Paris Granville and Pat Bruce
for the Central New Jersey World Language Institute
You can download a complete copy of the unit.
Linguistic Level: Novice
Developmental Level: 3rd - 8th grade
Language Objective: Students will describe a home in French including the furniture and the rooms.
Culture Objective: Students will compare homes around the world
Content Objective: Students will identify the key elements from the story Il y a un alligator sous mon lit.
We developed this unit for Middle school students who have studied French for at least a semester. These students would already be able to express their likes and dislikes, their wants and needs, and exchange basic personal information. It is not necessary for the students to understand every vocabulary word or verb tense in the story. Based on the story, “Il y a un alligator sous mon lit”, the unit ties together the language of home, family, and activities that are all part of beginning curricula. Although this story is written for younger children, it allows for discussion common fears. In essence it is a coming of age story about tackling problems on your own - a theme of intrinsic interest to middle school students. This thematic unit allows our students to go beyond the textbook. When they use their language skills to discuss their fears, their home, and their family, they focus on content of the communication rather than on the semantics. Ironically, so does the teacher. This encourages the students to create with language. Indeed, sometimes the results are non-communication, but it allows the students to play with language real world situations.
The first question that we face as teachers is: “How do I find time to fit this into the curriculum?” The answer lies in redefining your objectives based on functional outcomes rather than the scope and sequence of the textbook. Thus this thematic unit replaces some of the textbook activities and gives the students an experience with the language that will transfer when similar vocabulary and structures are encountered in the textbook. Additionally, the students are often motivated by the change of pace teaching in this way provides. Some students who are not as successful learning language with a textbook might even excel while learning through a thematic unit.