Entre les Murs: Incorporating film into an AP Curriculum

220px-Entrelesmurs Although many AP language teachers design excellent curricula by treating each AP theme in a linear way, I have chosen a slightly different approach.  Rather than designing my units around the themes or subthemes, I have designed each one around a film, and then woven the AP subthemes throughout the lessons for each film. The interlocking circle diagram used by the College Board clearly supports the interconnectedness of the themes and my syllabus was approved during the audit process, so I’m confident that this approach is appropriate for my students.  Successful results on the AP test and increased enrollment in my French 4/5 class has provided further support for this curricular design.

This year, the first unit in my AP class will be designed around the film, Entre les Murs.  Although the central topic of this unit will be Education (a subtopic of Contemporary Life), this film also addresses the following AP subthemes:

  • Diversity Issues (Global Challenges)
  • Economic Issues (Global Challenges)
  • Human Rights (Global Challenges)
  • Leisure and Sports (Contemporary Life)
  • Rites of Passage (Contemporary Life)
  • Professions (Contemporary Life)
  • Alienation and Assimilation (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Beliefs and Values (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Gender and Sexuality (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Language and Identity (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Multiculturalism (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Nationalism and Patriotism (Personal and Public Identities)
  • Age and Class (Families and Communities)
  • Childhood and Adolescence (Families and Communities)
  • Citizenship (Families and Communities)
  • Family Structures (Families and Communities)
  • Performing arts (Beauty and Aesthetics)

Before watching the film, my students will complete a series of learning activities designed to provide them with the necessary background knowledge to comprehend and discuss the film.  Following the explanation below, you will find a link to a 24-page packet of activities that I will distribute to my students at the beginning of the unit.

Lesson 1: Because this will be the first lesson of the 2015-2016 school year, my goals were to engage my students, get them communicating in French after the long break, and provide opportunities to review the structures required to narrate past events—an important expectation for Intermediate High students. In order to meet these goals I selected an authentic article from Phosphore magazine in which several teenagers tell about their favorite vacation memory.  In this lesson my students will complete a comprehension guide for this article, discuss their own vacation memories in small groups, write an article about their own vacation memory, listen to a video about low-cost vacations, discuss the video, write a blog entry encouraging French tourists to travel to our community and then prepare an oral presentation on the same topic.  Here are the pdf’s of the article: souvenir p.1souvenir p. 2souvenir p. 3souvenir p. 4

Lesson 2: In this lesson the students will look at a diagram/short article which describes the grade levels and exams which are included in the French school system.  This is important background information for further resources used in later lessons which will refer to grade levels and exams.  After a short discussion, the students will prepare a written and/or oral presentation comparing the two systems.  Finally, they will watch a Cyprien YouTube video and complete a related interpersonal and presentational activity.

Lesson 3: I designed this lesson to activate my students’ background knowledge about the Bac.  Although this important exam will not play a role in the film (whose students are middle school-aged), I think it’s important for my students to be familiar with this aspect of the French educational system.  Therefore, in this lesson the students will watch a short video as a hook to the lesson, read and discuss a brief infographic with statistics about the Bac, watch a news video with students’ reactions to their Bac results, and then discuss differences between the Bac and American college entrance exams.  Lastly, they will read a comic strip about the Bac, prepare an oral summary of the story and then write an e-mail explaining the differences between the Bac and ACT/SAT. Here’s the comic: le Bac

Lesson 4: In this lesson the students will be become familiar with slam poetry by watching and discussing the video, “Education Nationale” by Grand Corps Malade.  In addition to introducing the students to this art form, this video addresses some of the educational topics that will be presented in Entre les Murs.

Lesson 5: Finally—it’s time for the show! For the next five class periods the students will watch and discuss the film.  In the packet I’ve provided a glossary, as well as questions that can be used to assess comprehension and promote discussion.  During each “movie day” I will show about 30 minutes of film (which I will frequently pause to ask questions and check for understanding) and about 15 min. of conversational activities.  This conversation might include the questions in the packet, role plays, and “Controversial Statements” (see below). When designing role plays, I usually describe a hypothetical situation that the students will spontaneously perform.  Here are some examples from the film.


A: You and M. Marin and you’ve just come home from your first day of school.  Your partner wants to know all about your day.  Tell him/her about your day and your feelings about it.

B: You are M. Marin’s partner and today was his first day of school.  Find out all about his day including what his students and any new colleagues are like.


A: You and your partner are each students in M. Marin’s class.  Talk about how your school year is going and what you think of M. Marin and his class.

B: You and your partner are each students in M. Marin’s class.  Talk about how your school year is going and what you think of M Marin and his class.


A: You are Khoumba’s mother.  She has just brought home her “Carnet de Correspondance” with M. Marin’s comments about her behavior in class.  Ask her about what happened.  It’s up to you whether you will take her side or her teacher’s.

B: You are Khoumba and you’ve just shown your “Carnet de Correspondance” to your mother.  Explain your side of the story.


A: You are Wei’s mom or dad and you’ve just come home from your parent-teacher conference with M. Marin. Talk to Wei about what M. Marin had to say.

B: You are Wei and your mom/dad has just come home from their parent-teacher conference with M. Marin.  Respond to your parent’s comments.


A: You are Souleymane’s mom and you’ve just received a phone call from the school principal.  Talk to Souleymane about what the principal said and what you expect him to do to change his behavior.  Tell him what the consequences will be if his behavior doesn’t improve.

B: You are Souleymane and your mom has just gotten off the phone with the principal.  She’s pretty angry with you so you will try to defend yourself.


A: You are Khoumba and you’ve just come home with a cut above your eye.  Your mom wants to know what happened, so tell her.

B: You are Khoumba’s mom and you want to know why Khoumba has a cut above her eye.  It’s up to you to decide what you will do when you find out what happened.


A: You are Esmerelda and you’re angry with M. Marin for calling you a name.  You’ve decided to go to the principal about what happened.

B: You are the principal and Esmerelda has just told you about an incident with M. Marin.  Find out more about the situation so you can decide how to handle it.


A: You are Khoumba and you’ve just heard about Souleymane’s punishment.  You feel really bad about it so you go and talk to him.

B: You are Souleymane and you’ve just been expelled.  Khoumba has come over to tell you how sorry she is about what happened.  How will you react?

“Controversial Statements”

For this activity, I project a series of statements (one at a time) and the students discuss each one in small groups for 3-5 minutes. To add an additional dimension to the conversation, students earn “points” for the type of contributions that they make to the discussion. This system of points came from a resource I was given several years ago.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact wording for each level—my apologies to the creator!

1 – Makes a statement of fact

2 – Supports another’s opinion

3 – Asks a question

4 – Provides a dissenting opinion

5 – Unexpected provocation

I assign one student in each small group to be the scorekeeper who will make a note of how many points each person earns.  While I don’t actually assign the points that each student earns (in order to avoid pressure on the scorekeeper to fudge the scores), I find that this system really challenges my students to increase the depth of their discussions.  Here are some controversial statements I might use for this film.

  1. M. Marin est un bon professeur.
  2. M. Marin charrie trop.
  3. Un système disciplinaire avec des points est une bonne idée.
  4. Il est important que les professeurs aient une cafetière.
  5. M. Marin est raciste.
  6. Il est importants que des élèves participent come délégués aux conseils de classe.
  7. C’est la faute de M. Marin que Souleymane a été exclu.
  8. Marin regrette ce qu’il a dit à Esmerelda.
  9. Le proviseur devrait virer M. Marin.
  10. Souleymane mérite son exclusion.
  11. Henriette devrait aller à un lycée professionnel.

I may also have the students discuss some of these statements as homework on our class forum.  This would give them an opportunity to engage in written interpersonal communication, a skill that I often overlook in designing my lessons.

Note: I haven’t seen the film in a couple of years, so I will be able to add more specific role plays and controversial statements after re-watching the film.

Click here for the activity packet for this unit: Unit 1 Packet

Integrated Performance Assessment

After watching the film, my students will take the summative assessment for the unit—an IPA composed of the following tasks:

Interpretive Reading: The students will read an article about an educational reform related to ZEP schools (like Dolto).  I designed the interpretive task to mimic as closely as possible the question types found on the AP exam, while at the same time trying to address some issues I’ve had when designing previous AP-style questions.  Namely, I have found that my students are less likely to read carefully when presented with multiple choice questions.  I have tried various ways of addressing this problem in the past, and these are the modifications that I’m trying on this assessment:

  • I’ve required the students to underline the sentence(s) in the text where they found the response (for literal level questions)
  • I’ve required the students to justify their responses to inference and culture-based questions by writing supporting information.

Interpretive Listening: The students will watch a news video about the ZEP/REP reform and respond to multiple choice questions.

Interpersonal Communication: The students will play the roles of two teachers at Dolto who are discussing how the ZEP/REP reform would affect various students in the school.

Presentational Writing: Students (acting as a Dolto teacher) will write a letter to the French Minister of Education, requesting they be given REP status and explaining why their students need smaller classes and extra help.

Click here for a copy of the IPA: unit 1 IPA

Here’s a tentative agenda for this unit: unit 1 outline

I’d love to hear back from you about how you incorporate film in your upper-level classes!







43 thoughts on “Entre les Murs: Incorporating film into an AP Curriculum

  1. Jennifer Bolen

    Thanks for your input. I am working on creating a unit on education for my upper levels. I am still working on fleshing out curriculum. Once I get down to films, I would be happy to share with you. I do not teach AP but am using AP themes so that students are on an equal playing field when entering college (it is not advantageous for students in our state (WI), thankfully! I really prefer IB and tend to teach more like IB classes.

      1. Jennifer Geroux

        Hi Lisa,

        I absolutely LOVE your materials and have been gradually implementing/borrowing ideas from you for the past two years. Would you be willing to share your unit plan guides (timelines) for the other levels much like you did for Entre les Murs? I would be VERY appreciative as I have 4 preps this school year. I can’t thank you enough for all of your hard work and your willingness to share your materials. I will definitely be utilizing this unit with my Level 4/5 course this year (I piloted it last year with my AP kids and they really enjoyed the unit). MERCI MERCI MERCI!!!! gerouxje@tcaps.net

  2. Audra

    Thanks for the AP ideas, Madame! I hope you are taking some time to rest for you and your family this summer! A day at the beach does wonders for the mind!

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Awww, thanks, Audra! I have enjoyed some nice trips and time with friends and family. I hope you have, too! Lisa

  3. Wendy

    Thank you so much for sharing, Madame! 2015-2016 will be just my second year teaching AP, so I’ll probably stick to the syllabus my department provided for another year, but I love your idea of making movies such an important part of the class. Right now, I’m planning to show movies at the end of each theme, that then can lead into the next theme! Here are the titles I’ll probably use: L’homme qui plantait des arbres – Les défis mondiaux, La fille du puisatier – la famille et la communauté, Les intouchables – La science et la technologie (weak, but the best I could do!), La belle et la bête (2014) – l’esthétique, Une bouteille à la mer – la quête de soi, Le scaphandre et le papillon – la vie contemporaine. We watch the movies in class or at home, depending on how much time we have and then discuss what themes we could find in the movie. At the end of the second semester, students did impromptu presentations about the movie we had just watched and the themes that were reflected in the plot and characters 🙂

    1. Laura

      Bonjour Madame,

      THANK you so much for all the detailed information regarding teaching this unit using the movie Entre les murs. This will be my 3rd year teaching AP – (with 4 in the same class – so I have been trying to do something like an A/ B year – ) BUT now that I have had experience with teaching and learning the themes…I am totally ready for this type of unit. MERCI beaucoup!!!!!


      1. madameshepard Post author

        You’re welcome and I agree that the A/B year is the way to go! I am definitely curious whether some of these activities might be a bit challenging for my 4th years, but I always use a different grading scale for the two groups to even out the playing field. I’d love to hear your feedback if you end up using any of the lessons. I can contact you by e-mail if you’d rather discuss privately! Lisa

    2. Shelley

      Bonjour, Thanks for sharing this curriculum idea, Madame Shepard. I’m teaching AP for the first time this year and love the idea of organizing around movies. How many films do you use per semester? There is so much material here! In the spirit of sharing ideas and also in response to Wendy, I wanted to share a film idea that works perfectly for the Science/Technologie theme, and I now own it and am planning a unit around it. Avril et le Monde Truqué — animated film about the dangers of misused technology. Check it out. Hope this helps!

      1. madameshepard Post author

        Thanks so much for sharing your movie idea! I wasn’t familiar with the film and I’ll look forward to checking it out. In my new school, I’ll be teaching IB instead of AP and there themes are already set so I’m not sure what role film will play in my new position. However, in the past I used about 3 films per semester. Lisa

      2. Ellen

        Shelley, I am wondering if you’ll even get this message 🙂 I am teaching AP for the first time this year and just this morning found this film (Avril et le Monde Truqué), when searching for supplemental info on Jules Verne. Have you used the film yet with your students? Would you be willing to share any feedback? Merci! -Ellen

  4. Laura

    Hi Lisa,

    I agree that the grading scale has to be different for the level 4’s, however, I think the exposure to all the vocabulary and discussion is quite important. I did not know what I was doing for the first year – so my “A” year is being tweaked a lot this summer – and thank you for your ideas and suggestions. I just got side tracked watching Cyprien – I was reviewing your lesson plans. I think he is too funny. I think that is a great video to get kids learning common expressions – “le truc”, etc – I also like how he explains his ideas with actual (visuals by acting them out), which I think will help the kids understand better.

    I would love to correspond with you and share more ideas via email.

    Any time…

    1. madameshepard Post author

      I enjoy Cyprien, too. I think the video will be challenging, but I’ll probably just play it for the whole class and discuss it together. Have you watched any of his other videos?

  5. James

    I’m loving the idea of basing units around films. I’m curious to know if you show the subtitled version… ?

    1. madameshepard Post author

      I do for this one, because the slang makes it pretty hard for the kids. In general, my first choice is French subtitles/closed captions, but they’re not always available.

  6. Alice Browning

    Hi Lisa,

    This is a wonderful unit. Thanks for the ideas. I ordered this movie this summer to incorporate it into my AP curriculum and really love the IPA you designed. I have a question. Do you show subtitles with this movie? If not, how do you handle comprehension?

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Alice. I do use subtitles with this one. The slang makes comprehension especially difficult. The IPA was pretty challenging for some of my kids. I’ll look forward to hearing how yours do!

  7. Sheila

    When the students do the Listening “Interpretation” task, are they watching the video as a class or on their own on a device? Are they allowed to look up words?

    1. madameshepard Post author

      They watch on their own computer, but they’re not allowed to look up words. This task was pretty challenging for my kids, so I graded very generously.

  8. Laura

    Hi Lisa,

    This has been a great unit and the kids are liking the use of a packet and due illness , I actually had to miss 5 days of school. However, it was so amazing to have my lesson plans – basically done – for the sub – and the students could work independently…

    (Too bad I had to make up the other 4 lesson plans that were suitable for a sub)

    THANKS AGAIN !! I am working in the last section, the interpretive listening, this week. And although it is going to be really difficult for my students I can tell, but as you said, I can see I will also be grading very generously.

    1. madameshepard Post author

      I’m so glad you were able to find something you could use and I hope you’re feeling better!

  9. Jen Shahin

    As always, thank you for the great resources. Does anyone have an answer key to section A in the IPA? I am alone here so I like to have a reference to check myself! Merci!

  10. Rachel

    First, thank you for the amazing resources that you provide!! I just have a quick question. You mentioned that you organized your AP class around certain films. Do you have a list of the films that you show? I think this is a great idea!

  11. Tracey Waid

    Like Rachel above, I would love to know the films that your organize your units around. I’m a first-year AP teacher and I have a small class but it includes cinephiles and I want to incorporate this as much as possible! Thanks!

  12. Thuy

    Bonjour Lisa:
    I tried to open the link from tvmonde.com for leçon 2 (le systeme educatif en France/ webdocumentaires pour apprendre le francais?Memos/Culture/p-584)), but I did not see the diagramme. Did you happen to save it? If yes, could I have the link ? If not, is there anyway I could access to the link?
    Merci Lisa

  13. sally

    Hello, Lisa and thanks again for this wonderful resource!
    I also have combined classes level 4 Honors / AP 5. This is my 4th year teaching it and I still feel so challenged with trying to meet the needs of such varied level among students. Also — i only have ONE AP student in my class – the other 9 students are all level 4 and their level is not up to AP yet at all.

    I DEFINITELY need to usher in the use of Year A / Year B curriculum!! In so doing, I’m wondering if you have other unit plans on different movies? I’ve done someting similar to yours with Entre Les Murs in the past and I feel it’s the ONLY way to get in all of the AP themes/contexts within a school year. I’ve not had success with other plans.

    I wonder if Wendy (who posted above) may have units around those movies she’d be willing to share?

    thank you, ALL of you, for your generosity and collegiality!

    -Sally ‘

  14. Anna

    Hi Lisa! Do you happen to have the glossary and comprehension questions you used for this film? I will likely use your role play and discussion ideas, as my students need practice speaking more than anything, but would LOVE to see what you’ve put together to support them with vocab, etc, while they view the film. Thanks!

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Anna. There’s a link in the post to a packet which includes the vocab and questions I used.

  15. Shelley Stein

    Ellen – and anyone else who is interested because I need to spread some good karma… Yes, I used Avril et le Monde Truqué… it was great. We did start with readings on Verne from Thèmes textbook with an excerpt from De la Terre à la Lune, then students researched Verne-related topics, including Méliès, who was inspired to film his own moon landing film. It was not too much of a stretch to move from that to the idea of filmmakers being inspired by Verne and then ending up with a discussion of le mouvement Steampunk, which is basically Verne-inspired science-fiction in 19th century decor… hence Avril, which uses the technique of Uchronie (i.e. alternative history) to tell the tale of what would have happened if X had happened differently. This provides a great opportunity to practice si-clauses with the plus-que-parfait and conditionnel passé. The Avril film has its own interesting cultural history (inspired by the character Adele Blanc-Sec) to talk about, and it has good themes to talk about — from bizarre inventions to the moral implications of scientific progress. And there’s lots of good culture/history to throw in — such as the history of the industrial revolution and the Second Empire and Napoleon III. Hope this helps. I was quite pleased with it, and the students enjoyed the film. Also, the DVD I bought had French subtitles, so it was perfect. Happy to share a few links. My email is shstein @ sjs.org

  16. Laura

    Thank you so much for all of the resources you share here 🙂 As a pretty new teacher, who doesn’t follow a textbook, I’m always on the lookout for ideas.
    Did you end up planning the entire year around films as suggested in this post? If so, how did it go? Do you recommend that approach? What other films did you use and which were most sucessfully?

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Yes, I did include a film for each unit and I had a separate list for A/B years. This year, because I changed schools and am now teaching IB, I haven’t yet incorporated films into my curriculum although I’m hoping to do so soon. The films that I’ve posted lessons on are Intouchables Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources and Monsieur Lazhar. I also used Inch Allah Dimanche, Mon Meilleur Ami, La Belle et la Bete, La Mome/La Vie en Rose, Bienvenue chez les Chtis, Moliere, Gloire de Mon Pere and Camille Claudel. I hope this helps! Lisa

  17. Kim D.

    I can’t thank you enough for all your generous sharing of your ideas and materials! I’m a new French teacher and have all 4 levels, including AP this year! There will be lots of Mme Shepherd wisdom incorporated into my classes! I was wondering how long your class periods were for this AP class?

    Merci encore!!!


    1. madameshepard Post author

      Congratulations on joining the world’s best profession! My class periods were 50 min. Let me know what I can do to help. Courage et bonne rentrée!

  18. Danielle Schoenwetter

    Merci mille fois pour partager! I would like to start incorporating movies into my AP class and develop the lessons around those movies. I have used Cyrano and La Belle et la Bete and I am about use Entre les murs next week. Do you have any suggestions for La Vie Contemporaine?


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