Thoughts on Themes

thinkerAs I continue to reflect on curriculum planning, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the role of thematic units in proficiency-based instruction.  Although most of us seem to have designed our curriculum around themes, this organizational structure is not specific to proficiency-based methodologies.  Most of the textbooks I have used during my 27-year career have been divided into chapters, each of which addressed a different theme.  The difference, of course, was that themes were used to introduce a specific set of prescribed vocabulary and structures.  Rather than providing a context for students to increase their ability to use the language to express their own needs, interests, and connections to other curricular content, most of these textbooks provided non-contextualized exercises designed to increase accuracy on the structures and vocabulary that were presented.

In a proficiency-based classroom, where the focus is on what the students can do with the language, our lessons might not actually need to be organized around specific themes.  We could simply create a series of lessons based on various high-interest authentic written or recorded resource that were rich in cultural content and appropriate to the proficiency of our students. If we then created interpretive, interpersonal and presentational learning tasks based on these resources (and aligned with the level-appropriate Can-Do Statements), I think our students would probably show the same growth in proficiency as they do in a theme-based curriculum.

I imagine, however, that most of us (myself included) will continue to develop our curricula around a series of thematic units for several reasons. The main reason is that we need an organization structure that breaks big ideas (unit themes) into smaller parts (lessons) in order to meet our planning and assessment needs. Because I use the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can Do Statements to guide my instruction, I need to know at the beginning of the year that I will be addressing each of the statements that correspond to the targeted proficiency level one or more times throughout the course of instruction.  In addition, my administration, students and parents expect to see some type of course outline at the beginning of the year.  While I think it is vital that these stakeholders understand that the overarching goal of each course is to meet proficiency goals, it is also valuable to share the thematic content of the course.  Students are excited to see what they’ll be learning and look forward to the units that most appeal to their own individual interests.

Thematic units also enable us to meet our schools’ expectations in terms of student evaluation.  By organizing a series of lessons around a common theme, there is a natural point at which the summative Integrated Performance Assessment is administered.  The tasks which are assigned in each lesson allow us an opportunity to provide students with feedback and to accumulate formative assessment data to guide our ensuing instruction, so that our students will be successful on the summative tasks.

So, if we are to choose overarching themes to organize our curricula, what themes will we use? As I was revising my curricula for next year, I considered the following questions in evaluating possible themes:

  1. Is this theme appropriate to the targeted proficiency level of the course?
  2. Can I find authentic resources based on this theme that are appropriate to the proficiency level of the students?
  3. Will this theme be interesting to the students—Is it something they like to talk about, would need to talk about in the target culture, and/or a topic that is relevant to other courses?
  4. Will this theme introduce the students to new aspects of Francophone culture?

Here’s the process I used to choose my themes for each course and some reflection on each one.

French 1

Since my goal for my French I’s is that they achieve the Novice Mid level, I first looked at these NCSSFL-ACTFL Novice Mid Can-Do Benchmarks (http://www.actfl.org/publications/guidelines-and-manuals/ncssfl-actfl-can-do-statements ):

  • Interpersonal Communication: I can communicate on very familiar topics using a variety of words and phrases that I have practiced and memorized.
  • Presentational Speaking: I can present information about myself and some other very familiar topics using a variety of words, phrases, and memorized expressions.
  • Presentational Writing: I can write lists and memorized phrases on familiar topics
  • Interpretive Listening: I can recognize some familiar words and phrases when I hear them spoken
  • Interpretive Reading: I can recognize some letters or characters. I can understand some learned or memorized words and phrases when I read.  Note: All italics are mine

Since the key phrase in these benchmarks is “very familiar,” I have chosen themes that relate to the students’ immediate environment. Not surprisingly, they are closely related to the themes from my previous textbook.

  1. Introduction to French class (I cover the Can-Do Statements for Novice Low in this unit by teaching greetings, introductions, the alphabet, numbers, calendar words, colors, school supplies, and geography of France. )
  2. All about me: What I’m like and what I like
  3. My Family
  4. What I do
  5. What I eat
  6. What I wear
  7. Where I live
  8. Where I go

In addition to these unit themes, include a mini-unit on Halloween, Noel (IPA is midterm exam), and Paris (IPA is final exam).  In my opinion, there’s much less “wiggle room” at this level.  As beginners, the students need to develop a variety of familiar vocabulary.  Because most tasks at this level involved memorized language, we need to ensure that they are memorizing frequently-used words that they will need as they progress to higher levels of proficiency.

French 2

Next, I looked at these NCSSFL-ACTFL Novice High Benchmarks, the targeted level of proficiency for my French 2 students.  Specifically, I wanted to make sure I address what was new at this level, in order to make sure that the topics I chose would allow my students to increase their proficiency level.  Here are the benchmarks:

  • Interpersonal Communication: I can communicate and exchange information about familiar topics using phrases and simple sentences, sometimes supported by memorized language.  I can usually handle short social interactions in everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions
  • Presentational Speaking I can present basic information on familiar topics using language I have practiced using phrases and simple sentences.
  • Presentational Writing I can write short messages and notes on familiar topics related to everyday life
  • Interpretive Listening: I can often understand words, phrases, and simple sentences related to everyday life. I can recognize pieces of information and sometimes understand the main topic of what is being said.
  • Interpretive Reading: I can understand familiar words, phrases, and sentences within short and simple texts related to everyday life. I can sometimes understand the main idea of what I have read.

 As the italicized phrases show, it seems clear that the jump from Novice Mid to Novice High requires that students be able to participate in “social interactions” that are related to “everyday life.” Therefore I thought about whom students would talk to if they were to spend time in a target culture and what types of conversations they would have in order to come up with the following themes.  Because I have a student who will be spending the year in France as an exchange student, I thought about the most important types of social interactions she would be having and what topics she might discuss with these people that extend beyond the themes covered in French This is the list I generated:

  1. Conversations with friends
  • Discussions about daily activities
  • Making plans, gossiping
  • Discussions about things that happened at school
  • Discussions about vacations
  1. Conversations with shopkeepers
  • Discussions about buying food and other items
  1. Conversations with health professionals
  • Discussions about physical and mental health
  1. Conversations with her teachers
  • Discussions about the content of lessons

Based on this list, as well as themes that had been well-liked by previous classes, I chose the following themes for my French 2 class this year.

  1. Talking about daily activities
  • I think this is a good one to start with because it will allow the students to recycle the vocabulary and structures they learned last year. It will allow me to address several Can Do statements, as well as include cultural information by providing resources about the daily activities of people in various Francophone regions.  Although the theme of “Daily Routine” has been questioned by some of my #langchat colleagues, I think their criticism stems from the fact that we tend to focus too much on pre-determined activities with this topic, specifically those requiring reflexive verbs.  While some of my authentic resources will include reflexive verbs and I might have to do a quick pop-up lesson to explain the pronoun, the focus will be on talking about what we do and how these activities are related to our culture.
  1. Talking about other people and making plans
  • Although I didn’t use this theme before, I’ve decided to include it because I know kids like talking about other people/gossiping. I also wasn’t able to address the Novice High (Interpersonal Communication) Can Do “I can make plans with others” with the themes I used last year.  I have lots of high-interest authentic resources that I can use in this unit!
  1. Buying groceries and making food
  • Kids love talking about food and meals play such an important role in Francophone culture that this topic deserves to be recycled this year. Since the students learned the vocabulary for various foods last year, I’ll focus on the vocabulary, structures, and cultural background needed to purchase food items. I’ll also include some lessons on food preparation, in order to address the Novice High (Presentational Speaking) Can Do “I can give basic instructions on how to make or do something using phrases and simple sentences.” This is a Can Do that’s been hard for me to find another context for.
  1. Talking about how I feel and what I do to be healthy
  • It is important to be able to explain symptoms and injuries when in a target culture so I’ll keep this commonly-used theme. Last year the students especially enjoyed lessons related to mental health such as stress, so I’ll make sure to use those resources again.  This topic is also relevant because it addresses content that the students also learn in their health class.
  1. Talking about what happened at school
  • School is certainly an “everyday situation” for teenagers and is thus a relevant, high-interest theme. I’ve obviously added the “what happened” aspect to this topic in order to introduce the past tense into the students’ communication. Although students are not expected to be able to write in various time frames until Intermediate High, I think this structure must be introduced much earlier in order to provide sufficient practice to eventually achieve accuracy.  Assigning interpretive tasks on authentic resources that include the past tense is one way to introduce the students to these structures but still retain a focus on meaning, rather than form.  The introduction to past tenses at this level is further supported by the Can Do Statement “I can write about a familiar experience or event using practiced material” and the example, “ I can write about a website, a field trip, or an activity that I participated in” (italics mine).
  1. Talking about a vacation to Martinique
  • This unit allows the students to practice talking about (hypothetical) activities they did in the context of a visit to a Francophone region. They learn lots of new vocabulary that can be recycled when talking about actual vacations they have taken, as well as cultural information about Martinique. Because many students enjoy the beach and water sports, this unit has been a high-interest one in past years.
  1. Talking about life in a castle
  • Although my resources and methods have changed, I’ve been teaching units on Loire Valley Castles since 1989. Because students often cite this unit as one of their favorites and because I sometimes visit Loire Valley castles when traveling with students, I’ve decided to continue teaching this topic. In addition to being of high interest to students, this unit introduces important historical information about France and correlates to the World History curriculum in our school.  This theme also allows me to address the Novice High Can Do statement, “I can present basic information about things I have learned using phrases and simple sentences.”  Lastly, as I shared in a previous post, the materials I’ve used for this unit provide my students with an introduction to imperfect tense in a contextualized, meaningful way.
  1. Talking about a camping trip in Canada
  • As with the Martinique unit, this one is based on a topic from a textbook I had used in the past. Because my students are more likely to be able to use the language skills in Canada than France, I think it’s important that they learn to talk about thinks they might see and do while they’re there.  Although I include lessons on Quebec City and Montreal, by focusing on the context of a camping trip I’m able to introduce additional vocabulary.  I also include resources on animals that live in Canada, a high-interest topic for many of my students.  Finally, the authentic resources I incorporate into this unit introduce my students to the use of passé composé and imperfect used together, a concept that they will continue to practice in the following year.

French 3

In choosing appropriate themes for my French 3 class, I began by considering the following Intermediate Low Can-Do benchmarks (italics mine):

  • Interpersonal Communication: I can participate in conversations on a number of familiar topics using simple sentences. I can handle short social interactions in everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions.
  • Presentational Speaking I can present information on most familiar topics using a series of simple sentences.
  • Presentational Writing I can write briefly about most familiar topics and present information using a series of simple sentences
  • Interpretive Listening: I can understand the main idea in short, simple messages and presentations on familiar topics. I can understand the main idea of simple conversations that I overhear.
  • Interpretive Reading: I can understand the main idea of short and simple texts when the topic is familiar.

Because the key phrase here is “most familiar topics,” I think it’s relevant to include any topic that is either already familiar to my students, or that I familiarize them with using authentic resources.  The corresponding Can-Do statements for this proficiency level are quite general in nature, allowing me to modify them to fit any high-interest or content-based theme.  An additional consideration in choosing these topics is that many of these students will be enrolled in AP French next year, so I’m introducing some of the topics that are incorporated into the AP themes.  These are the topics that I will include this year:

  1. Education
  • The lessons in this unit are designed to teach the students about Francophone products, practices and perspectives regarding education. The cultural content of this unit lends itself to addressing the Intermediate Low (Presentational Speaking) Can-Do: “I can make a presentation about common interests and issues and state my viewpoint” as well as other content-based Can-Do’s.  The authentic resources I’ve selected for this unit will also introduce my students to the future tense in a contextualized manner.
  1. Entertainment
  • This unit, in which the students will read and listen to authentic resources on various topics such as music, movies, video games and other forms of entertainment. In addition to the interest generated by these topics, this theme lends itself to the Can-Do statements related to topics of interest.
  1. Love and Marriage
  • This is a very high-interest topic to my students and the authentic resources I incorporate present important cultural information about the role of dating and marriage in Francophone culture. The conversations and role-plays in this unit address the Intermediate Low (Interpersonal Communication) Can Do Statement, “I can use the language to meet my basic needs in familiar situations” as well as others related to familiar topics and situations.
  1. Sports
  • When I revised my curriculum last year, this one slipped through the cracks—probably because I don’t find it especially interesting. However, since it is a topic that’s relevant to most of my students, I definitely need to make sure to address it his year.  Lessons on various Francophone athletes will allow me to address the Intermediate Low (Presentational Writing) Can Do statement, “I can write about people, activities, events, and experiences” along with others related to personal interest.
  1. French Impressionism
  • This remains one of the favorite topics that I’ve consistently included in my French 3 curriculum. Impressionist works are among the most well-known products of French culture to Americans and many of my students have Impressionist prints in their homes.  In addition, the students who travel to France with me will see many of the paintings they learn about in this unit when we visit the Orsay museum.  The presentation that I assign during this unit addresses the Intermediate Low (Presentational Writing) Can-Do statement, “I can prepare materials for a presentation,” as well as others related to factual information.
  1. Environment
  • Although I’m going to work on increasing the student interest in this topic, I’m keeping this one because it is aligned with the AP themes, correlates to the curriculum of science courses, and provides an additional context for the Can-Do’s related to factual information, such as the Intermediate Low (Presentational Writing) Can Do: “I can write basic instructions on how to make or do something” for a lesson on recycling. Due to the nature of this topic, the students will also be introduced to the subjunctive in a contextualized manner.
  1. History
  • While many of my students study both World and European History, they do not seem to learn much about the history of France before the Renaissance. Therefore, I will include two separate history units in this curriculum.  The first unit, on prehistory, is especially relevant to French students because of the location of several well-known prehistoric painted caves in southwestern France. The second history unit, on Gaule, is one that the students enjoy because they are introduced to Astérix and Obélix for the first time.  The non-fiction authentic resources that the students read in this unit provides important content-based knowledge and the comic books and film familiarize the students with important figures in children’s literature.

Now that I’ve settled on my themes, it’s time to begin creating or modifying lessons. I’d love to hear what process you use when choosing themes and which thematic units have worked well for you!

 

25 thoughts on “Thoughts on Themes

  1. Megan Williams

    I recently discovered your blog and find your posts quite insightful. Thank you so much for all that you share!

    I too am working this summer to update some of the curriculum models for my district’s high school French program (I’m working on level 2 and 2H for this summer) and found myself following much of the same process you described in this post here. Are you using a particular template as you put your themes together? Or are you reorganizing/tweaking your course themes on a more informal level this summer? I’ve spent a lot of time in the past developing the themes I do in my courses, so I’m finding it a bit challenging to find a way to not just re-invent the wheel and perhaps preserve some of themes or lessons that have worked well in the past while also wanting to embrace the idea of reorganizing the curriculum to be more in-tuned with the can-do statements for the corresponding proficiency level.

    Do you have regular and honors level French courses at your school? The curriculum at my HS varies quite a bit between regular and honors so in the past, I’ve ended up introducing slightly different themes at the regular and honors level. As you mentioned, it’s a bit daunting to go about organizing themes that depart from or go out of sequence of the textbook we have traditionally used (especially for the regular level course), but I understand the importance of doing so. I believe my district will consider adopting a new textbook series in the next year or so as well, so I’m also trying to make my themes adaptable to a new supporting resource (aka textbook) down the road… without necessarily abandoning units that have worked well in the past.

    How important is the sequence of the themes you develop? In the past, I’ve so often organized my themes/units conscious of the structures I’d be introducing within each theme and how these structures build on previous structures, so I guess in my past experience, sequence has been pretty important. I was wondering what you think about that and how many weeks you generally spend on each of your themes.

    I have tons more questions, but don’t want to bombard you more than I have already. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, process, and ressources. Very inspirational!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thanks for your great questions! I’m just working on an informal tweaking this year. I made the decision last year to try teaching without a textbook, using only authentic materials. There was, of course, no way that I could curate all of the materials that I would be using for an entire year for four different preps before the year started. Therefore, I relied heavily on themes I had used with the textbook, and just found authentic materials to go with them. I wanted to be more intentional this year, as well as incorporate some great articles in magazines that I bought in France last week. I, too, am trying to avoid reinventing the wheel, and did not make significant changes to most of my courses. I found, when I studied the Can-Do’s that most of the themes I’d been using seemed appropriate. As I reflected on my themes, I found that while proficiency level determines the themes, the sequence of the themes at each level doesn’t seem especially significant. I think it is more the authentic resources that I’ve chosen and the activities that I’ve created for them which determine the appropriate sequencing. In other words, I haven’t made major changes to my sequencing, because the authentic resources/activities that I created for the beginning of each level are easier/at a lower proficiency level than the ones I used later in the year. So, even though I haven’t chosen themes to correspond to specific grammatical structures (with one or two exceptions), I have considered proficiency level when choosing the materials. So, while I could change around the order of the themes, I probably wouldn’t because I’d have to choose all new resources and create all new activities. I have promised my husband that I will NOT reinvent the wheel this year!
      In order to make my workload more manageable, I am trying to limit myself to two themes per quarter. The reason being is that this will create only two Integrated Assessments per quarter–less grading. . My students will still get lots of feedback/formative assessments, but I have not found that it helps them to have more IPA’s. I’ll also have some mini-units, such as for holidays. I’m not sure whether the kids (or me) will get bored spending 4sh weeks on a theme, though. Most of my themes are pretty broad, so I will organize them into sub-themes. I just won’t give an IPA over each subtopic, as I sometimes did last year. You asked about Honors–nope we don’t have any honors language classes in my school.
      Feel free to ask me as many questions as you want, I like collaborating and I’m the only French teacher at my school. If you’d rather have a less public conversation let me know and I’ll send you my e-mail.
      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  2. John Cadena

    Every time I read one of your posts, I end up having an “ah-ha!” moment about my own practice. Thank you so much for taking the time to publicly reflect upon your practice — it is so helpful to me and other teachers.

    Being the lone Japanese teacher on my campus, I am working on “fixing” my curriculum to be really grounded in proficiency one level at a time. I feel pretty good about the things I do in Level 1, so this year my focus is on Level 2. I have been fretting for several weeks now about which themes make sense at this level, and in reading this post, I see that you teach many of the same themes found in our Level 2 book (health, purchasing food, talking with/about others and making plans). Seeing how you’ve identified the ways in which those themes match up with performance targets from the ACTFL Can-Do’s, it gives me ideas on contexts I can use to push my own students’ proficiency in these areas! For example, being able to describe how to make a local Tex-Mex dish that would be unfamiliar to Japanese audiences. The health unit in particular is one I struggle with (because the traditional chapter from the book focuses almost exclusively on memorizing body part vocab at the word level), so I may be looking to you for some “inspiration” when I get there this year. = )

    Thanks again so much for taking your own personal time to explain your thought process and contributing to the online community of WL teachers. It is genuinely appreciated!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful message. As you must know, your work with #langchat has been life-changing for me, as well as for hundreds of others. I am honored by your comments and I look forward to continued collaboration. Lisa

      Reply
  3. Elizabeth J.

    I find your posts absolutely superb! I am not yet brave enough to step away from the textbook – due mainly to money. Your authentic resources are fabulous! My school supplies me with a subscription to <> and after looking at what you use, I have found some similar articles to spark the interests of my classes. My question is how do you share the resources with your students? Perhaps you’ve already answered this question and if so, please direct me to the post.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for the nice compliment! I’m not sure if I understood your question. I normally just photocopy articles that I find for my students. Is that what you mean?

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth Jones

        Yes, that’s exactly what I meant 🙂 Upon further investigation, I saw on an earlier post that you would display the article so that students could see the colors. I was just concerned about making color copies, but this makes sense to me now.

        Thanks again,

        Reply
  4. Denise

    I agree that themes are important for a number of reasons, and I think they are an important component of any curriculum, including proficiency-based. What are your thoughts on repeating themes within a vertical sequence–which themes should be repeated (or not) and how many times through a sequence can/should a theme be repeated? In our school, we use our textbooks as sources for our themes, but I am excited to consider how teaching for proficiency will change the way we use them.

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Denise. Thanks for the great question! I think it makes sense to repeat themes throughout the vertical sequence. I know that some schools, for example, are using the AP themes at each level, but changing the focus/essential questions at each level. Here’s a link: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Ohios-Learning-Standards/Foreign-Language/World-Languages-Model-Curriculum/World-Languages-Model-Curriculum-Framework/Content-Elaborations. Although I haven’t yet adopted the AP themes across the board, I do repeat certain themes. For example, I will teach a unit related to school in all 4 levels this year. In French I, they will learn to talk about what’s in their backpack/classroom and what classes they have. In French 2, they will learn how to talk about a bad day at school. In French 3 they’ll learn about the French educational system (grade levels, report cards, etc.) and in French 4/5 they’ll learn about the school experience of students from diverse backgrounds. So, I think repeating themes is fine, but the focus/expectations/goals/targeted vocabulary and structures/etc. will be different at each level. I’d love to hear your opinion, too!

      Reply
  5. Lisa

    Merci infiniment for your fabulous posts, particularly the recent one sharing your plans for “Entre les murs.” I had intended to begin the year with my AP class with the first AP theme, and as this will only be my second year teaching AP, I had not branched out very much as yet. But I love the idea of basing the class around film, and used “Les Intouchables” last year with great success. I plan to use that film again, but will begin with the plans for “Entre les murs” that you so graciously shared. I have a few others in mind, but was curious to learn what other films you intended to incorporate for the other themes, and if you plan to share the plans for those as well. Also, do you teach a level 4/5 compacted, or do you just label the plans as such so that you may use them for either level? Do your students do well with the activities you have created that early in the year? I will be curious to see if my students will be “à la hauteur” as it seems quite rigorous in terms of difficulty – which I think will be a good thing, but we will most probably need to do some of the activities (the Interpretive Reading REP/ZEP article) as a class. Again, thank you so very much!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Lisa. I love Intouchables, too. I’m not sure whether you’ve read this post about it (http://madameshepard.com/?p=137)? My French 4 and 5 students are in he same class, so I have an even-year and an odd-year curriculum, so that I don’t repeat lessons for any students. i do think that some of the activities in this unit will be challenging, especially for the level 4 students. I will definitely make it clear to them that I will not have the same expectations (when grading) for them as I will for the 5’s. I grade all of my assessments in this class using a curve. I’m not a math person, so it’s more of a loosey-goosey method where I look at the scores and then determine what range of scores falls into each letter grade. I seldom include any D’s or F’s. The challenge for me in designing these activities and assessments is that I want to prepare the students for the rigor on the AP Test, while at the same time realizing that most of my students have not yet reached this level of proficiency, especially at the beginning of the year. The other films that I’m planning on using this year are: Gloire de Mon Père, Mon Meilleur Ami, La Mome, Jean de Florette/Manon de la Source, Inch Allah Dimanche, and La Belle et la Bete (I’ve used the Cocteau version in the past, but just ordered the 2014 version.) Thanks for reading! Lisa

      Reply
  6. Dianne Tiner

    Hi Lisa!

    I’m getting everything ready for the next school year and because of your generosity and openness I am switching to the IPA format! I’m excited but a little nervous. I’m trying to look things over and have a general idea of what I will do this semester. I love the idea of your 2nd unit in level 2, talking about other people and making plans because I can see that being very useful to someone in a francophone country. You mentioned you have some fun resources to use with this unit. I’ve never had a chapter like this before in a textbook and I’m curious to know where you have found your resources for this because I’m trying to put something together myself. Thank you again! BTW, a colleague and I are putting together a unit in IPA on the AP theme of family and community and I will share it with you as soon as we are done! Thank you for being an inspiration! Diann

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Congratulations on making the switch to performance-based assessment! I hope you’ll keep in touch and let me know how it goes. Thanks, too, for the offer to share your AP IPA, I’d be very grateful for it! I’m almost done with the French 2 unit you referenced. I’ll probably post it on my blog in a few days, but if you’re interested I can send you what I have so far. Just let me know and I can shoot you an e-mail. Lisa

      Reply
      1. Lise

        Bonjour Lisa,
        After perusing your themes for French 2, I too am very interested in the authentic resources you have for the second unit on talking about others and making plans. Would you mind sharing with me what you have? Milles mercis!

        Reply
  7. Shari

    I COMPLETELY agree with your thoughts on not always wanting to be “limited” by the theme. There is SOOOOOO much out there. I want to expose my students to as wide of range of input as possible so that they can improve their proficiency. Any more thoughts on how to balance this when preparing “themed” units?

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      I guess my only thought is that I don’t think it matters much to the kids if we deviate from the theme. If something interesting or important comes up I’ll interrupt my theme to introduce a lesson on it. For example, last year I dropped everything in all 6 classes to teach a lesson about Charlie Hebdo. I also keep a binder of high-interest articles for my students to read as an enrichment activity if they finish work early.

      Reply
  8. Shari

    I completely think you’re right that the kids will never mind if there’s something interesting to explore! Thanks for getting back to me.

    Reply
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  11. Mary Beth Hills

    I was rereading this blog post in looking for ideas for my next unit in French 3, and I was thinking about doing health and wellness. I know you mention this for level 2, but my 3s are new to me this year and haven’t done it before so I figured I’d give it a go. Have you posted any of the health + wellness resources on your blog before? No worries if not.. just curious 🙂

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, I haven’t posted any of my health materials on the blog–mostly because I’m not especially pleased with them. In my new school this topic is covered in French 3, so I’ll be working on a unit later in the year. It will probably be too late for you, but I’ll post what I come up with!

      Reply
  12. Nathalie

    Bonjour Madame Sheppard,

    I really enjoyed to read all of your experience with Can-do’s and How you created your themes and your teaching based on the Can-do statement.
    Now I have a question, Do we need (French teachers), to have the same themes as the Chinese teachers?
    To me it is complicated because in term of structures, grammar we cannot have the same themes (maybe sometimes but not all the time!).
    Many thanks for your help, experience and your answer.
    Kind regards,
    Nathalie

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hmmm, I would love to have more background about your question! While I think that relevant structures can be included in a variety of themes, certain topics are more relevant based on the cultures of those who speak the language being studied. I know, however, that some districts prefer to align their language curriculum so that the themes are the same in each language. Is this the case where you are?

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