What middle school world language teacher
taught that stale old café lesson, with its myriad variations on how to politely order a meal of
un steak-frites et
un coca, s'il vous plaît
? And what about the ever-fascinating fruit identification and choral repetition number, always a hit for about five minutes (maybe ten if you use real fruit as models instead of those dented plastic versions). Food units in many textbooks generally serve several purposes: They supply a ready-made, structured opportunity for student-student interaction in terms of asking for and providing information; they tap into the students' universal interest in food as well as their curiosity about basic cultural similarities and differences; and lastly, they provide an arena to practice the concept of gender and gender identification with indefinite articles. In the following unit, I will attempt to breathe some vitality into what can easily become that lesson during which we find ourselves sacrificing creativity for ease and familiarity. Although I understand the appeal of and value in tasks like creating a menu and acting out a restaurant scenario, I find myself (and my students) growing tired of the same ten menu items! By exploring new facets of food and health in this unit, I hope to increase the communicative options available to my students in a restaurant-based unit. And I think that in our present climate of adolescent obesity, fast food, and decreased or non-existent recess time in our schools, it is imperative that we not waste this wonderful opportunity to model, educate, and experiment with health and nutrition for and with our students.
I teach in an arts magnet school in New Haven, Connecticut. It is a public middle school comprised of students from New Haven and its surrounding suburbs who have an interest in the arts. Students bring with them a diverse range of culture, experience, and socioeconomic background. It is a wonderful environment in which teachers strive to collaborate across academic and artistic disciplines to deliver a richer, more meaningful education experience to students.
The following is a French language unit to support the New Haven World Language Curriculum, which has been newly rewritten to emphasize teaching according to cultural and thematic concepts. The final thematic unit in seventh grade revolves around food and health. Seventh graders will have just completed a nutrition unit in their science classes, which will help them to assimilate this information into the French language. This unit can easily be taught in any world language, though I provide key vocabulary and resources in the French language.
By the time this unit is taught, my students will have had one year of introductory French during the sixth grade, where they will have built up their vocabulary base and learned basic conversational skills and linguistic structures. The seventh grade year is broken down into four thematic units: Global awareness, focusing on but certainly not limited to Francophone countries; school and after-school interests and activities; family life; food, fun, and health. Students at my school have French four days a week for fifty-two minutes each class. I am the only French teacher at my school, so I am able to develop a rapport with students during the entire three years they study the language.
My unit focuses on the language concept of conjugating regular -er verbs. The verb
, to like, will be recycled from the previous unit, and students will examine its conjugation to deduce a conjugation pattern for all regular -er verbs. They will apply that knowledge by conjugating a variety of regular -er verbs. Because middle school students generally have difficulty with conjugating verbs, I am hoping that combining explicit instruction and LOTS of practice
the context of making healthful food choices will be the key to demystifying the process for my students. It will also provide students with the opportunity to develop an understanding of the relationship between definite and indefinite articles, as we practice identifying foods, vitamins, and minerals in various situations.
In addition to the concurrence with my district's world language curriculum, I am excited to write and teach a French language unit on nutrition for several reasons. Above all, I am concerned that so many of our students seem to lack a true awareness of nutrition and the necessity of healthy habits for healthy minds and bodies. Also, I have set a professional goal to create more content-based units in my class. Every time I have done so it has provided a much more meaningful, enriching, and engaging educational experience for my students. The timing of this unit in relation to the seventh grade science class nutrition unit will further enhance the experience. Also, I am thrilled to be able to mirror my own personal interest in developing life-long healthy habits in my teaching experience. It will be valuable for me as well as for my students, as we all discover new ways to approach health and nutrition together.