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

French: Performing With Confidence Class Context

Students have to speak French constantly to have a high degree of ability to speak the language. It has to be something that is done every time they enter the classroom.

-Yvette Heno



French IV

Unit 1

  • Review of French history and geography up to the Middle Ages
  • Music: Best of the 20th century
  • French commercials and film excerpts

Unit 2

  • Art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
  • Authentic medieval songs and literature, including La farce de maître Pathelin

Unit 3

  • Art of the 17th century
  • Selected literature, including L’école des femmes
  • Talk show: Music industry
  • Excerpts from the film Le bourgeois gentilhomme

Unit 4

  • Art of the 18th century
  • Selected literature, including Candide
  • Preparation for the AP French Language Exam and French language contests
  • Elections in France

Unit 5

  • Talk show: School administrators
  • Art and music of the 19th century
  • The French Revolution
  • Excerpts from films, including Ridicule
  • Political life and elections in France
  • Continued preparation for the AP Exam and contests

Unit 6

  • 20th-century literature, art, and music
  • Talk show: Film awards
  • French election debate
  • Continued preparation for the AP Exam and contests

French V

Read texts from a survey of French literature (12th to 20th centuries)

Read required texts for the AP French Literature Exam, although they do not take the exam

Prepare for the AP French Language Exam

French IV and V participate in the following speaking activities during the first 30 minutes of each class: Yahoo! France Actualité discussions (news/current events), Brainstorm game (culture), and Tous ego game (conversational skills)

School Profile

Yvette Heno teaches French II-V and Spanish II at Westside High School in Houston, Texas. A magnet school with a focus on integrated technology, Westside serves West Houston’s largely professional community. The school also attracts students from across the Houston Independent School District (HISD). Nearly two-thirds of the 2,650-member student body are minorities. Westside offers seven foreign language programs, with the greatest participation in Spanish due to the region’s large Hispanic population and its proximity to Mexico.

Lesson Design

Each year, Ms. Heno designs her curriculum based on the needs of the class. French IV-V attracts a wide range of learners, from native and heritage speakers who want to retain their language skills to students who began studying French in elementary, middle, or high school and want to continue. As she develops the curriculum for each group of students, Ms. Heno draws on the Standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Languages Other Than English, and the HISD Required Objectives and Correlations for Languages Other Than English.

Although French IV and V meet together and share several activities, each course has its own curriculum. In French IV, students participate in activities and games that encourage listening, speaking, reading, and writing. They also look at art, listen to music, and begin to read literature. In French V, students study French literature in depth.

The Lesson

This lesson included two activities that were based on current events: a discussion about the 2002 French presidential election and a mock talk show featuring American celebrities (chosen and played by students) as guests. To prepare for both activities, students researched a variety of sources in French, such as newspapers, magazines, Web sites, and more, so that they could participate in an informed discussion. “The actualités [news] is very important,” says Ms. Heno. “How else are they going to know about the culture? They have to know what’s going on every day.” As seen in the videotaped lesson, topics in Ms. Heno’s class can range from important political events to items of student interest.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Acquiring Knowledge of Current Events: The teacher helps students research print and Web sources to gain a knowledge base for classroom discussion on recent events.
  • Expanding Oral Discourse: The teacher designs and conducts activities that move students in advanced language courses away from single-sentence responses toward sustained discourse.
  • Role-Playing: Role-playing is an activity in which students dramatize characters or pretend that they are in new locations or situations. It may or may not have a cultural element. This activity challenges students by having them use language in new contexts.

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