Le Moyen Âge en France
Lesson 05: La vie de Charlemagne 

Submitted by Barbara C. Anderson


Students will:

  • demonstrate an understanding of some important facts about Charlemagne as well as an understanding of his importance in French history.

Students will:

  • learn about the life of a famous medieval historical figure in France, the Emperor Charlemagne.

Language: Content Obligatory
Students will:

  • use the past tenses (passé composé) to complete a dictogloss using the content obligatory vocabulary
  • use the third person singular of the -er verbs gérer, fonder, organiser and inspirer; -ir verb réussir; and irregular verbs être, naître, and mourir in the passé composé to describe the life of Charlemagne
  • Use the third person singular of the -er verbs se trouver, représenter, s' intéresser, and irregular verb savoir in the imparfait to describe the life of Charlemagne
  • use the correct feminine form of adjectives with nouns to complete a dictogloss using the content obligatory vocabulary. (Adjectives includemoral/morale, culturel/culturelle, intellectuel/intellectuelle, religieux/religieuse).
  • use the participe présent of the verb envoyer to describe one of the activities of Charlemagne
  • Content Obligatory Vocabulary: Les Francs, malencontreuse, occident, une embuscade, le pape, un poème épique, Aix-la-Chapelle, une renaissance, gérer, Missi dominici, une autorité.

Language: Content Compatible
Students will:

  • review rules for the formation and use of feminine adjectives.
  • learn to use words, such as donc and alors, to connect ideas in a text.
  • review rules for the formation and use of present participles
  • use previously learned phrases in the present tense, such as Je pense que and À mon avis, to express their opinions during discussions.

Learning Strategies / Social and Skills Development:
Students will:

  • monitor and evaluate their learning, i.e., they will check how well they are completing the task.
  • think about and use what they already know to help them do the task and students will work in a cooperative group to complete the task.

Time Frame:

Two-three 50-minute class periods

Materials Needed:

  • Text for dictogloss (see Attachmenta)
  • Overhead write-on transparencies (one for each group)
  • Vis-à-vis markers (one for each group)
  • Overhead transparency of questions for Expansion (see attachment)

Description of Assessment (Performance Project):

Teacher will ask students what they already know about kings and emperors.  What is a king? What is an emperor? What is the difference?

Class will review previous discussions about the role of leaders in the Middle Ages. Teacher (or a student) will record ideas for future reference.

Teacher will ask students what they already know about the French Emperor Charlemagne. 

Teacher will introduce homework assignment: (see below)

  • Read a page about the life of Charlemagne in the textbook (the text is somewhat similar to the dictogloss), which will provide background for the next day's work. (Yvone Lénard, (1997). Trésors du Temps. New York:  Glencoe/McGraw Hill, p. 54)
  • Write down five main ideas from the text  to share with their groups the following day.

During Task:
Presentation of Content Obligatory Vocabulary

  • Teacher assigns students to groups of four. Each person shares his/her list of main ideas (from homework assignment) with his/her small group.  Each group makes a list of ten words based on these ideas. A whole class list is made on a transparency based on words suggested by the small groups.
  • Teacher then introduces words for the dictogloss that have not yet been mentioned.

Dictogloss (Because this passage is quite long, teacher may wish to divide it into two parts, and do this activity twice, or s/he may prefer to eliminate half of the sentences.)

  • Teacher will read the passage twice at normal speed while students listen. (Sentences in text are numbered, and teacher includes numbers each time.)
  • Teacher will read the passage a third time at normal speed while students take notes, writing down key words and phrases.
  • Teacher divides class into pairs, and students try to cooperatively reconstruct the original passage they heard.
  • Groups of four are formed from two pairs.  They share their results and continue trying to reconstruct the passage. Each person, however, must write his/her own complete dictogloss.
  • Groups are given overhead transparencies, and they draw numbers out of a "hat". Each group writes their two (or more, depending on the number of groups)  sentences (based on the numbers they've drawn) on an overhead transparency.
  • Each group presents their sentences, and teacher and class make any necessary corrections. Teacher reviews relevant grammar points at this time: present participles, feminine forms of adjectives and agreement, use of past tenses.
  • All students check and correct their own dictoglosses during the presentations.
  • Students each hand in a completed, corrected dictogloss for teacher verification of accurate completion and correction.

Discussion- (see attachment for list of questions in French)

(Answering these questions will require students to review and reflect on the facts of Charlemagne's life. This activity will also provide preparation for the final assessment of the unit, which is to prepare a presentation about an important historical figure from the Middle Ages.)

Students return to their small groups to discuss the questions listed below. (The French version is attached). Roles are assigned, e.g., recorder, speaker, task facilitator/time-keeper, and language coordinator. The recorder takes notes for the group.  

  • Why do you think that Charlemagne wanted to build a large empire?
  • Why did the Pope crown him? Why did he call him "Emperor" instead of "King"?
  • Why do you think that he sent missi dominici to the provinces?
  • Why do you think that Charlemagne created schools?
  • Why do French people remember and respect Charlemagne today? 
  • Can you think of people who have made similar contributions in European or American history?

Following the small group discussions, the whole class discusses the questions. First, the speaker from each group can present his/her group's response to one of the questions and then the group will add comments.

Optional activity: Present Maxime le Forestier's song, "Marie, Pierre et Charlemagne"


Teacher verification of correct completion of Dictoglosses.

Multiple choice quiz.

References and Resources:

  • Yvone Lenard, (1997). Trésors du Temps. New York: Glencoe/McGraw Hill, p. 54.
  • Gibbons, Pauline, (2002). Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning. Portsmouth: Heinemann, p. 143.
  • Lyrics to Maxime le Forestier's song, "Marie, Pierre et Charlemagne"
    Purchase at


NOTE: some attachments are in PDF form (get Acrobat Reader)