Micro-unit: Les partis politiques français


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In an effort to expose my students to as many cultural topics as possible before the AP test, I did a very quick, brief overview of the French presidential elections and the political parties in France. And I mean very quick. I could (and should) have done a lot more with this concept but I’m feeling a little panicky about the amount of material I have to get through in the next eight weeks so we did a very brief micro-unit so they are at least familiar with the system and the candidates, should anything crop up this year’s test (given that it’s an election year).

I slapped together a brief dossier (this does not include an article I found on 1jour1actu) for this micro-unit; there’s not much in it, it’s more of a guide to help me and keep my students organized.

Day 1: Look at the graphic on the front page of the dossier and brainstorm the major values of French politics; are they similar to or different from our values? How so? Examine the logos on page 2 and try to guess where the parties fall on the left-right spectrum. Watch this video from 1jour1actu: Ca veut dire quoi, droit et gauche en politique? The students then used their devices to go on I Side With and filled out the survey to find out which French politicians/political parties best fit their perspectives on a variety of issues. We culled vocabulary related to politics and political stances during this activity as well.

Day 2: We explored some of the articles from the presidentielle 2012 dossier on 1jour1actu, bearing in mind that the candidates are not currently relevant but the practices and concepts are basically the same. I also cut up the pieces of a document shared by a fellow teacher on the French Teachers in the US Facebook page (thanks, Debbie McCorkle!) that broke down the viewpoints of 13 major French political parties on issues such as the economy, the European Union, immigration, terrorism and the army, and the environment. I put students into pairs and assigned them a political party to be the “expert” on, then they had to share out to their classmates, giving only the essential information before moving on.

Day 3: I did a quick direct lesson (in the TL, of course) on how the French president is elected (le suffrage universel direct), how many elections there are (le premier tour, le deuxième tour) and how long a President is in office in France (5 years). We looked at some of the survey results from Le Figaro regarding current candidate popularity, and then did a Venn Diagram of all of our findings thus far regarding similarities/differences in French and American political parties and processes (days 1-3) I then assigned everyone the identity of a French politician for an in-class “primary” debate.

Day 4: Students researched their candidates’ viewpoints on major political issues (immigration, economy, etc) as well as the viewpoints of 1-2 opposing candidates to prepare for our debate.

Day 5: In-class whole-group role play with me as the moderator. I asked questions about various issues and called on “candidates” at random to express their views and challenge the viewpoints of their “opponents.” We also did a quick AP-style reading from a textbook on the voting process in France.

There you have it! Fast, a little shallow, but still relevant and engaging for my students, particularly since it’s been a year full of politics in the United States.



Le Nain rouge de Détroit


I’m in the middle of a unit on Legends & the Supernatural with my level 3 students and I think it’s going well! I love units like this, that are so rich in culture and it’s a perfect opportunity to address cultures other than France, as both Quebec and Francophone Africa have very rich storytelling traditions. I’ve also made narrating in the past tense my major grammar focus for this entire semester, so reading legends lends itself well to that.

Additionally, being that we live near a “francophone” city (Detroit), I also wanted to incorporate a little bit of local history. The legend of the Nain rouge is unique to Detroit and features the French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. I wanted to have my students read the legend but could NOT for the life of me find an authentic French version of it anywhere online!! I did, however, come across a very old (like, late 1800s old) book called “Legends of le Détroit” that included a chapter on the Nain rouge and I used that to write my own version of the story in French, which you can find here. Please note that I’m not a native speaker, nor is my colleague who proofread it, so if there are mistakes or whatnot, please fix them to your liking on your own copy!

We did some Reader’s Theater to accompany this legend, and afterward we discussed the Marche du Nain Rouge that takes place in Detroit every spring, to drive away the Nain from the city and hopefully prevent any more bad things from happening in Detroit! It was a cool bit of local/regional history and allowed me to show how French culture is still alive in our own area.

Bonne continuation!


Petit Prince Chapter 18

If it seems strange that the 18th chapter of Le Petit Prince – by far the shortest chapter in the novel – gets an entire blog post to itself, please just do me a solid and continue reading because this chapter is accompanied by one of my favorite student projects ever.

In this chapter, the little prince meets a flower in the desert. He’s lonely and looking for friends, so he asks the flower if she has seen any men. The flower, being that she lives in the desert, has only seen about six or seven men, and she tells the little prince that men lack roots. This quote becomes the basis for our project.

To prepare for our project, we read the chapter and then discussed the purpose of roots -what do roots do for a tree? What happens to the tree as a result of its roots? We discuss how roots grow strong and anchor the tree, provide it with stability and allow it to grow. We discuss that, as a result of the tree’s growth, the tree can grow leaves, flowers or fruits that can germinate and create more trees. We also talk about how roots can be hard and ugly, not always visible above the surface, but without them, the tree can’t grow and nor can it nourish another tree or plant, or give shade and oxygen to humans and animals.

Then they receive the following prompt (in French): Draw a tree. Put yourself in a hole in the middle of the tree and write your name in its bark. Then, use words or images to create your roots – think about your family history, your interests, your religion, etc. How have your roots allowed the rest of your “tree” to grow? How do you use your tree’s “growth” (leaves, fruit, etc) to nourish the “roots” of another?

We took a day to draw our trees, and then I had them record an explanation of their tree to Schoology. The oral explanation is done with no advance preparation – I do not allow them to write their comments down beforehand or to practice before recording!

I was very pleased with the results of this project and got really good feedback from the kids as well. They seemed to really like the project and put in a lot of effort! It was also a nice way to break up the reading of the novel. 10/10, would do it again! Below are some photos; to see an example of one of my students’ oral presentations, click here.



Petit Prince Chapters 10-17

French 4/AP continues on our journey of reading Le Petit Prince! It’s been going well, but is a long process due to the number of chapters in the novel and how often we stop to write/discuss/draw/summarize/etc. This is exacerbated by end of year field trips, AP tests, senior exams, and so on. Unfortunately I won’t have time for the mini-unit on soccer that I planned for this year which is a SUPER bummer, but I’m hoping I can start with that in a few of my classes next year, to re-cap the Euro Cup that’s happening in France this year. Otherwise, I plan on giving my exams prior to the official exam day, so perhaps on that long class period we can get out on the pitch and my soccer kids can show us how it’s done.

So, what’d we do for Petit Prince chapters 10-17?

Chapter 10

I printed out the illustration of the king that accompanies chapter 10, and asked the kids to write all over it and surround the king with as many words and phrases as they could in response to the question, “What makes a good king?” We discussed this together as a class, and then I read the chapter aloud to them as they followed along. When we finished, they journaled on a quote from the chapter – It is more difficult to judge yourself than others. They discussed their responses to this journal in small groups.

Chapters 11 and 12

I handed each small group a stack of post-its and had them read chapters 11 and 12 together (for my independent readers, they read alone). On each post it they had to tell me the following things:

  1. Key vocab they wanted to remember
  2. A quote or passage that they found interesting and why
  3. A 10-word summary of the chapter
  4. A question they had about the chapter

It was at about this point that I had a TON of kids out for AP testing and didn’t want to continue the book without them, so with those remaining in class, we did a roleplay in which the Little Prince’s flower is visited by a butterfly – what would the rose tell the butterfly about the Little Prince?

Chapter 13-14

The students read these chapters alone and updated their character maps. There was still a ton of AP testing going on at this point, so it was not as interactive as I would have liked it to be. We played Freeze Frame to re-cap the major events of the book so far.

Chapters 15-17

We had a couple of big discussion questions for these chapters, as the Petit Prince makes his final stop on his trip, on the planet Earth. The first was: How would you describe the earth to someone who had never heard of it?

In responding to this question, I asked the students to draw a visual representation of the Earth and note it’s major physical features, as well as other things they thought were important to know. We did a roleplay in which one person was the “alien” and the other had to explain the Earth to that person. We also did this as a whole-class activity, with me playing the role of “alien.” I really tried to ham it up and make them dig deep with their language – for example, a student would say, “There are big cities with buildings!” and I would respond, “What’s a building? Who goes there? What do you do? Why?”

Our other discussion question was about the role of snakes in film and literature – What do you think of when you think of a snake? In what stories does a snake play a big role?

We also played The Marker Game to review and did a few listening assessments.

Coming up next – we just finished what is probably my favorite project to do with my kids that follows Chapter 18 of Le Petit Prince. Stay tuned!



Petit Prince Chapters 5-9

French 4/AP continues to plug along reading the Petit Prince and developing their Interactive Notebooks as we do so. I think the work we’ve been doing so far has been useful, but so very time consuming. Much more than I had anticipated! I hoped to average about 2 chapters of the novels per day, but am usually only getting through 1, between all of the pre-reading, during-reading, and post-reading activities. I think I need to cut down a little bit! That being said, I do feel as though my students have a more profound understanding of the novel.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 addresses the baobab, a fairly big symbol in the novel. In real life, a baobab is an enormous tree also called the “tree of life” that bears an extremely nutrient-dense fruit. For the Petit Prince, however, a baobab represents a problem that, if too long neglected, may not be easily solved. For a pre-reading activity we watched a short informational video on the baobab trees. We read the chapter, and then the students cut out a printable I found online of a baobab tree and decorated it with what they thought were our community’s biggest “baobabs” and why.

The “baobab” printable is on the left hand side.

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 is very short, so we talked a lot about what sadness is/what do you do when you’re sad and journaled accordingly in our notebooks. The students read the chapter in their Reading Clubs and each group tried to come up with a 10 word summary for the chapter! It was fun to see how creative they could get and oddly enough, my “lowest” readers in each class had the most comprehensive 10-word summaries!

Chapters 7 and 8

These chapters are so important to the development of the book, as they are the chapters when we meet the Petit Prince’s flower for the first time! As a pre-reading activity we journaled about our best friends and added chapter vocabulary to our notebooks. We read the chapters via our Reading Groups, but summarized as a class. Finally, for our post-reading activities the students did an Inside/Outside summary for the flower. They used one page in their notebooks and drew a vertical line down the center. Right on the middle of the line, they illustrated the Petit Prince’s flower. On the left hand side of the page, they had to describe the outside of the flower – what physical characteristics does she possess? On the right hand side of the page, they did the same but for her interior characteristics – what kind of personality does she have?

Inside/Outside drawing for the flower.

Since this was a Friday I wanted to keep the mood light, so we also used this day as a chance to re-cap all of the vocabulary we had studied so far via a game. I chose several illustrations from the chapters we had already read in class and had the students partner up. One partner sat with his/her back to the board and an iPad in hand with the Educreations app open while the other partner described the image in as much detail as possible. We compared their drawings to the originals, and then switched roles so each student got a chance to describe AND draw!

Chapter 9

This is the chapter in which the Petit Prince prepares for his big voyage and bids farewell to his flower. We started first with the following prompt: What objects does the Petit Prince possess? If you were stranded on a desert island, what objects would you want to have and why? It was a good jumping off point for a review of the conditional, which my students are familiar with but tend to use inaccurately/confuse with the imperfect as they are so similar. We discussed as a group and then I read the chapter aloud. We also took the time to add to our Character Maps and update/tidy our notebooks. Chapter 9 is a sort of natural “breaking point” between sections of the story so it was a good place to stop – tomorrow we will assess on what we’ve read so far!

Working on the Character Map – document from Carrie Toth.

Petit Prince Interactive Notebooks Chapters 1-4

Reading of Le Petit Prince is fully underway in my French 4/AP split and we are working diligently on our Interactive Notebooks! The only downside to reading this novel is perhaps that I have too many fun ideas to accompany each chapter! I’ve been having to reign myself in on the pre- and post-reading activities and remember that we do still have to actually set aside the time to read each chapter!

So how has it been going so far?

Chapter One

The first two chapters of Petit Prince are two of the book’s most iconic so I wanted to spend a good amount of time on each. To intro chapter one, my students did an Anticipation Guide that I had prepared from a document I saw years ago that was originally in English (I can’t find the original source again, or I would credit them!) If there are any grammar oddities, please let me know – I’m far from perfect :). We did a Beyond “Oui” and “Non” game to review their answers to each statement. This was the first page in their Interactive Notebooks – I wanted them to paste in their original survey so we could then revisit it at the end of the book. We also included a vocabulary foldable for the first chapter to refer to when reading, and then wrote a journal response to the following question: What do children understand that adults do not? After all of that, we read chapter one together and I used Lisa Shepard’s True/False questions to check their comprehension at the end.

Chapters Two and Three

We read both of these chapters in one day, and it was also the first day of our Reading Club, an idea I shamelessly stole from Carrie Toth! The groups seemed to work out really well and each group had a variety of things to add to their Interactive Notebooks.

I provided each group with vocabulary for both chapters, using Clip Art to illustrate rather than plain definitions. The kids pasted the pictures into their notebooks and added any other notes to clarify as necessary. Then, we separated into our groups and each group had a different task to perform.

Groupe Alpha: Read the chapter together aloud and then the group summarized in English what they understood.

Groupe Coopératif: Read the chapter together and completed a Comic Strip summary of chapters 1-3 in their notebooks.

Groupe Indépendant: Read the chapter individually (or with a partner) and responded to comprehension questions in their notebooks.

Chapter Four

As with the other chapters, we illustrated the new vocabulary in our notebooks first (only about 7 new words). Then, we split up into our reading groups and groups Cooperatif and Independent sketched a summary of the chapter while group Alpha orally reviewed the chapter with me (they’re a group that needs a little more support).

Everyone also received a Character Map that we will add to as we meet more characters – until now there are only two; the narrator and the Petit Prince.

The kids seem to be enjoying the book so far and I am on my toes attempting to keep the reading process as “novel” (haha) and efficient as possible. I’m not sure if I’m “doing” the Interactive Notebooks right or not, but I’m planning on a catch-up day on Friday to add any stray pieces, color, finish up any stray journal entries, etc. I will try to take more pictures to include as we progress!



Interactive Notebooks and Le Petit Prince

So, I’m embarking on a new adventure – one that I actually thought I would never attempt but that after some time and consideration, came to be the most logical conclusion for the next unit in my French 4/AP split.

Combining interactive notebooks and novel study.

Let me admit up front that beyond what I’ve seen on social media (Pinterest, mostly), my knowledge of interactive notebooks is incredibly rudimentary. I get the concept but since I’ve never planned on doing them I haven’t done much investigation, but that’s definitely about to change!

I’ve known since the beginning of the year that French 4/AP would be reading Le Petit Prince. I want this to be a positive reading experience to them, since most of them have never read a novel in French before (we do lots of other kinds of reading, including fairy tales and legends) but I also wanted them to exhibit deep learning in the process as there is a lot of symbolism and metaphor in this novel. And, superficially, I wanted each student to have a place to organize their notes and activities for the novel that was separate from the rest of their school stuff. While my students are relatively responsible young people, most of their French supplies get stuffed into a two-pocket folder and I don’t want anyone to lose any key pieces of the puzzle as we move through this unit.

I’m sort of just jumping in with both feet and I’m not sure what to expect of this experience but I’m excited and my kids were surprisingly thankful that I provided them all with individual notebooks just for this novel. We read chapter one together today and did a pre-reading survey, a vocabulary foldable and a journal entry already (I’ll share more specifics in my next post!) but tomorrow I’m taking a page from Carrie Toth’s book (punny, I know) and splitting them into groups based on their reading preferences. Each group will have a slightly different task to complete based on their needs (to be recorded in their interactive notebooks) and all will begin the same Character Map.

Not to get even more ahead of myself, but I am also considering using the Seesaw app as a supplementary resource to allow students to post their best/favorite journal entries, illustrations, notes, whatever as an individualized assessment tool. So instead of telling everyone “turn in the journal entry from chapter one” I might ask them to take a photo of their best journal entry from chapters 1-5 and upload it to Seesaw for me to assess.

I’m hoping to keep a record of the process here in the blog. If you have any ideas or suggestions, PLEASE feel free to share!