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

French: Comparing Communities Class Context

Language is a tool of communication. If I only ask students to do what’s on the sheet of paper, that becomes a grammar exercise. But as a human being, I’m interested in them, not the grammar point. So to show that I’m interested in them, I’m going to ask a follow-up question. That way, you recycle more vocabulary and you encourage students to talk more. This human interaction is very important.

— Ghislaine Tulou




Me and My World

  • Home life and responsibilities
  • School day; School community
  • After-school activities


  • Me and my health
  • How do people stay healthy?


  • The car and driving responsibilities
  • What makes a good community?


  • Local ecology
  • Global ecology

School Profile

Ghislaine Tulou teaches French II, III, and V Advanced Placement at McLean High School in McLean, Virginia. Located four miles from Washington, D.C., the community of over 60,000 includes professionals and U.S. government employees, as well as international business professionals and government officials. The 1,500-student high school is fairly diverse; 20 percent are Asian, largely from South Korea. About 50 languages are spoken by McLean’s international student population, although most students do not need ESOL classes. The school focuses on college preparation and offers Spanish, French, German, and Latin language classes.

Lesson Design

“Before you plan the lessons, you plan the unit,” says Ms. Tulou. To plan her units, Ms. Tulou refers to the Standards, the Fairfax County Performance Assessment for Language Students program, and the class textbook (see Resources). Using a backward design planning strategy, she begins by designing each unit’s culminating written or oral performance activity that will serve as the assessment for the unit. She then organizes individual lessons by selecting the vocabulary themes and grammatical structures for each lesson, and creates opportunities for students to practice all three Communication standards. She incorporates the remaining Standards across multiple lessons within a unit.

The Lesson

In the videotaped lesson, students learned the conditional tense while discussing different communities. They began by talking about their own community, then shifted their focus to Hull, a city in Quebec, Canada. Ms. Tulou discovered the community’s Web site during a lengthy online search for a Canadian community that stressed quality of life. (Note: This Web site is no longer available.) She chose to focus on Canada because her students had studied France the previous year.

After this lesson, students continued to practice the conditional tense during discussions about how they would change their community. As a culminating activity, students wrote letters to the county supervisor with their recommendations for improving the community. This activity served as the written assessment for this unit.

This class included four heritage language speakers. These students worked mostly with the traditional learners on assignments; Ms. Tulou felt they enriched the experience of the group. However, she did differentiate instruction when the regular lesson was too basic for the heritage speakers. She either asked them to elaborate more during oral or written assignments, or she gave them alternate assignments more appropriate to their advanced linguistic levels.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Contextualizing Grammar: The teacher embeds grammatical practice in meaningful content.
  • Facilitating Reading Authentic Texts: The teacher helps students understand authentic texts, using prereading, skimming/scanning, and reading-for-meaning strategies.

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