I am rolling out a new French 7 curriculum this year. Since my new units are thematic, I took a fresh look at the film Kirikou and thought about where (and if) it belonged in the curriculum. I decided to try something different and do a mini-unit about the film early in the year. Usually I save films for later in the year when students have more structures and vocabulary. But in keeping with my new practice of leading with input, I thought a simple movie might be an engaging source of days and days worth of simple French.
Kirikou is a beautifully illustrated animated film with a simple plot line and a surprise ending. Much of the plot can be understood through visuals, although there are a few scenes where I gave a 2-3 sentence explanation in English. As always, students watched the film in French with French captions. It is set in West Africa and includes some cultural products like la case, les ignames, and les fétiches. It also lends itself to a conversation about cultural perspectives on nudity (eg bare legs are acceptable and common in the US; naked breasts are acceptable and common in France, where the film was made and adored by a very young audience). As students blushed and giggled, I simply asked that they notice this reaction and consider how we came to hold our ideas about what is and isn't okay to see on the human body.
I spent 9 days on this film. The unit template is here. My student Can-Dos for the unit are:
I can name and describe the main characters in this film (review of Unit 1, Le Moi Unique + 3rd person)
I can describe the overall story arc of the film (passive recognition of who/what/where/when/why + teacher-constructed answers to these questions)
My essential questions are:
Who is a hero?
What can we learn about a culture from its folktales?
I've made a packet with all my student materials for this unit here. It includes:
1. Listening guide for the trailer
2. Table to record information about key characters
3. Chronology activity
5. Theme song lyrics
You can see my daily lesson plans here if you're interested. The night before we began the film, I assigned students the trailer and some interpretive questions as homework. This let them get used to the nudity outside of class. I spent the whole first day setting the scene with a slideshow I found on a British website. The next 5 days we watched about 15-20 minutes of the film each day (my classes last 45 minutes), stopping to discuss and ask questions.
I introduced a number of useful structures via the film such as definite and indefinite articles, plural adjectives, and il veut & ils veulent. The unit also reinforced recently-learned material like descriptions in the third person. Students received a vocabulary list and structures handout to track this information.
Once we'd finished the film, students made a mind map about the characters, setting, and main events. This served as a graphic organizer for them to each make a trailer about the film. They pulled images from online sources and added their own narration using memorized language from the packet and descriptive sentences of their own creation. Next, students watched one another's trailers and scribed what they heard as a way to reinforce the most important vocabulary from the film.
I gave an ACTFL IPA-style interpretive reading assessment based on the first page of the book version of the story. It was astounding to see students handle this gracefully after just 3 months of French study! Many thanks to Lisa Shepard, whose blog features examples this type of assessment. After the assessment, while I was at ACTFL, I posted a number of pages from the book and had students choose one to study in depth.
What movies do you use with your first-year French students? Do you teach Kirikou at your school? I'd love to hear your feedback on this unit if you try it!