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.


Les Griots d’Afrique


As part of French 3’s “Legends and Supernatural” unit, I wanted to address the griot storytelling tradition of Francophone Africa – and WOW I did not anticipate it being so hard to find #authres for this mini-lesson. To be honest, I almost abandoned it all together but I’m glad I didn’t because it shaped up to be an interesting lesson! Plus, it exposed my students to a culture that I tend to shy away from because I am not as familiar with it as I would like to be.

Here’s my lesson sequence:

Day 1: I did a TPRS-style story to illustrate the role of a griot in society. I had one student play a griot, and several others play the roles of people in a village who want stories or songs for their family history. The students just had to act out what I narrated.

Day 2: We did the “C’est quoi un griot, d’abord?” reading with accompanying questions, then watched a TEDx video (in English) of a griot playing traditional instruments and singing; in the latter half of the video he explains what a griot is. We then started the process of watching a video of a griot (I think – at least an African storyteller) tell the legend of L’Homme et le hibou. This is a VERY challenging video; I provided the students with unfamiliar vocabulary and also asked some guiding questions in English to help them figure out what to listen for.

Day 3: We continued with the L’Homme et le hibou video and then broke down together how the story fits the typical characteristics of a legend (animals, magic, personification and a lesson). Then we watched the trailer for Youssou N’Dour’s documentary I Bring What I LoveI had the students do a CLOZE exercise of his explanation of his heritage and upbringing as a griot. There are English subtitles for his French speech, but they are very much just paraphrasing what he says and do not correspond word-for-word to his dialogue; you could alternatively just play the audio first and the video later. I would recommend at this point playing one of N’Dour’s songs.

Day 4: We read the legend Comment le lion devint roi and decided together if it fit the characteristics of an African legend or not. The version of the legend I used comes from http://www.conte-moi.net and there is audio and accompanying exercises in addition to the actual text.

Day 5: Begin the final assessment; the students work in groups of 2-3 to retell a legend, griot-style (or they may write their own legend). I have given them strict parameters in order to keep it simple enough for their proficiency level and also asked that they create a slide of images for any unfamiliar vocabulary that may come up in the legend, to make it more comprehensible for their classmates. We’ve spent the entire semester working on past tense narration, so that is really my linguistic focus for this assessment.

Here is a link to my resource packet for this lesson. As per usual, if there are language errors or formatting things you would like to change, please fix them on your own copy.

Bonne continuation!



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!


Le séisme en Haiti: A unit for French 4/5AP students


Well, in a fashion true to myself, I’ve probably bitten off a lot more than I can chew this year! In addition to my normal class schedule of French 2-AP, I’m still working on writing curriculum for our county (we’re on to French 3 this year!). I’ve also signed on to participate in the World Language department’s leadership team as we attempt to move toward a more proficiency-based model, my building’s Continuous Improvement team, and I’m mentoring our newest Spanish teacher. I’ve also been wrestling with some health issues that, after a minor surgical procedure last week, should hopefully be fully resolved (cross your fingers for me).

Life doesn’t show signs of slowing down any time soon, but while I was recovering last week I was inspired by the #langchat topic of cross-curricular collaboration and started planning a new unit for my French 4/AP split. I thought it pertinent to address the hurricane that blew through the Caribbean last week, Hurricane Matthew, causing further problems for the already impoverished nation of Haiti. My plan for this unit is to address the initial disaster that hit Haiti in 2010, the huge earthquake, and how the billions of dollars in humanitarian aid were effectively squandered. The second phase is to examine how access to potable water is a basic human right (à la Carrie Toth) – and that 1 in 10 people worldwide do not currently have access to a safe water source; Haiti is certainly part of that demographic.

I’m hoping to collaborate with my colleagues in science to do a water-testing lab, and to perhaps have one of the science teachers who traveled to Haiti for volunteer work last year come in to talk about his experiences in the country. My cousin is also a pediatrician who has traveled to Haiti on 3 separate occasions with Doctors Without Borders and I’m hoping she might have time to contribute something as well.

Today I’m sharing the introductory part of my unit, which I hope will familiarize my students with the country of Haiti, as well as how the country was affected by the massive earthquake in 2010. The packet I’m sharing here is a SMALL sampling of the numerous resources I’ve bookmarked and I anticipate that it will take the rest of this week to work through (with pauses for our normal Mercredi Musique routines & our obligatory grammar study). I will  use the other resources as a supplement if time permits. You can use it as you see fit – eliminate the grammar portion if need be and correct any language errors you might notice). You will also need to change the prompt for the Présentation Ecrite section, as it is personalized for the in-school experiences of my students. I also do not claim to know if the work I’ve asked the students to do is totally level appropriate for a 4/AP class; I mostly have no idea what I’m doing 🙂

I’ll share the rest when it’s finished!


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.