Tag Archives: school

Culture as Content: An Intermediate Unit on Education in France

When we make the switch from teaching about the language to teaching content by using the language we are able to build a curriculum that focuses on the products, practices and perspectives of our target cultures.  For my first French 3 unit of the year, I designed a unit around the French educational system.  This topic is a high interest one for the students and also provides important background information for the AP Theme: Contemporary Life.

If you’d like to see the unit packet, click here: Education Unit

Note: The template I use for designing interpretive tasks comes from Implementing Integrated Performance Assessment :  (http://www.actfl.org/publications/guidelines-and-manuals/implementing-integrated-performance-assessment)


Since most of the students in this class are currently performing at the Intermediate Low level of proficiency, I chose the following Intermediate Mid ACTFL Can-Do Statements as the goals for this unit.

Presentational Writing: I can compose a simple letter, response, or article for publication.

Interpersonal Communication: I can talk about my daily activities and personal preferences.

Presentational Speaking: 1) I can make a presentation about my personal and social experiences. 2) I can make a presentation on something I have learned or researched.

Interpretive Reading: I can understand basic information in ads, announcements, and other simple texts.

Interpretive Listening: I can understand a short YouTube clip.

Lesson I

Interpretive Task #1: Students will read a diagram and short article explaining the organization of the French educational system.

Interpretive Task #2: Students will listen to a cartoon video in which French students discuss their school experiences.

Although these texts are not authentic (they were published for French language learners), they were published by members of the target culture and the cartoon does feature a native speaker.  Because they present important background information about the organization of the French educational system, I chose to include them in the introductory lesson of this unit.

Interpersonal Task:  Students will compare the French and American educational systems and complete a Venn diagram.

Presentational Writing: Students write a note to a French foreign exchange student.

Presentational Speaking: Students address an audience of future exchange students.

Lesson II

Interpretive Task: Students read an authentic news article about a French middle school which has done away with numerical grades.

Interpersonal Task: Students discuss statements about the role that grades play.

Presentational Writing: Students write a letter to the principal requesting a change in the school’s grading system.

Presentational Speaking: Students prepare a presentation to the principal.

Lesson III

Interpretive Task: Students read a pair of infographics about changes to the French school schedule. .

Interpersonal Task: Students discuss opinion statements about the length of the school day/year.

Presentational Writing: Students write an e-mail expressing their opinion of the American vs. French school day/year.

Presentational Speaking: Students prepare a presentation about the American vs. French school schedule.

Lesson IV

Interpretive/Interpersonal Task: Students read and discuss an infographic about school dropouts in France.

Role Play: Students prepare a role play between a student who wants to drop out and his/her parent.

Additional Materials

1. I have included a set of school-related “Toto” jokes for this unit.  I have the students read/translate (!) these jokes as an enrichment activity if they have time left after completing the communicative task that has been assigned.

2. I prepared a couple of listening activities (youtube videos) to use as hooks for the lessons.  Although not authentic, they do feature native speakers and will help prepare students for the authentic listening tasks that will be included on their IPA.

Please help yourself to any of the materials I’ve developed—I’d love to hear your feedback!

Comics: Now that I’ve pinned them, what do I do with them?


In the year or so that I’ve been active on Pinterest, I’ve collected quite a few French comics on various subjects.  Although I’ve dutifully pinned each one to the appropriately-themed board, I was never quite sure what to do with them. On a few occasions I tried projecting the comics on the screen and asking the students what they thought they meant, but that was as far as I got.

This summer I took a little bit of time to compile some of the comics I’d pinned about school for my first French 3 unit of the year.  I pasted each one onto a document and added a few target language questions to spark discussion. I included questions that were related to the comic, as well as personalized questions on the same theme.  I tried to anticipate what vocabulary the students might need, and included a couple of key words for each image.

I’m going to try using these comics as a “hook” at the beginning of each class during this unit.  I’ll project a slide of the comic at the beginning of the period, and give the students a few minutes to discuss the questions in French with a partner. As they’re discussing, I’ll circulate and give feedback/formative assessment to a few of the dyads. Then I’ll select a couple of students to present their responses to the whole class. I’ll also give these students feedback/formative assessment.  In this way, all of the students will begin the period with 5-10 minutes of interpersonal communication and I will have had a chance to provide individualized feedback to everyone after a few class periods.

While I intend to use these comics as a springboard to spoken production, I could also have the students respond to the questions in writing.  This would be an effective way to ensure that I had a few minutes to take attendance, conference with absent students, etc. at the beginning of class.  I would then provide feedback to using a written/presentational rubric.

Here’s the document I put together with the comics and questions about school for my French 3 students: french3unit1comics

Do you use comics in your teaching?  How do you incorporate them into your lessons?