Intouchables: A work in progress for Intermediate Students

IntouchablesI can think of no better way to expose my upper-level students to authentic language and culture than by showing a well chosen target language film. While my students don’t always appreciate French films in the same way that I do, Intouchables has proven to be just as popular with my students as it has been with the rest of the world. While the R-rating may make it impossible for some teachers to show this film, I included the parental advisory information from IMDB on my permission slip and all parents allowed their children to see the film.
Once I had their permission, second step was to design a unit that would ensure that the students were engaged in all modes of communication as we watched the film. I began this unit with both an Interpretive Reading and an Interpretive Listening task to familiarize the students with the film and the true story on which it is based. When designing the reading task, I did my best to model the types of questions that are used on the AP French Language exam. Thus, the questions are multiple choice and include main idea, supporting detail, contextualized vocabulary, and inference questions. Although I began incorporating these kinds of questions last year, I still struggle to write good questions of this type. Unfortunately, my students seem to have as much difficulty answering these questions as I do writing them and I did not end up counting this task as a grade. I did, however, learn a lot from this process. When I returned the papers to the students, I asked them to highlight the passage where they had (supposedly) found each answer. There were a lot of “Aha” moments during this activity as the students realized why they had made the mistakes they had when they were forced to justify their answers with proof from the text. I will continue to require students to highlight passages when answering multiple choice questions in order to ensure that they are making inferences rather than guesses. Here’s the task as I wrote it, with the caveat that I will make significant changes before using it again—all suggestions are welcome!!! intouchables_reading
Unfortunately, I was not any more successful in designing an Interpretive Listening task that was appropriate to the students at this level. While I wrote an open-ended task, rather than multiple choice, the videos were too difficult for the students to understand independently. After getting feedback to this effect from the first few students to attempt the task, I ended up showing the videos as a whole class activity and stopping to ask questions orally. This worked well, and I think it was valuable for the students to see the real life men behind the characters in the film. Here’s the task I originally designed, in case you’d like to see the videos I chose. (We only watched the first few minutes of the second video.) listening
After these introductory tasks, it was time to show the film. For the next four days, I showed about 30 minutes of the film each day and then gave the students time to discuss the tracks they had watched. Here’s a draft of the discussion questions I started with (film_guide), although I encourage them to use these questions as a springboard to a broader discussion which incorporated their own ideas. I was really happy with how these discussions went and the students seemed to feel good about their ability to engage in these discussions. I circulated among the groups each day, and was able to formatively assess each student by the final day.
When the film was over, I administered an IPA that a colleague and I wrote for the film. As this document shows (intouchables IPA), the IPA included another AP-style reading assessment (on a pair of reviews of the film) a multiple choice listening assessment (on a video in which passersby give their opinion of the film), a Presentational Writing (review of the film) and Interpersonal task (a role-play based on a scene in the film). The students practiced each of the role plays with a partner on the day before the IPA, but were not allowed to choose which role play they would perform or who their partner would be on the day of the assessment. While I don’t yet have all of the data (we began the IPA’s today), the students are demonstrating some improvement in their ability to answer multiple choice questions on the reading (most of which were written by my colleague). I am optimistic that both my ability to write these questions and their ability to answer them will improve with practice. The students were also able to demonstrate comprehension of the video, although there is still, of course, plenty of room for improvement.
I would be so grateful for any feedback and suggestions from those of you that teach AP level students. Do you write AP style multiple choice questions for your interpretive tasks, or more open-ended ones? Are your students generally successful on these questions?
Thanks in advance for your help!

15 thoughts on “Intouchables: A work in progress for Intermediate Students

  1. Pingback: Retour sur expérience - Avec le film &qu...

  2. Bethany

    First of all, thank you so much for sharing your ideas with the world! I am a first year teacher and finding your blog has been such a blessing to me!
    I almost used this movie in my Fr. 3 class- we watched several movie trailers, this one included, and the one they liked the best was Les Intouchables. I chickened out at the last minute of letting them watch the whole movie because it is rated R, but I think I will just do what you did and send some info to the parents so that they can sign off on it. It’s such a good film and too good to not try!
    I have one question about your process- when you showed the movie, 1) did you get if from Netflix? and 2) did you have English subtitles on?
    Again, thank you for being awesome and proficiency-based!

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Bethany! Thank you so much for your kind comments! I think the permission slip is a good idea. I posted a link to the parent advisory on IMDB in my permission slip so that the parents who were interested could see exactly why it was rated R. I had several students rewatch it at home with their parents because they liked it so much and I didn’t get any feedback that people felt it was inappropriate. I did use English subtitles (I own the DVD) with this one. While I think that my students could have understood most of what Philippe said, Driss is a little more difficult because he uses so much more slang. Unfortunately, there aren’t any French subtitles on the DVD. I hope your students enjoy the film as much as mine did!

      1. Janice

        Thanks for posting Lisa! I am using the discussion questions with my AP French class as a cultural end of year discussion. Saved me so much time. I usually use the study guide published by IFIEducation but like the discussion question you created to go a little deeper in discussion. You are very much appreciated!!

  3. Becky Stiles

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing these materials. It is so very generous of you. You have saved me hours of preparation! Your questions are much more accessible than many of the “published” AP test prep questions. My students are usually discouraged by those and they find them to be very difficult. I think they will be appropriately challenged byt he questions you wrote. Thank you again.

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thank you, Becky! I really appreciate your taking the time to leave such a nice comment!I’ll look forward to hearing how the materials work out for you! Lisa

  4. Erica Davis

    Merci bien d’avoir partager votre travail. Je n’arrivais pas a creer des questions qui faisaient de la justice au film. Mes eleves adore ce film. Grace a vous, j’aurai un point de depart pour notre discussion. 🙂

  5. Madame B.

    Bonjour Madame Shepard,

    I’m currently doing my student teaching in Michigan and my mentor teacher and I just wrapped up watching the film in our French IV class. Our students loved the film and the materials you prepared to guide the viewing were very helpful. I’ve bookmarked your blog–it will be a wonderful resource as I complete my teaching certificate coursework and when I start teaching full time.

    Here’s a link to another article that I found [I edited it down slightly before giving it to students] that could work well for students to read either before or after viewing the film :

    Merci encore une fois! Just wanted to let you know that your posts are helpful not only to pre service teachers like myself but also to seasoned professionals like my mentor teacher!

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thank you so much for your kind comments, as well as for sharing the link. I’m so proud that my blog has become a place for French teachers to share–exactly what I’d hoped when I started it!

  6. Polly Henshaw

    salut! I am wondering if anyone has answers to the iPA for Les Intouchables. This is a difficult one and I just wanted to make sure that I had the correct answers before I graded it!


  7. Lena

    Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful materials!
    I’m thinking of showing Les Intouchables in class soon. Would you mind sharing the permission slip you used please?
    Merci d’avance!

    1. madameshepard Post author

      I’m sorry but I don’t have it anymore. I’m not allowed to show any R-rated movies at my current school.


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