As an AP French teacher, you’re always working against the clock.
But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice creativity for efficiency.
In fact, the designated course themes lend themselves very well to creative and efficient French teaching.
New to teaching AP French?
Or just want to improve your curriculum?
Well, look no further! In this blog post, we’ll look at how to teach the six AP French themes in a way that makes them engaging and unforgettable.
Below, you can check out a creative sample curriculum to give you ideas about how to adapt each theme to suit your purposes, expand your students’ world outlook and increase their language proficiency.
For example, what about using the Discoveries and Inventions sub-theme in Science and Technology to brainstorm solutions to Global Challenges? Or better yet, using the Visual Arts sub-theme in Beauty and Aesthetics to explore how environmentally-friendly architecture could present a solution to a global problem?
The possibilities are endless, and how you use them is up to you!
A Quick Intro to Teaching an AP French Course
As any teachers reading this probably already know, an AP French course is equivalent to an intermediate college-level course and allows students to earn credits towards college or advanced placement.
An AP course is excellent for many reasons. Here are just a few:
- It aims to improve proficiency in the modes of communication set out in the national standards for language teaching: interpretive (understanding), interpersonal (exchanging information) and presentational (speaking and writing).
- It fosters cultural awareness.
- It offers six interesting and inter-related themes with several sub-themes that cover a variety of topics.
- These six interdisciplinary themes facilitate and promote the use of the language in different contexts.
I think that focusing on the AP French themes creates an excellent opportunity for you, as a teacher, to help your students expand their worldview, improve their cultural awareness and learn new vocabulary and constructions as they discuss new topics. Incorporating literature into your course as a means of doing all this is highly recommended.
Another resource that’s a gold mine for putting together an AP French curriculum is FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. You can easily find videos related to any of the six themes, such as “Global Warming” (Global Challenges), “If You Don’t Have an iPhone” (Science and Technology) and “In the Art Gallery” (Beauty and Aesthetics).
In this blog post, I am going to go over the six AP French themes and then offer a sample syllabus in order to show you how you can best profit from teaching creatively.
How to Teach the 6 Colorful Themes of AP French with Power and Panache
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What Are the AP French Themes?
The six AP themes and all their sub-themes are listed here.
- Theme 1: Global Challenges (Les défis mondiaux): This theme is at the forefront of many global conversations, as governments discuss threats to the environment and its future.
- Theme 2: Science and Technology (La science et la technologie): This theme is relevant to how far humankind has progressed through the ages.
- Theme 3: Contemporary Life (La vie contemporaine): This theme can lead to a discussion of current problems as well as advantages and disadvantages of contemporary life.
- Theme 4: Personal and Public Identities (La quête de soi): This theme can open up ideas about the quest for the self and is important in understanding who we are and what our identity means.
- Theme 5: Families and Communities (La famille et la communauté): This theme is great for discussing and comparing family structures and communities around the world or through the centuries.
- Theme 6: Beauty and Aesthetics (L’esthétique): This theme allows students to discuss all kinds of art forms and the ideal of beauty.
A Sample Syllabus Based on the 6 AP French Themes
Here is a proposed sample syllabus based on the six AP themes. If you decide to use it in your class, the order in which you decide to teach it is up to you, as the syllabus is very flexible, so whether you start with Theme 1 or Theme 6 does not affect the end result.
My sample syllabus, however, is going to go from Theme 1 to Theme 6. It provides a basic template of ideas which you can then adapt as you see fit. Each theme expands on one sub-theme, but of course it is also up to you which sub-themes you choose—you have several options.
Theme 1: Global Challenges (Les défis mondiaux)
Sub-theme: Environmental Issues (L’environnement)
Before doing the activities below connected with this sub-theme, you need to do three things with your students:
- Study vocabulary related to nature and the environment: e.g., air pollué (polluted air), approvisionnement en eau (water supply), l’environnement (the environment), l’empreinte carbone (carbon footprint), biodiversité (biodiversity), déchets ménagers (domestic waste), le réchauffement climatique (global warming), etc.
- Have regular quizzes on whatever vocabulary you select.
- Do a grammar review on nouns, the present tense and the imperative. The choice of these three grammar constructions is strategic: The students will need to use many nouns to describe the environment, they will need to discuss current environmental issues using the present tense and the imperative will be useful to point out things people will have to do in order to save our planet.
The following activities should lead to possible answers to the pertinent questions proposed for this theme:
- What are the global threats facing us?
- What are their origins?
- Are there solutions?
- Read and analyze articles on the environment and global threats in French newspapers and/or magazines such as Le Monde, L’Express, Le Figaro, etc.
- The TV5MONDE site provides video clips and worksheets about many topics (you have a choice of B1 or B2 as a level). You can show one of two clips or both: “L’hymne de nos campagnes” (“The hymn of our countryside”) and “Des îles de déchets” (“Islands of waste”). Both activities offer a teacher’s and student’s worksheet as well as the transcription of the text. This exercise ties in with the introduction of vocabulary and can lead to a discussion or debate on a pressing global threat.
- Hand out the text entitled “L’homme—le plus grand ennemi de la planète” (“Man—the planet’s worst enemy”) and use it both as a comprehension exercise (there are questions at the bottom), and a translation exercise if you have the time. You can also use it to discuss one of the five suggested topics or give the students another related topic to research such as le Protocole de Kyoto (the Kyoto Protocol).
- Ask students to write an article or an email on what they think is the most pressing environmental threat.
- Summary: Ask the students what they have learned about global challenges, their origins and possible solutions.
Theme 2: Science and Technology (La science et la technologie)
Sub-theme: Discoveries and Inventions (Les découvertes et les inventions)
What you need to do to prepare the students for the activities:
- Hand out vocabulary related to technology.
- Have regular quizzes on the new vocabulary.
- Review prepositions. This will be useful when you say things like C’est une invention de… (It is an invention of…) or avant l’ère des ordinateurs… (before the computer era…), etc.
The following activities should all link together to answer the questions:
- What is the effect of technology and science on our lives?
- What are the reasons behind scientific advancement?
- Is morality required of a scientist?
- Once again, TV5MONDE offers a good exercise with the clip “C’est pas sorcier” (“It’s not difficult”). The students should watch the video clip and then be given the accompanying worksheet. The aim of this exercise is to present and describe a scientific event orally. Ask students to think of other possible scientific topics to discuss.
- Give students time to research the invention of a Francophone scientist and then write an essay on it. Or ask them to describe an invention orally.
- Get the students to describe a famous French/Francophone inventor. Alternately, they could do a project on three different famous inventors.
- Organize a debate on nuclear energy or any other scientific innovation.
- Discuss/compare different forms of entertainment: the tape cassette, the CD, the DVD, the Blu-ray disc, etc.
- Read and discuss this article about television: “Sans télé, on est comme coupés du monde” (“Without TV, we are cut off from the world”). Give students questions to answer on the text.
- Debate: Ask your students if they agree that people feel cut off from the world without television and if this also applies to other technology such as cell phones, and if that is good or bad.
- Summary: Students should be able to answer the questions about how science and technology has had an effect on our lives, what has driven innovation and whether scientists need to have a moral code.
Theme 3: Contemporary Life (La vie contemporaine)
Sub-theme: Holidays and Celebrations (Les fêtes)
Before doing the activities, do the following:
- Review vocabulary to do with holidays and celebrations.
- Give quizzes on it.
- Review the imperfect and the passé composé. Your students will need these two tenses to describe actions and/or events in the past.
The activities should contribute to answering some of the following questions:
- How does society and how do individuals define quality of life?
- How is contemporary life influenced by various products, practices and perspectives?
- What challenges does contemporary life present?
- Compare holidays and celebrations in the US and France or France and any other country. TV5MONDE offers a page from which you can search holidays according to continent, month, religion and other factors.
- Compare customs and traditions around the world in an essay (e.g., meals at Christmas).
- Present what happens during a French calendar year.
- Discuss how commercialized holidays have become: Quelle est votre opinion sur la commercialisation des fêtes ? (What is your opinion on the commercialization of holidays?)
- Discuss how each student celebrates a particular holiday.
- Analyze Victor Hugo’s poem “Jour de Fête” (“Holiday”).
- Describe a wedding after listening to the song “Allongés dans l’herbe” (“Stretched out in the grass”), using the imperfect and the passé compose.
- Summary: Are the students able to answer any of the questions above?
Theme 4: Personal and Public Identities (La quête de soi)
Sub-theme: Multiculturalism (Le pluriculturalisme)
Things to do before starting the activities:
- Introduce vocabulary to do with immigration, alienation and multiculturalism.
- Give quizzes on the above vocabulary.
- Review the subjunctive and the conditional. The review of these two tenses is important, as they can be used to ask questions such as Si tu étais le President français, accepterais-tu tous les immigrants ? (If you were the French president, would you accept all immigrants?) or Faut-il qu’on accueille les immigrants ? (Should we accept immigrants?)
The suggested activities should help answer some of the following questions:
- How is identity influenced by culture and language?
- How does an individual’s identity develop over time?
- How is identity expressed in various situations?
- Ask students to explain what multiculturalism is.
- Discuss multiculturalism after reading an article on it.
- Discuss the terms multiculturalisme versus pluriculturalisme and communautarisme (communitarianism).
- Have students write an essay on multiculturalism in their country.
- TV5MONDE has a worksheet on multiculturalism that your students can complete. This is also a good opportunity to discuss immigration and the recent problem with the influx of immigrants in Europe.
- Do this listening and comprehension exercise on multiculturalism on the France Culture website.
- Read and/or watch the movie of “M. Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran” (“Mr. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran”), and discuss the interaction between the two main characters.
- Debate the ideals of multiculturalism: For example, is it possible to support the distinctive identities of each cultural group?
- Summary: What have your students learned about multiculturalism and the quest for identity?
Theme 5: Families and Communities (La famille et la communauté)
Sub-theme: Family Structures (La famille)
Do the following before starting the activities. Remember, however, that you’ll also need to integrate both the vocabulary and grammar review into the activities themselves:
- Have vocabulary quizzes on the above.
- Review adjectives and adverbs for describing people and family members.
The activities in this sub-theme should lead to some answers to the following questions:
- What constitutes a family?
- Do families differ across different societies?
- Read or listen to Guy de Maupassant’s short story “Aux Champs” (“In/to the Fields”) with your students and ask them to compare a contemporary family with a 19th-century family.
- Have students read and briefly summarize the article entitled “Les pères changent” (“Fathers change”) and then answer the questions in writing.
- Have students write an essay describing their family tree and bring in a family photo which they must then describe in detail using adjectives and adverbs, e.g., Mon grand-père a une belle barbe blanche qu’il peigne soigneusement (My grandfather has a beautiful white beard that he combs carefully).
- Debate whether there should be equality of couples at work and at home.
- Summary: Have the students found the answers to the questions? What is a modern family? What constitutes it? Does it differ in different societies?
Theme 6: Beauty and Aesthetics (La beauté et l’esthétique)
Sub-theme: Visual Arts (Les arts visuels)
Once again, you should do the following before starting the activities:
- Review vocabulary of description.
- Give quizzes on that vocabulary.
- Review descriptive adjectives and verbs that could be used to describe works of art.
The pertinent questions here are:
- How do the ideals of beauty and aesthetics influence daily life?
- How are perceptions of beauty and creativity established?
- How do the arts both reflect and challenge cultural viewpoints?
- Have your students listen to the recording “1 minute au musée” (“1 minute at the museum”) and complete the worksheets (B1 or B2 depending on their proficiency in French).
- Have students research art movements in France and present their findings orally to the class.
- Discuss: What is considered art, and why?
- Debate: How do the ideals of beauty affect modern life?
- Visit the Louvre online and have students describe one of its famous paintings.
- Read Charles Baudelaire’s “La Beauté” (“Beauty”) and compare and contrast his ideals of beauty with the modern ideal of beauty.
- Have students write an essay on their own ideal of beauty.
- Summary: Request a summary of students’ findings on beauty.
And there you have it: The six interconnected themes of AP French.
As stated previously, you may teach whichever module you prefer first, as it is all totally flexible. However, be sure to stress the interrelatedness of each theme.
For example, discussions of holidays and celebrations in Contemporary Life, the family in Families and Communities and multiculturalism in Personal and Public Identities may all link up to explaining what kind of human beings inhabit the world and why some contribute to saving the world while others do not.
The six AP French themes are great not only for ensuring a greater proficiency in French and extra credits for your students, but also for teaching them how the French language connects to world outside of your classroom.
Hilda Thomas has a PhD in French and has taught French language and literature from beginner to advanced level at a South African university for many years. Her passions are travel and teaching French.
Oh, and One More Thing…
If you liked these teaching ideas, you’ll love using FluentU in your classroom. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, cartoons, documentaries and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons for you and your students.
It’s got a huge collection of authentic French videos that people in the French-speaking world actually watch on the regular. There are tons of great choices there when you’re looking for songs for in-class activities.
You’ll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids’ singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
For example, if a student taps on the word “suit,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun questions based on what the student already knows.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach French with real-world videos.