Spring fever can be intense in 8th grade , so I need a really engaging unit to keep students motivated to the very end. At my middle school, there are numerous interruptions to the teaching schedule in spring (state testing, field trips, concerts...) so while I have 39 school days for this unit, several are partially or wholly lost to special events.
Despite these two challenges, this unit's themes of health and hunger keep students working in French through June. Why food and hunger? I've always studied food at this time of year, but adding healthy eating and world hunger to the unit really creates a rich theme. Students are already familiar with basic notions of nutrition but are largely ignorant about world hunger. While the topic can feel overwhelmingly sad, I try to balance the harsh facts with learning about organizations that fight hunger and reflecting on our individual choices contribute to the problem or its solution.
Without further ado, here's the unit template, my student Can-Dos, and my daily lessons. All tasks and many authentic resources can be found in my student dossier. That document didn't format well in Google due to a mix of portrait and landscape page set-ups, but at least it's all there for you to grab and modify as you see fit.
My authentic resources for the unit can be found on my Pinterest board.
I like to kick off the unit by talking about CHOCOLATE because it's AMAZING! Here's a document that outlines the details of those first days. There are several infographics, a whole packet of activities, and more...check it out for yourself.
From here, we address the first two Can-Dos:
• I can state opinions about food: preferences, healthy foods, dietary restrictions
• I can analyze my food choices in terms of healthfulness
We start the unit by getting familiar with lots of food items via two silly video clips, En voici en voilà and Monsieur Salade. Here are my listening activities to accompany the clips. We play a pair game where students have to locate the person who has the same string of food items in the same order, which you can find here.
Now that we have some common vocabulary, we're ready to dive into the thematic aspect of healthy eating by reading about the 7 food families and grouping items on this table. they also keep a food diary and group the foods they've eaten by food family. We read excerpts from the French website La Santé vient en mangeant, which features hilarious faces made from common foods, and Et toi, tu manges bien? from Okapi. We round out our study of nutrition with an information-gap activity with various food pyramids from around the world. Since my students' parents come from many countries, they enjoy seeing some of those countries represented in French class. This polishes off the 3rd Can-Do:
• I can explain the US and French food pyramids
Now, we change gears just a bit and try to look at HOW we eat and compare that to typical French eating habits. I am on the lookout for a great authentic resource that explains this, in case anyone has one to share! Again, since my students come from many cultures, I try to make this about comparing typical French practice with one's own family's habits, not a monolithic American way of eating. Here are the relevant Can-Dos:
• I can describe different meals of the day and typical dishes served at these meals in France
• I can compare typical French and eating habits with those of my own family
We note comparisons and differences on a table (of course!) and then take a closer look at French school lunches, dishes from the francophone world, and some meats that are eaten in France (frog, horse, horse) but not here. This gives us a chance to use the partitive as we talk about what we do and don't eat. We watch a video about kids eating the French breakfast (part of la Semaine du goût) and complete an interpretive activity. We then do an interpretive reading activity with two texts: Lundi végétarien campaign ad and an article from Okapi called Bon app' les ados.
From here, we take a bit of a leap outside the direct content of the unit and read the Lebanese folktale Le Voleur et la souris. It starts with a food theme and includes some great plot points that encourage students to narrate in the past and use object pronouns. Here's the reading guide. This is one of the only points in the unit where students get to practice narrating in the past, and I need to work this bit of recycling in more frequently so that they stay fresh and continue to gain confidence with this emerging skill.
Our next two Can-Dos are:
• I can prepare a shopping list and do the grocery shopping
• I can order a meal in a restaurant and ask people to do things for me
For this, we watch a short McDo TV ad and review common expressions for ordering food. We then take it to the next level by imagining various scenarios in which students need to ask for specific items and order for specific dietary restrictions.
In order to liven up the shopping list piece and add some more content, students read Qu'est-ce qu'on mange dans le monde? from Okapi, complete an information gap activity, and then make a grocery list for one of the featured families.
Our last Can-Do is a weighty one with several parts:
I can explain why hunger exists, where it is prevalent and how various organizations are fighting hunger
We begin with an excellent animated film La faim dans le monde, quel paradoxe! and my listening guide. Students do need some additional vocabulary at this point, so I use this activity to get them started (not the most creative, I'm afraid, but it does the trick!). Not every student is ready for the nuanced idea of paradox, but they can all explain the why and where of hunger. I try to personalize the issue for them while linking it to the francophone world by showing some UN World Food Program videos of young people from francophone countries and having them complete another listening activity. This familiarizes students with the Faim Zéro campaign and begins our exploration of organizations fighting hunger.
We also learn about the Restos du coeur, Course contre la faim, and Médécins sans Frontières with these promotional videos (click organization name to view), answered questions in a listening packet, and compile findings in an interpretive table. Students enjoyed brainstorming local equivalents of these organizations and projects.
Food waste is a hot teaching topic these days, and I decided to include it in the unit last year. However, I found that students tended to understand its relationship to hunger far too simplistically (essentially: "People in Africa are hungry because fat Americans are wasting all their food"), so proceed with caution if broaching this with young students! I used this infographic and this reading from 1Jour1Actu and created these interpretive reading activities (and here) to accompany them.
The unit concludes with two different group movie-making projects. In the first, students create a PSA. There's a lot of great information out there in English about using PSAs to teach, which informed my instruction. I start by having students watch several PSAs (messages d'intérêt général) in French: about depression among the elderly, parental pressure to succeed at sports, and the effects of smoking. Students then analyzed these PSAs to determine common characteristics, especially the persuasive ones. They note these on this document, which outlines the project step-by-step. They made the PSAs with iMovie, which made collaboration outside class challenging. Here's the accompanying rubric and peer evaluation. You can view one student project example here.
The final project is a cooking show in video or slideshow format. I do it in groups of 3, with each student taking on a particular, assigned role. This helps a bit with sharing the workload. There are two packets that outline the project: the first goes to each student and the second to each group. I started doing this project several years before my révolution, so you will note that it could stand to evolve a bit more.