The Refugee Crisis: A mini-unit using political cartoons to address a Global Challenge


Although I hadn’t planned on addressing the “Défis Mondiaux” theme with my AP students until later in the year, I just felt this topic couldn’t wait.  Here’s a quick mini-unit I created to introduce the plight of the Syrian refugees to my French 4/5 students.

Day 1: In order to ensure that my students had adequate background knowledge on the basic facts regarding this crisis, I began the lesson by showing these two videos: 1)    2) . We watched them as a class, and I paused the videos frequently in order to ask questions to ensure comprehension. Following the video/discussion, I assigned this comprehension guide over this article to provide further information on the refugee crisis.

Day 2: I began the second day of this mini-unit by showing this video ( ), which depicts the conditions aboard one of the boats used to transport refugees from Turkey to Greece. Again, I used the video as a springboard to class discussion, rather than as a formal listening assessment.    It’s a powerful video and the students remained engaged throughout the viewing.  They used the remaining class time to finish the reading activity they began on Day 1.

Day 3-4: Now that my students have some basic information about the causes of the crisis, the challenges faced by the refugees, and how some European countries are reacting to the situation, I wanted to create an opportunity for my students to engage in some interpersonal communication related to the topic. Because I have a Syrian immigrant in one of my AP classes, I wanted to avoid any type of role play or debate that may have (even inadvertently) resulted in insensitive comments. Furthermore, due to the limited time I had for this unit, I did not want to assign a significant amount of reading, which would no doubt be somewhat laborious based on the topic. So, instead of assigning additional reading to provide stimulus for a discussion, I curated a series of political cartoons that the students will first discuss and then present orally to the class. Here are the steps to this part of the mini-unit:

  1. For homework on Day 2, I asked the students to look at this Google Presentation ( )   containing 20 political cartoons related to the refugee crisis and to select the one they would be most interested in discussing. They then typed their name next to the corresponding slide number on a separate Google Doc I created to serve as a sign-up sheet. Note: I wrote my own name next to #1 and #2, as I will use them to the model the activities.
  2. On Day 3 (tomorrow), I will project the first cartoon and guide the students in a discussion, using the same questions included in the comprehension guide . Next, I will project the 2nd cartoon and have the students fill out a copy of the comprehension guide , which we will then discuss as a class. After this preparation, I will either pass out Ipads or a photocopy of his/her selected cartoon to each student. The students will then orally discuss their cartoons with a partner  (first one partner’s, and then the other’s) as they each complete the comprehension guide for both of the cartoons in their dyad. For homework, the students will practice presenting their cartoon to the class, giving the information they filled in on the comprehension guide.
  3. On Day 4, each student will present his/her cartoon (which I will project) to the class, who will fill in a note-taking guide with the types of information included in the comprehension guide. Students will earn a presentational speaking grade for this activity.

Day 5: On day 5, students will begin a short assessment over this topic. For the Interpretive reading, they will read this article (p. 1p. 2p. 3p. 4) and complete this interpretive reading assessment . In order to replicate the format of the AP test, the questions are multiple choice and require both literal and inferential comprehension. The students will also complete this listening assessment  (Note: the URL for the first video is incorrect.  Here’s the correct URL: ) over two additional 1jour1actu videos. Although these videos are quite simple, the results on my first IPA demonstrated that my new level 4 students aren’t yet proficient enough to interpret specific details from more complex recordings.  I may add a short writing assessment, in which the students would present an unfamiliar political cartoon in writing, based on a prompt which includes the types of information included in the comprehension guide.

Although this topic isn’t “fun,” the interest my students have shown in the videos and their enthusiasm in choosing their cartoons lead me to believe that they will be engaged by this brief unit on an important current event.

23 thoughts on “The Refugee Crisis: A mini-unit using political cartoons to address a Global Challenge

  1. Veronique

    Wow! Merci pour cette super mini-unité sur cette crise importante. J’avais prévu d’en créer une moi-même pour mes élèves AP cette année, mais je suis ravie que vous m’ayez devancée! J’ai vraiment apprécié vos ressources multimedia.

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Je suis contente que vous ayez trouve quelque chose d’utile. On vient de faire les presentations des caricatures dans ma classe, et les eleves ont vraiment apprecie ce projet. Je serais contente de savoir comment ca marche dans votre cours!

  2. Monsieur Nason

    My apologies in advance for the length of this message:
    Encore je vous remercie pour tout ! I am using this now with a group of students (4 students: 1 from France, 3 from Morocco) I am tutoring to take the AP French exam in May. So far, it has brought about great discussion and interaction of a current relevant topic. For the video “Listening Assessment” you have posted (for Day 5) I think the questions are actually with a different video from 1jour1actu

    “Comment les réfugiés sont-ils répartis entre les différents pays européens ?” and not the “Pourquoi le nombre de migrants augmente-t-il?” The group of students that I have are really advanced speakers as they learned French at a young age in Morocco/France and continue to use it t home. So it goes without saying that they are more advanced as far as listening and reading comprehension goes compared to an average student taking French for the fourth or fifth year. However, they still need to work on their argumentative skills in writing and discussion skills for speaking. The materials that you chose and the tasks have been so helpful in exposing them to relevant, current topics that will help them on the AP exam. For example, the political cartoons that depict Stephen Harper and the reactions in Canada are extremely valuable to expose them to other Francophone viewpoints and perspectives. I take it for granted because I grew up in Buffalo that I was always exposed to Canadian news and media and sometimes forget that my students didn’t/don’t have the same experience. I teach in New York City and we have a wealth of great Francophone resources and opportunities for exposure but I think Québec and the French-speaking community in Canada is not really appreciated/understood well enough here as it deserves to be. In NYC it can be at times too much like living in a bubble. Anyway I thought I would try to share my two cents on how helpful this mini-unit has been. I actually intend on using this with my French Year 3 students too (at a slower pace). I know it will be extremely challenging for some but I am hopeful that because this unit’s focus is so current and relevant that they will be engaged and it will be beneficial to their growth in French.

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Please don’t apologize for leaving such a kind note! This is the first time that I used political cartoons in class, but the students seemed to really enjoy the unit and had great conversations. Unfortunately, my students who presented the Canadian cartoons didn’t pick up on the fact that they were Canadian! I ended up given the students a short written assessment in which they chose one cartoon (not previously seen) and wrote about. Here’s a link, in case you’re interested: Thanks again for taking the time to provide feedback, it really made my day! (I’ll fix the link–I seem to mislink almost every time I post a unit–It’s so frustrating!)

  3. MmeBensetti

    Je voulais juste vous remercier pour cette superbe mini-unité à propos de la crise des réfugiés syriens – Je vais absolument l’utiliser dans ma classe de AP French .
    Articles and videos, and comprehension guides are well selected, I really appreciate you sharing these resources.
    Mille mercis

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thank you for your kind comments! My students really liked this unit, especially the political cartoon presentations. Let me know how it goes in your class!

  4. Natalia

    Madame, the video that you indicated in day 2, is no longer available from that account but I was able to find it on France24 channel on YouTube. Here’s the link This story of a young man published on 1jour1actu can compliment that video quite well.

    And here’s another recent and very comprehensive ressource from Le P’tit Libé that is very well done and aimed at younger kids so the language is easily comprehensible yet rich.

  5. Monsieur Ringlein

    Bonjour Madame,

    You have some amazing resources here. I’ve adopted some of your materials and made some others on the same subject. If it works for you and for others, I’d love to post them up here perhaps as a hyperlink for easy access.

    Je voulais vous demander si vous aviez toujours votre exemple pour les caricatures politiques. Je dois avouer que je n’ai pas l’habitude d’en parler, mais cette expérience m’intéresse.

    Merci de me dire si vous avez des questions/commentaires!

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Bonjour! I know that my readers would be thrilled if you were willing to share a link to your materials. As for the example, I provided a link to a Google Slides presentation with the political cartoons that I used. I’m afraid I’m not clear about what type of text you’re asking about? In class we verbally described the first two cartoons, but I didn’t write anything–is that what you mean? I’m sorry that I can’t be more helpful!

      1. Monsieur Ringlein

        As for the description, yes I wanted to know if you had a written one. We have only done verbal which has worked out quite nicely so far as practice. Not a problem though! They have done extremely well without an example. Even though these comics are older, the topic is very involved and a good number of the students seem very well informed on the current politics.

        I will attempt to post up some materials here for you and return the favor as you have given me some fantastic information. The work you put together is inspiring! Perhaps this summer I’ll put together my own WordPress!

  6. Jessica Beardmore

    Bonjour Madame Shepard!
    I was just going through this unit…amazing as always. Did you purchase a subscription to “Le P’tit Libé”- the magazine of the newspaper La Libération for young people? This is referring to your updated agenda link that you posted on your “La Rentrée” post with the link to your unit on “Immigration”. The first two articles from the updated agenda asked me to subscribe…was wondering if you thought it was a worthwhile subscription. I subscribed to and now receive 1 Jour 1 actu, and I’m loving it.

    Comme toujours, merci mille fois pout tout ce que vous faites pour notre profession.


    1. madameshepard Post author

      Jessica, I did not buy a subscription. I think that maybe their content is free for a certain period of time? If you have the funds available, I do find their content to be excellent.

  7. Tulsi Master

    I have spent the last two or three days just browsing through all your resources, and would like to express my gratitude for your generosity in sharing such rich resources that are so easy to modify based on the student learning levels. Is there an email where you can be reached regarding resources for levels 1 and 2?


  8. Kelly Tyson

    Madame, I believe that the first of the “1jour1actu” video links for Day 5 is incorrect. I watched “Pourquoi le nombre de migrants augmente-t-il?” and the questions that are in the document do not seem to match up. Is is possible that it is a different video ?

    Merci pour votre aide !

        1. Kelly Tyson

          Madame, do you happen to have an answer key for the “1 jour 1 actu” videos for Day 5? If not, no problem!


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