Is a picture really worth a thousand words? Can pictures truly tell a story? And, if so, can pictures be used to motivate students to feel a connection to a language and a culture? If image, rather than text, was the vehicle of vocabulary building and instruction, would my students be more receptive to speaking and learning in French? Would those images, portraying themes of danger and exploration, epic battles, fantastical creatures, and thrilling adventures engage and interest students who see little need to learn another language and who lack curiosity for what they perceive as foreign and different? This curriculum unit, using iconic images from French culture – the Lascaux cave paintings, the Bayeux Tapestry, the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, and
cartoons – will strive to answer those questions.
My middle-school students, mostly boys, tend to be logical-spatial learners rather than linguistic-auditory learners. They are highly interested in technology; and, for most, playing video games is their favorite activity. They are not very motivated to learn another language, especially if it requires memorizing vocabulary and learning grammar rules. They see little use in taking notes and would rather use their phones to take a picture of the board than actually write anything down themselves. Writing practice and exercises using new vocabulary and grammar, even as few as eight French sentences, represent a chore and, in their words, "too much writing" for a forty-five minute class period. However, despite this reluctance to write, their notebooks are covered with drawings and doodles.
Because my students are so visually oriented, I intend to use high-interest iconic French images to teach vocabulary and action verbs to motivate them to speak and write more frequently in French. This connection of French words with images would also support the national guidelines for world-language teachers to immerse their students in the target language (in my case, French), rather than use English translation as the vehicle for teaching French. I will initiate this project with students in my sixth-grade Exploratory French classes. If students are introduced to vocabulary through images from the beginning of their language exploration, they might be more open to an immersive approach to the district curriculum as they enter into seventh- and eighth-grade Level I French classes.