French III Navigates Obstacle Courses

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The Tuesday morning sun shone on the period W4 French III students as they shuffled out of the student entrance and onto the sidewalk with their tape measures, balls of yarn and binders. While this assortment of materials may seem odd for a language course, they had a very relevant use. 

Elise Dale, the French III teacher, organizes an obstacle course activity each year to help students review vocabulary for giving directions. After learning how to effectively convey suggestions and commands in French, students put their skills to the test in a graded speaking activity. This project includes setting up an obstacle course with any materials that students bring in. Students are put in groups of two or three people.

“My partner and I made an obstacle course with a bunch of things I found around my house,” sophomore Sarana Xu said. “Most people brought yarn, but some brought cardboard boxes, tape measures and even [a bundle of] mini flags.”

In this activity, one partner gives directions and the other listens and performs the actions described.This activity would be simple in English, but the usage of another language complicates the process. However, by challenging students, this activity helps students to improve their interpersonal French communication skills.

“It was a lot of fun,” sophomore Hope Zeldin said, “[my partner] did an amazing job.”

This assignment took up most of the 90-minute class period. Prior to going outside, students did a warm up activity with flashcards in the classroom. Students were not allowed to utilize any notes during this time and had to rely on memory.

Once the obstacle courses were completed, students closed their eyes and navigated through depending on the directions their partner gave. The skills in this activity and the vocabulary it put to use prove to be useful when giving directions in a car.

“[This activity] helped me give out directions [in French] in kind of like a real world simulation,” sophomore Sarana Xu said. 

French commands are similarly structured to how commands are given in English, but conjugations for different pluralities add a new degree of difficulty. Commonly used words and phrases that were said during the obstacle courses were: tournez à droite/gauche (turn right/left), continuez tout droit (continue straight ahead), arretez (stop) and vous y etes (you have arrived!). More refined vocabulary was also used by students to specify the magnitude of certain actions.