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

French: A Cajun Folktale and Zydeco Class Context

In middle school, we have to constantly think about engaging and motivating students. I could have just shown them pictures of the musical instruments, but I think it’s really important to bring in real instruments that they can touch. Having the sound, the touch, the visual, ties all those senses together, and the more senses that are involved in the lesson, the more they’re going to retain.

– Paris Granville




Francophone Vacation Destinations

  • Focus on 10 countries on 6 continents, and read a folktale or story from each one
  • Leisure activities; Food; Geography; Cultural or religious traditions

Solving Mysteries

  • Murder mystery simulation (A crocodile is found dead; students try to learn who did it and how)
  • Getting and obtaining information; Asking questions

Getting Around the City

  • Directions; Places in the city; Stores


  • Places to visit in Paris; Metro system

Clothing and Shopping

  • Students present a fashion show and give impromptu descriptions of what models are wearing

Restaurant and Traditional Six-Course Meal

  • Vocabulary and basic etiquette for ordering and eating a traditional six-course meal

Handcrafted Bookmaking

  • Students write and illustrate a children’s book, then read it to a young child

School Profile

Paris Granville teaches seventh- and eighth-grade French at Pleasant Hill Middle School in Pleasant Hill, California, a suburb of San Francisco. Approximately 850 students in grades 6-8 attend the school. Students can take French or Spanish as an elective in sixth grade, which the majority of students choose to do. Subsequent placement in higher-level seventh- and eighth-grade French or Spanish is based on teacher recommendations.

Lesson Design

Paris Granville refers to the Standards, the California State Frameworks, and the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners when designing her lessons (see Resources). For each unit, she begins with the district curriculum objectives and determines the students’ final performance or product and how it will be measured. She then works backward to plan the individual lessons and make connections to the Standards. This ensures that the lesson objectives mirror the assessment, and that individual activities lead to the intended outcomes. To prepare students for final assessments, Ms. Granville conducts multiple informal assessments throughout the unit, giving students a chance to practice the skills that will be examined later.

The Lesson

In this lesson, students learned about aspects of the Cajun culture in Louisiana. The lesson was part of the Francophone Vacation Destinations unit, in which students learned about different cultures through traditional folktales or stories. They began by studying nearby French-speaking regions (in Canada and the U.S.), then moved to francophone countries in the Caribbean, the Pacific, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

When appropriate, Ms. Granville incorporates technology into her lessons. The animation feature allows her to introduce new action verbs entirely in French. Ms. Granville also gives her students the option to use PowerPoint in their project presentations, and makes her animated presentation (with added narration) available to students who were absent.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Creating Cultural Experiences: The teacher designs activities in which students can see, hear, or touch a cultural artifact, create their own cultural artifact, and/or observe or engage in cultural practices in or beyond the classroom. These direct or simulated experiences lead students to discover the perspectives of the culture being studied.
  • Storytelling: The teacher communicates the meaning of a story by paraphrasing the text in the target language and showing its illustrations, while frequently checking for learner comprehension and reaction.
  • Student Grouping: The teacher designs activities that allow students to engage in multiple types of interactions, including working with partners, in small groups, and as a whole class.

Series Directory

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