I am so excited for this post on how to map out a French 1 curriculum for high school! As you know I am a French teacher at heart. It’s so nice to just be hanging out with French teachers today. In this class (see the video below), we’ll go through an easy, quick, strategic and organized way to map out your high school French curriculum.
French Curriculum for High School – Outline & Tools
You have two ways (or both) for going through this content – watch the video class below or read the following transcript. Learn how to create your own curriculum map for French 1 with culture and proficiency in mind using this free curriculum map template tool and curriculum class based on backward design and ACFTL guiding principles.
If you are in the teaching position (like I have been at least three times) where you need to quickly get your ideas on paper for what your curriculum is going to look like, this is for you.
Comprehensible Input French Curriculum
This French 1 curriculum is a CI curriculum. This means it’s based off of proficiency according to ACTFL and methods rooted in comprehensible input. If you’re new to CI French curriculum, feel free to explore more here: The Research Behind Comprehensible Input
My CI French 1 Curriculum
This class is intended for those who want to outline and improve their curriculum. However, if you’re looking for resources based on this framework, you can use my ready-made French 1 curriculum for comprehensible input teachers here.
I’m building out this French 1 curriculum kit using this very framework.
French 1 Curriculum Class
Maybe you’re starting from scratch. You might be working in conjunction with a textbook. Maybe you’re working in conjunction with your department or other materials. You might have pieces of or a whole curriculum and you need to figure out how you’re going to make that work. This class is for you.
We’re going to take the very little time that you have and make sure that you are maximizing that time with an easy-to-use tool. To get started, you need something called a curriculum map of your high school French curriculum. A curriculum map is something that ensures everything that you want your curriculum to be actually comes to fruition. Let’s start with making sure that you have the tools that you need for class.
Free Curriculum Map
I have a free curriculum map download for you so that you can follow along with us. It’s the same curriculum map template that you’ll see used in the class above.
Next, what is your goal for your French curriculum? Are you trying to maybe revamp it a little bit? Are you in the position where your creation was all over the place this year and you’re trying to streamline it a little bit? Maybe you are like pretty much all of us in the US (I can’t speak for other places) but trying to transition towards a proficiency centered curriculum?
Know that I’ve been in your shoes when it comes to working with a French curriculum for high school. It’s a little bit all over the place and needs to get done quickly. I feel you on that! That’s why I created this tool for you. This curriculum map is based off of some terms from previous classes like enduring understandings, Intercultural communication, and performance indicators. If any of those are could use a refresher, head to my YouTube page and you’ll find a bunch of classes on each of these subjects. You can dive in further there.
Common Mistakes in Curriculum Design
Let’s get started. When you get this free download you’re going to see that there are three stages of this map. The number one thing that usually happens when teachers start working on their curriculum is they feel like they should be an expert in curriculum design.
World Language Teachers are Accidental Experts
That is not the case! Organizing and curating curriculum and materials is a very different skill from teaching. Do not beat yourself up if this does not come naturally to you. Mapping out a French 1 high school curriculum (or middle school) is a beast!
World language teachers are accidental experts in curriculum.
Backward Design and ACFTL Principles
In its essence, this curriculum map is based on backward design + ACFTL principles. Most world language teachers besides thinking that they need to be an expert on this also get into that mode where we want to skip right down to the part where you brainstorm topics. This is a mistake! I know that’s where I used to start when planning my high school French curriculum. Next, we want to skip down to this last part: in the core structures and skills in content words.
Don’t Start with Content
For example, If we have that freedom of starting to work on our curriculum, we usually start right away with brainstorming our content. “Let’s start with some question phrases, let’s make sure that they’ve mastered first person present tense, etc” Those are incredibly important, but that’s actually not where you should start if you want this process to go quickly.
You know what’s going to happen if you start here in core structures and skills. This is usually where people start because many of us teach the way that we were taught. We understand that content organization has to do with the content. But as somebody’s done this a lot, this process goes a lot faster and you will get much better results if you start with this – desired results.
Let’s go over the structure of your new curriculum map. This is broken down into three stages. When you are mapping out a curriculum (either a semester or full year), it’s daunting either way. Page one is your desired results. Make sure that you check out the class that I taught about the 9 steps to a proficiency centered curriculum where I go over how to craft a goal for your class.
Craft a Mission Statement for French Class
It’s a mission statement for your class. My mission statement for my class was the end result of what I always wanted to happen in my classroom. Our desired result example can be mine: cultivate empathetic global citizens prepared for the workforce and digital school environment. That was definitely my first desired result.
The second thing that I really want my students to be for French one is novice mid. Now that you have your desired results, you can look at everything that you do beyond this point and make sure that everything is working with these end goals.
Don’t Make this French 1 Curriculum Mistake
Something common that happens is language teachers get excited about everything that we want to teach. Because we teach French 1, okay? It’s the best subject on the block! We get to teach the coolest things: Francophone culture, we get to travel the entire globe, and we get to talk about freaking the coolest people ever. I just get really excited about all the units.
But then I put in either too much or too advanced topics that can’t be done in the target language. Postcolonial thought processes? Not really a thing for novice mid. I don’t know about you but if you think like me I get really excited about teaching French stuff. I have experience as a student many times in my career. If you’re a teacher you become a teacher because you freakin’ love your subjects. Do you ever get all excited about all of the advanced things that you want to talk about and you forget that you’re working with beginners? I remember being in French 1 bien dit French 2 being in French 3 and the teachers talking about things in very rapid French.
How to Approach Culture in Your Curriculum
Talking about thought processes, social movements, culture all these things and I just wasn’t ready for it. I mean we had to do most of it in English because we’re still in French 1 or French 2. At that point then why are you spending so much time doing this? We can’t talk about it in the target language so that’s when you go sift through your content list to see what you can talk about in the target language. Note that this doesn’t mean you can’t talk about complex things – I always did social justice lessons from day 1 in my French 1 class. It just means that you can’t put material from your college literature class into your French 3 curriculum. Désolée.
Don’t Start with Units
It’s good to have units be the second rather than starting with units. When you have an idea of what level your students are at.
Keep your eyes on the prize with my desired result is that some things are going to have to get cut because we’re focusing on language. Do not misconstrue that with the idea that culture is not going to get touched. That’s quite the opposite. It just means that you have a different approach to it.
Stage 1 is getting your ideas together for what you want the end of the year to look like for your students. I got my mission statement here, I got my level where I would like them to be, and this stage one will just call this a space where you can write some notes as you are working on your curriculum.
Culture Units in French 1
The next part is going to be enduring understanding. This is where we get to focus on culture.
This is what I mean by we’re not putting culture in the corner. I do not believe that by any means. It gets challenging to incorporate culture in a language focused and proficiency oriented classroom. This is where your enduring understandings help. They shape the culture that happens in your classroom. Enduring understandings make culture that is still viable and reachable at your students level so that you don’t ever have to choose again between language and culture.
We have this idea that we have to choose between target language and culture. I felt that many times. The answer is more along the lines of taking a different approach to it. So what is an enduring understanding again? An enduring understanding what will your students really understand about themselves and the world at the end of your unit,theme, topic or skill. But most importantly your class! One of the enduring understandings for my French ones is that French class is not about France. Another one: greetings reflect social structures in societies.
Compare this with what usually happens. In your very first unit of French one, they’re figuring out that people say hi differently in different cultures. You can build that up a little bit with their enduring understanding instead of saying something that’s explicitly language focused. Such as: they’re going to understand the difference between tu and vous and know when to use them when it’s appropriate and when it’s not.
Examples of Enduring Understandings French 1
Try replacing it with an enduring understanding. This is what they really understand about the world. Greetings reflect how society is structured around the world. Embedded in something as simple as greetings is how those expressions reflect a lot about that society and culture. That is the reason we learn language – those enduring understandings.
Your students are not just learning to communicate. They are learning that other people think about the world differently. This would be another good enduring understanding. This difference is reflected and embedded in that language. Since we’re in a level one language course, this is going to be many of your students’ first experiences with language. One of their enduring understandings is that language reflects the values of the speaker.
How Enduring Understandings Help Craft Units
What would come to you as you’re thinking about how you’re going to put this into your curriculum? Having enduring understandings first will make it a lot easier to choose materials for your unit. As you’re making a map , you want to ensure that students understand that language reflects the values of the people who speak it. It makes it a million times easier when you’re looking at different lesson plan options. You’ll be able to sift through what’s good for your classroom and what is not.
Essential questions are another way to organize the ideas of what exactly your students are going to learn. They are related to enduring understandings. Use essential questions if they help you. They helped me a lot. But when I first heard about essential questions when I was working on the South Carolina proficiency curriculum, it sounded like a fancy fluff word to be honest. Now I like them a lot. I’m a big fan.
You can do essential questions along these lines: what will your students be able to answer by the end of the classroom unit? Some examples from a school unit: how do I interact with my teacher? If you are talking about a school unit, how does geography of a target culture impact access to education? Instead of surface-level understandings of a school unit, essential questions help to elevate the material.
Remember to keep them in the context of things that students could talk about at the end of a level 1 course. We talked about earlier that you got to be careful about overstuffing cultural content. AKA me. When you get all excited about all the things that you want to talk about in your curriculum for your units, themes and topics, you’ll have something concrete to evaluate its validity for level 1.
Take the Guesswork out of Culture in French Curriculum
When your department gets together and says okay we’re really excited to integrate all of these modern themes and really dive in deep in the level one high school French curriculum, you can use essential questions to help guide the discussion. You might say, that’s a very ambitious idea but maybe it’ll make it a little bit more realistic if we are just asking the right questions instead of asking more questions. Essential questions are often very challenging, but concise. There are maybe two or three of these per unit.
It’s helpful to organize ideas and make sure that you’re hitting those essential cultural points. That’s the reason that we teach the class, right?
ICCs – Intercultural Communication
Next we have ICCs. Intercultural Communication is where you’re going to put all of your icc’s. These are the culture standards you want your students to hit by the end of your course. There’s a whole class on this stuff for Intercultural Communication. You can also find these on the ACFTL website here:ACFTL Can-Do ICCs.
High School French 1 Curriculum Levels
Make sure that you look for a novice standard. For example, for novice interpretive Intercultural communication + investigate I’m going to put: “in my own and other cultures I can identify products and practices to help me understand perspectives.” You’re focusing mostly on identify at the novice level. Another is, “I can interact out of survival level. That’s the main word for novice is interact at a survival level.” In level 1, we’re going to be working with novices at the middle school or High School level.
Common Level Mistakes in French 1 Curriculum
Let’s address why these standards are important. World language teachers especially we’re guilty of underestimating what our language goals are, and overestimating what are in our cultural goals.That’s why these are here. We want to make sure that we are bumping up the right levels with performance indicators and actually providing them tasks and opportunities in learning to get where they need to be instead of keeping them at the novice low. You’d be surprised how much we accidentally keep them there by the activities we provide.
One day I realized, this is insane! I am keeping them at the novice low-level because I keep providing them with novice low opportunities to talk. I was doing quite the opposite. Most of my activities were not interacting at a survival level. It was all this high-level stuff that they were not ready for. That is why we keep this here in stage one of our curriculum. Again, I have a whole class on this called “how to make can-dos a can do.” You can look at that whole class and learn more about how these work and why they’re so awesome.
Use Performance Indicators to Choose Content
I’m thinking…how are my students going to be able to exchange information and ideas in a conversation? What level do I want if I want them to get to a novice high? One key skill is to exchange ideas in a conversation. With that in mind, I want them to be able to questions pretty confidently and provide a kind of, sort of answer. ACFTL says for novice mid: “I can request and provide information by asking and answering practice key phrases.” The presence of original phrases makes the difference in levels here. The questions should also be on familiar and everyday topics. This is their interpersonal goal. For “I can request and provide info” you know what that means. We need to learn question words and we need to learn some answering phrases!
Now I’m finally ready to add content.
Performance indicators should direct your core structures and skills, not the other way around.
Don’t Make this Common French 1 Curriculum Mistake
What happens a lot since these performance indicators have been released is that people already have their core structures and skills in mind. They disregard the needs of the level. They say, sweet! I’m going to make sure that I pick out all the performance indicators that already match what I’m teaching. It’s much easier if you do it the opposite way.
Start with your performance indicators.
That way, you know that you’re only going to teach what’s necessary. I’m very guilty of this right now – curriculum stuffing! In my family I’m known as the burrito suffer because I’m no longer allowed to make burritos in this house. I get too excited about all the things that are on the stove. If you have burrito overstuffing syndrome in your life you probably also have it in your curriculum. Make sure that my curriculum is only what’s necessary.
Assessment in High School French
Next, we have stage 2: assessment and evidence.
Next we have our stage 2 assessment and evidence. How are you doing assessment in unit based curriculums? What you usually have is formative and summative assessments on all the 4 modes depending on where you’re at and what your structure looks like. This is going to be highly individual depending on what’s going to look good for your students. Something to think about: If you got a little bit of freedom, try a portfolio.
Structure and time frame in your French 1 curriculum for high school is the part where you’re going to look at your district calendar. How many days and contact hours do you have? This is highly individual, so calculate what you can do based on the hours available to you.
French 1 Curriculum Content Ideas
Here are the language units that I’m going to be doing with my high school French 1 curriculum:
- special person interviews
- High frequency verbs
- hobbies and weekend talk
- School and immediate environment
- personality descriptions and physical descriptions
- How to learn a language and sla principles
Go crazy, this is where you get all that out of your system! This is going to take you the most time.
The Learning Plan
Now we’re in stage 3 : the learning plan. At this point, you have an idea of how you’ll structure the skeleton of your curriculum. You have the time frame sketched out. Now, we get to the last part: core structures and skills.
What to Include in your French 1 Curriculum
Core Structures and Skills
In our example French curriculum for high school or middle school, we already talked about question words and simple answer phrases. I know that for content words, I’m going to want these ideas:
- School talk / necessary classroom info
- commands without teaching how to make commands
- respond to simple commands
- question words
- simple answer for phrases
- high-frequency present tense verbs
- sweet 16 plus a few others that I like for when I use CI novels
- Personality traits
- Tools for describing others
- Tools for expressing favorites and dislikes
- Tools for making friends and interacting with them
- Invitations and making plans
- tools for weekend chats and “what I did yesterday”
This is not comprehensive, just stuff to get you started.
I’ve heard people describe for curriculum creation a really good way to do it is also skill base and not necessarily content-based. Ask yourself, what would students need for describing immediate environments? That’s a really essential piece of being able to do novice level skills or survive in the target language environment.
More Unit Examples
They might also need light travel phrases, I don’t understand, you know. Language they would actually use. They also need significant listening practice surviving in the TL environment. That also means that they’re going to need some very basic cultural understanding and awareness of some differences. They’ll need interaction phrases like attention getters: “excuse me, where is, how can I find…”
Rethink Curriculum Design for French
This is how I think about curriculum. This is how a lot of textbook creators also think about curriculum to then get your content words. Think first about what students need to do, and build out from there. Your core structures and skills will lead you to your content words.
The Power of Backward Design
When you start with the end in mind, as we all know from backward design, you’ll get to your end result faster. But if you’re also starting with language skills, essential questions enduring understandings, and then your desired results as the standards to help guide you, your results are a focused and proficiency aligned curriculum. Your goals are evenly balanced. The best part? This method won’t take you nearly as much time as trying to come up with all the pieces on your own.
Go Deeper with World Language Curriculum Design
Now this is just like a brief taste of what curriculum looks like.
If you’re ready for the real deal I have a full glorious curriculum workshop for you that is going to get you through every single piece. You can go top to bottom a gorgeous curriculum and the workshop will help you get there.
This shows you the steps but the curriculum workshop will walk you through it with me holding your hand. This is the what, but the curriculum workshop is the how, step by step. It even includes a 90 minute workshop where I show you my actual curriculum map for Spanish 1 (don’t worry, it still applies to CI French curriculum).
You can also find more tips in this free ebook for proficiency oriented world language teachers below:
Have you ever wished the transition to proficiency were easier to do? Grab the FREE toolkit here to learn the framework for updating your practice to comprehensible input – without all the overwhelm – and prepare for the challenges ahead.
I hope that this is going to make your entire experience with creating or revamping your French 1 curriculum a lot easier for you. I know that as a French teacher the struggle is so real when it comes to finding the materials for French class. Trying to make things work between French 1 and 2 and 3, plus when are you even going to find a solid day to work on just curriculum? You need to save every second possible.
Following these steps will help shave a bunch of hours off of your curriculum experience.
More French Teacher Resources
Thanks for learning with me. I hope you enjoyed these French classroom ideas for the holidays. Here are more resources and articles I know you’ll love:
- 11 French Resources for Teachers – All Free!
- French Classroom Decor Ideas for Proficiency Oriented Instruction
- Black Francophone Leaders for French Class
- My Favorite Francophone Culture Project: Virtual Field Trips
- Five Fun French Speaking Activities to Review for Finals
- Curriculum Design for World Language
- The Truth About Teaching with Comprehensible Input
Thanks so much for spending some of your precious time with me! How did your French 1 high school curriculum turn out? Let me know in the comments below!
Rooting for you,