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

French: A Cajun Folktale and Zydeco

French I, grade 8: After preparing her students for new vocabulary, Paris Granville retells a Cajun folktale while students act out the story. Students then create a story map to delve into the different story elements. Ms. Granville introduces zydeco music and the instruments typically used to create it, such as the washboard, accordion, and spoons.



Paris Granville






Pleasant Hill Middle School, Pleasant Hill, California

Lesson Date

January 13

Class Size



80 minutes every other day

Video Summary

In this lesson, students learn about music and storytelling in the Cajun culture. They begin by comparing Louisiana and California life. Ms. Granville then introduces new vocabulary about agriculture while retelling a traditional Cajun folktale. Next, the students re-enact the story in groups, then use a story map to review elements of the folktale. Ms. Granville concludes the lesson with an introduction to zydeco music, including an opportunity for students to play authentic instruments.


Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretive

Cultures: Practices, Products

Connections: Making Connections


backward planning
In backward planning, also called backward design, the teacher plans a unit or lesson by first identifying the desired end task or product, then working in reverse to identify the prerequisite learning tasks and benchmark assessments.

informal assessment
During an informal assessment, a teacher evaluates students’ progress while they are participating in a learning activity, for example, a small-group discussion. Results are typically used to make decisions about what to do next, namely, whether the students are ready to move on or whether they need more practice with the material.

Realia are materials that are highly visual, contextualized, and culturally authentic. Realia can include posters, advertisements, labels, schedules, tickets, placemats, and more.

story map
A story map is a graphic organizer that leads students to discover specific elements from a written or oral text. It is built upon common elements such as characters and characteristics, place, plot, resolution, and moral or lesson, or a “who, what, when, where, how, and why” format.



Venn diagram
A Venn diagram is a type of graphic organizer consisting of two partially overlapping circles. A Venn diagram helps learners see the similarities and differences between two topics. Each circle represents one topic (for example, “U.S.” and “Target Culture”). Common characteristics are recorded in the overlapping area between the circles. Information unique to each topic is recorded in the area outside the overlap. The Venn diagram is a strong visual support for concrete and abstract comparisons.

Connecting to Your Teaching

Reflect on Your Practice
As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

  • What technology do you routinely use in your classroom? What special units have you designed that rely on technological support? What opportunities are there in your school for finding support for and collaborating on technological presentations?
  • How do you engage students with art forms from other cultures?
  • What opportunities do you present to students to learn about the variety of cultures in which your target language is spoken?

Watch Other Videos
Watch other videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 library for more examples of teaching methodologies like those you’ve just seen. Note: All videos in this series are subtitled in English.

Russian Cities, Russian Stories (Russian) illustrates a reading-to-writing strategy used with folktales, and Routes to Culture (Spanish) shows students experiencing culture through authentic musical instruments and traditional music.

Put It Into Practice
Try these ideas in your classroom. Where it’s not already evident, reflect on how to adapt an idea that targets one performance range for application to other performance ranges.

  • Collaborate with language arts teachers at your school to develop graphic organizers that can be used in both languages. This will help students see that interpreting texts is the same regardless of the language. Ms. Granville used the popular language arts strategy of story mapping (problem/action/resolution) to focus on key vocabulary and spelling and to push students’ language and thinking skills to a higher level. For more advanced students, work with English literature teachers to create more sophisticated organizers that focus on story elements such as plot, conflict, and dénouement.
  • Share folktales with students to give them cultural perspectives while teaching new vocabulary and reinforcing key grammatical structures. Ms. Granville’s story contained references to agriculture (often a topic in folktales), colloquial language (patate), a realistic situation using past-tense actions, and a moral that reflected on the characters valued or mocked in Cajun culture. Because many folktales are written in a traditional language style that can be hard for students to read, you might need to retell them, as Ms. Granville did, in ways that make them comprehensible to students. (This is perfectly appropriate, since folktales began as an oral genre.) Save the presentation elements as a set so that you can reuse them in subsequent years or with students at other levels.


World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages create a roadmap to guide learners to develop competence to communicate effectively and interact with cultural understanding. This lesson correlates to the following Standards:

Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes

Interpersonal Communication

Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.

Interpretive Communication

Learners understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics.

Interact with cultural competence and understanding

Relating Cultural Practices to Perspectives

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the cultures studied.

Relating Cultural Products to Perspectives

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the products and perspectives of the cultures studied.

Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations

Making Connections

Learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and to solve problems creatively.


Lesson Materials
Zydeco, Buckwheat. Zydeco Boogaloo. Courtesy of Rounder Records.

Chenier, Clifton. Zydeco Sont Pas Salé. Tradition Music Co. (BMI), administered by Bug Music Co.

The Potato (PDF, 31 K)
A worksheet that gave students information and language exercises using the topic of the potato (Includes English translation)

Story Map (PDF, 14 K)
A worksheet that students used to review and draw meaning from the Cajun folktale (Includes English translation)

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