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!