactly what themes I would end up including.   Like many of you, I teach one or more French 1, 2, 3, and 4/5/AP classes per day, so I had to be satisfied with creating one unit at a time during my first year with this new course design. At the beginning of the year, I knew only that I would be choosing a theme for each unit, and would then create learning activities around that theme that would address at least one NCSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statement for each mode of communication. While I was nervous about having enough time to curate the resources and develop the learning experiences that my students would need, I wasn’t overly concerned about “what” to teach.  By planning lessons that addressed each of the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements, I felt I would be providing my students with what they needed to reach their proficiency goals.  This allowed me to focus on choosing themes that would interest my students and for which I was able to find an adequate number of authentic written and recorded texts. Although it was a challenging year in terms of time management, it was a rewarding one as well.  The majority of my students demonstrated proficiency at the expected or higher level and seemed to enjoy the class.  In fact, there was a significant increase in enrollment (due, undoubtedly, to many different factors).

So, as I reflected on last year while preparing for this one, I was feeling pretty satisfied with the curricula I had developed. I was confident that the thematic units I had created had allowed my students to meet each of the Can-Do’s multiple times, so I just needed to do a quick double-check as I wrote out my outline for this year. Since they’re first in the Can-Do document, I started with Novice High Interpersonal Communication Can-Do’s when I was preparing my French 2 outline. I can exchange some personal information. Check—they’ve been doing that since French 1.  I can exchange information using texts, graphs, or pictures. No problem here.  Many of my lessons are organized around an infographic that the students interpret and then discuss.  We also read and discuss illustrated stories and the students do lots of picture-based interpersonal activities, like “Guess Who” games, “Same/Different” activities, “Matching Pictures,” and picture sequencing activities to review stories or videos. I’ve definitely got that one covered. Next came, I can ask for and give simple directions. Piece of cake, they learn how to give directions in French 1, and the picture description activities ensure that the students maintain this skill.  Only two more Interpersonal Can-Do’s and I could move on. I can make plans with others. What??? Hmmm. I must have done something last year that addressed this one. So I checked out the examples given, hoping they would jog my memory:

  • I can accept or reject an invitation to do something or go somewhere.
  • I can invite and make plans with someone to do something or go somewhere.
  • I can exchange information about where to go, such as to the store, the movie theatre, a concert, a restaurant, the lab, or when to meet.

Nope. I couldn’t think of a single learning activity I had created that would allow my students to meet this Can-Do.  So, I prayed that no one would alert the proficiency police and then started planning how I could make sure to include this Can-Do in this year’s curriculum. (Fortunately, I’d addressed the final Novice High Interpersonal Communication Can-Do, I can interact with others in everyday situations, in a unit on grocery shopping and another on health, so I didn’t have any other unfortunate surprises.)

Unfortunately, introducing the skill of inviting and accepting or rejecting invitations proved to be more challenging than I had expected.  I just couldn’t come up with an authentic resource that would give my students enough comprehensible input with the phrases that are typically used for these language functions.  Fortunately, around this same time I came across this great post  and as I surfed around their fabulous blog I saw several references to the use of Twitter as an authentic resource.  While many of you have no doubt been using Twitter with your students for ages, I only got my own account a couple of years ago in order to stay in touch with my son. In fact, I didn’t follow anyone else until I was introduced to #langchat a few months ago.  As a result of my own lack of experience with this particular social medium, I hadn’t yet explored Twitter as an authentic resource that could be used with my students. I wondered whether this medium might provide the type of comprehensible input I was looking for.

Since I wasn’t exactly sure where to begin in planning my first Twitter lesson, I simply logged into my Twitter account and typed in “Si tu veux, on peut” as I felt this would be a useful phrase for extending invitations.  Lo and behold, I immediately had dozens of recent tweets to choose from, each which contained this expression used in an authentic context.  I simply chose those tweets that were 1) comprehensible, 2) interesting, 3) culturally relevant, and 4) school-appropriate and then copied (using the snip tool) and pasted them into a Word document.  I then did additional searches for “Ca te dit de..” and “si on allait”” so that my students would become familiar with these expressions, too.  The students will read these tweets at the beginning of the lesson on invitations, and complete a simple interpretive activity.  I think this activity will be engaging to students due to its authenticity and connection with their own daily lives. They may or may not notice the lack of accuracy in the language used, but if they do I will use this teachable moment to discuss the register of language used in social media.

After reading these tweets, the students will then write tweets of their own to the other members of their group using these invitation expressions. I will provide them with an authentic resource which includes common texting abbreviations, so that the students can incorporate these abbreviations in their own tweets. Having practiced reading and writing invitations, I will then introduce the students to expressions used in accepting and rejecting invitations with another group of tweets. After reading these tweets, they will return to the tweets that were written to them by their classmates, and either accept or reject each one.

After this introduction to the language used in invitations, the students will complete an interpersonal speaking activity in which they extend several invitations to a partner who accepts or rejects each one as they fill out an agenda for a weekend together.  They will then complete a presentational writing activity in which they write a series of tweets between themselves and another student, inviting him/her to participate in the activities from the agenda.

Click here for the resource I created for this lesson: Twitter Invitation Lesson

Since developing this lesson, I’ve done several other Twitter searches for upcoming units and I’m really excited about how this authentic resource can be used with students.  I’d love to hear how any of you have incorporated Twitter into your classrooms!

A Day in the Life…

Sad man holding pillow and the clock

Like many of you, I spend a lot of my summer trying to get a good head start on my planning for the following school year.  This year I began by revising my first unit for my French 2 students, which focuses on the theme of discussing a typical day.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the theme of “Daily Routine” is often criticized by proficiency-based teachers.  This seems to be because many textbooks have used this theme to present reflexive verbs without adequate authentic context. While this may be true, as I was previewing the French children’s magazines I recently purchased this topic came up again and again.  Many of the articles that I chose for their cultural content included information about a typical day in the life of the children who were interviewed for the article.  As a result, I have chosen to begin my French 2 course with a unit on “A Day in my Life.”

Can-Do Statements

As has been my practice, I began planning this unit by choosing/modifying the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements that I wanted to address. Because the targeted proficiency level for my French 2 students is Novice High, most of my Can Do’s are based on that level.  However, since my students have excellent reading skills, I chose an Intermediate Low Can-Do Interpretive Reading Can-Do.

Interpersonal Communication: I can exchange some information about my daily routine.

Presentational Speaking: I can tell about my daily activities using phrases and simple sentences.

Presentational Writing: I can write about my daily activities using practiced material.

Interpretive Listening: I can understand simple information about a character’s daily activities in a cartoon video.

Interpretive Reading: I can identify some information from an article about someone’s daily routine. (Intermediate Low)

Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA)

The next step in my planning was to prepare the IPA for this unit.  I began by choosing an authentic magazine article in which Francophone students discussed what gets them up in the morning (previously shared in this post) and creating an interpretive task according to the ACTFL IPA Interpretive template. I then created interpersonal and presentational tasks based on the types of information included in this article.  In addition, I included an interpretive listening task based on a cartoon video in which the character is taking a bath—a typical daily routine activity.  Although this video is not closely integrated to the interpretive reading task, I think it’s important to assess both reading and listening skills in each IPA.  Therefore, I’ve sacrificed the integrative aspect in order to include an authentic text which is appropriate to the proficiency level of my students.

Lesson Plans

Having created the IPA, I turned toward creating the lessons that would provide the students with the necessary skills to perform successfully on this assessment.  Each of these lessons is based on an authentic written or oral text and includes corresponding interpretive, interpersonal and presentational tasks.  Because the Can-Do’s at this level clarify that students at this level are highly dependent on memorized speech, I have included a few additional activities designed to help the students memorize the words and phrases they will need on the IPA.  These “non-authentic” activities include:

  1. Educational daily routine videos that will be used to reinforce vocabulary and as a springboard for personalized questioning. (See agenda below for links)
  2. Guess Who  game  which requires students to ask and answer questions about daily activities.
  3. Matching Activity in which students will describe what the people in images are doing.

The last lessons before the IPA will be a series of learning stations in which the students prepare a rough draft of their presentational writing task, practice their interpersonal task (with different partners), listen to similar cartoon videos, and read an additional authentic article.

Here are the materials I created for these lessons:

  1. Unit 1 Activity Packet (Requires this article: Mama p. 1, Mama p. 2
  2. Unit 1 Learning Stations (Requires this article: Nadine p. 1Nadine p. 2
  3. French 2 unit 1 agenda
  4. Unit 1 IPA (Requires this article: matin p. 1 matin p. 2 matin p. 3 , p. 4)

As always, all feedback is welcome!

Once upon a time: A fairy tale unit without any fairy tales

cinderellaNow that my French 2 students have been introduced to both the passé composé and the imparfait, I wanted to introduce them to the idea of using these tenses to tell a story.  Although I will not expect them to be able to correctly narrate past events consistently for some time, I did feel they were ready to be exposed to this challenging concept.  Unfortunately, developing this unit was much more difficult than I had imagined!  I had originally planned on using fairy tales to introduce the use of these tenses together.  Although I realized that classic fairy tales are usually narrated using passé simple and imparfait, I naively thought that I would be able to find authentic simplified or modernized versions that were written in the passé composé.  In spite several hours combing the Internet, as well consulting my virtual colleagues, I was not able to find what I was looking for.  Even when I widened my search for other types of stories, most of the examples I found were narrated in either the passé simple or present tense.  While I could have simply rewritten one of these stories using the two tenses, it was important to me that my students read an authentic text for input.  As a result, I ended up choosing a blog entry by the imaginary character, Lulu, from Astrapi magazine to provide an authentic context in which the two tenses are used to narrate a story. I had used a couple of her entries in a school unit with these same students so they were familiar with the character. As described below, I used this text to provide an authentic model for the use of the two tenses, and then provided a series of teacher-created activities in which the students would use them to narrate/summarize a series of authentic texts.

« J’ai encore un doudou! » (Lulu/Trotro packet )

I began the introductory part of this unit by give the students a copy of one Lulu’s blog posts, in which she describes an event from a recent class trip.  Due to the nature of this lesson, I did not prepare an IPA-style interpretive task like I usually do.  Instead, I gave the students pictures of a few vocabulary words that they would need to understand the gist of the story and a list of details to fill out in French. While I usually ask interpretive questions in English with students at this level, I wanted them to start to get a feel for the way the two tenses are used in this lesson. Preparing French statements allowed me to present additional examples of the tenses used in context and presented opportunities for the students to use the tenses in a controlled way in their written responses.   To further call the students’ attention to how the imparfait and passé composé are used to narrate past events, I then gave the students a series of statements and asked them to choose whether each sentence referred to background information or an event that happened.  While I had originally planned on this being a manipulative activity (I was going to make cards with the sentences and place them in two separate columns) time did not allow me to do so this time, so it was a pencil/paper activity.  To my surprise, most of the students correctly identified the type of sentence, but seemed to do so without paying any attention to the tense of the verb.  In fact, when I asked which of the two tenses were used for background information and which was used for events that happened, I got lots of blank stares even from the students had correctly completed the table. As a follow-up activity, I had the students number the events, in order to reinforce that idea that the passé composé is used for events that move the action of a story along. Following these input activities, I divided the students into pairs and gave each pair a set of pictures (lulu-doudou pics – printed on cardstock) which represented different aspects of the story.  The students spoke in French to put the pictures in order and then I called on randomly-chosen pairs to orally summarize the story using their picture cards. The nature of the cards required that the students use both tenses and they did so quite well.  For homework, the students wrote about this event from another character’s point of view. I felt this activity would allow them to rely heavily on the phrases they had seen, while still creating their own sentences. As a final step to this lesson, I asked the students to write their own blog entry for an experience similar to Lulu’s.

Trotro et le cerf-volant (same packet as Lulu)

While I wanted the students to have additional experience seeing the two past tenses in context, I did not have enough class time to devote to another written text.  Instead, I decided to show the students a short video about one of their favorite cartoon characters, Trotro l’ane.  I first gave them a handout with pictures representing some key vocabulary and then played the video, stopping occasionally to ask questions using the appropriate past tense.  To provide further examples of the verbs used in context I gave the students a question/answer matching activity based on the video.  Lastly, the students discussed a series of screenshots from the video in order to put them in chronological order by writing #1 under the first, #2 under the second and so on.

Rafara (rafara worksheets) 

The main focus of this lesson on story-telling is the authentic book, Rafara.  It is a text that is used by many French elementary teachers and I liked the idea of incorporating Francophone literature with these students, especially because this unit will be followed by a study of the film, Kirikou et la Sorciere. While the passé simple is used in the narration of Rafara, the activities I developed will allow the students to see the passé composé and imparfait in context. The original text will be quite difficult for these students, but I think the nature of the story makes it appropriate for practicing summary and narration.  Although I purchased a copy of the hardcover book through, I will give the students a packet with this pdf: (rafara ) The text is the same as the book, but the format is more practical as it has fewer pages. This teacher divided the book into 5 “textes” and I will use her same divisions.  Each of the first four sections will form the basis of a one day’s lesson, and the fifth will be used on the assessment for the unit.  For each lesson I have developed the following activities:

#1: An interpretive task in which the students identify key words, fill in supporting details, and guess the meanings of new words using context clues.

#2: A manipulative activity in which the students work with a partner to match questions and answers about the text.  (I have included the questions/answers in the document, but I will make a larger font and print this page on cardstock for the manipulative activity.)

#3: A series of pictures that the students will use to practice retelling the section. (Coming soon!)

#4: A true/false formative assessment to be used at the end of the lesson.

(Note: Before beginning these lessons, I will show this video to provide some necessary background knowledge to the students: )


As a summative assessment the students will complete an IPA with the following sections:

Interpretive Reading: An IPA-style interpretive task. (Rafara ipa )

Presentational Writing: The students will summarize the entire story using the pictures.

Interpersonal Speaking: Students will retell the story with a partner.




An “Imperfect” Unit on French Castles (Part 2 and IPA)

castle-clip-art_tI am happy to report that my French 2 students are enjoying their unit on castles as much as I had hoped they would.  While I was surprised by how little background knowledge they seemed to have about medieval history, they have expressed genuine interest in the information they have learned from the readings and videos.  Considering that we have had atypical class schedules every day to allow for standardized testing and weather delays, I’d say that their attention in class has been downright formidable!

Because I want the students to become familiar with some castles that I visit when leading student trips, I wanted to include a few lessons on the Renaissance and some specific Loire Valley castles in this unit. So following the lessons which I included in my first post about this unit, I am implementing the lesson included here: Renaissance Lesson

As the document shows, the students will read three pages from a children’s book on the Renaissance (Renaissance p. 4Renaissance p. 5Renaissance p. 18) and complete an IPA-style interpretive task.  Following this task, they will complete an information gap activity in which they discuss their versions of a royal family tree in order to fill in the missing facts on their copy. Family Tree Speaking They will then write a short biography about the Renaissance king of their choice.

Following this lesson, the students will complete a series of learning stations designed to familiarize them with the Loire Valley castles.  Due to the nature of the materials (teacher-made games, manipulatives, commercial video and authentic brochures) I can’t include them here, but I’ve included a short description below:

Listening Station: The students will watch a non-authentic Loire Valley castle DVD from Teacher’s Discovery and answer comprehension questions.

Reading Station: Students will read a series of brochures that I’ve brought home from visits to the Loire Valley and answer comprehension questions.

Castle Identification Station: Students will play a series of games that I’ve either made or purchased which are designed to teach them to recognize various Loire Valley castles.

Speaking Station: The students will converse in order to fill in a graphic organizer with information about various Renaissance kings.

After these stations, the students will complete this IPA about the French Renaissance and Loire Valley castles Castle Unit IPA

Reading: The students will read several pages from a children’s book about Chambord (Chambord pp. 1, 2Chambord pp. 3, 4Chambord pp. 5, 6) and complete an interpretive task.

Listening: The students will watch an authentic video and provide details to demonstrate their comprehension.

Speaking: The students will converse in order to fill in a graphic organizer about Francis I.

Writing: The students will write a chapter of Francis I’s memoir in which he describes what his life was like when he was king.

As always, I’m grateful for any feedback on these lessons and materials!



An “Imperfect” Unit on Castles for Novice High Learners (Part 1)

chateauFor most of my teaching career I’ve included a unit on castles in either French 2 or French 3.  Most students seem inherently interested in this topic, and each year when I put up the bulletin board the older students comment on how much they liked the unit.  When traveling with students, I often choose an itinerary that includes the Loire Valley so that the students are able to visit some of the castles that they learned about.

While a lot of my former activities focused on teaching students to identify various Loire Valley castles and memorize facts about them, I changed the focus this year.  Instead, the students will begin by learning about medieval/fortified castles and what life was like during the Middle Ages.  Time permitting we’ll also study the Renaissance and the Loire Valley castles, but having five snow days has really taken a chunk out of the time that I had planned to spend on this unit.

As you will see, I am also using this unit to introduce my students to the imperfect tense.  These students worked with the passé composé during their school and Martinique unit, so I feel like they’re ready for an introduction to the imperfect.  At the same time, I want to give them additional opportunities to become more accurate with the passé composé, so I’ve included activities that will enable them to use each tense, although I won’t be focusing on using them together quite yet.

Here are the lessons that I’ve prepared so far: Castle Unit

#1 Fortified Castles (2 days) Students will read a few pages from a French children’s book (p. 4/5p. 6/7p. 8/9) and complete an IPA-style interpretive task.  After a short “Focus on Form” activity designed to focus their attention on the verbs in the reading, they will interview a partner about his/her childhood using the verbs that appeared in the reading. They will then complete a Venn diagram comparing their childhood to their partner’s.  Next, they will watch an authentic video about medieval castles and complete a true/false interpretive activity.  Due to the difficulty of the video, this will be a whole class activity in which I project the video and pause it when necessary to discuss the responses.

#2 Castle Life (2-3 days) In this lesson the students will read another section from the same children’s book (p. 10, 11p. 12/13, pp. 18,19)  and complete another IPA-style interpretive task, along with a corresponding “Focus on Form” activity.  They will also interview a partner using the new verbs that were presented in the text.  As a follow up activity, they will fill in a Venn diagram comparing their own childhood to that of a child in the Middle Ages.  Next, they will watch a video and complete a true/false activity.  As with the previous lesson, this will be a whole group activity.  Due to the content of the readings in this lesson, I included an additional presentational task in which the students will write a journal entry for a medieval teen who has attended a feast.  I hope that by including this activity the students will begin to develop an idea of the differences between the two tenses.  I will answer questions as they come up, but will not inductively present a lesson on these differences.

#3 Castle Defense (2-3 days) This lesson will also begin with an IPA-style interpretive task over pages from the children’s book (p. 20/21p. 22/23p. 24/25p. 26/27) . They will then use the information they learned to write a journal entry for a lord whose castle has just been attacked.  Next, they will watch another video and complete an information gap in which they describe a series of knight portraits. Following this activity, they will write another journal entry, this time for a knight who has just won a jousting match.

I think these lessons will increase my students knowledge about the medieval period and they might even learn a bit of grammar along the way.




Bonne Fête de Saint-Valentin

valinte I took a few minutes in between parent-teacher conferences this evening to make a few short interpretive activities to go with some of the Valentine’s Day infographics that I found on Pinterest.  Here’s what I came up with:

French 1: V-Day French 1 Infographic

French 2: V-Day French 2 Infographic

French 3: V-Day French 3 Infographic

Note: I’ve placed a few text boxes over the content that I didn’t feel was appropriate for my students.  If you do any reformatting of the infographics, you might want to double check that the text boxes are still covering the adult content.

Bonne Fête!

From Theory into Practice: A Novice-level IPA on food and mealtimes.

bonappetitSo, we all know about best laid plans, right?  I had a very detailed (and lengthily) French Food/Mealtime unit all planned out.  Then it snowed, and got really cold, and snowed again, and I ended up losing three days of school. Then, the administration moved up the date that our interim progress reports were due.  As a result of these changes, my students weren’t going to have any major grades (IPA scores are 80% of my students’ overall grades) on their progress reports if I completed the entire unit as planned.  So, I punted and wrote an IPA based on the parts of the unit that we had covered.  Since we didn’t get to any of the restaurant activities, the IPA does not incorporate that context, but rather mealtimes in general.

Here’s the IPA Food Unit IPA and a few comments about how IPA’s work in my class.

Interpretive Listening: Although many IPA resources suggest using either an interpretive listening or an interpretive reading, I think it’s important to have both. The challenge for me is that it is difficult to find a written and recorded source that are specifically integrated, especially for Novice learners.  For this reason, I am satisfied to find videos that are related to the theme of the unit and comprehensible to these students.  On this IPA I included two videos about Trotro l’ane.  I use a lot of cartoons with my Novices, because of the support provided by the visuals.  I think of all of the cartoons I use, Trotro is probably one of the easiest.  The videos are short and the vocabulary and syntax are pretty simple.  (Note: These videos seem to come and go a lot, probably because of copyright issues.  If the link doesn’t work, try typing in the name of the cartoon in the Youtube search box, you might find the same cartoon from another user.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, the ACTFL guide doesn’t give a lot of direction when I comes to assessing listening on an IPA.  While they suggest using the same tasks as for reading, this doesn’t work well in my classroom, where I have to rotate 28 students through the 8 computers in my room.  That means that I must limit the amount of time required to complete the listening tasks. Therefore, on this IPA I’ve limited my tasks to several English comprehension questions for each video, as well as a few “Guessing meaning from context” items. I simply cannot give the students enough time on the computers to demonstrate their use of top-down processes such as identifying organization features, author’s perspective, and inferences.

Grading: Because the Interpretive Listening ACTFL Can Do benchmark for Novice Mid students is, “I can recognize some familiar words and phrases when I hear them spoken,” I am quite liberal when assigning a score to this section of the IPA.  I do not expect that the students will be able to correctly answer each of the questions that I have included, although I find value in providing items that will allow me to assess my students along a continuum of performance. Therefore, I assigned one point for each correct answer on this section, and then used the following scale to convert these points to a grade in my gradebook. (Note: Each assessment I give is based on a maximum score of 10.) Scale: 15 + = 11, 14 = 10, 12/13 = 9, 10/11 = 8, 8/9 = 7, 5/6 = 6, 4/below = 5 (I don’t give scores of less than 50%).

Interpretive Reading:  For this IPA I chose an article about a study on French adolescent eating habits.  I liked the cultural content of this article and felt that it would be comprehensible to my students because it incorporated so much of the vocabulary that we had used throughout the unit.  When designing the tasks, I incorporated all but the Organizational Features and Personal Reaction portions of the ACTFL template.  I omitted Organizational Features, because of the straightforward nature of the article.  I did not feel that the way it was organized contributed significantly to any lack of comprehension the students might have.  I do not include Personal Reactions, which are written in the target language, as they do not assess the students’ reading comprehension.

Grading: While I have relied heavily on the terminology used in the ACTFL Interpretive Rubric, I have modified the format in order to make it more user-friendly for my classroom.  In order to end up with a final score on this section of the IPA, I have assigned a number to each of the descriptors on the ACTFL rubric.  (I also added a 5th descriptor for each section.)  I also placed the descriptors in each section, rather than in a rubric at the end, for ease in grading.  This way, I can check the appropriate box as I grade each section, rather than flipping pages to find the rubric, or going back and rereading each section when filling out a rubric at the end.  When tabulating a final score for this section, I rely on the terminology in the ACTFL Rubric.  In my opinion, “Strong Comprehension” deserves an “A.” Because I assign a 4 to the descriptors in this category, an 80% overall would be an “A” on this assignment.  Therefore, I graded this portion of my IPA according to the following scale: 32+ = 11, 30/31 = 10, 28/29 = 9, 24-27 = 8, 21-23 = 7, 18-20 = 6, 17/below = 5.

Interpersonal Communication: For this part of the IPA, I called the students up to my desk in pairs, while the class as a whole was working on the interpretive portions of the IPA.  The students were given three minutes to talk about their eating habits.  I included a few suggested questions in English, to guide their discussion, but I did not expect them to ask or answer those questions exactly.  In fact, few of the students would have been able to ask all of those questions correctly.  Nevertheless, the majority of the students were able to continue their conversation for the entire three minutes.  Although I had given them some time to practice with a partner the day before, I randomly choose their partner for the IPA when I call them up, so that no pair is able to memorize a dialogue.

Grading: I do not find the ACTFL Interpersonal rubric to be well-suited to interpersonal tasks in my classroom.  The wording seems much more suitable to an assessment of general proficiency, rather than a performance-based assessment over a specific unit.  As a result, I have developed my own interpersonal rubric that I use for my IPA’s.

Presentational Communication: In this portion of the IPA, the students wrote to their hypothetical future exchange student and described their eating habits.  Although I usually assign a rough draft and provide feedback, I didn’t have time to do so before this IPA.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did without this support.

Grading: As with the Interpersonal task, the ACTFL rubric does not seem well-suited to a performance-based assessment, so I’ve developed my own.

There is no doubt that my ideas about developing and grading IPA’s will evolve as I continue to use them, so I’ll continue to post as my understanding increases.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear about how you use IPA’s in your classroom!

Resources: When I refer to the ACTFL guide and rubrics, I’m talking about the one you can buy here: .  You can also see the template and rubrics here:



From the Midwest to Martinique: A virtual trip for French 2 students

martiniqueAs I explained in a previous post, I decided to introduce the passé composé with my French 2 students in a different way this year.   Rather than explaining the rules for choosing the correct helping verb and past participle, I gave them a series of questions and answers that they used to interview each other and provided input by introducing readings and comprehension questions that were written in passé composé.  I had no idea how the students would react to this unit, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Nearly all of the students were able to successfully discuss what they had done at school the previous day using comprehensible sentences.  While some students made occasional errors in choosing the correct helping verb during their conversations, they were still able to express their meaning.  I was somewhat surprised to find that the students were less accurate in their written work. More students totally omitted their helping verbs when writing than when speaking.

Now that the students have demonstrated their ability to communicate using memorized phrases, I thought that it was time to introduce a few rules so that they could begin creating sentences of their own. I struggled a little bit, however,  in coming up with a cultural/content context for this next unit. I wanted a context that would provide them with lots of opportunities to narrate past events, without requiring them to include lots of description in the past.  (While they are seeing lots of imperfect in the authentic resources, it’s not my intention that they produce this verb form at this time.)  It seemed that discussing a vacation might meet these requirements and provide a way of introducing some important new vocabulary items.  In order to provide an authentic cultural context for this unit (and to escape, at least virtually, winter in the Midwest) , I have chosen to use Martinique as the vacation destination that these students will learn about.  Here’s how I introduced this unit:

Day 1: Students read an infographic about Martinique and complete an interpretive task.  In addition, they begin work on a guided note-taking activity designed to introduce them to a few simple rules about forming the passé composé.

Day 2: Students completed an interpersonal activity (Guess Who game) to familiarize them with the vocabulary for activities that people do while on vacation in Martinique. After they played the game for about 20 minutes, I gave them a formative assessment in which I made 10 true/false statements about Nicolas (the first “identity” on the game paper). The students also finished the guided note-taking activity.

This is what I have planned for the rest of the unit.

Day 3: We will watch a short video about Martinique and the students will answer comprehension questions. They will then complete an interpersonal activity in which they describe what they did on vacation to a partner who will select the appropriate vacation pictures.  Lastly they will complete a worksheet which requires them to write sentences about what various people did in Martinique.

Day 4: Students will watch another video and then complete a cooperative activity in which they work with a partner to put historical events in chronological order, based on information in each of their articles.

Day 5: Students will read an article about vacationing in Martinique and complete an interpretive task.  This will count as the interpretive reading portion of their IPA.

Day 6 and 7: Students will use Ipads to research various places and activities in Martinique for their virtual trip to Martinique.  They will then complete a journal of the activities they did each day of their trip.

Day 8 and 9: Students continue working on the rest of their IPA, which includes the following tasks: 1)Presentational Writing: Blog entry about trip to Martinique, 2)Interpersonal Speaking: Discuss trip to Martinique with partner, 3) Interpretive Listening: Video about Martinique.

Day 10 and 11: Students will present their trip to Martinique to the class using a Google Presentation of photographs from their trip.

Here are the resources I’ve prepared for the unit:

Student Resource packet: Martinique vocab & grammar , Student Activity Packet: martinique unit , Guess Who Game martinique_guesswho(rev.)  Pair Activity Martinique pair act. Worksheet martinique ws, Manipulatives for history activity: history_manipulative, virtual trip packet: martinique project, IPA: Martinique IPA





Saying “Au Revoir” to Dr. & Mrs. Vandertramp

Student Waving from DeskMy French 2 students are going to begin the second semester by learning how to discuss what happened at school.  Planning this unit proved to be a huge challenge for me.  While I have managed to focus on meaning, rather than form, in designing their proficiency-based units so far this year, this one would be different.  For the first time, I would be expecting these students to use a different tense when speaking and writing.  I just wasn’t sure how to teach them the rules, without resorting to what I have done for the past 25 years–direct instruction on the conjugation rules for 1) regular verbs, 2) irregular verbs, 3) être (Vandertramp) verbs, and 4) reflexive verbs. Since none of these groups occurs in isolation within authentic sources, I had found myself relying on worksheets and other instructional materials to provide the students with the practice that they needed to master each new set of rules.  In spite of my carefully organized lessons and exhaustive, repetitive exercises, most of my students needed several additional months of instruction before they were able to use the passé composé accurately. As I have become more knowledgeable about how language proficiency develops, my expectations have become much more realistic.  The unit that I am sharing here will not teach your students to accurately use the passé composé with only three weeks of instruction. However, I believe it will familiarize them with the structure to the extent that they will be able to discuss school experiences in a comprehensible way.

Here’s the unit packet of activities and an explanation of how I plan to teach the unit.  The length of each lesson is an estimate at this point—some lessons might extend to the following day so that the unit might take longer than this plan shows.

Unit Activity Packet: French 2 School Unit

Day 1.  I’m beginning this unit by watching the first three minutes of an authentic video in which a teenager describes a horrible day.  I will play the video to the whole class, stopping it frequently to ask them questions about what the girl did. (Ex. Elle s’est réveillée en retard? Elle s’est habillée? Elle a pris le petit dejeuner?)  While my students have not had much exposure to the past tense, I think they will be able to understand these questions and answer with a oui/non.  I will then have them individually check the statements that reflected what the girl did and then replay the video so that the students can check their answers.  Finally we will orally discuss the correct answers as a class, giving the students lots of comprehensible input of the passé composé.  Next, the students will interview each other in order to find out how their partner’s day compared to the one shown in the video.  The students will not be required to formulate their own responses at this point, but will read either the affirmative or negative response that is given. Lastly, the students will write a short note describing their (real or imaginary) morning.  This activity will most likely be completed as homework. I will give them this resource packet Unit 6 Resource Packet with model sentences to help them with this and other tasks in the unit:

Day 2 Warm up: I will begin this period by asking the students questions about their previous school day.  I will choose questions from the resource packet, so that the students will not have to formulate a response on their own.  I will then give them a few minutes to interview each other using these same questions.  As a follow up, I will ask them questions about their partners’ day. This will provide additional comprehensible input of the third person forms of the verbs. Next, I will assign the interpretive activity in which the students will read an authentic comic strip about a boy who got caught cheating at school. (Pablo a copie) In addition to writing a summary and answer true/false comprehension questions, the students will identify specific phrases in the comic which are written in the passé composé. In this way, the text will not only provide an opportunity to increase interpretive skills, it will also provide contextualized examples of the new structure. After the students finish the reading activity, they will complete the interview activity which follows. For homework, they will write a paragraph about a real or imaginary experience in which they cheated.

Day 3 I will begin this day with the warm up activity described above. I will then show them the first part of an authentic video about a French middle school student’s day.  Although the video is not narrated in the past, I chose it for the cultural information that it presented about French schools.  I will stop the video frequently so that the students can answer the comprehension questions. These are written in English, since their purpose is to assess the students’ listening comprehension.  This will be an informal, formative assessment as we will most likely discuss the correct responses as a class.  Next, the students will review what they saw by checking the statements which reflect what happened in the video. These French sentences, as well as the follow up discussion of them will provide additional  passé compose input. In the next activity, the students will interview a partner in order to compare how his/her school day compared to Arthur’s (the student in the video).  Lastly, the students will write the script of a hypothetical video for Arthur, in which they tell what their day was like. Again, this writing assignment will probably be completed as homework.

Day 4 After the warm up activity described in Day 2 (students will switch partner’s each time), the students will read an authentic blog in which a character from Astrapi magazine describes an incident that took place at school. The students will work individually on interpretive tasks before interviewing a partner about his/her own experiences on the subject of class punishment.  Lastly, they will write a hypothetical follow-up post in which “Lulu” explains how the issue was resolved.  (They will be reading Lulu’s follow up post later in the unit.)

Day 5 After the warm up, the students will watch the second section of the video about Arthur.  They will again answer English comprehension questions, check the French statements which refer to events that happened, and interview a partner.  As a presentational activity, they will continue their script for their hypothetical video to Arthur.

Day 6 By this time, I think the students will need a little break from the routine of the Interpretation-Interpersonal Communication – Presentation cycle. So, today I will mix it up a little bit by devoting the entire class period to interpersonal communication. The students will begin the period with this Guess Who game: Devinez-Qui-Game (1) (The directions will be on one page and the pictures will be copied back-to-back.) Next, the students will interview each other in order to complete a Venn diagram comparing their previous day at school.friendship circle (I will handwrite some examples of the correct “nous” forms, as they won’t have had much exposure to these forms at this point.

Day 7 For today’s warm up, the students will play a two truth’s and a lie game.  Each student will write three sentences about their previous school day (relying heavily on the sample sentences in the resource packet).  Two of these students should be true and one should be a lie.  I will then call on students to say their sentences to the class.  Next, I will call on a student to guess which of the sentences was a lie.  If s/he is correct, it will be his/her turn to say the sentences s/he wrote.  Play will continue for as long as the students are engaged—probably 5 to 10 minutes.  After this warm-up, the students will complete the interpretive and interpersonal activities for the last part of the Arthur video. Because there is no presentational component, they may have time to begin the final interpretive task, Lulu’s blog entry in which she describes how the situation in her earlier post was resolved.

Day 8 After an additional round of two truths and a lie, the students will complete the interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational tasks related to Lulu’s second blog.

While it will be some time before the students can accurately communicate about past events (ACTFL says this is an Advanced task), these introductory lessons should provide an important first step at contextualized use of these structures for communicative tasks.  Stay tuned for how I will use learning stations to further reinforce the concepts in this unit, as well as for the IPA that I will use to assess their learning.