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

French: Interpreting La Belle et la Bete

French IV, grade 11: Michel Pasquier focuses his class on interpreting and adapting film, literature, and music, using the classic tale Beauty and the Beast. The students work in groups to find moral meaning in the 1945 Jean Cocteau classic film and compare the film to the original story and a French rap song.



Michel Pasquier


French IV




Herricks High School, New Hyde Park, New York

Lesson Date

February 27

Class Size



43 minutes daily

Video Summary

In this lesson, students discuss the classic 1946 film La Belle et la Bête, written and directed by Jean Cocteau. The film is an adaptation of the traditional children’s story Beauty and the Beast. Having seen most of the film, students compare it to the original story. Then, after watching the film’s conclusion, they discuss the movie’s symbolism and deeper meaning.

Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretive

Cultures: Practices, Products

Connections: Making Connections, Acquiring Information

Comparisons: Comparing Culture


affective filter
The affective filter hypothesis (Dulay, Krashen, and Burt, 1982) describes the need for second-language learning to occur in an environment of low anxiety, to encourage the processing and learning of new information.

Dulay, Heidi, Stephen D. Krashen, and Mariana Burt. Language Two.Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1982.

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

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.

  • What issues must you address when planning to work with a feature-length film?
  • How do you maintain student interest while breaking the film into teachable segments?
  • What activities would you design that allow students not only to discuss the film with one another but to reflect on its deeper meaning — an exercise for which they may not have a sufficient vocabulary?
  • How do you manage teacher talk so that you stretch students’ language and thinking?
  • On what do you base your choice of which cultural text (literature, film, music, art) to teach: your interests, your students’ interests, important texts in the target culture, or something else?

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.

Interpreting Picasso’s Guernica (Spanish) and Music and Manuscripts (Latin) illustrate the use of different media in a language lesson.

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.

  • Authentic materials can expand the topics that students can discuss and develop their growth in the three communicative modes. These materials can also help students in advanced classes move beyond talking about themselves to talking about other people, places, events, and ideas. When students interpret a film, for example, they draw on language that they heard in the context of actual communication on screen. This language helps them develop more proficient interpersonal communication.
  • When having students interpret a film, be the expert who guides the use of language, depth of content, and abstract explorations. Elaborate, clarify, or question students’ responses to expose them to language at a higher level than their own. For example, Mr. Pasquier designed a series of activities in which students talk with one another for part of the time and then work with him as he expands their understanding and models the next levels of proficiency. On some occasions, only you as the teacher can negotiate meaning. Take the opportunity to speak as an expert and help students move from their existing level of proficiency to the next higher one.
  • When showing a feature film, divide it into segments to maintain student interest while providing ample opportunity for students to demonstrate understanding at a factual and interpretive level. Most films have natural breaks in the action, allowing you to pause for discussion. Others may require more creative cutting. You can then design activities for individual segments as you would for shorter interpretive tasks: previewing to determine the main idea; working with details; and summarizing and follow-up work. Additionally, find activities to make a transition from one segment to the next. For example, to prepare students for viewing the conclusion to La Belle et la Bête, Mr. Pasquier had students compare the film to the original story. They brought many details together, and then voiced their expectations about the ending.
  • To select a film that meets your level of instruction, consider your objectives. For example, to address culture, show a film set in the target culture or one focusing on literature or history. In this situation, you may want to show a film that is subtitled or dubbed. To focus on interpretive communication, plan the lesson as you would any other reading or listening task: Include previewing exercises, activities that help students get the main ideas, and activities that allow them to learn language and content from the clip. Whether you watch the complete film or an excerpt depends on your available time, student interest, and the subject matter of the film. Foreign films are typically unrated and may have scenes that would not be suitable for viewing in some classrooms.


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.

Acquiring Information and Diverse Perspectives

Learners access and evaluate information and diverse perspectives that are available through the language and its cultures.

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
La Belle et la Bête Activity (PDF, 15 K)
A description of how student groups were organized for the film discussion

Menu: Le Chateau de la Bête (PDF, 16 K)
A list of questions used by students to discuss the film (Includes English translation)

Beauty and the Beast (English subtitles). Directed by Jean Cocteau. 93 min. Home Vision Entertainment, 1946. Videocassette.

Beauty and the Beast — Criterion Collection (Restored Edition, English subtitles). Directed by Jean Cocteau. 93 min. Home Vision Entertainment, 1946. DVD. (Contains many extras, including the original Philip Glass opera)

Curriculum References
New York State Education Department: World Languages

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.
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  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2