In the depths of winter, I undertake a long unit on leisure, vacations, and quality of life in order to escape a bit from the cold. This unit takes place between our winter break in February and spring break in April and is intended to give us some virtual sunshine and pleasure as we await the real thing. We are now firmly in Intermediate Low proficiency, and this unit exposes students to the past time frame for the first time.
My template for the unit is here, as well as my student Can-Do chart where they track their learning. I've also got the daily lesson plans if you're open to seeing something a bit messy. 35 days on this huge topic is all about "eating the elephant" as Greg Duncan would say...you've just got to go one bite at a time!
My authentic resources for the unit can be found on my Pinterest board.
I love my hook for this unit. It's the pop song C'est les vacances by then-child star Ilona Mitrecey, and the video has great visuals to get students started with my first Can-Dos:
• I can discuss activities (sports, games, music), pastimes and chores
• I can describe a trip by mode of transport, destination, and duration
I've created a cloze activity for the song, a pictogram for students to retell it with the new vocabulary, and then a group activity where students compare Ilona's trip to Italy with their upcoming vacation plans and their idea of an ideal vacation.
To add some more sports to the picture, we watch a promotional video from the recreation department of the Atlantic seaside town of Pornichet (where I did my first homestay in 1989!). Here's the listening activity to accompany it.
Then students are ready to produce some language of their own, in the form of a presentational project called J'adore jouer. My students are very athletic and musical, so this fits well with their passions. They simply choose an activity they love to do/play and share it with the class in a format of their choice. Here are the directions, rubric, peer evaluation, and notetaker for when students share their projects in small groups on the final day. The latter two documents really help students engage with one another during the project share, and they love getting immediate feedback on their presentational speaking skills.
At this point, students are ready to go a bit deeper, so we start exploring French ideas about leisure and wellbeing. They watch a video about the Fête de la Musique and read about the origins of this festival, in order to be able to describe it and make cultural observations about it. Here's my listening guide for the video, which includes a brief reading and questions as well.
Our unit focus then turns toward these Can-Dos:
• I can compare French and American definitions of la qualité de la vie
• I can compare my lifestyle to that of a French teen in terms of balance
• I can describe a balanced lifestyle and its benefits
This segment of the unit gets its own fabulous hook, which I learned about from Laura Terrill's ACTFL unit: Keen'v's song Ma vie au soleil. I developed a listening guide based on Terrill's suggestions, which focuses students on the difference between "la vie au soleil" and "métro boulot dodo."
We then read an article about the French school calendar and compare it to our school district with this interpretive activity. It's just a simple table, but it requires students to really understand the differences in length of vacations, start and end date, etc. Very naturally, a conversation about which system is preferable ensues. Students read a blog in English for homework that describes the French pause café, and we contrast that with the students' habits when visiting Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, two popular hangouts. Here's the activity to accompany the reading. We gather yet more data (albeit very, very soft data...) by reading the results of a survey about teen leisure in France (also check out this IPA based on work by Cécile Laîné), conducting our own survey in class, and noting the similarities and differences. I created an interpretive activity for the French survey here.
From here, we begin to tackle the latter Can-Dos about health and wellbeing. They watch a video about screen time and sleep for adolescents and complete an interpretive listening activity (formative), and then read a related article and do interpretive reading activity for it (summative). I find that, true to ACTFL Can-Dos, my learners can glean a lot from an authentic resource when they're already familiar with the topic. We hold a graded conversation on the topic and students share information as well as personal experiences. To delve more deeply into health, students work in groups to read about one health topic and share it with the class during a wellness fair. Their research came mostly from the MangerBouger.fr website. Here are the project directions and rubric, and notetaker for students to use during the fair.
Are you still with me!?
The final portion of the unit stretches students into a new time frame, the past, while continuing to examine leisure activities.
Can you imagine what would happen if your mother bought you a jersey for the wrong team...and not just any old team, but the arch rivals of your beloved home team? Thus begins the story Le Chandail de hockey. I first encountered this book at a Primary Source training for 4th grade teachers, since Canada is part of Massachusetts' elementary social studies curriculum. It is a simple story rich in Québécois cultural products, practices and perspectives. Even better, there's not only a book but also an animated film of the story. I created interpretive reading and listening activities for these resources.
My Can-Dos for this portion of the unit are:
• I can tell when events take place and in what order
• I can discuss past events and say what I’ve done
To address the first Can-Do, students complete a story map to work on the sequence of events and the setting. We then practice retelling the story in the past, with me feeding students examples of the passé composé (and even imparfait, such as était and il y avait) as vocabulary words. Inevitably students begin to ask about other forms of the past and I point them to pages in the textbook where they can find grammar charts with all the forms.
Here's where things get a bit messy, to be honest. Some students see those charts and just run with narrating in the past. Others are baffled by the sight of two verbs next to one another and use just the past participle to denote the past. There's a huge variety in how accurate students are able to be with this in French 8. Knowing that narrating in various time frames is an advanced skill, I have to keep reminding myself that I am aiming for exposure here. This is really hard for me.
Students demonstrate their understanding of the story, and explore narrating in the past, with a final project in which they retell the story in a format of their choice: song, snapshots, journal entry, dialog, etc. Here are the directions for the project, including a rubric.
Once students are a bit more familiar with narrating in the past, they make travel scrapbooks about trips in the francophone world (real or imagined). Here are the directions for the project and my rubric. We add an interpersonal aspect to this otherwise presentational project by holding a travel fair where students interview one another about their travels.