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.