Dollar Street: Images of families from around the world

“People in other cultures are often portrayed as scary or exotic,” says Anna Rosling Rönnlund, the inventor of Dollar Street. “This has to change. We want to show how people really live. It seemed natural to use photos as data so people can see for themselves what life looks like on different income levels. Dollar Street lets you visit many, many homes all over the world. Without traveling.” 

La famille Mbusya

In a unit on families, the images from Dollar Sense can give students information to answer the question “What is a family?” To get to that answer, students can observe families from different countries around the world.

To start, preview the site with your students. Then give them an assignment where they read about different families, think about the information and do some writing for themselves. The sample assignment that I linked here is for Novice level students.

How have you used Dollar Street in your class?

P.S. Thanks to the comments by readers, I was able to make a second activity that is similar using the site Là où je dors

Movie: Une vie de chat

Every year I get a few requests for materials to use with a film. I always direct teachers to this excellent packet to be used with the film Une vie de chat.

This is a film that I can recommend because teachers can buy it on Amazon Prime with the audio in French and show it in their classroom from their own computer. Teachers aren’t always able to buy DVDs in French in this country and even if they already own a film, many schools no longer have the ability to show DVDs. An additional problem is that some of the French movies that appear on Amazon Prime and Netflix don’t have the audio in French. You will see on this blog materials for Belle et Sebastien and the French audio isn’t available on Amazon Prime. So given all this, I figure Une vie de chat is a good film to share with teachers seeing that all teachers can access it.

Please find below sample activities from the packet to do with your students in order to use this film to teach language and culture. Depending on the level of your students, they might have trouble understanding the film. For example, my students who are Novices can’t understand the dialogue of this film. I was able to show it when I had students who were Intermediate Low.

If you do rent or buy the movie on Amazon Prime, you will have it on your own account and won’t be able to leave the movie for a substitute teacher without sharing your login information. I don’t see films as a very good activity without the teacher seeing that while your students watch the movie you will probably need to repeat lines for them and stop periodically to explain in simplified French what is happening. My suggestion for this film is to watch it with your students, to comment frequently in simple French as the action is happening and to repeat important lines a few times.

I love sharing a film with a class. The shared experience is very rich as you share the emotions you feel with others. Enjoy!

Here are the teaching slides

Preview the film
Show the poster
Here are some questions to explore the imagery and design:
a. Qui vois-tu sur l ́affiche du film?
b. Qui est le personnage principal?
c. Quand est-ce que la scène a lieu?
d. Quelles impressions as-tu? Est-ce que ça fait peur ? Est-ce que c ́est menaçant?
Mystérieux? Pourquoi ?
e. Dans quel pays/ dans quelle ville est-ce que le chat vit? Trouve une preuve.

Show two posters
Compare the English version of the poster with the French one and spot the differences:
a. Quels sont les 4 personnages qui apparaissent sur l ́affiche anglaise?
b. Compare le titre français et le titre anglais du film. Pourquoi sont-ils différents?
c. Quel titre te semble le plus accrocheur? Pourquoi?
d. Quelle version de l ́affiche (anglaise ou française) préfères-tu? Pourquoi?
e. Imagine, en quelques phrases, l ́histoire du film.
f. Fais une liste de thèmes et de mots-clés liés au film.
g. De quel genre de film s’agit-il d’après toi?
un film d ‘horreur, une comédie, un film policier, un film d ́amour

Hand out the vocabulary for descriptions

Students describe the characters on the slide

Guessing game. One student describes a character and the other students identify which one.

Bande annonce activity

First scene, 3 minutes
Do a Movie Talk with Une vie de chat Picture Talk
Give students the handout of vocabulary
Ask students to read the Script
Ask students to do Scramble (here’s the answer key)

While watching the film
Page 7 of the PDF

After watching the film
Page 12 of the PDF

Qui parle à qui? with the slide

Match each character with the right description with the slide

Page 19 of the PDF

Strategies for reading with Novices

Here are strategies for teaching reading so that the next time your students are tackling a text, you can rely on these ideas. I have ten to share to support you in your teaching of reading to Novices.

  1. Choose an accessible text. For this post I will refer to a text that I used in the first few months, La langue français dans le monde. Look for simple, short texts with images, good use of color and italics or bolding to bring out meaning. Prioritize maps, infographics, lists, ads and labeled images.
  2. Give students a paper copy to read and write on or have them on their devices open the reading in an application like Notability that allows them to mark it up.
  3. Start by previewing the topic. Ask students their personal opinions or their own practices related to the theme.
  4. Define some of the most relevant words you think the students won’t know and read out loud to students the key parts of the text from slides with bolded words that will help with overall meaning.
  5. Remind students of their reading strategies in their first language. Ask them to look for clues in the title, pictures and cognates and remind them to use the context.
  6. Continue by having them reread the whole reading in pairs to discuss and puzzle through it.
  7. As the teacher, I walk around to check in with my students. I allow them to ask vocabulary questions and when they do I put translations on the board for all to see.
  8. Tell students that they are reading for the general idea. Beginning readers need to learn that they don’t need to understand every word, but instead to get the idea.
  9. Ask if one student can help the class understand by stating the general idea of the text in French. Ask students questions that check for comprehension.
  10. Make connections with the reading. In this case I showed a video with a lot of images and little text. Students saw the names, flags and some images of different Francophone countries. Then I asked them to tell me something they observed and to say whether it was something they knew already or new to them. Make sure to bring out the cultural and justice ideas by asking students to make connections.

Other examples of Novice readings:
Calendrier scolaire avec prénoms
Fourniture Scolaires Liste Modèle
Pour une rentrée scolaire éco-responsable
A chaque classe son emploi de temps
Pour le quatre-heures

Poetry Month, my small contribution

April was poetry month and I was teaching my novices a unit on school, so I incorporated in my lessons Pierre Ruaud’s poem “Pour la rentrée”. How to use this authentic resource? Well, I would want my students to understand the meaning of the words and the playfulness of the poem. Culturally I know there is a great tradition in France of teaching students to recite poetry, so I decided to ask my students to do the same. And, I see the rhythm of a poem as an opportunity to work on pronunciation.

I have a novice low activity on pronunciation using names that I have shared on these pages before. I use it in the first few days of class. This activity, two units later, would build on that work now that the students have been speaking the language for longer.

Here is the poem. You can use this handout for your students.

And, here are the slides that I used in teaching this lesson.

The steps were simple. I read the students the poem in English while they looked at the French. I then read the poem in French and asked them to listen to the pronunciation. I asked them for their observations and then I gave them a brief lesson on pronunciation using words from the poem. Next, I asked students to practice using a video of a French student reciting the poem and then record themselves reciting the poem on Flipgrid. This technique can be used with any poem, of course!

I have a second example to share, to show you how to use the same technique with a different poem. Here are the slides and here is the handout.

School then and now

I am showing the trailers of two different films to get students to use their observation skills to compare school 70 years ago and now. My students are novice learners, so there is limited language to rely on to do these activities.

What I like about this activity is that the students observe and compare and are able to use language that is given to them to show their ideas. Here is the presentation with the trailers from the two films and the graphic organizer.

You will see on the edges of the graphic organizer suggestions for language for the students to use as they compare school then and now. Students will show their thinking by organizing the terms into ones that describe school in 1949 and ones that describe school in 2019.

Please note there is a swear in one of the trailers. It doesn’t bother me because I usually mute the audio quickly at that point!

My motivation for making this very scaffolded assignment was to build towards having students compare their school to one in another part of the world. I included in the presentation a video on school in Montréal for your students to compare with their school. The video is an excellent look into perspectives in Québec and it addresses teacher / student relationships, support for LGBTQ+ students and recreation during the school day.

As a further activity for students to prepare for comparing schools, I have included an activity for a song from TV5 Monde. The vocabulary that is employed in the activity will give students additional vocabulary to rely on. It is my hope that by including additional parts of the unit you will see how the Venn Diagram activity can be used to support students speaking in French about culture.

Reader: Qui parle français? Livre 1

Individuals in a culture share knowledge of the same people. When I listen to a podcast or read a book, there are references to real people who it is understood that the listener or reader will know. In Novice French I want to introduce my students to people world-wide who speak the language they are learning, so I have found this reader to be helpful. The purpose of my post is to share with you one way this reader could be incorporated into your students’ learning.

The can-do statement for intercultural communication is: I can describe famous people who speak French.

You might want to start with a video of why people around the world speak French. This EdPuzzle of a video from 1jour1actu could be a good start. Then move on to a Quizlet that introduces high frequency verbs in the first person. These phrases appear again and again in the readings and teaching them up front will support your students. Next, have the students do the short one-page readings on the different personalities. After the students read, ask them to list five facts in their journal about the person, then have them share these facts as a whole class.

This reader is an excellent example of a place where materials written for language learning can be a support for using authentic documents. The reader is very accessible to novice learning and provides them with entry-level information. If you like to teach using authentic documents, follow up with an authentic document. For example, here are three EdPuzzles for your students:

I have two ideas for a follow-up activity after students have read about a few different people. As a first example, the teacher can put up a slide at the front of the room with pictures of the people and their names. The teacher can use some of the information that students shared about them and ask the students to guess which person is being described. Secondly, the students can do a gallery walk where they write stickies to describe the different individuals and place them on their picture. This can be done in the classroom by printing out pictures, labeling them with the names, hanging them around the room and giving students stickies. Or, it can be done online by creating a series of slides on Jamboard with the pictures and names and students can post stickies virtually. Either way, allow students to use their notes as references when writing details on the stickies.

I hope you will find these materials useful with your own students!

Resources for Novices for Black History Month

Before I begin, here is the lesson I ultimately ended up with and here is the reading.

In celebration of Black History Month I went looking for relevant resources that would interest my novice students. I came up with three different inspirations and want to share them with you to show you how I decided to proceed. A good source for help with evaluating the different possibilities is this resource on teaching Black History from the Anti-Defamation League.

I thought about taking a picture book and pulling out the themes that are relevant to the black experience in our country. I found the beautiful book Toc Toc Toc Papa où es-tu? The language is simple and the themes are of interest to my students. Watch the video of a reading of the book and I promise you will feel deep emotion. Ultimately, I shied away from this idea because I couldn’t find the right approach to addressing the stereotype of missing black fathers. I didn’t feel like I had the authority to bring that up with a group of students. And, I thought in my majority-white classroom, the stereotype of the missing black father would be hard to unravel in a way that did not make my few black students uncomfortable.

I then wanted to discuss racism with this video as a starting point and present a person who fought against racism. I could think of no one better than Aimé Césaire, who is presented in this brochure and this video. I thought I would also be able to share some of his poems. This felt like a better fit for my expertise but try as I may, I couldn’t make the level of language work for my students, it was just too advanced

Along the way I found this excellent and accessible video about the importance of Africa telling its own story, but then couldn’t connect that to what I wanted to teach.

At this point I realized I needed a text that was truly accessible to Novice-Mid students and I found it in this comic strip. Unfortunately, pieces of the comic strip were problematic. I didn’t love the idea of trying to present Toussaint Louverture as “the black version of Napoleon” or “the first black hero” and wasn’t willing to show an image of a hanging man. But, I liked the idea of discussing the slave trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas and to concentrate on Toussaint Louverture’s heroic actions. My solution was to shorten the reading for my students and take out an image of a person hanging.

Allow me to address the point that we don’t want to teach and reteach slavery as the only theme of Black History that we address. I hear you. I will need to expand my repertoire of resources to include other themes. I am just getting started and don’t have many models to rely on. The reason why I chose this reading is that Toussaint Louverture responded to slavery in Haiti by rising up and it is that act that I am concentrating on in this reading.

Next, I had the problem of making the language and the concepts in the comic strip accessible to my students. I realized that I needed to explain in simple language some of the background information, so I set out to make some slides in simple language with key words bolded. Then I glossed some of the words from the comic strip. With the shortened reading that is linked above and with these slides, you can recreate my lesson if you wish.

Along the way, I spoke with my French colleagues and asked them to read the comic strip. We worked together to understand what would be the best fit for students. And, I listened to their advice on how to precede. I am pretty confident that the resulting lesson isn’t the best out there, but it is a start for me, in teaching Black History. Please let me know if any of the steps I took sound familiar to you.

P.S. If your students are progressing towards Intermediate, don’t miss this post on Black History Month from La Libre Language Learning. And if you use CI resources (which I incorporate too!) here is an outstanding idea for Novices from Toward Proficiency.

Current Events in the World Language Classroom

I wanted to share with you three different ideas of how to address current events in the World Language Classroom to encourage students to interact with the news. I hope that in modeling the activities you might want to make your own resources and if so, you can find articles and videos to make your own lessons from these sources:

Image from 1jour1actu. Download their free bi-weekly edition.

1jour1actu and Mon Quotidien are both free current events sites for French young people. In contrast, Petit Journal is a paid resource and it is written for French language learners. You can consider the advantages of each one for your students’ needs and interests. 

One way to jump into using current events is to ask students to match headlines or short descriptions with pictures as I did in this example using materials from 1jour1actu. I like to do this at the start of class. When I ask students to work in pairs they discuss their understanding of the words in French and collaborate to further their understanding.

Or, to employ a different idea you could choose a comic strip and video on the same topic from 1jour1actu. As an example, at the beginning of this year my students read a comic strip (on the third page) on Covid-19 and watched the accompanying video. As they read I asked them to look up words on the wordreference.com site. We watched the video together as a class and I paused the video and asked questions. You could put your questions into an EdPuzzle instead, if you wanted to hold each student accountable.

A third idea is to have the students work in pairs, each reading one of two articles. I used this one from 1jour1actu on Macron’s announcement for quarantine with one from the Petit Journal Francophone. There is also an Mon Quotidien article on the same subject that you could use instead. Then, they have to complete this graphic organizer in English together, identifying the information that was in the first or the second article or both. I like that they have to use higher order thinking in order to classify the information.

I hope that you will find an idea here to inspire you. Please leave a comment if you find anything you can use! In conclusion I want to leave you with one more resource. Here is a form I have been using for years when I ask a class to read a current events article, especially the “l’info en grande” articles from 1jour1actu like this one on Mars, (on the 4th page). It has gotten a lot of use and I hope it can be useful in your class.

Teaching Film in the proficiency-based classroom: Belle et Sébastien

When I teach students French through film, I follow my regular World Language teaching rules: make the task accessible, limit the length of video clips, and everything we do prioritizes speaking and leads to discussion. I am going to walk you through how I do this referring to the film Belle et Sébastien. You will find all of my resources in this folder.

I have come to learn that when the language in the dialogue of a film is difficult, I can have students comment on the action and this works particularly well if you chose a film with a lot of action. While students are watching the film, they respond to statements as true or false and they have questions to guide their comprehension. See the handouts for during the film: 1 2 3 4 5

Using only short segments of a movie at a time allows me to use the rest of the class to explain culture, the historical setting of the film or to have the students do activities that help them understand the film. You will see how I did this in the teaching slides that go with the film.

As I said above, everything we do in French class prioritizes speaking and leads to a class discussion. After each segment, students respond to questions in pairs doing a Partner Turn and Talk. Students get many chances to speak each class because they are put into pairs for conversations. And, when doing this work in pairs, they prepare their thoughts for the class discussion that follows.

As a last point, I wanted to share that we studied this film after my students had already done a unit on World War II in their Social Studies class. It felt good to me to be able to reinforce what they had already learned.

It is my hope that through the examples that I have offered you can see some news ideas on how to use film to teach in the Proficiency-Based classroom. Please respond in a comment to tell me what parts of this lesson work for you or what you would include in a lesson on film. It would make me so happy to hear from each person who gets something out of this post.

Sitcoms: Making the task accessible

You will find the resources for the post in this folder.

Television is a very compelling medium. Even taken in small doses of less than fifteen minutes, a segment of a sitcom can show us the products, practices and perspectives of a culture. TV shows are a mostly unexploited resource in the World Language Classroom even though fictional stories are central to the ACTFL Can Do’s. I have found clips from Les Sisters, En famille and Parents Mode d’Emploi that can be accessible in a beginning class if the activity is carefully planned.

Les Sisters is a realistic cartoon about two sisters. The elder sister is always getting annoyed by her little sister. Fortunately for me, I was able to find a clip where the action happens in different rooms of the house when I was working on a unit about La maison idéale. I made statements about what happens in the show and the students put them in order, then they retell the story themselves. This activity is accessible because while the dialogue in the show is pretty advanced, my students were instead decoding the accessible langauge in the statements I wrote.

En famille and Parents Mode d’Emploi are sitcoms about the members of a family, much like Parenthood or Black-ish. I decided to use the clips to work on the key language function of describing, so the task would be accessible for Novice and Intermediate Low students. To encourage more complex thinking, I also ask students to explain why the clip is funny. Again, these tasks are accessible because students don’t need to understand all the dialogue in the clip. If they are able to get the gist, then they can rely on beginning language to explain what they see is happening in the clip.

I included with the other resources two extra shows, a reality competition show called Le Meilleur Pâtissier and a version of Parents Mode d’Emploi from Gabon. For Le Meilleur Pâtissier I made an EdPuzzle for the first segment of the show, then we watched another few minutes together and discussed. The show is a lot of fun to watch with students. While watching this episode my students saw how a French pastry chef is very exact in the decoration of a dessert. Another good reality television show for French class is Recerche Appartement ou Maison and though I didn’t share a task for that show with you, you can find one by searching the show’s name in EdPuzzle. What I did share with you are some clips from the African version of Parents Mode d’Emploi that appeared on TV5 Monde. I have included those clips with the student activities also made by TV5 Monde.

I believe your students will find these television clips compelling and they will also find the tasks accessible.