This curriculum unit will not only explore how pictures can aid in language acquisition, but also how they can tell the story of a civilization. Students will use simple French vocabulary and language expressions to describe the images and research, in English, to discover what the artwork reveals about French history, culture, symbols, and practices. Students will compare and contrast pictorial stories of French civilization from pre-history through the twentieth century: from cave paintings to tapestries to comics.
The unit plan has been developed for sixth-grade Exploratory French students; however, it may be adapted to more advanced levels of language proficiency and cultural exploration. As there
is no mandated district curriculum for Exploratory French, I am able to create curriculum for my sixth-grade students, often collaborating with their classroom teachers to develop units that reinforce the core curriculum through French. Currently, sixth graders create sequenced graphic stories in their language-arts classes. My "picture writing" curriculum unit will align with their language arts instruction on narrative order, strengthening the students' concept of beginning, middle, and end through a visual medium while expanding their global and cultural awareness and introducing them to basic French vocabulary and simple phrases.
Students will use technology to discover and explore the caves and tapestries and to create their own versions of the Bayeux Tapestry and other artworks. They will use mapping skills to explore the geographic regions of France represented by the artworks studied. Students will discuss how the art was created and how the evolution of materials or "technology" affects how we tell stories. They will also explore the purpose of the artwork and, if possible, who created the artwork. Students will reflect on the technology they would use to tell their own stories and how that would differ from the unit's artwork.
Students will make connections to innovations in science, engineering, and technology that help to prevent deterioration of the cave paintings from exposure to contaminants and to restore and preserve the delicate textiles of the tapestries. Replica caves now allow visitors to explore "faux Lascaux" without risking further damage to the original paintings. Videos on the official websites of these masterpieces allow students to view restoration and re-creation efforts "virtually" first-hand. Connections will be made to language arts as students discuss why there is such a prevalence of French words in the English language (cognates) and how words evolve.
During this unit, students will explore the techniques used in the artwork. This hands-on component will be taught primarily in simple French with the use of gestures and demonstration. Students could create a mural of cave drawings, a streamer-cartoon of an historical event, a simple tapestry project, or a cartoon strip. At the conclusion of the unit, students will create a pictorial story in the style of one of the artworks studied in this unit. Their three tapestry panels will depict a beginning, middle, and end to their story. In oral presentations, students will describe and answer teacher and peer questions about their tapestries. Pictures Tell the Story -- From Caves to Comics is intended as an interdisciplinary curriculum unit that celebrates the strengths of my students, using images to reinforce their language learning.