Un voyage virtuel à Paris: An Authentic Task With Authentic Resources

I had been planning this post for awhile, but now seemed as good a time as any to write it, given the current hot topic of authentic resources on foreign languages teach blogs and Twitter (some blogs that have weighed in with some thoughtful posts:  Language Sensei, Sra. Spanglish, and Martina Bex, among others).

I just finished an activity with my students that I call "Un voyage virtuel à Paris."  This is the third year I have done activity.  I used to do it over the course of two days, but I decided that condensing it into one day would be more practical.  The purpose of the activity is to have students practice telling time, the days of the week, and dates, while navigating authentic websites with both familiar and unfamiliar vocabulary.  To accomplish this, students must imagine they are planning an imaginary trip to Paris for a week.  They must find flights, a hotel, and sites to see.  When they find this information, they record it on their itinerary, using both numbers and and then spelling out the numbers as words (this to reinforce the numbers in French).  I provide detailed instructions to help them navigate the sites, and students are allowed to work together and ask me for help as well if they get stuck.
It's important to make sure students understand before embarking on this "voyage" that these are real sites and that they are not to enter any personal information on them.

Here are some of the sites they visited:

Air France- Students picked a time to travel and made note of when their flights were.  Some students were able to figure out that "Première" meant first class, and went ahead and flew in high style.

Hotels.fr - Students chose a hotel in Paris to stay in and recorded the price.

La Tour Eiffel- This is one of several tourist sites students could visit. They had to pick a time to visit when it was open and determine the price.

Other sites students could visit:

One year, I also had the students plan a trip by train to Versailles on SNCF, but, as this step proved rather frustrating and time consuming for the students, I have since eliminated it.

The day following the activity, I had students discuss what they learned (in English...a rarity!).  It was nice to hear the students comment that they felt better about larger numbers, days of the week, and dates.  They also mentioned that it helped them feel more confident that they can navigate these websites even without understanding every word on them. Every year, I make some changes to the activity.  For next year I thought it might be a good idea to give the students an imaginary budget, to make it more authentic.  This activity can be as simple or as complex as you have time for.  If you wanted to extend it further, you might consider having students plan meals at restaurants.  See my posts here and here about restaurant menus.

There are so many ways you can take this activity, and I'd like to hear what you would do with it!  How might you change or improve this activity before taking it to your own classroom?


  1. As always, I am inspired by reading your post! In the past, I have done a rather lengthy project in French III
    (Here is a link to the blog http://mmehenderson.typepad.com/bon_voyage_/ ), and I am trying to decide how to condense it... The students always learned so much, but it was pretty time consuming. I love your ideas and am looking forward to reworking my travel unit!

  2. I really loved your practical post (the how/why) of doing this. It has given me a new way to look at times/dates for #authres for my students as well. It's a real 'hot topic' these days and we are all working to find more places for it as it fits into our courses. Great post!
    Colleen (Language Sensei)

  3. Oh the students love this project! I did something similar with my students and used www.paristay.com for their stay where they rented an apartment and used their vocabulary from the household unit to describe the apt. (ie: chambres, etages etc...). We also used a map of Paris to locate the monuments (prepositions of location), Finishing with a culture section selecting 1 French artist and focusing on one of his/her piece in a Paris museum. Oh la la!!

  4. What were the directions for this exactly?

    1. They had to visit each of those sites, then fill in a sheet detailing the day, date, time, and price of each item they visited.


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