Teaching French with Some Fresh Perspective

One of my main goals as a teacher, especially at the 5th and 6th grade level, is to give my students the tools to be successful throughout the rest of their schooling and into their adult lives. Many times that means I’m not actually teaching French. Instead, I am teaching things like how to do research, how to use Google search properly to find what you want, how to frame arguments, copying and pasting someone else’s work is plagiarism, and so on.

I read a great article by Education Design Lab (2015) that said:

For more than a decade we have accepted that 21st century skills are essential for students’ future thriving.

The article went on to say that often, the 4 C’s of 21st century skills are considered the end all be all of what is needed: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. However, how can we reframe those skills into more broadly worded “21st Century Mindsets” that can more easily be applied to what we teach in our classrooms and what employers are looking for?

I’ve found that many of the things I want to teach my students fall into these 21st Century Mindsets. So how can I integrate these mindsets into every lesson, every time? Well… one lesson at a time, of course!

I picked a lesson that takes place during our culture unit where we ‘visit’ the caves of Lascaux and watch a video about all of the paintings there. However, in my original lesson, students weren’t doing all that much exploring or creating, and they weren’t given the chance to be critical or take action. So, using the knowledge I’ve gained from my graduate studies, I reworked the lesson with some fresh perspective.

Using the TPACK framework (Koehler & Mishra, 2009) I asked myself three questions.

  1. What content do I want to teach? –> The glorious and wonderful cave paintings of Lascaux.
  2. What pedagogy do I use to teach it? –> Hands on experience, as that is best practice when teaching culture.
  3. What technology (tool) can I use to help me enhance numbers 1 & 2? –> Well I can’t really bring my students to France, but virtual reality has to be pretty darn close.

My lesson is framed around the skills of evaluation, problem solving, inquiry, and creation. These are all 21st century mindsets. Students will watch and evaluate an intro video and discuss the pros and cons of closing a historical monument to protect it using the “Circle of Viewpoints” Visible Thinking routine. After that, we will all go inside a cave that I built (which you can see below) that I call “Lascaux 3.” Inside the cave, they will use Google Cardboard VR headsets and either their own device or a library device to watch a video recorded inside the cave in 360. This video integrates with Google Cardboard VR and can be paused while they look all around different rooms in the cave.


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After having ample time to explore, they will then problem-solve to figure out why cave paintings exist and how images can be used to tell stories. We then move on to a hands-on activity where they have a chance to create their own cave drawing to tell a story from their life, or a story from the perspective of a cave person.

Before leaving class, they all have an opportunity to change their opinion from the start of class now that they’ve seen Lascaux and how amazing it is “in person.” Some will, and others might not, but the point is that students have a chance to experience this important French cultural icon and appreciate a lot of what it has to offer without having to leave the classroom.

This new lesson is fun, hands-on, and most importantly gives students a chance to develop those 21st century mindsets that will allow them to be successful in their futures. Next up: all my other lessons!



Grocott, L. (2015). Reframing the 4 Cs: 21st Century Mindsets. Education Design Lab. Retrieved from http://eddesignlab.org/2015/03/21st-century-mindsets/

Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Learning and leading with technology. Retrieved from http://www.msuedtechsandbox.com/MAETy1-2015/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/EJ839143.pdf

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