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Commercials in grade 7 Core French Using Imperative Verbs

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Scott Dempster

Scott Dempster

Scott Dempster is a grade 7 & 8 Core French teacher in Milton, Ontario.

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Many core French teachers find that student engagement is one of their greatest challenges. However, students are enthusiastic about writing, filming and editing commercials. This project not only teaches the use of  imperatif and plural personal pronouns, it gives core French students a chance to create an authentic product. Today’s pupils have incredible knowledge about media, making commercials allows them an opportunity to show what they know.

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Purpose of Learning Object

  • Students will learn how to use imperative verbs to give instructions or convey a sense of urgency.
  • Students will learn about the process of media creating, participating in the stages of pre-production, production, post-production and celebration.
  • Students will apply their learning as they write, and orally present their commercials to the class.

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Description of Learning Tasks

Students create a 60-second commercial for a fictional store.  The project incorporates script writing, storyboarding (pre-production), filming (production), and editing (post production).  This project is designed to meet grade 7 core French expectations – specifically using imperative regular verbs and plural possessive adjectives.  However, it could be adapted to accommodate other subject areas and grades.

As a demonstration of their learning, students present their commercial to the class on video.

An example is available here.

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Curriculum Connections

Grade 7:  Oral Communication, Reading, and Writing

  • Communicate information and ideas in writing, in structured and open-ended situations, for different purposes.
  • Identify and use the vocabulary and the grammar and language conventions appropriate for this grade level.

Specific Expectations

Oral Communication

  • Use compound sentences in conversations and dialogues. (e.g., Les enfants jouent dans la cour et ils s’amusent beaucoup.)
  • Use language appropriately in a variety of rehearsed, routine, and open-ended situations (e.g., a cassette letter, an anti-smoking or anti-drinking message.)
  • Give an oral presentation of 15 to 20 sentences in length. (e.g., report on reading material.)
  • Make revisions to oral language in form, content, and organization (e.g., sequence of sentences, agreement of irregular adjectives), using resources and feedback.


  • Write simple and some compound sentences and questions, using familiar and new vocabulary.
  • Write in a variety of simple forms (e.g., letters, poems, descriptions), following a model and making substitutions and minor adaptations to the model.
  • Revise and edit personal writing, using feedback from the teacher and peers, and using resources including technology.
  • Use and spell the vocabulary appropriate for this grade level.

Grammar, Language Conventions, and Vocabulary

  • Imperative of some regular -er, -ir, and –re verbs.
  • Plural possessive adjectives (notre/nos, votre/vos, leur/leurs).
  • Basic vocabulary (e.g., numbers from 0 to 1000; words associated with outdoor and leisure activities, shopping, current events, food, films, television, radio).
  • Vocabulary from units under study.
  • Use of related spelling patterns and sounds associated with accents (e.g., aigu, grave, cédille).
  • Use of resources (e.g., dictionary, text).

Grade 7:  Media Literacy

  • Create a variety of media texts for different purposes and audiences, using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques.
  • Reflect on and identify student strengths as media interpreters and creators, areas for improvement, and strategies students found most helpful in understanding and creating media texts.
  • Produce a variety of media texts of some technical complexity for specific purposes and audiences using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques (e.g. an advertisement for a new product).

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Required Technology

Technological Requirements:

  • access to DV camcorder;
  • access to computers with simple video editing capabilities (e.g., iMovie, Windows Movie Maker);
  • disk space for storage (e.g., an external FireWire or USB hard drive).

Skill Requirement (Teacher):

  • a solid understanding of the chosen video editing software (e.g., iMovie, Windows Movie Maker);
  • a solid understanding of saving and transferring video using external drives;
  • ability to set up and burn DVDs is helpful.

Skill Requirement (Students):

  • Comfort with technology and cameras, or at least a willingness to learn.

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  • The pre-task (a “radio announcement” performed live in class using imperative verbs) can be assessed using a generic oral rubric.
  • To assess the students’ progress in the creation the final task, the teacher may use a rubric to provide feedback to the students on their progress.  Ongoing assessment can be noted using a rubric such as this. As the project is underway and students are working largely independently on their projects, the teacher can conference with students or the groups to discuss the feedback.
  • Students submit their scripts before moving from script-writing to storyboarding.  As part of the formative assessment, the scripts are assessed for their written component, using a rubric of the teachers’ choice.  The students can make necessary changes based on the teacher’s feedback before the presentation stage. A generic writing rubric is available here.

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Scope and Sequence

Learning Tasks and Lessons / Project Sequence

Approximate length: 1 month


The project is a culminating task to the unit on shopping (Tout Ados – “Attention, Magasineurs!).  In the unit, students study the use of imperative verbs: i.e., Venez à notre magazin! (“Come to our store!”) as opposed to: Vous venez à notre magasin – (“You’re coming to our store.”) and possessive plural adjectives (i.e., our, your, their).

Prior Learning

Students learn the conventions of imperative verbs and possessive adjectives as part of the unit.  Modelling:  An example on-line – in both English and French is a “My Lil’ Reminder” – available on YouTube.  Although the French portion is very quick, in viewing the infomercial in English, students can identify imperative verbs used in both languages.

Pre-activity / Shared Writing

As a pre-activity, students write and perform an oral “store announcement” after listening to an example on CD (with the Tout Ados unit) and filling in the blanks on a model.

Accommodation Opportunity

  • Students could be given the words and their task would be to place the words in the correct blank – either written, or printed on paper and pasted into the correct spot, dependent on the students’ needs.
  • Students could be given the sentences and have to put them in order.
  • Students could use this script as the basis for their oral presentation.

The activity lays the groundwork for the final task by modelling vocabulary and grammatical structures; students learn how imperative verbs are used to give instructions and create a sense of urgency:  “Venez maintenant! N’attendez pas! Epargnez vingt dollars, aujourd’hui seulement! Recevez un rabais de 20% sur tout les achats!”

Teacher Resources

Click here for an example of the assignment as a PDF file.

Critical Viewing of Media

Students can watch examples of “infomercials”, noting how we use imperative structures in English and in French to give the viewer a sense of urgency.

Project Creation

The project involves three main phases:

  • Pre-production (writing scripts, storyboarding);
  • Production (filming their projects);
  • Post-production (editing their commercials).

The tendency for the students is to focus on the last two stages however,  in retrospect they recognize the value of pre-production.

Teacher Resources

The students’ work can be kept in one folder, with a checklist of each phase completed stapled to the front – to ensure that students stay organized, and the teacher knows what stage they are at.

  • An example of a project checklist for the folder is available here.
  • Teachers can monitor student  progress and record anecdotal notes using a checklist such as this.

Guided Writing


  1. In groups of four or less, students brainstorm ideas, and write scripts for their fictional store
    Accommodation / Modification Opportunity:
  • Students could use the pre-activity verbatim as their script, or modify as required.
  • Students can base their script on a modification of the pre-activity.
  • The expectation for length can be modified dependent on the students’ needs and/or IEP.

2.  Students storyboard their scripts.
Accomodation / Modification Opportunity / Multiple Intelligence:

  • Students could use pre-cut figures as opposed to drawing the storyboard free-hand.
  • The order of production could be changed; students who excel in visual tasks could storyboard their presentation to organize it visually, then provide  the sentences to match.

Teacher Resources

  • A generic template for storyboards is available as a PDF here.  (GENERIC 4×3 STORYBOARDING SHEET)
  • An excellent movie with which the students may be familiar is the bonus disc for Disney / Pixar’s The Incredibles, in the “Story” section.  Please consult your region’s copyright conditions before showing.
  • Some useful resources for teaching storyboarding can be found at, in the “Storyboarding” section.
  • Australian Children’s Television Foundation’s Learning Centre: Live Action Script & Storyboard.
  • Teaching about Storyboarding Using Fairytales.

Independent Production


Students film their commercials. As both time and resources are usually in short supply, students should be given a definite window in which to shoot their commercial (e.g., 2 periods).

Accommodation / Modification Opportunity / Multiple Intelligence:

  • The expectation for number of sentences could be reduced, based on a student’s IEP.
  • Mixed-ability groupings would assist students who would need assistance in the production and post-production stages. Students’ leadership in assisting classmates would be reflected on the assessment checklist.
  • Students who struggle with the written requirements often excel in kinesthetic tasks that make up this stage of the project.

Teacher Resources

  • With several groups (and often several classes) shooting their commercials, a “shot list” can help organize the filming process; students can glue their storyboard panes in the order they will be shot (which is often different than the order in which they’ll be shown in the final commercial), as well as record vital information such as timecode and which tape/camera they used.
  • An example of a shot list is available here.


Students import their footage using a simple, non-linear editing program, such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker.

Teacher Resources

  • There are several excellent web pages devoted to both of these pieces of software.  Apple’s manual for iMovie 6 is very comprehensive and available as a PDF from their site.
  • Another useful website for iMovie is available here.
  • Equally, Microsoft provides extensive support for Windows Movie Maker.
  • For those who are more visually inclined, there are several “how-to” videos on video sharing sites such as YouTube.

NOTE:  Most schools have found that iMovie 6 or previous is better suited to their needs, and most of the tutorials available are for iMovie 6 or previous.  iMovie 7 (also, confusingly, called iMovie ’08) has a different interface and has not been widely accepted yet.  If your computers have iMovie ’08 on them, iMovie HD (the previous version) may be in the “Applications” folder, or can be downloaded from Apple.

Evaluation & Celebration

Students enjoy the final stage of sharing their commercials with the class, on a TV or a digital projector.  Teachers can evaluate the final project for students’ spoken French and use of assigned grammatical structures, as well as for the creativity, quality, and innovation of their commercial.

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Accommodations or Modifications

  • Much of the accommodation for individual students happens in the pre-production stage; students could write following a template, following a model or be given the script to perform, based on their requirements.
  • Expectations for the length of presentation (as outlined in the Ontario Curriculum) can be modified in accordance with the students’ IEP.
  • In the production stage, the number of sentences could be modified to suit the student’s needs.
  • Mixed-ability groupings would assist students who would need assistance in the production and post-production stages.

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The expectations for the final product can be changed to suit individual learners:

  • Students who excell mathematically / logically are often proficient at the computer skills involved in a project such as this, but some may struggle with the oral language component.
  • There is no specific expectation stating that the student needs to appear on camera; for students who have trouble performing “live” or have anxiety speaking before a camera or audience, the presentation may be recorded as a “voice over”. Students can use the voice-over function in software such as iMovie to record their voice over video or images – the student could re-record the segment as many times as needed until they are comfortable with the “take”.
  • Students who feel competent with the oral language component but not the technological component could perform the commercial “live” in class, or recorded on video camera in “one take” and not edited on computer.
  • A similar, lower technologically-intense option would be for students to create a slideshow (using software such as Apple Keynote, Microsoft PowerPoint, FirstClass Slideshow, Hyperstudio presentation, etc.) and to narrate their commercial from their script, either before the class, recorded on audio tape or via microphone from outside the room (e.g., the hall)

The French language writing and presentation components appeal to verbal / linguistic learners, as is the case with most tasks in Core French. The advantages of a tech-centric project such as this is that the creation of a media project also appeals to Body / Kinesthetic learners, as they create a product – which is not always the norm in a language class. Dealing with other creative minds in a group allows Interpersonal learners to excel. The computer skills required for a project such as this gives the Logical / Mathematical intelligent student a chance to demonstrate their skills in a different manner than is common in a Second Language class.

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Research Base

In my experience, core French is a subject that often does not engage all types of learners.   While verbally / linguistically proficient students tend to excel, incorporating Digital Video (DV) into the core French classroom opens doors for other types of learners to succeed.

“Teachers involved in the [British Film Institute 2002] pilot felt that DV exploits and supports a wider variety of learning styles than other modes of learning. DV offers something to kinaesthetic, visuo-spatial and musical learners, as well as to pupils who are verbally fluent.” (REID, M., et al., 2002. Evaluation report of the Becta Digital Video Pilot Project. Coventry: Becta.)

A common struggle in core French is creating enthusiasm for the tasks at hand.  However, The Becta (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency) and British Film Institute pilot found that,

“… the use of digital video can raise pupils’ enthusiasm for what they are studying.”  See Using digital video to enhance learning.

Research shows that videomaking is “a multi-disciplinary activity that can be incorporated into many subjects, including media studies, social studies, world issues, computer science, drama, visual arts, language arts, and science.”  (Video-making in Classroom and Community Settings. Orbit Magazine.)

Incorporating media creation lifts core French from its linguistic isolation and includes it in the task of teaching media literacy.  Media education creates cross-curricular links with meaningful tasks. (Don Jones, The Case for Media Education, 2005, Volume 35, issue 2, Orbit Magazine)

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Evidence of Innovation and/or Exemplary Practice

Core French has traditionally been taught in isolation.  As students must receive 200 minutes of instruction of French a week, core French teachers usually end up being “French Language teachers”, as opposed to simply “Language Teachers”.   Incorporating a media project such as this creates cross-curricular links which brings in wider media literacy and creation skills.

Media projects actively target learning styles that have too often been left behind in traditional core French instruction, with its verbal / linguistic focus.  Students are given a chance to apply their nascent language skills in a practical setting which creates enthusiasm for the project and for the subject.  They feel pride and ownership about the meaning they have conveyed and the product they have created.

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Other Applications (Extensions)

(English) Language:  media literacy, conventions of commercials, imperative tone though word choice, and delivery.

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Impact Analysis

Students, who are actively engaged through the project, want to spend breaks and after school working on their commercials.  Students (most often boys – who are a hard to capture demographic in core French!) are motivated to focus on their pronunciation of French words, knowing it will be recorded on video and “published”.   Months later, and in a few cases years later,  the students ask to re-watch their presentations.

These student projects have been shown at school open houses and presented at the district level as examples of what core French students are capable of.

The enthusiasm generated by this project encouraged the school’s administration and school council to support further videomaking endeavours, making our school a leader in media literacy and creation.

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