Topic:  Haïti


Meredith Birmingham

French III

Grade 11


Unit Rationale:

A study of Haïti, as a former French colony and as a country in which the United States has been involved, offers valuable insights for students.  By using authentic French texts, students will be able to read political history from a different point of view.  They will also read a poem by a modern Haïtian author, in which the poet expresses his feelings about his country and its government.  Music, art, and cuisine will reveal links to French culture, as well as signs of rejection of French culture.  The environmental and health issues of the country will also provide information and insight for students into aspects of another country.  Being able to find information about a culture and its values, and being able to use that information to reexamine one’s own values and culture, is an important part of developing as globally-minded, compassionate individuals.


Essential Questions:

·         How is Haïtian culture similar to and different from French culture?  American culture?

·         How do you feel about the current political situation in the United States?

·         What are the origins of environmental and health issues in Haïti, and what is being done (or could be done) to make them better?


Students will be able to...

·         read the passé simple

·         analyze Haïtian culture (music and art) for signs of French influence, as well as for signs of rejection of French influence

·         compare the government of Haïti to that of France and the US

·         communicate knowledge to a wider audience

·         create a work that expresses their own feelings about current politics in the US


Students will know...

·         the history of Haïti, both during and after the period of French colonization

·         the feelings toward the country’s government (via a poem by Paul Laraque)

·         the styles and characteristics of Haïtian music and art

·         environmental and health issues in Haïti


Students will already need to know...

·         present, perfect tenses

·         basic history of French Republicanism

·         phrases for how to express opinions and feelings



ACTFL Standards




·         History

o       Identify key characteristics within periods of Haïti’s development (Pre-European, Spanish colonization, French colonization, independence and ensuing struggles).

o       Compare Republicanism in Haïti with that of Republicanism in France and the US

·         Culture

o       Experience Haïtian culture through music and art

o       Analyze Haïtian culture for evidence of French influence and evidence of rejection of French influence

·         Current issues

o       Describe environmental and health issues in Haïti

o       Communicate information about Haïti to a wider audience




·         Intro activity:  As a class, make a list of things that come to mind when students hear the word “Haïti.”  What do they know about Haïti?  Can they point it out on a map? 

·         Passé simple:  introduce usage (needed to read website on Haïtian history), forms

·         “Jigsaw puzzle” reading:  Divide students equally into groups, then divide the sections of the reading from the website among the groups.  Each student will read his or her section individually, noting only the most important points.  Then, members of the same group will come together to compare lists.  Afterwards, one member from each group will come together (thus, each student has read a different section) and share the important points determined by his or her group.  In this way, everyone will have information about all aspects of the reading, without being overwhelmed by a large amount of French text.

·         Compare Haïti’s republicanism with that of France and the US.  Divide students into three groups, one for each country.  The groups will then research to answer the following questions for their country:  What were the influences that started the move toward a Republic?  Who started the movement?  What events took place to transition from the old form of government to the new?  How successful has the Republic been since then?  Groups will present to the class, and then as a class debrief, discussing similarities and differences they found.  Individually, students will write reactions to the findings.

·         Read « Le Bateau et la capitaine » (  Scroll down to the 3rd poem on the page.  Examine to determine Paul Laraque’s thoughts about Haïti and its government.

·         Laraque writing assignment:  Have students write a poem, essay, or short story (in French) in which they describe their thoughts and/or feelings about an issue in current American society/politics.

·         Kompa:  Have students listen to examples of Kompa on the website.

·         Haïtian art:  and  Have students read about Haïtian art and view examples of it.  On the left, “oeuvres par thème,” the themes “nature morte” and “politique/engagé” may be good ones to look at.  The latter is good for connections to the historical and social issues discussed, while the former has three paintings by a Haïtian artist and a French artist—their appearance is strikingly different and may have implications for cultural differences. 

·         Culture analysis:  As a class, create a list of ways in which Haïtian music and art are similar to French music/art, and ways in which these artforms set themselves apart from the French.

·         Current events investigation:  Have students each find an article about current events in Haïti—each student works on a separate article—that focuses on political, social, environmental, or health issues in the country.  Have students create a one-minute summary of the article, to be recorded.

·         As a class, make lists of things that now come to mind when students hear the word “Haïti.”  Compare to list made at beginning of unit.

·         Prepare a presentation for the local community on Haïtian culture, history, and issues.





·         Daily observation of students’ progress during above activities

·         Entrance and exit ticket activities, tied to daily vocabulary, grammar, or culture points, student self-assessment, and/or student feedback to teacher on activities as appropriate

·         Progress on presentation project for the community



·         Passé simple quiz

·         Republicanism reaction essay

·         Laraque writing assignment

·         Current event summary recording