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!

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