An “Imperfect” Unit on Castles for Novice High Learners (Part 1)

chateauFor most of my teaching career I’ve included a unit on castles in either French 2 or French 3.  Most students seem inherently interested in this topic, and each year when I put up the bulletin board the older students comment on how much they liked the unit.  When traveling with students, I often choose an itinerary that includes the Loire Valley so that the students are able to visit some of the castles that they learned about.

While a lot of my former activities focused on teaching students to identify various Loire Valley castles and memorize facts about them, I changed the focus this year.  Instead, the students will begin by learning about medieval/fortified castles and what life was like during the Middle Ages.  Time permitting we’ll also study the Renaissance and the Loire Valley castles, but having five snow days has really taken a chunk out of the time that I had planned to spend on this unit.

As you will see, I am also using this unit to introduce my students to the imperfect tense.  These students worked with the passé composé during their school and Martinique unit, so I feel like they’re ready for an introduction to the imperfect.  At the same time, I want to give them additional opportunities to become more accurate with the passé composé, so I’ve included activities that will enable them to use each tense, although I won’t be focusing on using them together quite yet.

Here are the lessons that I’ve prepared so far: Castle Unit

#1 Fortified Castles (2 days) Students will read a few pages from a French children’s book (p. 4/5p. 6/7p. 8/9) and complete an IPA-style interpretive task.  After a short “Focus on Form” activity designed to focus their attention on the verbs in the reading, they will interview a partner about his/her childhood using the verbs that appeared in the reading. They will then complete a Venn diagram comparing their childhood to their partner’s.  Next, they will watch an authentic video about medieval castles and complete a true/false interpretive activity.  Due to the difficulty of the video, this will be a whole class activity in which I project the video and pause it when necessary to discuss the responses.

#2 Castle Life (2-3 days) In this lesson the students will read another section from the same children’s book (p. 10, 11p. 12/13, pp. 18,19)  and complete another IPA-style interpretive task, along with a corresponding “Focus on Form” activity.  They will also interview a partner using the new verbs that were presented in the text.  As a follow up activity, they will fill in a Venn diagram comparing their own childhood to that of a child in the Middle Ages.  Next, they will watch a video and complete a true/false activity.  As with the previous lesson, this will be a whole group activity.  Due to the content of the readings in this lesson, I included an additional presentational task in which the students will write a journal entry for a medieval teen who has attended a feast.  I hope that by including this activity the students will begin to develop an idea of the differences between the two tenses.  I will answer questions as they come up, but will not inductively present a lesson on these differences.

#3 Castle Defense (2-3 days) This lesson will also begin with an IPA-style interpretive task over pages from the children’s book (p. 20/21p. 22/23p. 24/25p. 26/27) . They will then use the information they learned to write a journal entry for a lord whose castle has just been attacked.  Next, they will watch another video and complete an information gap in which they describe a series of knight portraits. Following this activity, they will write another journal entry, this time for a knight who has just won a jousting match.

I think these lessons will increase my students knowledge about the medieval period and they might even learn a bit of grammar along the way.

 

 

 

26 thoughts on “An “Imperfect” Unit on Castles for Novice High Learners (Part 1)

  1. Jennifer

    This is really great! I love the children’s book and how you integrated it into a lesson that wouldn’t feel childish to high schoolers. I have a question, though. Is there a page missing? I was looking at part 2: Les chateaux forts, pages 10-13 and the exercises reference a feast but there is nothing on pages 10-13 about feasts. Am I missing something?

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Oops! Thanks for the heads up! The book is at school, but I’ll try to scan it and add it to the post tomorrow. Sorry about that–I really appreciate your letting me know!

      Reply
  2. Rebecca B.

    Love this topic. I haven’t explored it with my students but it’s very popular at home with my kids. Two books that I recommend on this topic are Les Chevaliers et les châteaux forts (ma baby encyclopédie Larousse) and Les Châteaux forts (Kididoc, Nathan). Lots of clear visuals, contrast lifestyle of famille du seigneur & famille du menuisier, questions vrai/faux, etc.

    Reply
  3. Megan

    This will be wonderful when I get to my imparfait unit in French 2! I’m quite partial to the chateaux, having studied in the Loire Valley in college :). Merci!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      I’m so jealous–I would have loved to have had that experience! I’ve had to settle for visits to the chateaux with students (and once with my husband.) It’s such a beautiful part of the country!

      Reply
  4. Lisa O.

    Merci! Thank you for generously sharing your wonderful ideas! I cannot wait to try this with my kids as I think their imaginations will be captured. One question, in part III, is there a PDF for pages 26-27? The section subtitle indicates pages 20-25, but then there seem to be items from pages 26-27. Merci!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Lisa. Thank you for your kind comments! I think all the pdf’s are there. I might have decided not to include questions for the last couple of pages. I can double check when I get home. (I’m in the car traveling home from vacation right now.) I hope your kids like these lessons as much as mine did!

      Reply
      1. Lisa

        Merci! I’m sure my kids will LOVE the change of pace. We now have access to iPads and I think this will be a cool way to make use of them. I’m inspired by your work and will try to come up with some resources to share when I have more time this summer. :o)

        Reply
        1. madameshepard Post author

          Lisa, you are, of course, correct. There is a pdf missing. I’m so sorry about that. I’ll have to get the original from school on Monday, and then I’ll add it to the post. Thanks so much for letting me know! I’ll look forward to your sharing your materials! Lisa

          Reply
  5. Kerri

    Where do you get the time???? After finishing le passé composé with my French 2, I decided that they were ready to have an introduction to l’imparfait. The kids loved the castle aspect and are truly enjoying this nice surprise. After completing the communication interpersonnelle, students were noticing a pattern: use of imparfait and it’s forms. I’m going to use the journal entries as grades this quarter and play some games as we prep for a vocabulary quiz from this lesson. If I track them in French 3, I would like to try the Fairytale lesson with them. Thank you for sharing and inspiring!!!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Kerri. I’m so glad that your students are enjoying this lesson! As for time, I just look at my work as a hobby. Some people do crafts, go shopping or watch TV, and I plan lessons. Somehow looking at it this way makes me feel better 🙂 I am also very fortunate to have an extremely generous husband. He has done nearly all of the laundry, shopping, and cooking this year so that I could create a new, proficiency-based curriculum for my students. It has been a very exciting year, and I think we’re both ready for the summer to come in a few weeks! Thanks a lot for taking the time to post a comment, it really makes a difference to know that other people are able to use some of my work!

      Reply
  6. Natalia

    Thank you for sharing your work. I used parts of the unit to successfully focus on Imparfait which worked wonderfully. I later decided that I may want to extend this until a bit more next year, did some research and wanted to share with you the resources I found, in case you or your readers may find them useful. You can find my list of authentic documents/sources for your consideration here (please, excuse my mix of franglais) https://www.evernote.com/l/ACk5yqDhFPVKJ5m2ltar_4aEJ0_MNAMkx7I.

    Reply
  7. Cris

    Thank you so much for sharing so many ideas with us!!! I LOVE your lessons/units!! Merci mille fois!!!
    I was wondering who the author is of the “Les Châteaux Forts” book that you use with the IPA. Merci encore!!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      You’re welcome and thank you for taking the time to comment! The book is called Les chateaux forts and it’s published by Débutants Usborne.

      Reply
  8. Michelle Fournier

    Our 7th graders do a big medieval unit in social studies. I’m thinking of integrating a little bit of medieval stuff in each of my 7th grade units, so, for example, when we discuss houses we will also discuss castles. Your work on this will be very useful. Can you tell me the name of the children’s book you used in this unit and where I might obtain a copy?

    Thanks,
    Michelle

    Reply
  9. Lana

    I’m loving this unit, thank you so much for sharing! I’ve made 3 Kahoots to use with my students to provide more repetitions after we read each of the 3 parts of your packet. I’m enclosing the links as a thank you for your generosity and to save time to anyone who likes to use Kahoot in their classes.
    Part 1 https://play.kahoot.it/#/k/2a013cd6-c4d5-4413-9f24-22d4206f2242
    Part 2 https://play.kahoot.it/#/k/bb341169-16f0-4b89-a466-04784cd36180
    Part 3 https://play.kahoot.it/#/k/19d7e49a-7a43-4be5-b925-fea8c9da940e

    Reply

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