Imagine the Louisiana bayous made habitable by the Acadians! Smell the aromas of their cuisine! Listen to the lilting sounds of their music! The Cajun way of life comes alive in this unit.
Why should my students study about the Acadians? The answer is simple. I teach French, and my students and I spend a great deal of time studying French culture. I especially like to show the students how French culture has influenced the United States. The Cajuns are French-Americans who have not been entirely acculturated. They settled in southern Louisiana after generations of living in French Canada. They spoke French, practiced French customs, and celebrated French holidays.
In Louisiana, the Acadians adapted to the land and the climate, and borrowed customs, cooking techniques, and even language, from the Spanish, Africans, and French and Spanish Creoles living there. The Cajuns have developed a fascinating culture that is uniquely American. In studying about the American Acadians, my students will deepen and enrich their knowledge of French culture.
This unit is a continuation of a unit I wrote in conjunction with John Warner in 1983 entitled
The Preservation of a Heritage: A Study of the Acadians
. The first unit treated the Acadians generally: their history, traditions, customs, festivals, architecture, dress, food, and some of their language.
The Acadians were discussed as two groups—those who still live in Canada and are called “Acadians”, and those who forged a French-American lifestyle in Louisiana and are called “Cajuns.” Classroom activities were devised for both middle school and high school students.
The following unit is based on the first one. Together they form a concentrated study of the Acadians. The two units may be used separately, as well as together.
This unit is ten weeks long and is designed for students in French III, IV, and V. As this is a cultural unit, students of all abilities will be able to learn the information through differentiated activities. All of the activities mentioned below are student-centered, with a focus on what the students will do. This unit can be used in conjunction with an American Literature or American History class.
The unit begins with a review of the history of the Acadians and the Cajun way of life, as well as their experiences as immigrants. To make the immigrants’ adventures and problems more compelling, the students will read excerpts of
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This sympathetic and melodramatic presentation of the dispersion of the Acadians helps to set the stage for our study of the Cajuns.
While the students are reading
, they will be reviewing the essential information about the Cajuns’ background. The students will use what they know about the Cajuns to understand Cajun life today.
The major topics explored in this unit are Acadian history and the immigrant experience, Cajun music, food, and language. An historical perspective of each topic will help to situate it in a cultural context.