Joyeux Noël : A unit for Novice Learners

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One of the great things about being a French teacher is that a wide variety of themes can be used to advance the proficiency levels of the students.  For this reason, I’ve always felt very comfortable teaching a unit on Christmas.  I know that the students will be introduced to a variety of vocabulary and structures as they complete the interpretive tasks in this unit and that the fluency and accuracy they develop through the interpersonal and presentational tasks will increase their overall proficiency.  While I have always focused on Christmas as a target culture celebration (avoiding religious-themed texts), the diversity of my students this year makes this essential.  In my French 1 class alone, I have students from 17 different countries!  As a result, my activities will focus on vocabulary acquisition and Francophone culture, with few or no personalized responses.

I will begin this unit by passing out a packet with the communicative goals, vocabulary, and structures for this unit.  In my French 1 class, I am going to concentrate on question words as a structure.  I chose this structure because of its important role in increasing proficiency in the Interpersonal mode.  I’ve introduced the vocabulary by presenting each word in the context of a sentence, which is depicted in a picture.  I’m hoping that this will help the students increase their sentence-length communication as we work on the vocabulary.  Here’s the packet:2014 packet_noel

For the next week the students will begin memorizing the vocabulary through a variety of activities.  For the first couple of days we will play a Loto game that I purchased from Teacher’s Discovery.  This helps the students hear the correct pronunciation of the words over and over again.  While I sometimes call just the isolated word, at other times I say a sentence which includes the word.  The winners have to say the words in their winning row, which enables me to provide further feedback on pronunciation. After we play as a whole class, I also have them play in small groups, with the students taking turns calling the words they need to make a Bingo.  This enables me to circulate around the room, providing additional feedback on pronunciation.

In addition to the Loto game, the students complete a variety of interpersonal activities to practice the vocabulary as well as increase their fluency and ability to negotiate meaning.  In the following document I have included three separate partner matching activities— each focusing on either snowmen, Christmas trees, or Santa Claus.  For each of these activities the students will number a sheet of paper according to the number of pictures in the activity.  They will then take turns describing a picture to their partner, who will tell them the number or letter of the picture on their paper which is the same as the picture that their partner describes.  Each partner will fill in the letter next to the corresponding number on their sheet of paper.  While I don’t grade these papers, I will often do a quick formative assessment in which I describe five of the pictures and they write down the corresponding number or letter, depending on which they have on their paper.  In this way I don’t penalize a student whose partner has given him/her the wrong number or letter during the interpersonal activity.  Here’s a document with the activities:noel_matching

In addition to these matching activities, I’ve created several activities which require partners to describe their picture in order to figure out which items are missing.  These are easy to create by beginning with a coloring page (see Google Images), printing two copies, and whiting out several items from each copy and then photocopying the originals.  I also have used Christmas stickers to make activities in which a pair of students are each given the same ten stickers (stuck onto cut up index cards).  One student places the stickers in a row and then describes each sticker to his/her partner (a binder between the two prevents them from seeing each other’s stickers).  After all ten pictures are described, they remove the binder to check whether they completed the activity correctly.

Throughout this week, the students will also complete a variety of interpretive reading activities designed to teach them about holiday celebrations in Francophone and other cultures.  I have included some interpersonal activities with these readings, but have changed the context of these interview questions so that they are not Christmas specific.

In this activity, the students read about Christmas traditions throughout the world and complete an interpretive activity: Quelques traditions de Noel dans le monde

In this one, they complete an interpretive activity about Christmas shopping, and then interview a partner as a follow-up interpersonal activity: Shopping de Noel dans le monde

The presentational activities that the students do during this unit will mostly involve describing pictures orally and in writing.  This skill is appropriate to their proficiency level and will avoid requiring the students to use the vocabulary in a personalized context, which I don’t feel would be appropriate for these students.

Here’s the IPA that I prepared for this unit: noel_ipa

For the interpretive listening the students will watch a video about a donkey who goes sledding.  For the Interpersonal speaking, they will take turns describing holiday pictures in order to decide whether each one is the same or different.  For the Presentational writing they will write an e-mail about French holiday traditions and for the Interpretive reading they will read an article about European holiday traditions.

Joyeux Noël!

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