Monthly Archives: February 2016

Jour de la Terre: A unit for Intermediate French Students

environment-303693_960_720Tomorrow my French 3 students will start their unit on the environment. Although I developed a unit on this topic last year (click here for post), I’ve made some significant changes in order to provide more opportunities for interpersonal communication. Here’s a short explanation of what I’ve planned for this year:  (Click here for the student packet.)

Lesson 1: Global Warming (2-3 days). In this lesson the students will watch a video about climate change and fill in details. After watching, I’ll allow them a few minutes to discuss their responses in small groups to provide increased interpersonal communication. This video replaces a Brainpop video that, unbeknownst to me required a subscription. I’m not sure why I was able to access these videos at the time, but since I’ve lost the ability to do so I’ve substituted other videos for each lesson. After the video and discussion, the students will read a short document (included at the end of the lesson) with things one can do to save the planet. I chose a shorter, simpler text than I had used last year, in order to shorten the amount of time spent reading as well as provide more language chunks that could be used for the interpersonal activities that follow. After the reading, the students will play a game in which they match behaviors and suggestions from the text that they read (Note: there’s an error in the directions, the yellow cards should be in the pile and the orange cards should be arranged face down). The purpose of this game is to introduce the phrases that they will be using to make suggestions throughout the unit. Each suggestion includes an impersonal expression requiring the subjunctive, which is a structure I’ve targeted for the unit. After this game, the students will interview a partner about the behaviors suggested in the text. I discovered last year that the students needed some more guided tasks before performing the open-ended role-plays that I had planned. After the interviews, the students will write a note to their partner with suggestions for how they can be more environmentally-friendly. I’ve included some sentence starters to further scaffold this task. Lastly, I’ve added the interpretive reading task from last year’s unit (Article: p. 1, p. 2)and two additional videos related to climate change. I’m not sure whether time will permit me to use this resources, but I’ve included them just in case.

Lesson 2: Pollution (2-3 days). As with the first lesson, I’ve begun with a short video that the students will use to provide details and then discuss. After the video, the students will be assigned either the A role or the B role, and will read the corresponding article. (Edit 5/8/20: Click here for a link to the B article.) After this interpretive task, each A will be paired with a B and will complete this interview activity. Again, I’ve developed a highly scaffolded task to enable the students to begin acquiring the targeted structure. This interpersonal activity will again be followed by a presentational writing in which the students make suggestions to their partner based on his/her responses. (They will speak with a different partner than they had spoken to in the previous lesson.) I’ve included last year’s interpretive reading (Article: p. 1, p. 2) and three interpretive listening tasks to be included in the lesson as time permits.

Lesson 3: Deforestation (2-3 days). I’ve begun this lesson with an interpersonal task in which the students discuss two images related to deforestation. Next they’ll watch a video about deforestation and discuss the details they were able to identify. After the video, we’ll do a “speed-friending” type of interpersonal activity in which the students write 5 questions and then interview a series of classmates. For this activity my students will be seated in pairs of rows that are facing each other. They will have 3 minutes to interview the person in front of them and when the three minutes are up, the students in one row will get up and move one seat to the right. This will continue until each student has interviewed 10 classmates. The students will then write a note to one of their classmates, giving suggestions for becoming more environmentally friendly. Once again, I’ve included the reading from last year’s unit (Article: p. 1, p. 2) as well as additional videos on the topic.
Since it’s still a work in progress, I’ll include the IPA for this unit in my next post.

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


Over the past couple of weeks a few of my virtual colleagues have requested suggestions for designing a unit on family. Being able to speak about your family in another language is an incredibly useful skill. Which reminds me, my best friend has recently been busy working on a family tree and I must ask her how she is getting on! The last time we spoke she told me that she had been using online newspaper obituary archives like this one: to track down her ancestors. I think it is so brilliant to see how far genealogical research has come over the past few years! I actually tried to compile my own family tree a few years back but now I know that there are resources out there like the ones that my friend is using I am tempted to see what else I can find out. What do you think? Do you know much about your family history?

Anyway, 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. I also think that becoming an au pair with a company like Cultural Care Au Pair is a great job to go into if they are truly passionate about learning a new language after they leave education. 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!