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Explore a Unit: Culture and Climate (French 2)

GEMS World Academy Chicago students explore a world language every day. As is the case throughout the GEMS academic program, our Spanish, French and Mandarin classes revolve around student inquiry, the creative use of technology and a transdisciplinary mindset.

In our French 2 class, which is composed primarily of second-graders, students recently completed a unit in which they learned about the French language’s global reach while also exploring how technology can be used for research and design.

The unit served as an extension of the students’ recent inquiry into weather, which they’d completed as part of their core International Baccalaureate program. In this French unit, students studied three countries in which French is commonly spoken — Canada (Quebec), Morocco and Tahiti — and researched how the weather in those locations affects the clothing choices the residents make.

At the end of the unit, the students, using a variety of apps, created photo slides that displayed the clothes worn in the specific countries, labeled each garment and provided audio narration in French.

As is typical in GEMS world-language classes, instruction and discussions took place in the language being studied — French, in this case — with English being used only when students needed support.

French teacher Suzanne Giacotto said the students were engaged and animated throughout the unit.

“We had a wonderful time with it,” Ms. Giacotto said. “The students loved researching the different clothes that people in the countries wear and they loved the technology side of it, the ‘app smashing’ they had to do for their final assessment.”

On the weather side of the unit, students researched Morocco, Canada and Tahiti, exploring how those countries’ respective distances from the equator affect their weather/climate. Students worked on mastering common weather terms in French. And they considered how technology can be used to collect weather data about the different cultures.

On the fashion side, students looked at how weather and culture affects clothing choices. They then used their iPad cameras and apps like Pic Collage to shoot and edit photographs of themselves wearing weather-appropriate garments from the three countries. The students created slides from these images and uploaded the final work to SeeSaw, the digital platform that teachers in our Lower School use to present work and communicate with parents.

“The amount of collaboration I saw was incredible,” Ms. Giacotto said. “The students helped each other put together the clothing. They helped with the photography — sending photos via AirDrop to each other and working on the cropping and editing together.”

In the end, the unit gave students the opportunity to use both technology and their burgeoning French skills in a new way. It also provided them with new understanding about the number and variety of countries and cultures that use the French language.

“I think they were surprised by how many countries speak French,” Ms. Giacotto said. “Thinking about that leads to questions about the role that language can play in connecting people together.”

This the latest in our "Explore a Unit" content series. Earlier articles can be found here:


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