In this scenario,
student groups research various topics of 20th century French
civilization, literature, and culture by decades. Areas
of study include music, art, architecture, literature, theater,
film, politics, religion, science, medicine, technology,
and daily life. Each group is responsible for presenting
information and leading the class in activities showing
how the various subject areas are interrelated (e.g., how
the first flight of the Concorde in 1969 affected daily
life and what were the political implications of the invention)
as well as sharing research and personal ideas in writing,
discussions, and presentations. All work is done in French.
ACTIVITY SET 1: Group Presentations
Working in groups, students choose a decade of the 20th
century. Each group is responsible for researching the following
topics from their decade: music, art, architecture, literature/theater/film,
politics/religion, science/medicine/technology, and daily
life. The groups make class presentations and provide handouts
for the rest of the class. The handout includes new vocabulary
words and is in outline format for the class to take notes.
The presentation format can be lecture, interactive discussion,
video, PowerPoint, etc. The presentations include information
about how the different subject areas affect one another.
After the decade presentations, groups are responsible for
leading reinforcement activities in the classroom. For example,
while the class is studying a decade, the group leaders
for that decade will lead follow up activities from the
suggestions in Activity Sets 2–8. Different group members
will be the leaders for different activities.
Presentations are made one decade at a time with follow-up
activities. Some of the follow-up activities can be done
after all the presentations are completed as indicated in
ACTIVITY SET 2: Music
Groups play music that represents their decade and provide
classmates with a copy of the song lyrics (can be found
on the Internet or in music stores). The group explains
why they chose the music and how it is representative of
the decade, relating it to another area such as politics
or art. (For example, Edith Piaf used her status as a famous
singer to stage singing engagements and have her picture
taken with WWII prisoners. The pictures were given to the
French underground for the purpose of creating false documents
and helping the prisoners escape). The words are provided
to classmates with blanks to be filled in as students listen
to the song. Students choose a favorite song to practice
daily and learn by heart from among those presented. The
teacher follows up with a “lyrics quiz” or asks students
to pick the “Song of the Century” and make a lip-sync video
version or give a live presentation for the class after
all the decades have been presented.
ACTIVITY SET 3: Art History
After describing and showing examples of art from its decade,
the group leads the class in creating an art project depicting
a style from that decade such as cubism, pointillism, impressionism,
surrealism, etc. (Styles may overlap decades.) The group
explains the influences on the art of its decade and how
it reflects cultural aspects of the decade. All finished
projects are used to create a classroom display of “Art
of the Century.” Afterwards, representatives from each group
meet to create a matching game of art/artists or other review
games. The teacher follows up with a factual quiz or asks
students to write a short paper describing their favorite
artist of the 20th century.
ACTIVITY SET 4: Architecture
Groups ask classmates to look in magazines such as “Architectural
Digest” and to describe a room, building, or structure that
depicts the 20th century styles they have presented to the
class. (Architectural styles rarely change by decade, so
there will be overlap in presentations.) Students then have
an opportunity to design their own building/structure to
add to the “sites to see in Paris.” They discuss where they
would build it and if they think it would be accepted. They
mention current issues that may be responsible for the acceptance
or non-acceptance of their building/structure. The teacher
follows up with a class discussion of the pros/cons of building
the Pyramid at the Louvre.
ACTIVITY SET 5: Literature/Theater/Film
From their decade presentation, the group provides a
literary piece for the class to memorize. It could be a
poem, a prose excerpt, or an excerpt from a play. They provide
classmates with the words. The group explains why they chose
that particular literary piece and how it depicts French
culture in the 20th century. They may also connect a particular
literary movement to a related trend in another art form.
After all groups have presented all the decades, each student
chooses one of the presented literary works to memorize
for an oral presentation. (An excerpt from a play would
be presented in a small group.) As an alternative, students
work in small groups to make up short skits in the style
of the “theater of the absurd” and present them to class.
If desired, an after-school “Ciné Club” is formed to view
films representing the 20th century.
ACTIVITY SET 6: Politics/Religion
Group representatives lead the class in creating a visual
comparison (chart, lists, etc.) of U.S. and French politics
and major political figures in each decade of the 20th century.
For ease of comparison, the teacher provides guidance by
suggesting a form of visual presentation or the class decides
ahead of time on the categories to be used. Next, students
work together to create newspaper headings and stories.
Using a computer publishing program or cut-and-paste method,
students develop a newspaper page for each decade of the
century. The newspaper pages are displayed in a prominent
place such as the front hall of the school or the library.
As a culminating activity, students write an essay on how
politics influenced music, art and literature in 20th century
ACTIVITY SET 7: Science/Medicine/Technology
Each group contributes a given number of question/answer
cards for a game of 20th century inventions and advances
in science/medicine/technology. Next, group representatives
or the teacher chooses a “hot” topic for a class debate.
Students write a short essay answering the question: Have
modern advances improved the quality of life?
ACTIVITY SET 8: Daily Life
Students assume the role of someone who has lived in France
for the entire century and write a diary entry about what
life was like in each decade. In groups, students make predictions
for the 21st century including: How will life in France
change? Will it be for the better or for worse? Students
watch a French news broadcast from TV5 and discuss the current
daily issues. (They can also look at French newspapers and
magazines on the Internet—in the library or at home—to find
information for discussion.)
Communication: The interpersonal
mode is used in group work and as groups lead the class in
follow-up reinforcement activities. The interpretive mode
is used in research and in listening to group presentations.
The presentational mode is used as students present researched
information to the class and as students make class presentations
in the reinforcement activities.
- Internet access for research
- Supplies for creating visual aids
- Supplies for individual reinforcement
- CD/tape player
- Book on art history
- Architectural magazines
- Computer and desktop publishing
Cultures: This is a culturally based unit involving research,
comparison by decade, and presentations of French practices
and perspectives and products and perspectives in the areas
of French music, art, architecture, literature/theater/film,
politics/religion, science/medicine/technology, and daily
Connections: Students use the French language to discover,
interpret, create, present, and discuss information and activities
on a variety of subjects reflected in French civilization.
They learn how the different subject areas are interrelated
and affect one another.
Comparisons: Students compare French and American culture
in the areas of religion and politics.
Communities: Students link to the target language community
by interacting with guest speakers (see Expansion Ideas) and
in conducting interactive research on the Internet.
- Check with the Alliance Française,
French-based businesses, local museums, local French restaurants,
Air France, local universities, or other resources that
may have French personnel, and invite a French-speaking
community member to talk to the class on one of the topics
- Invite community members who are
experts in their field to talk about what kinds of things
influence their personal expressions (a local artist,
an architect, someone from the local symphony, or a "DJ"
from a local radio station.)
- Invite a native French speaker to
talk to the class about how life in France has changed
through the decades of his or her life.
- Choose another century and follow
a similar plan of activities.
- Instead of having groups work together,
alter the unit to accommodate individual study by a single
student who is at the advanced level in a class of intermediate-level
learners. The advanced-level student may still lead the
rest of the class in some of the reinforcing activities
as enrichment tasks.
- Choose an artist and a writer from
20th century France and compare their themes, philosophy
and styles, indicating how their works interrelate and
reflect 20th century French civilization and culture in
- Grun, B. (1991). The timetables of history: A horizontal
linkage of people and events. NY: Simon and Schuster.
NOTE: These Internet resources may
have changed since publication or no longer be available.
Active links should be carefully screened before recommending
French Search Engines