An imaginary metro trip!

Happy spring, everyone! I hope everyone has has, is having, or will have a wonderful and relaxing spring break this year! I know that I’m enjoying mine!

Last week, before break started, I came to a realization about my students – their prior knowledge about public transportation was almost nonexistent. While in a unit about travel with my French IIIs and a revamped “daily routines” unit in French II where we’re taking an imaginary trip to France, I had students tell me that there wasn’t a difference between a train and a metro, and that the only bus they’ve ever been on was a school bus – and some had never done that.

So, enter my mini-unit on the metro. I’m not overly fond of visiting Paris as a French teacher, but it’s the one place that my students know about, and it has the landmarks my students are interested in. I started with an introduction to metro vocabulary – we looked at pictures of the Paris métro, for example, where you “composte” your tickets, the “quai,” etc, and students didn’t seem to “get it.”

The metro is, unfortunately, one of those things that you have to “experience,” and short of hopping a train to Paris, I didn’t have a way to show them. Enter Youtube. Youtube is a wonderful place where people post videos about everything, including: how to take THE PARIS METRO. Forgive the terrible music here, and the “blair witch” style of filming, but this really helped my kids get it – most were suprised by “how clean it is,” “how many stairs there are,” or “that lots of people take this [crazy underground monstrosity that I’ve never heard of.]”

So, after understand the vocabulary and talking about what you would do on the metro, we all headed to the computer lab to try it out. The resource that really made this lesson successful was the Plan de métro avec rues. It was not designed to be printed, so I’m glad we could make it to the lab. This map shows landmarks in orange, and students were able to use the metro map to navigate from one landmark to another, just like we had learned about in our imaginary trip!

One thing that I was prepared for, thanks to reading Amy’s post on a virtual trip to Buenos Aires, is that students really didn’t know that the metro didn’t drop you off at the entrance to your location. I told students to look at the distance they might have to walk, and how walking might get you a quicker route to your next location than just changing lines.

Students were able to navigate very well – I was impressed at how they did. Some students were excited about getting there with the least amount of changeovers, or finding the most direct route.

The hardest part for students was the “direction” – most of us know that they use the end point of the metro for the “direction” rather than north, south, east, or west. So, instead of zooming out on the entire map, I had students pull up the map to each individual line, find the two stops they used, and look at the direction that way. I think they appreciate this instead of finding the end point on the entire metro map – it was very small on their computer. You can find the maps of individual lines here.

Students told me afterwards that navigating the metro was MUCH easier than they anticipated. The Paris metro, with its 14 (really, 16) lines and 5 RER trains, is a little overwhelming at first. I mean, look at this thing: metro_geo. We made the first “trip” together, and these are the things that I stressed to students:

  • Find the end point first – what color (or number, if easier) metro lines run through that point?
  • Find the starting point. Is one of the end point colors (numbers) near to that place?
    • If yes, take that metro line!
    • If no, find where the closest line to the start intersects with one of those end point colors (numbers).
  • Once you’ve made the “trip” – find the direction that you’re going in using the individual metro line maps. This is where the colors really came in handy.

These strategies seemed to work well for students. Here are my tips for the most success with this mini-lesson:

  • Download the PDF of the map with rues; the webpage has a tendency to lock up on you
  • It may be best to have seen a map of Paris with landmarks first. My goal was not to have students “find” a landmark on this crazy map, so I had no problems showing them where their destination was if they couldn’t find it. But, it would be better if they knew that the Notre Dame is on the Île de la Cité and that the Sacré Coeur is pretty far north, etc.
  • Make sure students know the difference between the RER and the métro before you start – we talked about this difference and students were able to remember that if we were going outside of Paris (to Disneyland, Versailles, or CDG) that they needed an RER for that. It also helps to know that the RER lines are thicker than metro lines on the map.

9 thoughts on “An imaginary metro trip!

  1. Would LOVE your resources for this lesson. My IIs are beginning daily routines and I’m racking my brain for ideas!!

    1. I always have mine do a video at the end of the unit showing their day for a Vlog that they would share with Friends in France, they have to be sure to include culture differences besides just their routine.

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