Category Archives: Integrated Performance Assessments (IPA’s)

Developing Context: An example from an IPA about the environment for Intermediate French students

environmentAs promised a few days ago, I’m sharing the IPA for my environment unit in today’s post. One of my goals this year has been to create more integrated contexts for my IPAs. As a Novice IPA creator, many of my early attempts could best be described as performance-based assessments organized around a common theme. Thanks to targeted feedback from my peers, I have become more proficient in my writing IPA-writing skills and my recent assessments have been more tightly integrated around a specific context.

Although it might seem counterintuitive, I have found that I can more easily create a context if I have already chosen an appropriate authentic resource for the interpretive reading task. For example, the text for this IPA is an article from a French teen magazine in which students are interviewed about what they do for the environment. After choosing this text, I asked myself why my students might find themselves reading an article like this one (besides for my class!). One possibility might be that they were going to be attending this school as an exchange student and wanted to know more about it. Next, I needed a recorded text that would be relevant to this context. I got really lucky on this one! When I did a YouTube search of the name of the school, I found a video in which students and staff members discuss how they are meeting their goals of being a more environmentally-friendly building. Does it get any better than that?

After the interpretive tasks were created, I needed an interpersonal task related to this context. Under what circumstances would one of my students find herself discussing the information in this article and video with a French teenager? Hmmm, both the article and video mentioned “eco-délégués.” What if one student in each dyad was a delegate who called the American exchange student to interview him about joining this program when he arrives at the school? This context would allow each student to discuss her own personal habits as well as why certain behaviors are important—the targeted structures for this unit.

Lastly, I developed a presentational writing task that would allow these students to synthesize information they gleaned from the article, video and conversation. Since the students will discuss the role of the “eco-délégué,” I decided an authentic writing task would be to write a letter to the facilitator of this group, asking to join. This context will allow the students to write about their own behavior in regards to the environment as well as to demonstrate their interculturality about French educational programs related to this topic.

While I may continue to struggle in fully integrating the tasks on my IPAs, I’m happy with the way this one came together. If you have any hints that have helped you choose appropriate context for your IPAs, please share!

La Laïcité en France: A mini-unit and IPA for Intermediate French students

In a couple of weeks my French 4/5/AP class will conclude our unit on immigration with a series of lessons on the role of secularism in French culture. My goal in creating the activities to accompany the resources I chose was to ensure that I was inclusive of my diverse learners while at the same time accurately presenting a cultural perspective that is dramatically different than that of my community. As I found during my long-distance walk in France last summer, the topic of laïcité was guaranteed to create a lively discussion with my French hosts or other hikers. While I enjoyed these conversations, I have avoided any type of debate in this unit in order to create a safe learning environment in my classroom which contains students of various religious and cultural backgrounds. Therefore, the activities that I’ve created (click here for the student activity packet) were designed to provide the students with the background information they would need in order to make accurate cultural comparisons.
Here’s a quick agenda of how I’ve planned to implement these lessons:
Day 1: My students will watch a video about laïcité from and answer a series of comprehension questions designed to familiarize them with this concept. Next they will discuss a series of posters about this theme in small groups. Finally, they will write a paragraph comparing the cultural perspectives regarding the separation of church and state in the U.S. and France.
Day 2: First we will discuss one or more of the images I curated in this Google Presentation
( Next the students will individually watch a video about laïcité and complete a graphic organizer/comprehension questions. The students will then discuss their answers to the comprehension questions in small groups.
Day 3: We will continue discussing images from the Google Presentation as a warm up and I will then assign the reading comprehension tasks to accompany the Charte de la Laïcité. After going over the correct responses, the students will complete the discussion activity in which they compare our school culture to the rules outlined in the chart.
Day 4: We’ll begin the class by discussing their conclusions from the previous day’s discussion activity. Next, the students will perform the role play several times, changing roles and partners each time.
Day 5: The students will complete the interpretive reading and listening portions of the IPA. (I’ve chosen a multiple choice format in order to prepare the students for the upcoming AP test.)
Day 6: The students will complete the presentational writing task while I call up pairs of students for the interpersonal communication assessment.

Image credit: By Olevy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

La Famille: A work in progress

familleOver the past couple of weeks a few of my virtual colleagues have requested suggestions for designing a unit on family. Although this is a theme that I think almost all of us address in our level 1 classes, I haven’t yet gotten around to sharing my materials for this unit, mostly because I’m not completely satisfied with them. In the absence of any better excuse, I’ll blame timing. This is the 4th unit in my French 1 curriculum and it comes around in early November. Like many of you, I find this time of year a bit of a struggle. By this point, I’ve implemented all of the unit plans that I spent the summer creating and am trying to design four upcoming units while at the same time grading the endless stacks of papers for those units I’m currently teaching. I’m definitely not at my creative best at this time of the year! While I have put this unit as number 1 on my To Do list for this summer, I am sharing some activities that I used this year for those of you that might want to incorporate some of them in your own units.
As I mentioned in this previous post, I’ve chosen the context of an au pair for the IPA. This theme provides an authentic context for using both family and adjectives for describing people, which are high frequency structures that are appropriate for these Novice Mid learners. Here’s a quick outline of how I prepare the students for the IPA.  Most of these activities can be found in this packet.
Day 1: I begin this unit by presenting lots of comprehensible input with a slide show of pictures of my own family. I give each family member’s name and explain how each one is related to me as well as each other. I pause frequently during my presentation to check for understanding. Here are a few sentences from my (unwritten) script:« C’est ma fille, Bethany. Je suis la mère de Bethany. Comment s’appelle ma fille? Qui est la mère de Bethany. Et toi, Emilie, comment s’appelle ta mère ? Ta mère a combien de filles ? C’est mon fils, Richard. Richard est le frère de Bethany. Bethany est la sœur de Richard. Comment s’appelle le frère de Bethany? Qui est la sœur de Richard ? Qui est la mère de Richard ? Et toi, tu as un frère ? Il s’appelle comment ? Tu as une sœur ? Elle s’appelle comment ? » The students are therefore exposed to not only the family vocabulary but also the formation of possession with de and possessive adjectives. After this presentation, the students read Les Familles and complete this comprehension guide. (I’ve included a link to the book, which can be downloaded with a free trial subscription, in the packet.) At the end of the period, I play this silly song:
Day 2: I review the vocabulary using my family pictures and then have the students interview three classmates and fill in the table given. After these interviews they write about three family members in a presentational writing activity.
Day 3: The students begin the Lesson 2 by reading an infographic about blended families and completing a comprehension guide. After this interpretive activity they interview a partner in order to fill in his/her family tree. The time remaining is spent filling in the missing family words in the riddles, which is to be completed as homework.
Day 4: We begin this lesson by discussing the families on these “Awkward Family Photos”  After spending time describing these families, first in small groups and then as a class, the students complete the comprehension guides for the two infographics about pets.
Days 5-8: The students spend the next four days completing these learning stations.
Reading: Students read three simple authentic picture books and completed comprehension guides.
Conversation: Students complete a pair crossword puzzle, played authentic 7 Familles games and the American board game, Guess Who.
Computer: Students take Canvas quizzes on these not-quite-authentic recordings and then completed online vocabulary review activities.
Note: These videos, along with corresponding quizzes are available at (See Presenter d’autres personnes on left side.)
Writing: Students write a script for the family presentation they will do.
Day 9: Family Presentations
Day 10: I introduce the students to what an au pair is by showing this video . The video includes English subtitles so that these Novice learners can understand it, and features a male au pair, making it more inclusive for my students. After the video I had the students complete this questionnaire with their preferences as future au pairs. After the students had completed the questionnaires, I passed out several posts from an au pair website and the students completed this graphic organizer and the map on the back. While the posts that I distributed are probably not available any longer, the graphic organizer is quite generic and could be used with most of the posts from this site.
Day 11/12: The students completed the IPA for this unit. Click here for the listening comprehension questions from the Canvas quiz that I used with my students.  The video is called Caillou devient un grand frère and here’s a link . It’s only the first 4 minutes of the video (which includes several stories.)

While I’m looking forward to improving some of the activities in this unit, I’ve been pleased with the authentic context of this IPA. Several of my students have expressed interest in maybe pursuing an au pair experience of their own—a great motivation for continuing their study of French!

Le Petit Déjeuner: An IPA for Novice French Students

petitdejOne of the great things about being in the second year of the process of becoming more proficiency-based in my teaching is that I am able to rely on some of the materials I created last year.  While I’ve found myself modifying many of these units, I’m also trying to reuse those lessons that I found were effective in accomplishing the goals that I have identified for my students.  Having chosen Balance as my #oneword for this year, I definitely have to resist the urge to completely recreate each unit (Although I’m tempted!).

One unit that I’m hoping to change very little is the Food and Mealtimes unit that I used with my French 1 students last year.  This unit, which I shared in three separate posts last year (post 1, post 2, post 3), was effective in developing my students’ cultural competency regarding Francophone mealtimes as well as their proficiency across the modes. On a practical level, however, the length of this unit caused some minor record-keeping problems.  Because 80% of my students’ grades are based on end of unit IPA’s, these students had no major grades for several weeks.  In order to remedy this issue, I’ve decided to give a series of IPA’s throughout this unit. In this way I can assure that my students and their parents have adequate information about their progress throughout the unit.

This first IPA, therefore, will assess the students’ ability to communicate in each mode on the topic of breakfast.  In the interpretive reading they will interpret an article (page 1, page 2  )from Astrapi magazine about making breakfast in bed for Father’s Day.  In the interpretive listening they will watch a video about healthy breakfasts.  Although I included short answer questions here, my students will actually take a multiple choice version on our Learning Management System, Canvas. As always, I do not expect my Novice Mid students to be able to correctly answer all of these questions! I like to build lots of stretch into my listening comprehension, but to assess based on their current proficiency.  In this case, the students are only expected to be able to answer a handful of the questions by identifying key words that they have practiced for the last few days.  After these two interpretive activities, the students will complete an interpersonal communication task in which they play the role of either a Belgian teenager or American exchange student.  As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I’ve found that I can more fully integrate culture across the modes by assigning the students roles that will allow them to demonstrate the cultural competence they’ve gained as a result of their work in the unit. Finally, they will write a blog entry about Belgian breakfast habits.

Although it will take a little additional time to grade multiple IPA’s, I think the feedback that my students receive will make this extra effort well worth it!

5 Tips for Grading IPAs

teacherThe first grading period ended in my school this week so there was lots of talk in my department about how time-consuming it is to grade IPA’s.  While I am enough of a teacher nerd to actual enjoy creating IPA’s, I cannot say the same for grading them!  Here are a few suggestions that have helped me streamline the process and cut down the time I spend on this task.

  1. Assign a rough draft for the Presentational Writing. I often incorporate a series of learning stations before an IPA and one of these stations consists of writing a rough draft for the IPA. Since I have only 8 students at each station per day, the process of providing feedback is less overwhelming. The students benefit from this feedback on this formative assessment and usually do much better on the IPA as a result.
  2. Use rubrics. I began using the Ohio Department of Education rubrics this year and I really like them. Since Ohio has not yet created an Interpretive Rubric, I use the ACTFL rubric, which I’ve modified to meet my needs.  (See this post for a detailed explanation.) When grading the reading and writing sections of an IPA, I lay a rubric next to the student’s paper and check the corresponding box, making very few marks on the student’s paper. Since I will go over the interpretive sections with the class, I don’t find it necessary to mark each response on each student’s paper.  Likewise, having given specific feedback on the rough drafts, there is no need to do so on this final copy, which I will keep in my files after returning temporarily for feedback purposes.
  3. Avoid math. After I have checked the appropriate box in each section of the rubric, I determine a score for that section of the IPA. (My gradebook is divided according to language skills—reading, writing, listening, and speaking, so each IPA task gets its own score.) I use a holistic system, rather than mathematical calculations to determine an overall score for each task. If all of the checks are in the “Good” column, the student earns a 9/10.  If there are a few checks in the “Strong” column (and the rest are Good), the student earns a 10/10.  If the checks are distributed between the Good and the Developing column, the student earns an 8.  If the checks are all in the Developing column, the student earns a 7.  If there are several checks in the Emerging column, the student earns a 6.  If a student were unable to meet the criteria for Emerging, I would assign a score of 5/10, the lowest score I record.
  4. Grade the Interpersonal Speaking “live.” I know that many teachers have their students record their conversations and then listen to them later. If this works for you, you have my admiration. I know myself far too well—I would procrastinate forever if I had 30 conversations to listen to when I got home at night!  It works much better for me to call up two randomly-chosen students to my desk while the rest of the class is working on the presentational writing.  I can usually get most of the class done in one period, in part because I also place a time limit on their conversation— usually about 3 minutes for my novice students and 4-5 for my intermediates. I find that I can adequately assess their performance in that amount of time, and the students are relieved to know that there is a finite period of time during which they will be expected to speak.  I mark the rubric as they’re speaking, provide a few examples, and then write a score as they next pair is on their way to my desk.
  5. Use technology for lnterpretive Listening. Each of my IPA’s includes both an Interpretive Reading and an Interpretive Listening. Because I haven’t found the ACTFL Interpretive Template to work well with listening assessments (see this post), I am currently using basic comprehension, guessing meaning from context, and sometimes main idea and inference questions to assess listening.  Although I’ve used a short answer format for these items in the past, I am starting to experiment with creating multiple choice “quizzes” on Canvas (our learning management system).  I know that other teachers have had success creating assessment items using Zaption and other programs.  I’m still reflecting on the use of objective questions to assess listening, but these programs do offer a way for teachers to provide more timely feedback and for students to benefit from additional context to guide their listening.

If you have any tips for grading IPA’s,  please share!

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Ce que j’aime – A unit and IPA for Novice Mid French Students


Having spent the first few weeks of the school year addressing the NCSSFL-ACTFL Novice Low Can-Do Statements, I know that my students are ready to take their first big step on the proficiency path toward Novice Mid.  I’ve chosen to focus on the theme of expressing personal preferences in this unit, as this topic is mentioned for each mode in the examples given for the Can-Do Statements. Based on my prior experience, I’m sure that these students will be excited to start sharing their own opinions of various activities, sports, music and school subjects.  Here’s packet of activities that my students will complete during this unit (French-1-Unit-2-Packet (1)).

In the first lesson, they will read an infographic about French leisure time activities.  Click here for a Word document with the frames of the infographic.) This authentic text will introduce them to the important vocabulary that they will be using throughout this unit. After completing the comprehension guide, the students will interview several classmates by asking a series of yes/no questions incorporating vocabulary from the infographic. As a presentational writing task, they’ll write a letter to a prospective exchange student expressing their own preferences, as well as asking him/her some questions.

In the second lesson, the students will read a very simple online story about a girl playing basketball and complete a short comprehension guide.  They’ll also watch their first Trotro cartoon.  Although I’ve included the short answer questions I created in the packet, my students will instead take an online multiple choice quiz on Canvas, our learning management system.  At the time I originally wrote this comprehension guide, I hadn’t yet begun using Canvas, but I’ve since discovered that I really like using it for listening comprehension activities.  The multiple choice format provides valuable scaffolding and the program also provides immediate feedback to the students regarding the accuracy of their responses. For the interpersonal activity, the students will interview a partner about their preferences, and then complete a Venn diagram. They will then write 10 sentences comparing their preferences to their partner’s.

In the third lesson, the students will read another infographic and complete the corresponding comprehension guide as well as watch another Trotro cartoon. For the interpersonal task, they’ll play their first “Guess Who” game and then write sentences about one of the characters for their presentational writing task.

In the fourth lesson, the students will read an infographic about the Fete de la Musique. In addition to providing information about an important cultural event, this infographic will introduce the cognates used to describe different music genres. After another Trotro cartoon, they’ll ask a partner whether s/he likes a series of activities (represented by pictures). For this task, students will provide a more detailed response which includes a reason they like/dislike an activity.

In the fifth lesson, the students will read the first three pages of a document (originally found at:  that gives the results of a survey about French students’ preferences regarding school subjects. Although I haven’t prepared a comprehension guide, we’ll listen to and discuss this video as a class: .

In addition to the activities in this packet, I’ll project a few of the Tweets in this document at the beginning of each lesson to provide a hook.  Based on the discussion from last week’s #langchat, I am also toying with the idea of having the students respond to these Tweets (or others that I will curate at the time) in order to provide a more authentic context for their new language skills.


The context for the IPA in this unit is finding a keypal.  For the interpretive reading, the students will read posts to a keypal website. Although not closely integrated with the keypal theme, the students will watch an excerpt from the French film, Entre les Murs, for their interpretive listening task. The students will then write a post for the same website for their presentational writing task. (Students will be encouraged to actually post their response on the website.) The students will then interview a prospective keypal (classmate) about his/her preferences. Note: Due to logistics, I will be assessing the interpersonal task while the students are writing the presentational one.

Feel free to respond with any questions or comments you have about this unit!

Image Credit:

Les Vacances: An Integrated Performance Assessment for Intermediate Low French Students


vacation-149960_640As promised in an earlier post, I’ve prepared an IPA for the vacation unit I developed for my French 3 students.  Before administering the IPA, though, I want to make sure that my students are prepared for the types of tasks they’ll be asked to perform.  Therefore, I’ve created a series of learning stations (Vacation Stations) that the students will complete during the four days preceding the IPA.

Listening Station: At this station the students will watch a series of videos related to the theme of vacation.  The videos I’ve selected include both cartoons, similar to those that the students watched during the unit, and news stories like those they will hear on the IPA.  I got a little over-enthusiastic while I was working on these stations, so I ended up with more comprehension activities than my students could possibly finish in a 48 minute period.  I’ll probably assign a few of the videos as homework instead, as I think the more listening they do, the better!  Note: If you use these listening comprehension tasks as written, you need to add additional spacing for the responses.  After creating these questions, I decided to make multiple choice quizzes on Canvas for these activities, so I have not included the spaces here.

Reading Station: At this station the students will read an article from 1jour1actu (connais-tu-lhistoire-des-grandes-vacances-en-france). Because the interpretive reading activities during the unit were infographics, I wanted the students to prepare the students for the more challenging reading (also from 1jour1actu) that they will read on the IPA.

Speaking Station: Here the students will interview the other members of their station group about their summer vacations.  This activity will give the students lots of practice asking and answering the questions they will need on the interpersonal task on the IPA.

Writing Station: At this station the students will write an essay about their real or imaginary vacation. It is my intention that the feedback they receive from me on this assignment will increase their success on the presentational writing task of the IPA.

After completing these stations, and receiving personalized feedback, these students should be ready for this IPA (IPA )in which they:

  • Read an article (Moins de vacances) about the history of summer vacation in France
  • Watch two news videos about summer vacation
  • Interview a partner about a real or imaginary summer vacation
  • Write a blog post about an imaginary summer vacation

My students have done a great job on the first two lessons of this unit and I’m looking forward to seeing them demonstrate their progress on this IPA!

Assessing Proficiency: A SLO Pre-Assessment for French 2 Students

board-361516_1280In Ohio, as in an increasing number of states, teachers are now evaluated (in part) on the extent to which their students meet the Student Learning Objectives that have been set for them.  Fortunately, both the Ohio Foreign Language Association and the Ohio Department of Education have encouraged us to develop SLO’s based on student growth in proficiency.  Therefore, within the first couple of weeks of school, I will be giving this pre-assessment(French 2 SLO Pre-AssessmentSLO Article p. 1SLO Article p. 2t) to my French 2 students.  Rather than assessing their work using performance rubrics, as I do for the unit IPA’s, I will use these proficiency rubrics to assess this IPA. I will then give a post-assessment (IPA that is unrelated to a recent unit of study), to assess student growth.

How do you measure growth in your students?

Bienvenue Partie 2: Designing IPA’s for Novice Low Learners

bienvenue2 In conversations about Integrated Performance Assessments, my fellow teachers often share their concerns about using authentic texts with beginners. There seems to be a widespread belief that true beginners cannot derive meaning from texts created by native speakers for native speakers. I hope that these assessments, which will be implemented during the unit I shared in yesterday’s post, will demonstrate that even Novice Low learners can read and listen to authentic texts when the tasks are designed to correspond to their proficiency level.

As I explained in yesterday’s post, I created two separate IPA’s for this unit.  As often happens in real-life school settings, instructional decision-making is influenced by many factors.  Because this unit will not yet be completed before the interim progress report grades are due, I prepared a short IPA to be administered after about three weeks of instruction.  This assessment will provide information to my students and their families regarding their ability to use their brand-new language skills in an authentic context.

IPA #1 (Revised 9/14/2015)

As you can see, I did not follow the exact order (Interpretive-Interpersonal-Presentational) that is recommended in designing IPA’s.  In this case I used an alternative format to better meet the context of the assessments, which was a visit to a Francophone school.  Therefore, in this IPA the students will first listen to an authentic video about holidays and then read an article about France from an authentic children’s magazine (Les Pays…08082015) Next, they will respond to a note from a student in the class.  Lastly, they will answer the school secretary’s questions.  Although all of my previous IPA’s have incorporated student- to-student interaction for the interpersonal task, I will play the role of the school secretary in this instance, as the Novice Low ACTFL Can-Do’s reflect the students’ ability to introduce themselves at this level, but not to interview others. This is the “secretary’s” script:


Comment ça va?

Tu t’appelles comment?

Comment ça s’écrit ?

Tu as quel âge ?

Quelle est la date de ton anniversaire?

Merci, Bonne journée.

Au revoir.

IPA #2 (Note: the video used for the listening assessment is no longer available, but a search on “Mes fournitures scolaires” on Youtube might provide a similar video.)

In this summative assessment for the unit, I continued the context by explaining that the students were now preparing for their first day of school in their temporary home in Morocco.  Before the first day they will 1)Read the school’s list of required supplies (Interpretive Reading), 2) Listen to a video in which a student presents her school supplies (Interpretive Listening), 3) Discuss their school supplies with a neighbor (Interpersonal Communication) and 4) Make a list of school supplies they need to buy (Presentational Writing).

French 1 Unit 1 Formatives

As shown in the tentative agenda I included in yesterday’s post, I will administer a quick formative assessment after each lesson.  These quizzes are designed to assess the extent to which the students are able to identify new vocabulary words.  Any student who is not successful on any of these quizes will be given an opportunity to receive additional instruction and retake the assessment. As with the first IPA, the red text is teacher script and will not appear in the student copy.

Image Credit:

Entre les Murs: Incorporating film into an AP Curriculum

220px-Entrelesmurs Although many AP language teachers design excellent curricula by treating each AP theme in a linear way, I have chosen a slightly different approach.  Rather than designing my units around the themes or subthemes, I have designed each one around a film, and then woven the AP subthemes throughout the lessons for each film. The interlocking circle diagram used by the College Board clearly supports the interconnectedness of the themes and my syllabus was approved during the audit process, so I’m confident that this approach is appropriate for my students.  Successful results on the AP test and increased enrollment in my French 4/5 class has provided further support for this curricular design.

This year, the first unit in my AP class will be designed around the film, Entre les Murs.  Although the central topic of this unit will be Education (a subtopic of Contemporary Life), this film also addresses the following AP subthemes:

  • Diversity Issues (Global Challenges)
  • Economic Issues (Global Challenges)
  • Human Rights (Global Challenges)
  • Leisure and Sports (Contemporary Life)
  • Rites of Passage (Contemporary Life)
  • Professions (Contemporary Life)
  • Alienation and Assimilation (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Beliefs and Values (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Gender and Sexuality (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Language and Identity (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Multiculturalism (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Nationalism and Patriotism (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Age and Class (Families and Communities)
  • Childhood and Adolescence (Families and Communities)
  • Citizenship (Families and Communities)
  • Family Structures (Families and Communities)
  • Performing arts (Beauty and Aesthetics)

Before watching the film, my students will complete a series of learning activities designed to provide them with the necessary background knowledge to comprehend and discuss the film.  Following the explanation below, you will find a link to a 24-page packet of activities that I will distribute to my students at the beginning of the unit.

Lesson 1: Because this will be the first lesson of the 2015-2016 school year, my goals were to engage my students, get them communicating in French after the long break, and provide opportunities to review the structures required to narrate past events—an important expectation for Intermediate High students. In order to meet these goals I selected an authentic article from Phosphore magazine in which several teenagers tell about their favorite vacation memory.  In this lesson my students will complete a comprehension guide for this article, discuss their own vacation memories in small groups, write an article about their own vacation memory, listen to a video about low-cost vacations, discuss the video, write a blog entry encouraging French tourists to travel to our community and then prepare an oral presentation on the same topic.  Here are the pdf’s of the article: souvenir p.1souvenir p. 2souvenir p. 3souvenir p. 4

Lesson 2: In this lesson the students will look at a diagram/short article which describes the grade levels and exams which are included in the French school system.  This is important background information for further resources used in later lessons which will refer to grade levels and exams.  After a short discussion, the students will prepare a written and/or oral presentation comparing the two systems.  Finally, they will watch a Cyprien YouTube video and complete a related interpersonal and presentational activity.

Lesson 3: I designed this lesson to activate my students’ background knowledge about the Bac.  Although this important exam will not play a role in the film (whose students are middle school-aged), I think it’s important for my students to be familiar with this aspect of the French educational system.  Therefore, in this lesson the students will watch a short video as a hook to the lesson, read and discuss a brief infographic with statistics about the Bac, watch a news video with students’ reactions to their Bac results, and then discuss differences between the Bac and American college entrance exams.  Lastly, they will read a comic strip about the Bac, prepare an oral summary of the story and then write an e-mail explaining the differences between the Bac and ACT/SAT. Here’s the comic: le Bac

Lesson 4: In this lesson the students will be become familiar with slam poetry by watching and discussing the video, “Education Nationale” by Grand Corps Malade.  In addition to introducing the students to this art form, this video addresses some of the educational topics that will be presented in Entre les Murs.

Lesson 5: Finally—it’s time for the show! For the next five class periods the students will watch and discuss the film.  In the packet I’ve provided a glossary, as well as questions that can be used to assess comprehension and promote discussion.  During each “movie day” I will show about 30 minutes of film (which I will frequently pause to ask questions and check for understanding) and about 15 min. of conversational activities.  This conversation might include the questions in the packet, role plays, and “Controversial Statements” (see below). When designing role plays, I usually describe a hypothetical situation that the students will spontaneously perform.  Here are some examples from the film.


A: You and M. Marin and you’ve just come home from your first day of school.  Your partner wants to know all about your day.  Tell him/her about your day and your feelings about it.

B: You are M. Marin’s partner and today was his first day of school.  Find out all about his day including what his students and any new colleagues are like.


A: You and your partner are each students in M. Marin’s class.  Talk about how your school year is going and what you think of M. Marin and his class.

B: You and your partner are each students in M. Marin’s class.  Talk about how your school year is going and what you think of M Marin and his class.


A: You are Khoumba’s mother.  She has just brought home her “Carnet de Correspondance” with M. Marin’s comments about her behavior in class.  Ask her about what happened.  It’s up to you whether you will take her side or her teacher’s.

B: You are Khoumba and you’ve just shown your “Carnet de Correspondance” to your mother.  Explain your side of the story.


A: You are Wei’s mom or dad and you’ve just come home from your parent-teacher conference with M. Marin. Talk to Wei about what M. Marin had to say.

B: You are Wei and your mom/dad has just come home from their parent-teacher conference with M. Marin.  Respond to your parent’s comments.


A: You are Souleymane’s mom and you’ve just received a phone call from the school principal.  Talk to Souleymane about what the principal said and what you expect him to do to change his behavior.  Tell him what the consequences will be if his behavior doesn’t improve.

B: You are Souleymane and your mom has just gotten off the phone with the principal.  She’s pretty angry with you so you will try to defend yourself.


A: You are Khoumba and you’ve just come home with a cut above your eye.  Your mom wants to know what happened, so tell her.

B: You are Khoumba’s mom and you want to know why Khoumba has a cut above her eye.  It’s up to you to decide what you will do when you find out what happened.


A: You are Esmerelda and you’re angry with M. Marin for calling you a name.  You’ve decided to go to the principal about what happened.

B: You are the principal and Esmerelda has just told you about an incident with M. Marin.  Find out more about the situation so you can decide how to handle it.


A: You are Khoumba and you’ve just heard about Souleymane’s punishment.  You feel really bad about it so you go and talk to him.

B: You are Souleymane and you’ve just been expelled.  Khoumba has come over to tell you how sorry she is about what happened.  How will you react?

“Controversial Statements”

For this activity, I project a series of statements (one at a time) and the students discuss each one in small groups for 3-5 minutes. To add an additional dimension to the conversation, students earn “points” for the type of contributions that they make to the discussion. This system of points came from a resource I was given several years ago.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact wording for each level—my apologies to the creator!

1 – Makes a statement of fact

2 – Supports another’s opinion

3 – Asks a question

4 – Provides a dissenting opinion

5 – Unexpected provocation

I assign one student in each small group to be the scorekeeper who will make a note of how many points each person earns.  While I don’t actually assign the points that each student earns (in order to avoid pressure on the scorekeeper to fudge the scores), I find that this system really challenges my students to increase the depth of their discussions.  Here are some controversial statements I might use for this film.

  1. M. Marin est un bon professeur.
  2. M. Marin charrie trop.
  3. Un système disciplinaire avec des points est une bonne idée.
  4. Il est important que les professeurs aient une cafetière.
  5. M. Marin est raciste.
  6. Il est importants que des élèves participent come délégués aux conseils de classe.
  7. C’est la faute de M. Marin que Souleymane a été exclu.
  8. Marin regrette ce qu’il a dit à Esmerelda.
  9. Le proviseur devrait virer M. Marin.
  10. Souleymane mérite son exclusion.
  11. Henriette devrait aller à un lycée professionnel.

I may also have the students discuss some of these statements as homework on our class forum.  This would give them an opportunity to engage in written interpersonal communication, a skill that I often overlook in designing my lessons.

Note: I haven’t seen the film in a couple of years, so I will be able to add more specific role plays and controversial statements after re-watching the film.

Click here for the activity packet for this unit: Unit 1 Packet

Integrated Performance Assessment

After watching the film, my students will take the summative assessment for the unit—an IPA composed of the following tasks:

Interpretive Reading: The students will read an article about an educational reform related to ZEP schools (like Dolto).  I designed the interpretive task to mimic as closely as possible the question types found on the AP exam, while at the same time trying to address some issues I’ve had when designing previous AP-style questions.  Namely, I have found that my students are less likely to read carefully when presented with multiple choice questions.  I have tried various ways of addressing this problem in the past, and these are the modifications that I’m trying on this assessment:

  • I’ve required the students to underline the sentence(s) in the text where they found the response (for literal level questions)
  • I’ve required the students to justify their responses to inference and culture-based questions by writing supporting information.

Interpretive Listening: The students will watch a news video about the ZEP/REP reform and respond to multiple choice questions.

Interpersonal Communication: The students will play the roles of two teachers at Dolto who are discussing how the ZEP/REP reform would affect various students in the school.

Presentational Writing: Students (acting as a Dolto teacher) will write a letter to the French Minister of Education, requesting they be given REP status and explaining why their students need smaller classes and extra help.

Click here for a copy of the IPA: unit 1 IPA

Here’s a tentative agenda for this unit: unit 1 outline

I’d love to hear back from you about how you incorporate film in your upper-level classes!