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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

French: Family and Home Class Context

I think the most valuable lesson that my kids can take away from my room is that language learning is accessible to them and it could open a door for them that might not have been opened before.

– Debra Terry




Weather and Calendar

Basic Vocabulary






Animal Habitats


(Holidays and Cultural Studies are incorporated throughout the year.)

School Profile

Debra Terry teaches French in grades K-5 at Rebecca M. Johnson Elementary School in Springfield, Massachusetts. The school serves primarily the Mason Square area, a neighborhood located in the heart of the city, but also accepts students from across Springfield. The school’s 775 students reflect the diversity of the Springfield community, an urban center with a population of approximately 150,000 people.

Lesson Design

The Springfield Public School District has developed and implemented a curriculum that defines the scope and sequence for the K-12 foreign language program. This curriculum, which is regularly updated by the Foreign Languages Curriculum Committee, draws on the Standards and the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks (see Resources). Teachers design individual lessons in accordance with this curriculum, making accommodations for their personal teaching style, their students’ needs, and the resources that are available to them. Ms. Terry often uses backward planning when designing lessons within the scope and sequence. “I start with the big picture,” she says. “Here’s what I need them to know by the end of this unit. How am I going to get them there?”

The Lesson

This videotaped lesson, part of a unit on the home, combined new and old vocabulary to teach students how to talk about family members and their activities in different rooms in the home. “If you can say your mom is in the living room, you can transfer that to other people and places,” Ms. Terry says. In the lesson that followed this one, students shared sentences they wrote for homework. Their classmates placed figurines representing family members in a model house to demonstrate the sentences. Students then continued to practice creating original sentences about family and home. Finally, students were assessed on listening comprehension before moving on to the next unit.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Manipulating Language Structures: The teacher helps students develop an awareness of how the language is structured by engaging them in reading activities that involve rearranging sentence fragments to change meaning.
  • Scaffolding: Scaffolding is a method of structuring an instructional task in a way that helps learners gradually advance through the process. Initial portions of the task are designed to be within learners’ competency so that they can complete them on their own. As students’ confidence, skill, and knowledge increase, the teacher provides less and less scaffolding for the task in a gradual release of responsibility.
  • Visualizing Vocabulary: The teacher uses visuals to establish concrete images of vocabulary and to help students remember the terms.


Series Directory

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 2003. 2016.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2