Help your students fall in love with the vastness of the world.
“Where is France?”
My seventh-grade students stared blankly at me.
Finally, one student raised his hand and answered “Arkansas.” I had just mentioned where I was originally from, so he mistakenly thought that must be the same location as France. Boy, did I feel naive for thinking they’d all quickly shout out “Europe.”
I taught French for 14 years in Arkansas and Texas, and believe me—this kind of exchange was not a rare occurrence. In working with teachers across the country, I’ve found this to be an all too familiar occurrence.
Since 2001, U.S. student performance on national geography assessments has decreased, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. As of 2018, only 25% of students scored proficient or higher in geography. This is a worrying statistic for our world language classrooms, where we strive to help students explore and experience target language cultures and countries.
What if we took a unique approach to help students learn the location of target language countries rather than just give isolated facts? Here’s an idea to try in your classroom.
By incorporating a more hands-on and contextualized approach to geography, we open the doors for students to also improve proficiency. With a little creativity, we can use geography to springboard into all three modes of communication: interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. The possibilities are endless.
When we expose our students to geography, we’re opening doors to a world they may have never experienced. We’re giving students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of cultures while building their geographical skills. And ultimately, we’re helping our students fall in love with the vastness of the target language world.
Ricky taught middle school and high school French for 14 years in Arkansas and Texas. During those years, he also had the opportunity to teach Spanish, English, and Reading Improvement. After leaving the classroom, he served as an Instructional Specialist for World Languages and later, as Director of World Languages for Dallas Independent School District. For the last six years, he has served in various capacities in educational publishing. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in French, a Master’s of Science in Mass Communication, and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction. His research focused on diversity in French textbooks. As an educator, his passion is to ensure that all students find themselves reflected in the curriculum.Explore more related to this author