Monthly Archives: March 2015

La Préhistoire: A project-based unit for Intermediate Low French students

prehistory My French 3 students will spend 4th quarter learning about a few different eras in French history.  I haven’t taught this content for a few years, but when I did so my students were engaged by the project-oriented approach to the mini-units.  In most cases my students know little about early man’s way of life and are naturally interested in it.  In addition, the numerous prehistoric caves in France make this content-based unit culturally relevant.

In order to provide the students with important background knowledge about prehistoric humans, I will begin with an interpretive task in which the students will read an article about two prehistoric people—Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal (p.1p. 2). Because it is my intention to provide content knowledge, rather than assess in-depth comprehension, I am providing only a supporting-detail task for this article.  The students will respond in French in order to prepare them for next year’s assessments which will all be in French, as well as to enable my recent non-English-speaking new student to fully participate in the lesson. After the reading activity, I will play part of a Ce n’est pas Sorcier video about Neanderthals. Here’s the document with these activities (prehistoryunit)  In order to familiarize the vocabulary for this unit (vocabulary pics), we will play Password.  I have also chosen to insert a quick lesson on relative pronouns here.  I have done very little direct instruction of grammatical structures this year, and most of my students are correctly using qui/que, but I wanted to do a brief presentation to reinforce their understanding. I will also introduce dont, which they will most likely not be able to use correctly for some time, but might at least recognize after this lesson.

After these activities to develop the students’ background knowledge and vocabulary for this content, I will move onto the project portion of the unit. As the packet (prehistory project ) explains, I will give each pair of students a photograph of a prehistoric artifact used by either Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon people. This Google Presentation contains the photographs I will use: and this document (slide links) lists the sites where I found the pictures, to serve as a key.  The students will begin by filling in a graphic organizer with their hypotheses regarding the object. The students will first jot their own ideas in the graphic organizer, and then discuss their ideas with their partner, adding his/her ideas to the table.  On the following day, the students will read articles about various aspects of prehistoric life in order to support or refute their hypotheses.  Because I have a collection of children’s books about prehistory, I will photocopy relevant pages and make them available to the students.  While scanning all of the pages I will use is time-prohibitive at this point, this step could easily be completed using online resources. As the students research, they will fill in the graphic organizer with information that either supports or refutes their hypotheses about the objects. They will then share their information, so that each has a completed graphic organizer with both of their research findings.  The students will then use the information they have recorded to write a letter to a prehistoric art dealer to whom they would like to sell their artifact.  They will then present their information orally to the art dealer (me), answering any questions that “I” may have.  As a final assessment the students will complete these IPA-style interpretive tasks on an article and video about Lascaux (Lascaux IPA).  While I have included pdf’s for the relevant pages of the article (p. 10p. 11p.12p. 13p. 14p. 15), you will also find a link to a site that will enable you to buy a copy of the article in its entirety.  I was thrilled to find the video that I have used here.  Not only does it include wonderful images of Lascaux, but it is narrated by elementary children which will make it comprehensible for my students.


Spring Cleaning?: A Novice Mid unit on household chores

cleaningAlthough I had intended to include vocabulary and structures related to chores in my French 1 unit on the house, I ended up having to abbreviate the unit in order to administer the IPA before Spring Break.  I didn’t want to totally omit this part of the unit, however, so I’m incorporating this vocabulary and structures into a mini-unit that we will do when we come back to school.  I thought this unit was especially important because the house unit was very heavy on vocabulary and very light on sentence structures.  Although I was happy with my students’ performance on the IPA, they were able to complete those tasks by relying primarily on structures such as “Il y a” and “est.”  As we begin the fourth quarter, I want to make sure that my students are able to use a variety of verbs with different subjects.  While I won’t expect total accuracy at this point, I want to make sure that they’re beginning to develop an understanding of the idea of verb conjugation.

Click here (Chores unit) for the packet of activities that I will give to my students in this unit.

Lesson 1 (2 days) On the first day of this lesson students will begin by reading an infographic about how much time French people spend on household tasks and will complete an IPA-style interpretive task.  Next, they will play a Guess Who game (Guess Who ) to reinforce the vocabulary related to household chores.  Following this pair activity, they will write a paragraph about their personal responsibilities around the house. I will begin the second day of this lesson by playing the video and having the students complete the comprehension questions.  Following this interpretive activity, they will interview a partner about his/her chores and complete a Venn diagram comparing their responsibilities. Note: This activity is not included in the packet, I just have them do it on loose-leaf.  I like using Venn diagrams because they provide a context for practicing both first and third person verb forms in written form, while orally practicing the second person.

Lesson 2 (2 days) The students will also begin this lesson with an IPA-style interpretive task in which they read two different infographics about gender differences as they relate to household tasks.  Next, they will interview a partner about who does various tasks in his/her family, after which they will write sentences telling what chores various members of their family do.  Lastly we will listen to a video in which discusses chores and gender.

Lesson 3 (2 days) The students will begin this lesson by reading a comic about two brothers and how each one clears the table (PicPik) .  They will then watch a children’s video about a creative way that one girl clears the table.  This video will be very difficult for them, so I’ll provide lots of scaffolding as we listen as a class.  Next they’ll do an information gap activity (Chores Matching) to practice the vocabulary, followed by a writing activity in which they write a note to a sibling in which they explain how to do the dishes.

Click here for the IPA on this mini-unit. (chores_ipa-2015 )  Here’s a quick description of the tasks:

Interpretive Listening: Trotro range sa chambre cartoon video.

Interpretive Reading: Article about the types of chores that children can do at various ages.  All of the tasks can be completed by reading only the sections associated with the age groups.

Interpersonal Speaking: Students discuss their which members of their families do various chores.

Presentational Writing: Students write an e-mail complaining about the chores they have to do while staying with a host family.

I’ll be doing some traveling over break, so if it takes me a little longer than usual to reply to your comments, please know that I’ll look forward to hearing from you when I’m back home!


Maison Sweet Maison

Anonymous-my-houseIn between the standardized testing and weather days that have plagued my schedule over the past few weeks, my French 1 students have been learning the vocabulary and structures they need to both talk about their homes and understand authentic resources about French homes.  Although I would have preferred to introduce this vocabulary in a more contextualized way, I found myself relying on a more traditional format for this unit due to the limited time frame that I had and the amount of vocabulary I wanted to introduce.  Because these students had done so much reading throughout their previous unit on food, I wanted to focus on oral activities rather than written texts to reinforce this vocabulary.  As a result, I provided the students with a visual vocabulary list of rooms and furnishings (House packet) and then devoted one to two (shortened) class periods reviewing each room’s vocabulary using a variety of (mostly) communicative activities. For each room, I included some or all of the following activities:

  1. A short educational video to present the vocabulary for the furnishings in the room being studied. Because I prepared my list before choosing the videos, the words are not identical. If I teach this unit next year, I may modify my list to mirror the words in the videos, although I do feel the students can benefit from the exposure to additional vocabulary.
  2. A Google Presentation featuring two to three photographs of the “room of the day.” I would project the first room and ask students questions about what they saw in the picture: Il y a un lit? De quelle couleur est le couvre-lit? Qu’est-ce qu’il y a sur la table de chevet? Est-ce qu’il y a un tapis sous le lit ? I would then project the second picture and give the students five minutes to practice describing the room to a partner.  I then called on two to three randomly-selected students and asked them to describe the room to the class.  I assigned a formative assessment grade and written feedback to the students who were chosen for this informal presentation. Note: I will modify this presentation to include photographs of rooms in French homes, rather than randomly selecting Google Images if I teach this unit again.
  3. After these presentations, the students completed an information gap with a partner to further reinforce their vocabulary acquisition and oral fluency. I used the following three types of information gap activities in this unit:A) Matching: Student A and Student B each have a paper with the same pictures (labeled with either numbers or letters), but in a different order. Students will take turns describing their pictures and sharing the corresponding numbers/letters until they each have a list (on a separate paper) of all of the number/letter matches.B) Same/Different: Student A and Student B each have a paper with several numbered pictures. They discuss each one in order to determine whether it is the same or different on their papers. They then write either “M” for Même or “D” for Différent (on a separate paper) for each item.C) What’s missing: Student A and Student B each have a picture from which some items have been whited out. The students discuss their pictures in order to determine which items are missing from each one.
  4. After the information gap partner activity, I projected a short authentic video which featured the “room of the day.” Due to the difficulty of the videos, I paused them frequently to ask questions using the new vocabulary, but did not expect the majority of the students to understand more than the main idea of the video.
  5. Lastly, I projected an additional room photograph and required the students to write a paragraph describing the room. This paragraph provided an additional formative assessment/opportunity for feedback for these students.

Note: Although I had intended to include household chores in this unit (and this vocabulary is included in the packet), I will not be able to do so before our quarter ends next week.  Therefore, I will do a mini-unit on this topic after our Spring Break.

Here’s a link to Google Presentation with the photographs and videos I used in this unit:

Here’s a document with some of the information gap activities that I used in this unit: Pair Comm. Activities 

After these introductory vocabulary activities, the students completed the following learning stations (House Unit Learning Stations):

Computer Station: Students completed a series of interactive activities designed to reinforce the vocabulary for the unit.

Reading Station: Students completed an IPA-style interpretive task based on an authentic blog post comparing French and American houses.

Speaking Station: Students completed two different pair activities at this station.  In one, they discussed the respective house pictures in order to identify differences.  In the second, they took turns placing the magnets in the rooms on a commercial game and described their arrangement to a partner who placed his/her magnets in the same location. I listened to the students and provided feedback and a formative assessment grade at this station.

Writing Station: Students wrote a written description of their (real or imaginary) homes for a home exchange website. This assignment will serve as the rough draft/formative assessment for the presentational writing portion of their IPA.

After the students have rotated through these stations, they will take an IPA based on the topic of a home exchange: House-Unit-IPA , House IPA Reading

Interpretive Listening: The students will watch a short video—“La maison préférée des Français” and answer English comprehension questions.

Interpretive Reading: The students will read three different descriptions of homes currently listed on a home exchange website and complete an IPA-style interpretive task.

Interpersonal Speaking: Students will discuss the photographs of the homes whose descriptions they read and discuss whether or not they would like to stay in each one and why.

Presentational Writing: Students will write a description of their own home that could be posted on the home exchange website. Students are given the option of describing either their actual or an imaginary home for this task.

Although this unit does not rely exclusively on authentic materials to introduce and practice vocabulary, I think these activities will help the students memorize a significant number of high-frequency vocabulary items.  I will be curious to see how the more traditional vocabulary introduction will influence the students’ success on the IPA.


Jour de la Terre (2): Les Espèces Menacées

environment 2In between the endless hours of standardized testing and weather delays, my French 3 students have been working on a unit on the environment. (If you missed the first half of this unit, see this post)  While this topic might not be as engaging as others we have studied this year, I think it was important to develop the students’ vocabulary on this subject, as many of them will be enrolled in AP French next year.   As those of you who teach AP already know, the environment is an important subtopic for the “Defis Mondiaux” theme that is part of the AP curriculum.

Having completed lessons on global warming, pollution, and preservation, we were ready to move onto the most interesting part of the unit— a series of lessons on endangered animals. I have included a unit about animals in my French 3 curriculum for the past several years and have found that my students, like me, are especially engaged by this topic.  While my treatment of the topic was quite simplistic in past years (students chose an animal from Francophone Africa, researched it, and presented it to the class), I wanted to kick it up a notch this year by focusing more on how global perspectives relate to the problem of endangered species.

Here’s the packet of activities that I prepared:Environment Unit – Pt 2

For the first lesson, we watched a Brainpop video about endangered species.  I projected the video and played it to the whole class, using the French subtitles for additional scaffolding.  I stopped the video frequently to check for understanding and give the students time to answer the written comprehension questions.  Although I have previously used English for these questions, we have recently welcomed a new student into our French 3 class who speaks very little English.  Having been educated in Rwanda, she is a fluent speaker of French so I am using as much target language questioning as possible.  Following the video, the students took the quiz that is included with the video as a formative assessment.  The following day, the students read an infographic about poaching and rhinos and completed an IPA-style interpretive task. They incorporated the information in this article into a letter to the government of the Ivory Coast.

After this introduction to some of the causes of animal endangerment, I began preparing the students for an individual research project/presentation on an endangered species. Although I do very little direct vocabulary instruction at this level, I felt that these students would need to develop a bank of shared vocabulary for their upcoming presentations, so I devoted the next couple of days on activities designed to build this vocabulary.  On the first day, I gave the students this illustrated vocabulary list:Animal Unit Vocab .  I then placed my collection of Beanie Babies on the chalkboard ledge and asked various questions, using the new vocabulary.  (Quel animal a une corne? Combien de pattes a l’autruche? Quels animaux ont des griffes? etc.) Next, I divided the class into pairs and gave each pair a Beanie Baby.  (If you don’t have a collection of Beanie Babies, pictures of animals would, of course, work just as well.) The students practiced describing their Beanie Baby with their partner for a few minutes, after which I randomly selected students to present their animal to the class for a formative assessment.  I concluded this lesson by showing the class the ever-popular Capucine video: .

I began Day 2 of vocabulary instruction by again placing the Beanie Babies on the chalkboard ledge.  This time the students played 20 questions. (Students picked an animal and their partner asked yes/no questions in order to guess which animal they had chosen.)  Next, the students completed a pair crossword puzzle communicative activity.  For this activity, student A is given a puzzle in which the horizontal answers have been filled in [Pair XW (A)] and Student B is given the same puzzle, but with the vertical answers filled in[ Pair XW (B) ].  (Neither partner has any clues, just a puzzle grid.)  The students use circumlocution to provide clues to each other until both students have a completed puzzle.  As a follow up to this activity, we played a round of $100,000 Pyramid.  For this game I project a Google Presentation on which I have typed four vocabulary words per slide.  I divide the class into two teams, and then choose two players from Team 1 to begin.  Player A is facing the screen and Player B has his/her back to it.  Player A uses circumlocution to give clues to Player B, who earns one point per correct guess in the 60-second time limit.

Now that the students had become familiar with some of the vocabulary they would need to discuss various endangered animals species, it was time to begin preparation for their individual research projects.  In order to provide an element of student choice, I downloaded this sign-up sheet (Sign-up Sheet) into a Google Doc that I shared with the class.  For homework the students typed their name next to the endangered animal they wanted to research and present.  I then gave them one class period to complete the research guide on the front page of this document:Endangered Animal Project.  We used the department Ipads for our research, and I circulated among the students to make sure that they were using only French resources.  The students will then use this information for the written and oral presentational tasks that are described on the second page of the project document.  In order to use my eight classroom computers effectively, the students will be divided into groups and will rotate among these three stations as they prepare for the summative assessments for this unit. Station 1: Students write the rough draft of the written presentational task. Station 2: Students watch a series of videos about endangered animals, which will serve as their interpretive listening grade for the unit (Endangered Animal Videos). Station  3: Students read a series of children’s books about animals. At this station, students choose from several children’s books about animals and complete short interpretive activities designed to further develop their reading proficiency.  After each group has circulated among these three stations, they will present the animal they have researched to the class.  Lastly, the students will read an article about an endangered animal and complete an IPA-style interpretive task for their unit assessment.

Although the students won’t be presenting for a few more days (more standardized testing!), they’re excited about their work and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

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!