Last year I discovered Alice Ayel’s YouTube channel. She creates videos in which she tells simple stories in French that are designed to help French students acquire language naturally. The first video I saw was called Marie L’artiste. In this video, an artiste named Marie wants a giraffe, but since she can’t have one she ends up painting her dog Médor to look like a giraffe. Alice also recorded a follow-up video called Marie Veut un Vrai Girafe. In this video, Marie, who was previously happy with her dog painted to look like a giraffe, grows tired of not having a real giraffe. When she can’t find one at the nearby pet store, she steals one from the nearby zoo and ends up in prison.
I showed both of these videos last year to my high school students and wrote stories to go along with them. They were fairly well received. This year I decided to use these videos in class once again (this time with Grade 6 students), but I turned these two videos into a mini unit. I’d like to say that I carefully planned everything, but the truth is that this unit took on a life of its own because my students kept asking for more! Here is what I did:
Day 1: The Story of Martine, the artist who wanted a zebra. On the very first day of this unit, I told my students the story of a woman named Martine, who was an artist with a dog (inspired by Alice’s first video). She wanted a zebra, but since she couldn’t have one she ended up painting her dog to look like a zebra. I told the story in French and included drawings and French-to-English translations to make the story comprehensible. Then I asked my students to do a story re-tell in English to make sure they understood the story.
Day 2: The Story of Marie L’artiste. After a review of the story about Martine, I showed them Alice Ayel’s first video, Marie L’artiste (see above for the link). Then I asked them to create a list of similarities and differences found in my story and Alice’s video.
Day 3: Storyboard. I created a comic strip with a story about Martine. In this story she goes to a pet store in search of a zebra but when she can’t find one she buys a tiger instead. My students and I read the comic strip together and then they illustrated it.
Day 4: PowerPoint. I created a PowerPoint in which Martine wants to find a friend for her tiger, so she tries to steal a zebra from the zoo but is arrested and sent to prison (By the way, you can actually find images of dogs that are painted look like zebras on the Internet. Who knew?) My students and I read this together in French and then they did a story re-tell as a comprehension check.
Day 5: Marie Veut un Vrai Girafe. After reviewing the PowerPoint from the previous day, I showed Alice Ayel’s second video, Marie Veut Un Vrai Girafe (see above for link). Once again, I asked them to create a list of similarities and differences found in my story and Alice’s video.
(Friends, this was where the unit was supposed to end. My students, however, had other ideas. They begged me for a Part Three to the story of Martine in which she would break out of prison. There was no way I could say no. This led me to add the following three days of Martine activities.)
Day 6: Storyasking. The class and I created an Act Three to our Martine story using Storyasking techniques. I had two classes creating stories, and although they both had their differences, both involved Martine escaping from prison and a love story between Médor the dog-zebra and the real zebra at the zoo. Once we finished our stories, students did a story re-tell as a comprehension check.
Day 7: Student Actors. My students and I acted out a story about Martine escaping from prison and Médor’s love story.
Day 8: Storyboard. I created a comic strip about Martine escaping from prison and ending up in Africa with Médor and the zebra from the zoo. My students and I read the comic strip together and then they illustrated it.
It is important for me to mention that this is not the only thing I did in class on those days. The above activities took up roughly 25 minutes. The rest of the time we were doing our daily review of the day, date, and weather and doing some Total Physical Response (TPR) activities. But a combination of all three activities made for very enjoyable classes so far this year. Now I have to find some more videos that I can use to create a second unit!