While I aspire to create engaging lessons for my students, I rarely use suspense as a hook. The 2010 movie Une Vie de chat (A Cat in Paris), however, instills a sense of excitement in its very plot line - a quality that I find rare in films for children. There are some interesting characters (a police captain mom, a silent daughter, a "good" thief) and lots for beginning students to discuss: what will happen next? why does the daughter get her voice back? how can the police captain fall in love with the burglar? There are some great resources at this site which inspired my mini-unit and I've pinned all resources here.
I spent 6 days on this film, which is a squeeze. My student Can-Dos for the unit are:
I can name and describe the main characters in this film
I can describe the overall story arc of the film
I can summarize key scenes from the film
I can talk about themes in the film
My essential questions are:
What makes someone good or evil?
How do families change over time?
I've made a packet with all my student materials for this unit here. It includes:
1. Listening guide for the trailer (regrettably, I can no longer figure out where I got this activity from - please let me know if you find it so that I can provide proper credit!)
2. Important vocabulary - words kids need to know in order to talk about the plot
3. Table to record information about key characters (I assign one character per student; then we do a jigsaw share at the end)
4. Activity from this site with descriptions of characters to match to their pictures
5. Just a few key questions about the film
You can see my daily lesson plans here if you're interested. I spend the whole first day setting the scene, studying the trailer, and making predictions. I assign each student 1 character to "follow" and take notes on during the film and they share these notes in a jigsaw activity at the end of the unit. The next 3 days we watch about 20-25 minutes of the film each day (my classes last 45 minutes), stopping to discuss and ask questions. Days 5 includes mapping the story and making a fortune-teller to ask one another key questions about the film. Fortune-tellers are so easy to make using this template - I really recommend them and have Valerie Shull at Proficiency From The Start to thank for this idea! We watch an authentic video about how to fold a fortune-teller (thanks to Creative Language Class for the inspiration here) and then kids work in concentric circles, changing partners and asking each other the "big" questions about the film.
The unit concludes on Day 6 with 3 stations, the last of which is an assessment:
1. Jigsaw share about characters using table in the packet
2. Play Celebrity (basically a combo of Taboo and Charades) with the vocabulary and characters
3. Write a paragraph about how Dino is the same and different from "regular" cats OR how Zoé changes during the film OR the main events of the film (for students who are still working on narrating in the past). We call this a fluency count and students try to write as much as possible in 10 minutes; they save all their writing in a folder to review throughout the year.
The other film I teach in French 8 is Les Choristes. You can read about my mini-unit here.