Greatest Hits: My Favorite Songs for Learning French

Many language teachers enjoy using songs to reinforce vocabulary and grammar in a contextual setting.  While authentic songs are usually preferable if you can find a suitable one, at the lower levels it's often the songs created specifically for language learners that contain the most comprehensible content.  That said, I do enjoy playing authentic songs for my students to spark their interest and integrate culture.  I've played many songs for my students over the years, but in this post I will share the ones that I keep turning back to year after year.  If you enjoy using songs with your students, chances are you've heard of or used some of these songs, but maybe you'll discover something new!  Of the songs available on YouTube, I've made a playlist.  I also reference some songs that will require separate purchases.

Songs on the Playlist

Salut by John DeMado
John DeMado is known for his rap songs targeting various French vocabulary topics.  I like this particular song because it has a lot of useful greetings in it, such as "à bientôt," "à demain," and "bonsoir."  It also has vocabulary that I use in future lessons, such as "un ami/une amie" "J'ai __ ans" and "Il/Elle a __ ans."

La danse d'Igor
A colleague in another district, Meghan Chance, first showed me this video.  It's a great song to use on testing days to get students out of their seats and dancing.  It contains some body parts vocabulary, as well as terms such as "Peux-tu..."

Alouette by Alain LeLait
What would a parts of the body lesson be without Alouette?  I particularly like Alain LeLait's video because it's got some cute animation and dance moves that the kids love to imitate.

Les chiffres et les nombres 1-20 by Alain LeLait
Another winner by Alain LeLait.  The dancing worms and reggae music keep the students dancing and singing.  Alain LeLait has just made two more videos for numbers 20-50 and 50-70.  I can't wait to introduce those this year!  For more resources for teaching numbers, read my other posts on the topic.

C'est l'Hallowe'en by Matt Maxwell
I really love this song because it reinforces the pronunciation of "c'est."  It's a very important and often mispronounced word, and having it appear in a fun song about Halloween is certainly more fun than just repeating it over and over again!  For more resources for Halloween, read my post on the topic.

French Alphabet Rap
While most of my students tend to prefer Barbara MacArthur's military version (see below), I like to show my students this song as well to mix things up.

Les chiffres 1-20
This is another song that usually comes in second to Alain LeLait's numbers song, but it's nice to have some variety.

Les trois petits cochons à la Gaga
I show this song to my students at the end of the year.  The production is hilarious, and it reinforces lots of vocabulary, such as "Je veux + infinitive," "Tu es," "Il est," and "Je ne suis pas."

Vive le vent
Vive le vent is one of the few traditional French holiday songs whose lyrics are simple enough for first year students to understand.  It's also a neat way to show students that often times when songs get translated, it is not a word-for-word transfer.

Songs Not on the Playlist

Ma grande famille by Barbara MacArthur
Barbara MacArthur's Sing Dance Laugh at Eat Quiche series features fun songs about a variety of topics.  Her catchy family song names off the many members of the narrator's family, only to find out at the end that they have only one bathroom!  Ms. MacArthur sells her songs on CDs or as digital downloads.  For more resources for teaching about family, read my post on the topic.

L'alphabet by Barbara MacArthur
This song, which is sung to the tune of the traditional "I don't know but I've been told" military cadence, gets students really excited about learning the alphabet.  Sometimes I even have two sides of the room face off to see who can sing louder.

Bon bonhomme de neige by Barbara MacArthur
While not a traditional French holiday song, Barbara MacArthur has put "Frosty the Snowman" to French lyrics that beginners can understand.  It incorporates parts of the body and physical description.  The students love it.

Les pronoms by Étienne
A colleague of mine suggested to me several years ago that I spend a couple of days reinforcing the subject pronouns out of context before using them contextually with verbs.  Although I teach them implicitly all year long, students still sometimes struggle with keeping them straight, especially the plural ones.  This song, along with the motions, reinforces the meaning of each word.  I have volunteers take turns holding up the pronoun cards as each one is said.  You can buy a DVD with a music video for this song over at Étienne's website.

Dansez by Étienne
Dansez is just a fun song that names all the parts of the body.  It also has a video that shows a stick figure acquiring more and more body parts as they are named off in the song.  It gets kids out of their seats, it's funny, it's a winner!

Disclaimer:  This is not a sponsored post and I receive no compensation if you choose to buy the products linked on this site.  These are my genuine opinions!

10 Blogs I've Been Reading This Summer

This summer I've been reading lots of great ideas on the blogs I'm subscribed to.  As we roll into a new school year (I know many of you already have, but I don't start until Tuesday), I thought I'd share some of the blogs I found myself reading the most frequently.

Blogs About Teaching

The Language Gym - Gianfranco Conti's blog has been generating a lot of buzz.  His research-based ideas and suggestions offer a lot of insight on a variety of topics related to the teaching of languages.

PBL in the TL - Laura Sexton's blog delves into project-based learning, student choice, and technology integration with some truly great ideas.

Tuesday's Tips for Staying in the Target Language - Señor Howard offers lots of great suggestions for keeping instruction in the target language, if you couldn't tell from the title.  He even has videos of himself teaching his class!

Blogs About Paris (in English)

Bonjour Paris - Okay, I just discovered this one recently, but it's got a lot of great information.  It's a nice way to keep updated on goings-on and current events in Paris that might be worth integrating into a lesson.

Paris Breakfasts - Carol Gillott's beautiful watercolor drawings and photos of daily life in Paris make this blog a must read.  There are lots of authentic resources to be found among her photos and drawings.

Blogs in French

French Authentic Texts - Not really a blog, but I subscribe to the RSS feed, so it feels like a blog to me.  Mme Henderson shares lots of great authentic resources on this Scoop.It! feed.

Le français et vous - A Tumblr with lots of resources for teaching French.

Paris ZigZag - This blog has all sorts of neat articles about Paris from old photos to neat places to explore.  Beware, before sending students to explore the site, of the occasional not-school-appropriate article.  There are plenty of articles (and photos) in isolation that would be great for the classroom, though.

TICs en FLE - Ma José posts a wealth of authentic resources on this blog from songs and lyrics to posters and signs.

Le blog des profs de l'Institut Français à Madrid - A blog with lots of resources about teaching French and lots of links to other articles on the subject.

The iPad Diaries Index

Back in the spring my department was given a set of 10 iPads through a generous grant.  Since then, I have been blogging all about them here at the French Corner in a series I call the iPad Diaries.  Now that the posts have started to pile up, I've decided to create an index page to organize everything.  I will continue to update this as I add new posts, so if you choose to bookmark this page, you won't have to worry that it's out of date.

Index of Posts
Volume 1 - I shared how we used Kahoot! and Jot! Free with the iPads.
Volume 2 - I shared how we used Lino, Jot! Free (again), DuoLingo, and station work.  I also shared my thoughts on the SAMR model for integrating technology.
Volume 3 - I shared how we used Keynote and Jot! Free for a project.
Volume 4 - I shared how we used Kahoot! (again) Move & Match and YouTube videos.  I also shared my EdShelf resources.
Volume 5 - I shared how we used Adobe Voice to make a video for incoming students
Volume 6 - I shared how we used Adobe Voice and Creative Commons to make a video about a French-speaking country while using images legally.
Volume 7 - I shared feedback collected from students about the iPads.

Bonus!  Other Language Teachers Blogging About iPads or tablets:
Mme Mallette
Sylvia Duckworth
Nicole Naditz
Sara Spanglish

iPad Diaries: Volume 7

This is my seventh post on using iPads in my classroom.  In case you missed it, you can read Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4, Volume 5, and Volume 6.

At the end of the school year, I needed to gather feedback from students about the use of iPads in the classroom.  This feedback was then shared with the Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning, the organization who gave us the grant for the iPads.  I decided to write a post sharing some of this feedback, because it can be potentially helpful to any language teacher using iPads in the classroom.  A few of my colleagues and I gave the students a survey to answer anonymously.  Below are some of their answers to the questions.  While most of these answers came from the survey, some of them also came from conversations, both formal and informal, with students.

How did the use of iPads improve your learning?
· I was able to do work a lot faster.
· They help with pronunciation.
· They gave us an easy and fun way to practice new concepts that we had just recently learned.
· They provided me with abilities to work in real life situations.
· They are more interesting than listening to a teacher.
· It helped me memorize terms more, and it made me excited for class.
· I have gotten a lot better at reading and writing.
· iPads are more mobile, making it easy for groups to move around the classroom.

What about the iPad experience would you change to improve it?
· Use better apps/wider variety of apps
· More iPads so each student could have their own to work with
· More alone station work
· If we all got an equal amount of time on the iPad
· I would work more with oral learning and then speaking it back to the teacher.
· More competition-type games.
· Maybe on the first day next year you could have the students browse the web for safe and appropriate iPad games to learn from and enjoy.

Students’ Feedback on Specific Apps

Kahoot (read more about Kahoot in Volumes 1 and 4)
· It's really fun and I think I benefit from using it each time.
· Kahoot provided a fun and competitive way to learn with your friends. I thought it was cool how everything connected to the Smart board.
· Kahoot motivates me to do better.
· Kahoot has helped my quick thinking in French.

 Keynote  (read more about Keynote in Volume 3)
· With Keynote, when we did the story project, I had a lot of fun. I was able to use all verb conjugations and draw in the same project (with Jot! Free), so that was a lot of fun.

Jot! Free  (read more about Jot in Volumes 1, 2, and 3)
· We could do the same thing on our white boards.
· Writing is too big, not best way to draw. For drawing I prefer the old fashion method such as quality dry erase markers.

Move and Match (read more about Move and Match in Volume 4)
· You can’t really win.
· There is no immediate feedback on whether you are right or wrong.
· It was boring.

Author's note:  Move and Match had a lot of potential, but the lack of instantaneous feedback made it hard to use in a large class.

 Adobe Voice Project – Making a commercial for a French-speaking country (read more about Adobe Voice in Volumes 5 and 6)
· It was a cool program and fun to use.
· There was a lot of background noise, but this was solved by talking closer to the mic.
· It was sometimes hard to find photos to use [legally].
· I learned about lots of francophone countries.
· I would like to have more time to have a deeper understanding of my country.
· Students could give each other feedback by stating two things they liked and one thing they would improve.
· The automatic citing feature was great.

It is evident from the feedback gathered from students that most of them felt the iPads improved their learning and made the subject matter more engaging for them. Students are most motivated by apps that are interactive and offer immediate feedback, as well as competition-type apps. This summer, I have been researching apps to replace the ones that students did not find beneficial, and looking for ones that can move the learning up the SAMR model towards modification and redefinition. I have also been brainstorming more ways to incorporate stations into my lessons so that students can have more one on one time with the iPads, as many expressed an interest in being able to use them individually. Students’ willingness to be honest about what worked for them and what didn’t has made it easier to assess the usefulness of each app and activity.

iPad Diaries: Volume 6

This is my sixth post on using iPads in my classroom.  In case you missed it, you can read Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, and Volume 5 as well.  In this post I'm going to share with you another project my students made using the Adobe Voice app.

You may recall that I did a project last year (well, two school years ago) where students created a video ad for a French-speaking country using a green screen.  I was really happy with that project, but I aimed to improve the project this year through the use of the iPads.

The objective was to have students demonstrate speaking skills, digital citizenship, and cultural knowledge, through a short "commercial" for a French-speaking country using Adobe Voice.

First, I showed students portions of each video from the playlist below, to get them acquainted with the scenery of each country they would have to choose from (I tried to pick a variety of countries all over the world).  We also pointed each one out on the map.

Next, in groups of three, students researched a country using both digital and print media.  This isn't a traditional research project, but students need to know about what kinds of foods one can eat there, what kinds of activities and traditions there are, what the weather is like, and what the major landmarks or cities are.  I gave students the following graphic organizer to prepare a script ahead of time (they also had a set of directions stating what information needed to be included) (click to see full size):

When students were done preparing the script, they got to start using Adobe Voice.  One of the requirements of the project was that they had to include at least three cultural photos (but most included more).  They could search in the app's library (which automatically uses Creative Commons photos and cites them for you), but if they couldn't find what they were looking for, they had to find an appropriate image to use legally and cite it properly, since these were being published to the internet.

Since most students (people in general, for that matter) are unaware that photos that you find on the internet are not free to use without permission, I took this opportunity to teach students about Creative Commons.  For those who aren't familiar, Creative Commons (or CC) is an organization providing a series of licenses that artists can apply to their work, giving permission for anyone to use it, as long as they follow the terms of the license (one of which is that credit must be given to the author).  There are six different licenses, stipulating terms like whether or not the work can be used commercially or whether or not the work can be modified.

I showed my students this video as an overview (the intended audience is younger than my students, but I appreciated this video's simplicity):

I advised students to use WikiMedia Commons to find their pictures, because most of the photos on there are either public domain or licensed through Creative Commons.  Additionally, the licenses are very clearly noted on each photo.  I gave the students another graphic organizer to note their photo sources as they went along.  They then typed them into the credits slide at the end. Again, click the image to view the full size.

Best practice attributions for Creative Common works contain the name of the work, the author of the work, and the specific license the work is under (which can be abbreviated; see above).  Yes, I even made them write the attribution in French!  It may look complicated and confusing, but almost all of the students did their citations correctly.  Now, I'll readily admit that many of the students were skeptical of the premise that not all photos are legal to use, and that they would have to do all this elaborate citing.  People rip off images all the time, and there don't appear to be any consequences (of course, sometimes there are, but rarely for personal use).  What I tried to impress upon them, though, is that although you're not likely to face any legal consequences by sharing a copyrighted photo in your online project for school, it looks unprofessional and unscholarly.  It's a good idea to start now leaving a clear footprint on the internet.

Above, when students hit the "export" button, they have an opportunity to add in credits.  Below, you can save a link to the video to your clipboard and email it to yourself, or save the actual video to your camera roll if you want the file.

I think this project improved upon last year's, and it once again turned the idea of a presentation into something more engaging. Below are some of the finished products. You can see more on my class blog.

Feedback from the Students
As I did last year, I asked students for their feedback about the project.  Here were some of the things they had to say, both about the project and the app in general:

• It was a cool program and fun to use.
• It was boring.  [I included this comment because it is honest; not every student will like everything!]
• There was a lot of background noise, but this was solved by talking closer to the mic.
• There were lots of buttons but it was easier to use than PowerPoint.
• It was sometimes hard to find photos to use.
• I learned about lots of francophone countries.
• I would like to be able to present to the class as well.
• I would like to have more time to have a deeper understanding of my country.
• Students could give each other feedback by stating two things they liked and one thing they would improve.
• The automatic citing feature was great.

Have you ever done a project like this or would you?  What would you, or did you, do differently?  Sharing our ideas and collaborating is what makes us better teachers, so please, share yours in the comments!

20 More Favorite Photos I've Taken in France

Some of you may know that my other passion besides teaching and French is photography.  I have a photography blog where I share many of my photos.  I like to share other culturally relevant materials on this blog besides just lesson ideas, so last year I shared 20 of my favorite photos that I've taken in France.  Since I have been re-editing some of my older photos I have come upon quite a few more that I thought were worth sharing as well.  So, here are 20 MORE favorite photos that I've taken in France.

Sacré-Cœur Sits Atop Paris, 2009
Sacré-Cœur Sits Atop Paris
This is a 560mm (35mm equivalent) field of view - or in other words, a very zoomed-in view from very far away, taken with my old Canon PowerShot superzoom compact.   The great thing about that camera was the ability to take shots like this without having to lug around a huge lens.

Looking Up at the Louvre - Pavillon Richelieu, 2009
Looking Up at the Louvre - Pavillon Richelieu
Although I.M. Pei's pyramids (including one of the smaller ones you see in this photo) were controversial when they were first added in 1989, I like the contrast of old and new.

My First Close Up of the Eiffel Tower, 2004
My first close up photo of the Eiffel Tower
I can remember the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower with my own eyes.  I took this photo not long after, and although I didn't have any special technical skills in photography at the time, it remains one of my favorites.  It was taken at a time of day when it was just starting to get dark, and the tone of the light was very pleasing.

Admiring the Mona Lisa, 2012 Admiring the Mona Lisa
I prefer shots like this to the standalone shots of the Mona Lisa, isolated with no context.  Here, you can really get a sense for how small the painting is, and also how popular.

Notre Dame la Nuit, 2012
Notre-Dame la Nuit
It is hard to capture photos at night on a bateau mouche while it is moving, but I managed to get this one blur-free.

Château de Chenonceau, 2012
Château de Chenonceau
This photo was my desktop all last year at school.

Musée du Carnavalet, 2012
Musée Carnavalet
You just can't find architecture like this in the United States.

Palace of Versailles in the Morning, 2012
Palace of Versailles in the Morning
There aren't a lot of buildings more impressive than this one.

Château de Chambord, 2004
Chambord is my favorite château in the Loire Valley that I've visited.

La Seine, 2012
This photo was one I took out a bus window.  Sometimes you don't have the luxury of stopping!

Inside Notre Dame, 2012
Inside Notre-Dame
Using a wide angle lens I was able to take in an expansive view of one of the world's most famous cathedrals.

View from Le Printemps, 2009
The best free view of Paris just might be from the rooftop café at Le Printemps.

The Fountains of Place de la Concorde, 2009
An early evening view of this Parisian landmark.

A Window on Château de Chenonceau, 2012
I love shooting through windows; they offer such a nice composition.

Quartier Juif, 2012
One of the things I love about Paris are the smaller streets that have such a wonderful European charm.

Gargoyle at Notre Dame, 2009
A cliché shot that's hard to resist.  I seem to remember climbing lots of stairs on that trip.

Windows on Versailles, 2012
Another window shot; but this time in beautiful Versailles.

Eiffel Tower and Palais de Chaillot, 2012
La Tour Eiffel depuis le Trocadéro
This is probably my favorite place to view the Eiffel Tower.

View from the Eiffel Tower, 2012

Probably one of my favorite photos from the Eiffel Tower.

Arc de Triomphe la Nuit, 2009

With just a point and shoot and a small Gorillapod tripod, I was determined to get a good night shot of the Arc de Triomphe.  The tilt is due to the fact that it was difficult to get the Gorillapod to hold the camera straight, but I ended up liking it.

iPad Diaries: Volume 5

This is my fifth post on using iPads in my classroom.  In case you missed it, you can read Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4 as well.  In this post I'm going to share with you a video my students made using the incredible Adobe Voice app.

Every year in June, I have my students make a video for next year's incoming students, showing them what they will learn in a fun way and sharing their thoughts on what helped them learn.  This year I decided to let students use the iPads to create the videos.  I allowed students who were all caught up to work on this while I worked with students who were behind, so they had very little guidance from me while they made this.  That being said, they really did a great job.

Adobe Voice is a video-making app that's sort of like PowToon but less comic-y.  It's only available for iPad.  Users make slides for each idea they want to present and then add text, icons, or photos, as well as record audio for the narration.  The photos are all Creative Commons photos and are automatically cited at the end of the video.  You can also upload your own photos.  The app has a number of songs you can use in the background as well as professional-looking themes and fonts to choose from.  It has just enough options to spur creativity but not so many that it's overwhelming.

I basically gave the students a list of all the topics we learned this year, had them open up Adobe Voice and make example sentences showing what types of things they will learn how to say.  They were also free to share their experiences in English using the iPad's camera in video mode.  I combined all the videos and edited them in MovieMaker to make one long video.  For this blog, I edited it down further and took out the student interviews.  The clip you see in the beginning was done by a student in his own time.  He was the one who brought the app to my attention and he made the video to show to incoming middle schoolers at our orientation night.  I thought it was perfect for this video as well. I cut off all the credits slides and put them all together at the end, which seemed more logical then putting them after each video, since it's supposed to play like one big video.


The students had a lot of fun making this and I think next year's students will really enjoy it.  In my next installment, I will share how students used Adobe Voice for another, much different project.

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