“Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire, 'la mode’?” World Languages teacher Christine Stott asked her Class 7 students as rain fell steadily outside their classroom window. The students considered this question before one raised her hand. “Fashion?” she offered.
Indeed, fashion – or la mode – emerged as the over-arching theme of this energetic and creative lesson that challenged the students to hone their speaking and comprehension skills through a series of engaging activities – all conducted almost entirely en français.
Directing her class’s attention to the smart board, Mme. Stott reviewed a series of vocabulary words illuminated there. “Répétez après moi,” she instructed, pointing to words, with accompanying images, for sneakers (des baskets), glasses (des lunettes), hoodie (un sweat à capuche), and baseball cap (une casquette). One after the other, the students pronounced each fashion-related term. “Très bien,” Mme. Stott praised.
Fortified by the new vocabulary, the students, who began studying French last year, embarked on the first mini-lesson of the morning, “Parlons ensemble” (Let’s talk together.) After Mme. Stott rang a bell, each student found a partner and began a casual conversation in French.
Drawing on prompts supplied by their teacher such as Moi, j’aime porter… (I like to wear…) and Mon magasin préféré est… (My favorite store is…), the pairs were encouraged to talk about fashion, or anything else that piqued their interest, provided the exchange was en français. After a few minutes, the bell sounded again, and the students changed partners, initiating new spontaneous conversations. Melodious French phrases, a sprinkling of English words and plenty of laughter filled the classroom.
When the allotted time was up, Mme. Stott introduced the second activity by asking her class, “Qui aime dessiner?” (Who likes to draw?). Nearly every hand shot into the air. She knew that this group of students especially enjoys the visual arts and, thus, would make the most of this assignment, which incorporated French words in an imaginative way.
Inspired by Miraculous, the main character from a popular French animated series, the students were tasked with designing a fresh look for this beloved figure, known for her exceptional superpowers and her fun sense of style. Arranging themselves into groups of two or three, the students brainstormed ideas for their own interpretations of the character.
The students – guided by a handout with spaces for “Je porte…” (I wear…); “Mes pouvoirs sont…” (my powers are…) and “Ma personnalité…” (my personality…) – spent the next 15 minutes bringing their unique characters to life. With the help of bright markers and colored pencils, they took turns decorating a simple drawing of Miraculous, in the center of their handout, with shades and patterns, while identifying various qualities to distinguish these lively creations.
As she checked in with each group, Mme. Stott emphasized that rules of French grammar often differ from English. "En français, la plupart des adjectifs se placent après le nom" (In French, most adjectives go after the noun), she told one student. She also reminded the scholars to consult their textbook, “Discovering French Today,” and the website wordreference.com for additional assistance.
Before long, the students had amassed a list of attributes, such as gentille (nice), énergique (energetic), intelligente (intelligent) and forte (strong). They also had fun figuring out their characters’ powers – “How do you say fly?” one student asked Mme. Stott – and also what might look best on Miraculous. “Maybe we should give her a jumpsuit!” another suggested excitedly.
“Bravo, tout le monde,” (Well done, everyone) Mme. Stott commented as she began to collect her students’ works-in-progress. Although they would finish fashioning their characters during a subsequent class period, it was evident that these capable Class 7 students were relishing this exhilarating learning experience en français.