Resources for La France en Danger

French teacher friends, I know that Mira Canion is busy preparing a teacher’s guide for her novel La France en Danger. I offer you some ideas about how to teach the novel and offer access to some of the resources I have created for it. You can use them while you wait for the guide to be available for purchase, or even as a compliment to the guide once you have it.

Chapter 1

In the first chapter, the most important thing to do before you start reading the chapter is to make sure the students have some background information regarding some of the cultural references in the novel. In order to do that, I created this PowerPoint that I used to talk about Pauline and Luc (the two protagonists), Paris, the World’s Fair, Pablo Picasso, and the bombing of Guernica.

I also wrote this reading in very simple French to provide background knowledge about Charles de Gaulle and Maréchal Pétain, who do not appear in the book but are mentioned. I did not do any formal assessments on this, since all I wanted was that my students knew who fought on which side during World War Two.

And finally, I wrote this reading in English about the Spear of Destiny. I felt that the topic was too difficult for my students to read in French, so I came up with a reading in English followed by questions in French.

Chapter 2

The most important part of Chapter 2 is the introduction of the two agents, Roger and Marcel. After we read the chapter I divided my class into four groups and assigned each group a character from the chapter, either  Pauline, Luc, Roger, and Marcel. Each group was responsible for drawing a picture of their character and writing a description in French of each person. Then we displayed the pictures in class and I did some question/answer with the class where I asked questions like, “Qui a 24 ans?” and “Qui a de longs cheveux bruns?” Then we compared the four characters with students in the class (Alternatively, you could just have your groups draw a picture of their character, put them on display, and then describe them to the class in French one sentence at a time and have your students guess which character is being described).

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 contains information about Pablo Picasso’s Guernica painting, so I did a number of cultural activities related to the painting before we read the chapter. The activities were designed to help students develop an appreciation of the painting and to introduce some vocabulary that they would need while reading the chapter. You will see that I have five different activities here, but most of them are relatively short, lasting at most 15 minutes each.

First, I showed this PowerPoint about Pablo Picasso. I wanted my class to know that he had created realistic artwork before he developed his modern style that he is most known for and to connect Picasso to Paris, where he was living when he painted Guernica.

Second, I created this “I Spy” activity to encourage students to examine elements in the painting and develop the French vocabulary needed to comprehend the chapter.

Third, to familiarize students with some body part words they need for the chapter, I created this matching sheet where students had to match descriptions with the Picasso painting being described.

I also created this matching sheet to help students think about possible symbols in Guernica.

And finally, I created this quick drawing assignment to reinforce names of body parts in the chapter.

Chapter 4

In Chapter 4, Pauline and Luc go to the famous café-restaurant, Les Deux Magots. I created two resources to go along with it.

Here is the PowerPoint presentation I created about Les Deux Magots to give kids some background information about it.

Here is the Web Quest I created for which students had to search the menu and answer questions about it. Students accessed the menu in french but my Web Quest is in English because I am using it as an Interpretive Listening assignment.

Chapter 5

In this chapter, Pauline and Luc visit la Sainte-Chapelle. Here is the PowerPoint I made about la Sainte-Chapelle.

Chapter 6

In this chapter, Luc and Pauline arrive in Antibes in Pauline’s car, a 1937 Talbot-Lago. You can find lots of great pictures of one of these on Google Images, like the one below.

Talbot Lago 1937

Here’s a great poster for the car too.


In this chapter, Luc and Pauline walk down the promenade Amiral de Grasse. I used Google Maps to “walk” along the promenade so students could get an idea of what the area looks like (and appreciate its gorgeous view!).

Chapter 7

In this chapter, Luc and Pauline enter the Château Grimaldi. Here is the PowerPoint I made to go along with this.

(By the way, it was in this chapter that I realized that the author is not being faithful to the original timeline (which I’m fine with, by the way, because it works in the story). Pauline and Luc go to Antibes because Luc said that Picasso had a connection with the Château Grimaldi. It is already a Picasso museum in the novel, which takes place in 1937. In reality, Picasso did not go to Antibes, where he lived in the Château Grimaldi and contributed a number of paintings to the museum that eventually opened there, until 1946. I don’t think it’s that important to mention the timeline manipulation to students but wanted to make sure that any teachers reading this knew the truth.)

Chapter 8 

In this chapter, Marcel approaches Pauline dressed as a princess with plans to steal her notebook, which contains notes about the location of the Lance du Destin. I did a little Reader’s Theater for this chapter, complete with props (a long-haired wig and a tiara).

Chapter 9

This chapter has the car chase. Roger and Marcel chase Pauline and Luc through Antibes. At the end of this chapter, Pauline and Luc escape when Roger’s car crashes. This is a really short chapter, but I did bring in some miniature cars so we could reenact the car chase.

Chapter 10

In this chapter, the action moves to the city of Arles. Here is the PowerPoint I made about the bull celebrations in Arles.

There are also many videos in YouTube with bull running in Arles. If you decide to look for a video for this, it is very important that you specify “Arles” in your search or else you will end up with bull running in Spain instead.

Since students were not familiar with the practice of bull running, this is a very important chapter to review visually. I used a SmartBoard so students could see the main characters jump the barrier onto the bull running course, the bulls running into the characters on the road, and the main characters’ subsequent jump back over the barrier to safety.

Chapter 11

In this chapter, Luc and Pauline go to a bullfight in Arles. Since bullfighting is only legal in southern France, I decided not to spend too much time talking about the practice. I showed this video about bullfighting in Arles and then explained events quickly in English as needed when we read the chapter.

Chapter 12

In this chapter, Pauline is in possession of the Lance of Destiny and runs to a park while Marcel and Roger pursue her. This is also the chapter where Roger captures Luc. This is another chapter that needs to be reviewed visually, so once again I used my SmartBoard to draw the action in the chapter.

Chapter 13

This is the final chapter! I won’t spoil the ending by telling you the outcome, but I will tell you that Reader’s Theater is a great activity to do as a chapter review.


If you are doing this book with your students, I would love to trade resources! Let me know what fun activities you planned for this text!








Rachel’s Awesome Carlos Game

Last Friday my friend Rachel, a Spanish teacher who teaches with comprehensible input (CI) in her classroom, shared a game she plays in class that she calls the Carlos game. (I don’t know if she created it or if she found it elsewhere. If you know the origin of this game, let me know so I can give credit to its inventor). Here is how you play it.

  1. In the game, students get in a large circle sitting on chairs.
  2. The teacher then either writes a question on the board or else projects the question on a screen. The question can be about anything. The class then chooses a silly answer to the question. Her class likes “Carlos” as the silly answer, which is why she calls it the Carlos game.
  3. For the first round, a student is selected as the questioner. That person’s chair is removed from the circle.
  4. The students, including the questioner, close their eyes, and the teacher walks around and taps either two or three students (depending on class size) silently.
  5. Students open their eyes and the questioner starts asking students the question for that round.
  6. Students who were not tapped must give a real, truthful answer. Students who were tapped must respond to the question with the silly answer. So, for example, if the question is, “What are you afraid of?” the students answer truthfully except for anyone who was tapped, who says in the target language, “I am afraid of Carlos” (or whatever your silly word is).
  7. All students must get up, run to another chair, and sit down. The person left without a chair becomes the new questioner.
  8. Play then continues from #2 above.

I played this in class today and students absolutely loved it. Here are a few variations you can add to your game.

  1. Number of students tapped to give the silly answer. The fewer students tapped by the teacher (see #4 above), the more repetitions of the question the student will hear. When I played this, I tapped multiple students when the question was “What is your name?” because my students had heard that so many times. When the question was less common, like “What are you afraid of?” I tapped fewer students so students would hear the question repeatedly, which would, with any luck, increase the chances that they will acquire it.
  2. Brainstorm possible answers to the question before questioning the students. This reviews words and expressions that students may not have seen in a while and, with any luck, eliminates any anxious feelings students may have about answering the question.
  3. Length of play. You could use this as a review game and prepare possible questions on slides and play this game for an entire regular class period (or half a block class period) or you can create your questions on the fly and use it as a filler activity when you have minutes left at the end of class.
  4. Silly responses. Rachel’s presentation led me to believe that the answer to every question is “Carlos” when she plays this game. I decided to group my questions by type (who, what, where, how) and come up with multiple silly responses, some of which were new words that provided some sneaky CI.

If you’ve read my blog previously, you may remember what I had to say about games in the CI classroom. Add this one to the list of fun, equitable CI games that I plan on playing from now on.

Teaching Level 1 Themes with Comprehensible Input

When I visit the IFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching group on Facebook, I often encounter posts from teachers who would like to teach with comprehensible input (CI) but need help getting started. These teachers inevitably need some guidance on how to provide CI while still teaching certain topics that they are told they must cover.

If you are one of these teachers, my suggestion to you is that you start making the shift from traditional to CI with your Level 1 classes. There are a couple of good reasons for this. First, you will be the students’ first language teacher, which means you will not have students trained by a traditional teacher that you will then have to retrain. Second, themes in first-year modern language classrooms are basic enough that they can be presented easily using CI.

When I decided to embrace CI, I started with some backwards planning. I went through the Level 1 textbook and made a list of topics in the book. Then I listed one or two CI approaches I could use to address many of these topics. Here is the list I compiled for my first-year Spanish and French classes.

When I start out the year, I begin each class with Calendar Talk. Here is a video of how Tina Hargarden does Calendar Talk. In my class, we talk about the day (today, yesterday, tomorrow), any upcoming holidays, the weather, what season in is, and, since we have a rotating schedule, what the time is. This eliminates those isolated lessons on those subjects that are usually at the beginning of a first-year book.

Then, as Ben Slavic and other, more established CI teachers recommend, I do Card Talk. This activity used to be called Circling with Balls. My students draw pictures of something like to play and any pet(s) they may have on a card. Then I use Personalized Question and Answer to introduce the expressions “like(s) + infinitive” and “I/You have” and “S/he has.” Students also hear the names of sports and instruments, most of which are cognates, and some animals (usually “dog” and “cat” but sometimes other things like “guinea pig” and “rabbit.”).

Following that, I do Special Person Interviews. I can introduce SO much vocabulary due to the variety of questions I ask. By the time I finish my interviews, my students have been exposed to expressions like dates and numbers (from questions like “How old are you” and “When is your birthday”), activities (“What do you like to do”), food (“What is your favorite/least favorite food”), family members (“Do you have any brothers or sisters”) and names of school classes (“What is your favorite/least favorite class). If you are a French teacher, visit my French Resources page for my Personne Spéciale documents. Spanish teachers can visit my Spanish Resources page for the Spanish version.

After those first two activities, which can take me through mid-October (or even longer depending on class size), I have no set order in which to do my other activities. I am constantly taking things out and adding new things. One activity that I do one year in September I might not do until December another year. I don’t care about when the topics are addressed as long as they are addressed at some point during the school year.

Finally, I have learned to let go of the compulsion to teach all thematic vocabulary words together and have embraced the idea that they will pick them up in bits and pieces throughout the year (Click here for more about my thoughts about thematic units). Take expressions to describe the weather and seasons, for example. In my class, we learn them as the year progresses. In August when we come back to school students will learn to say that it is hot and sunny because it is still summer. In November they will learn to say that it is cool and windy because it is fall. In January they will be able to talk about snow and cold temperatures because it is winter, and in April they will be able to talk about rain because it is spring. Where is it written that a student has to learn all expressions to describe the weather and seasons, or by extension all clothing, food, or names of family members all at once?

And finally, let’s address the elephant in the room…the explicit grammar that some people feel is necessary to teach. I only do pop-up grammar in my classes, because, based on the research by Stephen Krashen and Bill Van Patten that I have read, I know that explicit grammar lessons do not further language acquisition. And I am lucky because I work in a district that has embraced CI. If you are obligated to teach grammar, I recommend that you read this post, in which I talk about ways to teach grammar in ways that maximize class time for comprehensible input in class.

Once the shift has been made with first-year classes, you can start to alter the second year textbook to CI. But that is a blog post for another day.