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

French: Mapping Planet Earth

French I, grade 2: Stephanie Appel connects her French lessons to content and teaching materials in the general classroom curriculum. She employs TPR and map activities to practice vocabulary for the planets, continents, and oceans.



Stephanie Appel






Radburn Elementary School, Fair Lawn, New Jersey

Lesson Date

March 8

Class Size



30 minutes, two times per week

Video Summary

In this lesson, students practice vocabulary for the continents and oceans. They begin by reviewing vocabulary for the solar system, then narrow their focus to planet Earth. Finally, as a class and in pairs, students practice the continents and oceans vocabulary using Total Physical Response and maps.

Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretive

Connections: Making Connections


Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES)
This elementary school model organizes instruction around a scope and sequence taught by a qualified foreign language teacher. Its goals include developing language proficiency with an emphasis on oral skills, as well as providing a gradual introduction to literacy, building cultural knowledge, and tying language learning to the content of the early grades’ curriculum. FLES programs vary, especially in the number of meetings per week or minutes per session. See also Foreign Language Exploratory Program (FLEX).

Total Physical Response (TPR)
Developed by Asher, Kusudo, and de la Torre (1974), TPR is an approach for teaching vocabulary that appeals to learners’ kinesthetic-sensory system. First, the teacher introduces new vocabulary words and establishes their meaning through corresponding actions and gestures. Students mimic the teacher’s actions as they learn the words, and eventually demonstrate comprehension through the actions and gestures. Ultimately, the language is extended to written forms, and students begin to respond verbally. Research evidence attests to the effectiveness of TPR for learning and retaining vocabulary. See also Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS).

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 techniques do you use to help you stay in the target language with your students?
  • How do you identify and then teach vocabulary for topics that interest your students?
  • When students are unable to answer open-ended questions, how do you help them formulate an answer?
  • For teachers of higher grades, how might you adapt some of the activities that Ms. Appel uses?

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.

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.

  • When teaching thematic vocabulary, use visuals to convey meaning and to help students remember words. Incorporate the visuals into multiple activities; repetition in different contexts helps set words in students’ memory. Ms. Appel used a wall map, manipulatives of the continents, a poster of the planets, and actual soil and water samples to reinforce vocabulary. She used these materials in several activities, including full-class and pairs practices, to give students different opportunities to use the words. Illustrated children’s books, Web sites, magazines, or even your own creations can provide good visuals. When traveling abroad, plan ahead to collect authentic materials that you can use in class.
  • Develop students’ language comprehension by directing discussion. When introducing a new topic, let your end of the conversation initially dominate the class. Students can concentrate on absorbing and understanding the material; gradually, their language output will increase. Along the way, create opportunities to check for student comprehension. For example, Ms. Appel used simple, but extended, conversation during her class. When asking questions, she elaborated and paraphrased to provide students with rich input. Students were then allowed to respond with words and short phrases that demonstrated their understanding of the content and the language.
  • Introduce and practice vocabulary learning using gestures and facial expressions that connect with the meaning of the words or phrases. Ms. Appel used gestures with students to practice the vocabulary and to assess their understanding of it. Students of all ages can be encouraged to associate gestures with certain words, and can be expected to understand new vocabulary with the help of gestures and facial expressions.


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.

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.


Lesson Materials
Am Stram Gram (PDF, 12 K)
Lyrics to a traditional French rhyme used in the lesson

Curriculum References
New Jersey World Languages Curriculum Framework

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