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

French: Touring a French City

French I, grade 8: Prior to this lesson, Robin Neuman's students researched French architecture and constructed a model of a French city on the classroom floor. During the lesson, students take turns role-playing tourists asking for directions and tourist bureau agents giving directions and describing the buildings and the city.



Robin Neuman






Concord Middle School, Concord, Massachusetts

Lesson Date

January 17

Class Size



48 minutes, four days a week

Video Summary

In this lesson, students practice how to give and follow directions. Students begin by describing several buildings in a classroom-sized model they built of a French city. Then they assume the roles of tour guides and tourists and take turns giving and following directions. At the end of the lesson, students randomly select a building name from a bag and describe the building to the class.

Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal

Cultures: Practices, Products

Comparisons: Cultural


backward planning
In backward planning, also called backward design, the teacher plans a unit or lesson by first identifying the desired end task or product, then working in reverse to identify the prerequisite learning tasks and benchmark assessments.

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.

  • How do you decide whether or not to devote significant time to a project? How might you incorporate several large projects into a year- or semester-long curriculum?
  • How do you incorporate multiple Standards — for example, language and cultural Standards — into a large, independent project?
  • How might you encourage students with limited vocabulary to use personal expression?

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.

  • U.S. and Italian Homes (Italian) illustrates the use of strong visual support for teaching about habitats.
  • A Place I Call Home (Arabic) shows how a teacher uses technology to provide students with a wide range of authentic cultural materials.
  • Hearing Authentic Voices (Spanish) presents modeling and sequencing activities ranging from precommunicative practice to personal expression.

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.

  • Design a culminating project that provides students with a memorable foreign language experience. A city/town unit such as Ms. Neuman’s can be done in any language. Add a historical element by having students design a town in a certain time period, such as Paris in the Middle Ages. You could show a relevant film, such as Notre dame de Paris, either before or after the project. When designing a culminating project, include time for intensive planning and revision based on experience. Consider the tools and materials that students will need at home or at school. As with any project, incorporate opportunities for assessment and make clear to students your expectations for the various skills and knowledge that you will be observing. In addition to language acquisition and use, a culminating project can help you assess students’ research skills, cultural knowledge, and creativity.
  • Lead students toward a desired performance by modeling activities. Modeling is not only an effective instructional strategy, but it also enables you to conduct more of your class in the target language without having to resort to English. For each major task in her lesson, Ms. Neuman modeled the desired interaction. She began with either a teacher/student interaction or a demonstration of the performance herself. Sometimes she also had a student pair model the activity before opening it up to the whole class. Typically, an effective build-up begins with the teacher (1) demonstrating the task, (2) asking one or two students probing questions about the topic, (3) having students work in pairs to ask and answer questions on their own, and (4) having students interact with many classmates for a set period of time.


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.


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.

Develop insight into the nature of language and culture in order to interact with cultural competence

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
Building Guidelines (PDF, 14 K)
Guidelines students used to research and build their French city model

Building Rubrics (PDF, 13 K)
Rubrics that Ms. Neuman used to assess students on different aspects of the building project

Curriculum References
ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

Concord Public Schools: Teaching and Learning Reports and Documents

Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks

Robin Neuman’s Additional Resources

Web Resources:
Google France
The French-language version of the popular search engine. Note: Students used this site to research French buildings.

The Paris Pages
A collection of resources about Paris (available in English and French). Note: Students used this site to research French buildings.

Yahoo! France
The French-language version of the popular search engine. Note: Students used this site to research French buildings.

Print Resources:
Ellis, D.L. Life in a French Town. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC/Contemporary Publishing Co., 1988.

Rothfeld, Steven (photographer), and André Aciman. Entrez: Signs of France. New York: Artisan, 2001.

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