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

French: Comparing Communities

French III, grades 9 - 12: Ghislaine Tulou's students work in pairs to discuss aspects of their own community. They also discuss a Canadian community that they had read about and plan what they would do if they were to visit. Through individual and group-centered activities, students learn to express conditional statements about personal preferences.



Ghislaine Tulou


French III




McLean High School, McLean, Virginia

Lesson Date

March 21

Class Size



94 minutes every other day

Video Summary

In this lesson, students discuss community life at home and abroad and practice new grammatical structures. First, students share what they like about their community, then read an article about a French-speaking Canadian community and discuss what activities they would do if they visited there. Next, students learn the conditional verb forms using worksheets, and follow up with discussions about communities. Finally, Ms. Tulou introduces a children’s book that uses the conditional tense, and students practice writing sentences similar to those in the book.

Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretive, Presentational

Cultures: Products, Practices

Comparisons: Culture

Connections: Making Connections


authentic materials
Authentic materials are resources that have been developed specifically for native speakers. These include print, audio, and visual materials.

heritage speaker
A heritage speaker is a student who is exposed to a language other than English at home. Heritage speakers can be categorized based on the prominence and development of the heritage language in the student’s daily life. Some students have full oral fluency and literacy in the home language; others may have full oral fluency but their written literacy was not developed because they were schooled in English. Another group of students — typically third- or fourth-generation — can speak to a limited degree but cannot express themselves on a wide range of topics. Students from any of these categories may also have gaps in knowledge about their cultural heritage. Teachers who have heritage speakers of the target language in their class should assess which proficiencies need to be maintained and which need to be developed further. See also native speaker.

negotiation of meaning
In this process, teachers and students try to convey information to one another and reach mutual comprehension through restating, clarifying, and confirming information. The teacher may help students get started or work through a stumbling block using linguistic and other approaches.

thematic units
Thematic units are designed using content as the organizing principle. Vocabulary, structures, and cultural information are included as they relate to the themes in each unit. For an excellent example of theme-based units, see the Nebraska Foreign Language Education Web site in General Resources.

Connecting to Your Teaching

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

  • How aware are your students of the rationale behind your instructional approach? How do you keep them informed?
  • How do you determine when and how to intervene in pair and group work?
  • When a grammatical form or concept is the focus of a lesson, what device (or hook) do you use to help students understand usage? How do you put the grammar practice in a context that’s interesting to students?
  • How do you choose children’s literature that is authentic but also accessible in terms of language level and style?

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.

Routes to Culture (Spanish) illustrates students expanding conversation beyond sentence level, and Chicken Pox (French) demonstrates the reading of children’s literature with kindergarten students.

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.

  • Incorporate authentic readings into thematic units to provide students with new information and develop their reading strategies. Ms. Tulou’s students read Web articles about the community of Hull. They did not have to read and understand every word; rather, they developed their ability to scan for specific information. You can extend this activity by giving students the opportunity to work on independent readings similar to ones they do as a class. For example, following a lesson like the one above, students could select another community in a French-speaking country and look for articles describing that community. They could then go through the text and identify activities that they would like to do if they visited that community. This would allow them to test their ability to read independently while gathering new information to share with classmates.
  • Look for opportunities to include authentic children’s literature when studying particular grammatical structures. Stories that use repetition and a parallel structure can reinforce grammatical lessons while conveying meaning in a way that appeals to students of all ages. The book Si j’étais un animal (If I were an animal) repeatedly uses an if-clause construction that gave Ms. Tulou’s students additional examples of the conditional form in action. Students also created their own variations of the text by writing additional sentences in the same style. The activity can be further extended by having students create new illustrated pages for the book or write their own book using the same grammatical structure. For example, continuing with the community theme, students could write books titled If I Lived in Outer Space or If I Were the Mayor.


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.

Presentational Communication

Learners present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers.

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.

Interact with cultural competence and understanding

Cultural Comparisons

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.


Lesson Materials
Bojanowski, Nathalie-Anne. Si j’étais un animal. Les editions du Raton Laveur. Quebec, Canada: Saint-Hubert, 1997.

Le Conditionnel – Oral Exercise (PDF, 16 K)
A worksheet featuring questions that students answered to practice the conditional tense and to compare their preferences with classmates (Includes English translation)

Curriculum References

Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) and Testing for Foreign Language

Fairfax County Program of Study

Ghislaine Tulou’s Additional Resources

Web Resources:

City of Helsinki, Finland
Discusses the quality of life and other cultural aspects of Helsinki, Finland (Available in English, Finnish, French, German, Russian, and Swedish)

Lyon and Its Region
A Chamber of Commerce site that discusses the quality of life in Lyon, France, and offers a list of organizations that will help foreigners adapt to the city and make contacts with locals (Available in English, French, and Japanese)

University of Texas French Grammar Guide
Grammar lessons followed by interactive exercises (some with sound files), a French dictionary, and quick reference sheets

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