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

French: Interpreting La Belle et la Bete Class Context

I think from experience, I have come to realize that, short of being in the country, a film portrays the language in the most perspective. It’s physical; every aspect is represented.

– Michel Pasquier




Unit 1

  • Opera: Notre dame de Paris, Luc Plamandon, Richard Cocciante
  • Film: La belle et la bête, Jean Cocteau, 1946
  • Text: Notre dame de Paris, lyrics
  • Text: La belle et la bête, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
  • Text: La belle et la bête, Kim Humpherville, film review

Unit 2

  • Film: Indochine, Régis Wargnier, 1992
  • Film: Chocolat, Claire Denis, 1988
  • Text: Je vous remercie, mon dieu, Bernard Dadie
  • Text: Dans tes yeux, Bernard Dadie

Unit 3

  • Film: Manon des sources, Claude Berri, 1986
  • Text: L’Arlesienne, Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897)

Unit 4

  • Film: La fracture du myocarde, Jacques Fansten, 1990
  • Film: Ponette, Jacques Doillon, 1996
  • Text: Le pouvoir aux enfants, Pierre Daninos
  • Text: Enfance, Nathalie Sarraute

Unit 5

  • Film: Toto le héros, Jaco van Dormael, 1991
  • Film: Le huitième jour, Jaco van Dormael, 1996
  • Text: Le horla, Guy de Mauppasant

School Profile

Michel Pasquier teaches French I-IV at Herricks High School in New Hyde Park, New York. Located on Long Island about 20 miles from Manhattan, New Hyde Park’s 25,000 residents are mostly professionals. The town is culturally diverse and includes a large Asian immigrant population. Approximately 53 percent of the school’s 1,270 students speak languages other than English at home, and over 40 languages are spoken in the district. The curriculum emphasizes college preparation.

Lesson Design

Mr. Pasquier designed his film-based curriculum using the Standards and with approval from the curriculum council. Comparing Themes and Works Across Mediacomparing Because he is Herricks’s only French teacher, his goal was to keep students interested in studying French as they advanced through the high school program. He recognizes students’ interest in films, verse, and song, and each year revises the course in part based on input from students in the previous year. “It’s important that students know that this class is a work in progress, and they can have an impact on how it’s changing,” he says, “and that they should want to be part of it.” Many of Mr. Pasquier’s students continue studying French past the mandated three years.

Mr. Pasquier draws on his background in graphic arts and his interest in film to design his lessons and select relevant materials. He begins by choosing themes that are important to him and that concern life choices. Next, he picks specific subjects within those themes that would interest a college-bound teenager. He then selects the films, poems, and songs that relate to those subjects. French IV covers 10 films organized along five themes (2 films per theme), accompanied by text and exercises for each theme.

The Lesson

Prior to the videotaped lesson, the class spent four to five periods preparing to view the film. They read the original Beauty and the Beast story by Charles Perrault, listened to a rap song about the story, and compared the story to the English-language Disney film version. The lesson stressed an understanding of different tenses, particularly the past tense, but the grammar was never separated from discussions about the story. Next, the class spent three periods viewing the Cocteau adaptation, concluding with the discussion seen in the video. At the end of the unit, students listened to Philip Glass’s Beauty and the Beast opera, and also watched the Disney film.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Comparing Themes and Works Across Media: The teacher creates lessons in which students compare themes or specific works as they are rendered in film, literature, music, art, or other media.
  • Critical and Abstract Thinking: The teacher creates activities that get students to analyze and discuss abstract concepts such as symbolism, aesthetics, or ethics.
  • Interpreting Film: The teacher designs activities in which students preview, interpret, and discuss full-length films or film clips.

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