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!

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