INTERDISCIPLINAIRE Ã LA
CARTE: MAKING CONNECTIONS IN THE FRENCH CLASS
Reprinted from AATF National Bulletin, Vol. 25 No. 3 (January 2000)
Mapping relationships throughout the curriculum in an interdisciplinary experience, as the latest research shows, can dramatically impact upon students’ learning. The world language curriculum provides a natural and perfect milieu for such implementation. This can be done on a team teaching basis or simply with the language teacher alone as the architect. Projects that derive from high student interest can also inspire creative techniques, spanning the gamut of multiple intelligences.
Students at the intermediate level of French study at Southern Regional High School, Manahawkin, NJ, delved into an interdisciplinary venture revolving around Gaston Leroux's literary work, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. The worlds of French literature, language, culture, creative writing, art, music, theater, and technology melded into one. Classmates explored the humanities in many activities and studied interrelationships.
Eagerly devouring the text of this popular novel, young linguists discussed plot and plunged into the depths of literary analysis. They traced elements of the natural and supernatural, becoming philosophers in discussions of myth versus reality. Portraying psychologists, they deciphered the emotional interplay of characters, analyzed love triangles, antithesis, hypnotic charm, interior and exterior beauty, and various other phenomena. The French language was used as the primary medium of communication through brainstorming.
Historical connections interfaced beautifully with an overview of the latter half of nineteenth-century France, the time period of the setting of Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, through student research. Students investigated the major scientific and mathematical discoveries of the era. The key concepts were presented to the class in jigsaw, cooperative fashion. The requirement was a specified number of sentences in French practicing the past tenses.
Motivated to write, each student created a composition and a poem in French on any chosen theme related to the novel. Some chose the recurring phenomenon in world literature of the beauty and the beast. Results were elating, with some works being entered into national writing contests and our school literary magazine, Visions.
Tempera paints, assorted brushes, and super rolls of heavy paper now set the atmosphere for the next phase. A collective class mural of assorted scenes and impressions was designed, as students listened to and interpreted the powerfully hypnotic and inspiring strains from the soundtrack of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. They drew, painted, and became expressive artists, adding original lines of poetry.
Entirely enveloped by a brightly
colored mural, with music in the background, the classroom was
metamorphosed into a scene for a dramatic poetry reading of student
work. Our own custom booklet of literary creations was compiled.
Phantom fanaticism caught on quickly as some class members surfed the Internet on their own time to find a “Phantom” Web site, where theories and thoughts were exchanged. One student’s keypal even visited "Box Five” at the Opéra Garnier in Paris.
The highlight and culminating experience of this humanities endeavor was a trip to New York City to see the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera. Learners then wrote critiques and reactions in French.
Tying the projects together in a true technological fashion, Southern Network News produced and broadcast a very professional looking video tracing our activities.
Many other projects using the thematic approach can help to interweave curriculum connections. For example, students voyaged back in time to the Middle Ages by studying the province of La Bretagne. The mysterious myths, legends, and romances, such as Le Roi Arthur and les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde, from French children's storybooks, encouraged students to investigate historical connections like the feudal system. Travel brochures and audio and video tapes make another fun learning project as students "tour" the region. Immersing themselves in the role of troubadours, many created and illustrated their own medieval myths. The unit ended with a sampling of crêpes and cider.
Learning activities such as these are geared to elements of Gardner's Seven Multiple Intelligences: the linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, intrapersonal, musical, interpersonal, and kinesthetic realms. The areas of reading, writing, speaking, and listening are covered. Enthusiasm and joy bubbled, learning flourished, and creative energy flowed from start to finish in our attempt to create a mini-world, where one discipline flowed smoothly into the next.
Southern Regional High School
Created: April 27, 2000
Last update: April 27, 2000