French 201 and 202: Intermediate French I / II

French 201/202 (or 2001/2002) are meant to reinforce the foundation of elementary French language courses, while also acclimating the student to listening to spoken, normal-paced French, and to reading texts and articles in the target language. The main goals are three-fold:

  1. The student will be able to carry on a short conversation with a native speaker (and be understood!).
  2. The student will be able to read a short article or piece of text and use context clues to decipher any language that she does not recognize.
  3. The student will be able to understand French spoken at a normal pace (neither fast nor slow), and will be able to glean words from fast-paced French.

French 201/202 are unnecessarily difficult for students because they so frequently wait to take these courses. Students often finish 101/102-level work either in college or in high school, and then delay completing their language requirement for many reasons: class schedules, fatigue, lack of interest, etc. A gap between 100- or 1000-level classes and higher-level coursework can mean that students may forget what they learned previously, leaving them with a weak foundation on which to build in these intermediate-level language courses.

I usually ask my students on the first day how long it has been since their last French class, so that I immediately know which students may have difficulty. One of the best ways to ensure student success in these courses is to aggressively check for comprehension from the very start of the semester, and then closely track the work they do on classroom assignments and homework. With immediate intervention, struggling students still have a chance to earn a decent grade in these courses, as long as they are willing to work hard on their own and in office hours with the professor.

Technology in the classroom

Textbook editors seem to be doing a better job lately at creating lessons that are culturally engaging, diverse, and educational. Nonetheless, the technology element of these lessons often lags behind whatever is current. A recent text I’ve used, Imaginez by Vista Higher Learning, includes great short films in French that depict a variety of cultures and social issues. However, these films often date from the 1990s or early 2000s, so millennial students have a hard time relating to them. In my own teaching, I focus on updating the digital element of my courses in two ways:

  1. By using diverse new technologies in the lessons I prepare.
  2. By incorporating at least one multi-modal* assignment per semester/per course.

*See below for a definition of “multi-modal,” and assignment examples.

I believe in using technology to strategically and thoughtfully enhance my lessons. Far beyond the traditional PowerPoint, I employ technology to inspire spontaneous language creation. One of my favorite and most recent resources is Google’s Promenade Nocturne à Marseille. This brilliant online resource (may it never disappear!) simulates a walk in one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in France. It presents political facts, artwork, history, and culture while students “stroll” through the famous Cours Julien. For a recent vocabulary lesson on cityscapes, I asked students to tell me what they saw as we moved through the streets. In addition to imagery, this resource offers videos with fascinating information. Students are so intrigued by lessons on street art, Charles de Gaulle, or film noir that they make an extra effort to understand what is being said. This semester, I used the video interview with a French man of Vietnamese heritage to teach pronominal verbs to my 201 class.

For one of the units with vocabulary on the subject of media and news, I used an advertisement that came out in France the same week that I was teaching the lesson to open a discussion about social and gender equality in modern France. The ad was almost immediately pulled from the internet after it was published, which became fodder for a conversation about censorship, as well.

Another way I’ve used technology in my courses is in creating multi-modal assignments that follow the criteria set forth by Georgia Tech’s groundbreaking WOVEN curriculum for Writing and Composition. In 2015 I attended a WOVEN panel at the Convention of the Modern Language Association in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was inspired by the diverse examples of assignments incorporating digital brainstorming, expression, and collaboration.

I made composition topics in my 201 course multi-modal by incorporating technology, for example as students were asked to choose a song from a list of Francophone artists for one of their journal entries. Students chose socially-engaged music from Tunisia, Belgium, France, Québec, and Algeria to decipher and explain in their compositions. Feedback on this composition assignment was the most enthusiastic of all, as students said they had started to listen to music in French on a regular basis thanks to having discovered artists they enjoyed. For another multi-modal assignment, this one for extra credit, several students produced French radio broadcasts for the campus radio station, Black Ring Radio. I will soon add sample links on this page, as some students have kindly agreed to allow me to share their work.

I also use PowerPoint to teach vocabulary and grammar, but my personal rule for PowerPoint presentations is to always make them interactive. For vocabulary, I show images that contain multiple vocab words, and then ask students to tell me what they see. For grammar, I always include interactive exercises at the end that challenge students to find the correct answers.

I have taught French 201 at Emory University and at Agnes Scott College, and French 2002 at Georgia State University. I will teach French 202 at Agnes Scott College in spring 2016.

At Georgia State University I used Collage and L’Art de lire le récit for French 2002. At Emory University I taught this course with Bien vu, bien dit. At Agnes Scott I will be teaching it with Imaginez. I have also taught a similar course at Alliance Française d’Atlanta, using the Echo: méthode de français curriculum.

Course description:

This course builds on concepts and grammar structures previously introduced in Elementary French courses; thus, some previous study of French is a prerequisite for this course. Language production is emphasized in both oral and written forms, and is encouraged through exercises in listening, reading, writing, and speaking. This class is comprised of readings, conversations and compositions in the form of journal entries. Students should come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings/homework for that day. You should expect to spend between one-two hours preparing at home per hour of class.

Course objectives:          

The goals of this course are to understand and use, in restricted contexts, the French grammatical structures taught; to carry on a conversation on the indicated topics (including literary topics) at an intermediate level and with sufficient accuracy to be understood by a native speaker; to read intermediate-level texts with the help of a dictionary and to engage in discussion of such texts in defined contexts; to expand vocabulary; to improve listening skills; and to write compositions at an intermediate-advanced level of expression.