Topic Expansions to Get Kids Thinking About the World Around Them
Lauren Racela, OFLA Technology Integration Committee Chair
French Teacher, Milford High School
In many cases, the world language classroom may be used as an opportunity for students to discover other cultures for the very first time. This is such an exciting experience, especially in school environments that are quite homogenous or environments where students may only rarely encounter non-native English speakers. World language classrooms are a place for students to discover other people, countries, cultures, languages, and ways of life while also seeing how similar we all are. This is a magical phenomenon that many of us value as world language teachers.
But where else can we take this global curiosity? I firmly believe that it’s our job not only to provide linguistic input but also to demonstrate to our students what it’s like to be a member of multiple language communities. This involves communicating perspectives that integrate with the target language. These perspectives can spark our students’ curiosity about the world around them, and those are moments when our world language classes can truly shine!
Here are a few extension projects that can be used to foster curiosity within students. They align with topics you may already teach in your classroom, and they can be adjusted to fit a variety of levels’ needs.
Art Unit – Art Theft Lesson
The first time I taught my unit about visual art and museums to my French II class, I was met with a startling question. One student asked, “Why do people have to go to museums if we can just look at pictures of things?” This inspired me to think outside the box about the importance of art and how it could apply to our students. I created a lesson about art theft, outlining important heists throughout history. This was a fun topic, and kids enjoyed learning about the history of these crimes because it’s unusual. In addition to being entertaining, students were able to think about why art is important and the impact it has on the culture, economy, and political landscape of a country.
Clothing Unit – Textile Production and Environmental Justice
Teaching clothing item vocabulary is common in levels one and two. One way to make this topic more interesting and globally connected is to talk about the environmental impacts of clothing production. This will get students thinking deeper about where their clothing comes from, how products are made, who has access to goods throughout the world, and how their own choices regarding clothing can impact the planet.
Cinema Unit – Dubs VS Subtitles Debate
I teach French, and French movie theater patrons have some different options that aren’t typical in the United States. When Hollywood blockbusters hit French theaters, patrons have two choices. They can either watch the movie with the original English sound or read French subtitles, known as VOST. They can also choose to watch a French audio dub without subtitles, known as VF. Some French movie patrons have very strong opinions about these two options. Many French people believe that VF dubbed audio ruins a movie and dubs aren’t worth watching. To supplement our cinema unit, we watched a video essay by a French YouTuber critiquing dubs. The students also got to listen to some poorly produced dubs, which they found hilarious. It also proved the point that dubbed audio often decreases the effectiveness of emotional or dramatic scenes in the film.
Environment Unit – Micromobility
In the United States, the vast majority of people rely on cars to move around. In other countries, there can be many more options in terms of public transportation. Public transportation can also be supplemented by micro-mobility, which are devices such as motorized scooters and bikes designed to transport people just a few miles. These devices are most commonly used in major cities and are sometimes used to move between public transportation stops. These devices are also commonly available for rent since many people in major cities don’t have access to garage space to store these items. Talking about micro-mobility can expand students’ understanding of transportation, which is a huge part of daily life. Recognizing the use of several different means of transportation in other countries could make students in the US, who always use a car to get around, think about all the other possibilities available worldwide.
These are just a few examples, but there are so many ways for world language teachers to bring the real world into their classrooms. Students in world language classrooms have a unique opportunity to explore the world around them and consider the impact culture can have on our daily lives. Our goal is to demonstrate how speakers of the target language interact with their culture in real life. Doing this may take some out-of-the-box thinking, but when done successfully, it helps our students think globally as they learn to apply the target language.