Developing a French 1 Curriculum Storyboard with Lauren McMinn


Finding new approaches related to education can turn out to be a transformative experience, specifically when they tend to originate from unexpected sources. Lauren McMinn of World of Learning Institute (WOL) was introduced to Curriculum Storyboards by Olivia Grugan, who shared her inspiration after hearing Heidi Hayes Jacobs speak at the PASCD annual conference. Lauren’s initial storyboard focused on WOL’s French 1 curriculum. 

“I wanted to overhaul the French curriculum,” she told Allison Zmuda in a LIVE session for Curriculum Storyboards. “We had a really solid French curriculum at that time, but I was recently really interested in anti-bias education and how we could make our French courses more reflective of the French speaking world (instead of) just France and Paris and croissants and the Eiffel Tower, which are all wonderful things. 

“But I also wanted to show more of the diversity of the French speaking world.”

In order to accomplish this goal, she chose identities as the primary point of the storyboard to encourage students to embark on a journey of self-discovery, getting to know the diverse identities that shape the world.

“Is this my identity?”

As Lauren considered her French 1 storyboard, she took into consideration a four-year sequence of taking the foreign language.

“I started to think about the ages of students at the high school level,” she reflected. “As a ninth grader, you may be a little more inward, wondering about your own identity. As you go on, you can start to appreciate the diversity of others. Then a little bit farther along, you’re more mature and can start thinking about justice and what’s going on in the world. Then as you’re ready to head out (on your own), maybe you’re ready to take action.”

Lauren focused on creating a space where students could feel valued and comfortable with an aim to not only instill language proficiency, but also to give students a better sense of empathy and self-worth.

Each module introduces an artifact, prompting students to question: Is this my identity?

“We’re starting really small and granular, as in ‘let’s get comfortable with each other, and the idea of learning a language,’” she said. “I was likening this to being almost like that Dr. Seuss book, Are You My Mother? It’s like every step along the way, each one of these artifacts like an ID card, my address (asks), ‘are you my identity?’

“My ID card, do you show me everything there is to say about me? No, of course not, right?”

After self exploration, Lauren’s narrative encourages students to spiral out.

“This whole idea here is weaving in the social justice standards of being okay with yourself and really valuing yourself so that you can value others, and realizing that there are things about yourself that can be celebrated, and that doesn’t diminish the talents of anyone else.”

Intentional formatting

One of the core elements of Curriculum Storyboards is that they push for intentionality.

A French 1 chart with icons and narrative text outlining a year of curriculum.

In Lauren’s storyboard, the titles she used for each of her units are also incorporated and bolded within the narrative itself. This is an idea Lauren said she got from Olivia Grugan.

“This is something that she did on her survival Spanish narrative map, she had bolded these words,” explained Lauren. “I thought it was so brilliant because it really forced me to distill down exactly what I wanted this to be about.

“You’re writing all this before even doing any of that lesson planning or even thinking about the daily delivery of this content, so you’re really honing in. It’s almost like you’re doing a form of poetry, zeroing in and distilling this whole idea down to just a word. I really admired what she did with that.”

The formatting used jumped out to Allison immediately, which told Lauren that she achieved her goal of conveying the focus of the course in a glance. 

“That’s so refreshing, because typically it’s not that way,” she said. “Usually when you start a class, you’re getting a long syllabus and you’ve got all of the policies and procedures. This feels engaging.”

Reducing cognitive load

The simplicity of the Curriculum Storyboard format was especially helpful to Lauren as she mapped out the first year of learning a foreign language.

“I took a year of Russian and college and that really helped me to be a little bit kinder to that first year language student who needs a lot of encouragement and a lot of reinforcement,” she said.

“We all have a working memory that can only take in a certain amount of information at a time, and the goal is to get anything in your working memory to your long term memory. The way to do that is by mapping it to prior knowledge.”

In looking at her Curriculum Storyboard, the images and bolded words are great strategies for helping to achieve this.

“The brain loves to have input that is sticky like that,” she said. “Something to grab onto, things that jump out, because it knows what to categorize. It can see what’s important and it’s able to relate to things that they know.”

Embracing the process

Educators beginning their Curriculum Storyboard journey are finding it to be an intuitive process that mirrors narrative writing.

“It’s really like writing a story to me,” said Lauren. 

She would start and stop before getting a new idea to re-explore. 

“It’s a journey,” she said. “You get to your story, eventually. It didn’t just fall out of the sky one day. You have to just sit down and just keep trying. Conference with people. I pulled in many people for this project and sharing your examples is really valuable because, without Olivia’s examples, I wouldn’t have been able to craft it in this way. 

“I think it’s important to have the same grit that a first year language student does, right? To feel like you can toss out the bad ideas, stick with the good, and hopefully you’ll start to see it come together.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *