Cause celebre

13th June 2008 at 01:00
Video clips are a way to fuel debate and generate pupil feedback in French lessons, says Yannick Crespy

Video clips are a way to fuel debate and generate pupil feedback in French lessons, says Yannick Crespy

Try using a video clip from French TV as a trigger to a lesson that will interest and stimulate more advanced learners.

During the Cannes Film Festival, cinema is omnipresent in the French media and this presents a golden opportunity for French teachers. I teach a lesson to a mixed group of International Baccalaureate and A-level students using a video clip from France 2 where Leonardo DiCaprio (dubbed!) promotes his environmental documentary movie, The 11th Hour, at the 2007 festival.

The students watch the video clip twice. Before launching into the whole debate about whether DiCaprio is showing genuine, selfless concern for our planet or seeking the attention of the media, it's a good moment to fill in some gaps in vocabulary. Of course, the words you carefully select should lend themselves to further lexical exploration, whether it be finding synonyms, antonyms or recognising lexical fields. In this case, I give the students a list of words for which they have to find synonyms in the transcript of the clip. By this time, students are ready for a more challenging exercise, so I suggest a few sentences requiring the subjunctive. After all, as Leo says: "Il faut que nous fassions tous un effort!" (We must all make an effort.)

You can then move on to the piece de resistance, the debate, where the teacher can step back and let the students take the lead and use the language that they have picked up so far. Of course, the more controversial the better; if you choose your clip carefully, it is rare to see a bored look on the students' faces. In this particular lesson, the students split into small groups and had to share their knowledge about global warming before discussing whether celebrities who fought for great causes use their role as prominent figures to increase public awareness, or use great causes to gain even more celebrity. IB students will have studied a range of topical issues in humanities, economics or Theory of Knowledge, and are always up for a lively debate.

This type of exercise is a great opportunity for them to acquire the vocabulary to discuss those same topics in a foreign language.

Of course you cannot leave your lesson at that, and a feedback session from pupils is the perfect plenary.

This is an opportunity for students to speak in front of their peers and for the teacher to do a bit of fine tuning, check language accuracy and pronunciation, and usually to enjoy intelligent conversation with young minds.

So good luck. Here are a few places to start your search:; www.tv5.orgTV5Site7-jours

Yannick Crespy teaches French at Impington Village College, a specialist language college in Cambridgeshire. His lesson based on the Leonardo DiCaprio interview at the Cannes Film Festival is featured on CILT's new 14 to 19 microsite, Reshaping Languages.

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