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

French: Touring a French City Class Context

When the students did this activity, they became the people in the city. Having built the buildings, they took a lot of ownership of the buildings. They were so proud to show them off that they kept using more and more language and trying to say more things about each building.

– Robin Neuman



Review Units From Grades 6 and 7

The City

  • Identify and locate places in a city
  • Describe a city
  • Say and write what is or isn’t found in a city, what is sold in stores, and what is done in a building
  • Say and write how often they go to a store and why they go there
  • Ask for, give, and follow directions
  • Make plans to do various activities
  • Produce a culturally accurate model of a French building

How To Do Things

  • Give suggestions and commands
  • Create a commercial or demonstrate how to do something — on video or live in the classroom


  • Make plans to take a trip
  • Narrate in the past tense
  • Use the Internet to plan an imaginary two-day trip to Paris
  • Produce a scrapbook of the imaginary trip


  • Talk about foods
  • Prepare a grocery list
  • Ask for a certain quantity of something
  • Order a meal


  • Name, describe, and compare clothing
  • Make purchases
  • Make and respond to requests

End-of-Year Summary

  • Create and present a thematic slide show, using past, present, and future tenses

School Profile

Robin Neuman teaches eighth-grade French and is also the chair of the foreign languages department at Concord Middle School in Concord, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The 700 students in grades 6-8 are primarily from Concord, with some students coming from the METCO program, a city-to-suburban school desegregation project. At the end of fifth grade, students elect to take French or Spanish, both of which are three-year programs at the middle school. Concord uses the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines instead of level designations to name their courses. At the end of eighth grade, students are recommended for placement into Novice Accelerated, Novice I Part 2, or Novice Review French in high school. There, the progression continues to Intermediate and Advanced French.

Lesson Design

When designing her lessons, Ms. Neuman refers to the Standards, the Massachusetts State Frameworks, and the Concord Public Schools’ Student Learning Outcomes to determine what students need to know, understand, and be able to do by the end of each unit (see Resources). She also uses her textbook for basic vocabulary, but expands upon it so that students can accomplish the goals of the unit. “I write scaffolded lessons,” Ms. Neuman says, “building on each previous concept until all the steps are there to have students accomplish the outcomes.” She also makes sure that interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational communication, as well as cultural understanding, are developed and assessed in each unit.

The Lesson

This lesson featured one of the culminating activities for the 10-week City unit. First, each student was randomly assigned a building (such as a pharmacy) in a typical French city. The student researched the building online and compared it to a similar building in a typical American city. Once students had an understanding of what elements made their building unique to the French culture, they had one month to individually design and build the structure outside of class time. (The art teacher helped with construction as needed.) During class, Ms. Neuman held daily check-ins to keep students on track and to problem-solve when difficulties arose. Students brought the completed buildings into class and used them for three weeks to practice vocabulary related to the buildings’ appearance and purpose. Students were also assessed on cultural understanding, based on their explanation of what made their building uniquely French. The complete city was then assembled and used for two weeks for continued vocabulary review, including an activity in which students gave and followed directions around the city. The unit concluded with additional reading, writing, and listening activities about giving and following directions.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • 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