Sometimes it's those little things that help make our jobs easier and more organized. Today I will share with you five of my favorite items that somehow help me stay organized, efficient, or effective.
The past couple years I have been using these custom self-inking stamps that I made at VistaPrint. They are quicker than peeling stickers. I use the J'aime stamp on high quiz grades, and the "Please see me" stamp on unsatisfactory quiz grades. My policy is that any student can do corrections on a quiz and retake it (if the initial grade was low enough to warrant retaking) to earn back some of the lost credit. Using the stamp frees me from having to hand write notes. I know that the color red is somewhat controversial in the grading world, but I personally find that it sticks out and gets their attention, which is the point of the message.
The weekly planner pad is not what I use to plan my lessons in (that goes in my plan book binder, which is also a must-have for me, but felt it too obvious to include on this list), but rather to plan out what tasks I will accomplish each day. It helps me stay organized and manage my time more efficiently (and not get bogged down trying to accomplish too much in one day!). I will even write minute tasks like "respond to so-and-so's email," which are the types of things I forget if I don't write down. The pretty floral one I use is made by Rifle Paper Co., but there are plenty of basic ones available online as well.
The absentee board is so helpful in efficiently providing missed work to students who are absent. For each day, I fill in the homework (if any), the classwork handed out (if any), and other information, such as upcoming quizzes. The sheets they need are lined up in front of the board. Students need to be trained and reminded throughout the year on how to use the board (sometimes they forget to read the sheet to see specifically what they missed on each day), but overall, I find it far more efficient than individually culling work for each student. Every teacher has their own system on how to manage missed work, and this is the one that I use.
This crazy looking green ball elicits lots of participation from students. When I first introduce a topic and look for volunteers to model the language, far more hands go up when the green ball comes out. Students love the opportunity to catch and hold it because it feels so strange.
My camera is a very important part of my teaching. Capturing high quality photos in my classroom creates memories that I can share with the students at the end of the year, and allows me to communicate with parents and community members about what is going on in our classroom. Awhile back I blogged about taking photographs in your classroom.
What are YOUR must-have teacher items?
Sometimes it's those little things that help make our jobs easier and more organized. Today I will share with you five of my favorite items that somehow help me stay organized, efficient, or effective.
This year I was awarded a grant from the Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning for a set of 10 iPads to be shared among the department. Needless to say, I have been very excited about using them, as have my students. This past Thursday was the first day we used them, and everyone had a blast. First, we used the Jot! whiteboard app (free) to practice verbs. The prior two days we had read my SpongeBob story to introduce verb forms, and students had to complete cloze sentence with the correct word with sentences from the story. Using the whiteboard app saves time over passing out the actual whiteboards, and it also saves ink (markers are expensive!). Students worked in groups of three and passed the iPad back and forth, taking turns writing. They can also save their "jots" for later use, which I plan to have them do in the future.
Next was Kahoot! Kahoot! was a hit. I read about Kahoot! on many of the language teacher blogs I read. It's basically a multiple choice quiz, only so much more fun. Students get points based on how quickly and accurately they answer questions, as dramatic music plays in the background. My favorite part is that it shows how many students chose each possible answer. I know whether to move on without explaining, and I know which things I need to reinforce more in future lessons. This is not just a "day before the test" review, in my opinion. I found it valuable for new material as well. My questions were mostly cloze questions with verbs or pronouns missing (with picture prompts). The leaderboard which shows the top 5 groups (and their often comical nicknames) gets everyone excited. You have to try this to see how much fun it is!
The following day, we used the Jot app again for my Roll the Dice game. In this game, students only need one whiteboard per group anyways, so it was great to save the time and ink, and the students were very happy to use the iPads again. If you haven't read my article on the dice game, basically students roll two dice (one for pronoun, one for verb) and form a sentence based on the photos that corresponds to what they rolled. What I did this time around to make it more communicative was give students an additional point who put an ending on the sentence (like the one below). The ending of the sentence didn't have to be perfect, but I was looking for an effort to show the verb in context, beyond just "il regarde". Because I have teacher's helpers for this activity, I have lots of time to interact with the students and make conversation with them about what they wrote or offer some assistance.
This is just the beginning of an exciting journey with this valuable technology. The iPads won't be a daily fixture - for one thing, they are being shared among the department, and for another, I like to mix up the high tech and low tech! But rest assured, we will be doing lots of exciting projects and activities with them for the remainder of this year and in subsequent years. I'm looking forward to swapping ideas with my department and continuing to gather ideas from the many wonderful blogs I read.
To see more photos of the iPads in action, check out this post over on my classroom blog.
Posted by Samantha Decker on Saturday, March 14, 2015
Last weekend I presented at the NYSAFLT Capital-East Regional Conference on Finding and Using Authentic Resources with Checkpoint A Students. For those of you not from New York, Checkpoint A is basically our state's way of saying novice. Above is my presentation, and below are companion links. A star next to a link indicates it was referenced in the presentation. The other links are related recommended reading.
My Blog Posts from The French Corner About Finding and Using #Authres
*Creating a Google Maps Scavenger Hunt
*Creating a Virtual Trip to Paris
*Using Google Maps to Reinforce Geography
*Using Evernote to Organize Resources
*Using Headlines as #Authres
*Using Infographics to Reinforce Numbers and Culture
Authentic French Restaurant Menus
Finding #Authres for French students
Resources for Young French Learners (Part 1)
Resources for Young French Learners (Part 2)
Other Blog Posts About Finding, Using, and Organizing #Authres
*Box of Tricks: Resources: Keeping Them Real and Keeping Them Together
*Creative Language Class: Cognate Practice Part 1
*Cécile Lainé: Authentic input versus grammar drills
Isabelle Jones: World Languages, Facebook, Pinterest, Culture & Literacy
Martina Bex’s Materials on #Authres
Crystal Barragan: Authentic Resources + Embedded Reading
Language Teacher Bloggers That Frequently Blog About #Authres
TICs en FLE (French)
El Conde (French)
El Mundo de Birch (Spanish)
Maris Hawkins (Spanish)
Creative Language Class
Language Teacher Facebook Pages That Frequently Share #Authres
*French Teachers in the US (closed group; must request invite)
French at Finneytown High School
Foux Furieux du Français
American Association of Teachers of French
Language Teachers Ireland
Language Teacher Twitter Handles That Frequently Tweet About #Authres
Pinterest Accounts That Frequently Share #Authres
My blog post on 15 French teachers to follow on Pinterest
icpjones (French & Spanish)
Authentic French Websites/Blogs (Subscribe to many of these & follow on Facebook/Twitter too)
*Démotivateur – Photos w/captions (French; WARNING: filter for adult content)
Desmotivaciones – Photos w/captions (Spanish; WARNING: filter for adult content)
*AudioLingua – Audio clips from native speakers
France Bienvenue – French conversations with transcripts
Géo Ado – French children’s news site
1jour1actu – French children’s news site
Mon Quotidien – French children’s news site
La Griffe de l’Info – French children’s news site
Le journal de Suzon – Fictional diary of a French girl during WWII
BrainPop France – Children’s learning site
(Many more French #authres linked on my blog post)
Other Resources for Finding & Organizing #Authres
*Hashtagify – Search for popular Twitter hashtags by language
*Trendsmap – Look for trending Twitter hashtags by region
*Twitter hashtag #authres
*Gramfeed – Search Instagram hashtags
*Feedly – Subscribe to RSS feeds
*Evernote – Organize #Authres as you find them
*Wordle – Make a word cloud from the text of an #authres
*Scoop.It! -- Follow feeds that share #authres, or share your own
Scoop.It! Feeds that Share #Authres – You can subscribe to these like blogs
My Scoop.It on French News Articles
My Scoop.It on French Visual Media
Sandrine Pac-Kenney’s Scoop.It on French Media
Francparler OIF’s Scoop.It on French Media
Mme Henderson’s Scoop.It on Authentic French Texts
Posted by Samantha Decker on Friday, February 13, 2015
Carnaval and Mardi Gras are important celebrations, not just in the francophone world, but in many cultures around the world. Many of my 7th grade students come into my classroom with a vague knowledge of Mardi Gras, but very few of them have a real understanding of the origins, the history, and the impact on American culture. I like to take some class time to teach them about all these things, keeping as much of it in French as possible. Not all of these resources are true "authentic resources," hence the "and more!" in the title of this post.
I like to show the above video from National Geographic as an introduction. Although it's in English and it is a bit dated, it has lots of good information in it and serves as a nice overview of the holiday. Then I go on to describe the holiday a little bit in French, demonstrating some of the key vocabulary words (such as médiéval, bouffon, masque, etc.)
I think it's also important to show students that Carnaval and Mardi Gras are not unique to the francophone world; that this is a holiday celebrated the world over. I show them some of the photos from this gallery that depict Carnival celebrations all over the world. Beware before you show this that some of the costumes shown in the photos may not be suitable for school. I handpicked beforehand which photos to show. As we look at each photo and see where it was taken, I ask the students whether or not the place is in a French-speaking country.
Because students are often confused about the difference between Carnaval and Mardi Gras, I drew a little timeline that shows the Carnival season, starting with La Fête des Rois (which we also celebrate) and how the excitement builds up to Mardi Gras.
I also show them the below video of a Carnaval celebration in Martinique. It's got level appropriate language in it, and it shows another side of Carnaval in the French speaking world.
I then show my students some examples of Mardi Gras and Carnaval masks, and I give students a little bit of time to start one in class. I encourage them to state the color they are using as they color them in. Students can bring in masks that they made or ones from home for our Mardi Gras celebration the next day.
It just wouldn't be Mardi Gras without some music. We learn this song, Au bal masqué, by La Compagnie Créole. I love it because it's an authentic francophone song, it's catchy, and the lyrics are relatively simple and repetitive. There is a part that says "J'embrasse qui je veux;" I tell them that "J'embrasse" means "I hug" - which it can! It's not uncommon for me to hear a student singing the song at some point later on in the year!
On the day of Mardi Gras (or, if Mardi Gras occurs during February break, the Friday before), students bring in typical Mardi Gras dishes: Kings cake, beignets, cream puffs, etc. No gumbo or jambalaya, unfortunately, as it's just too difficult at school to have it refrigerated and then heated up.
What are your favorite Mardi Gras or Carnaval resources?
Posted by Samantha Decker on Monday, February 09, 2015
In December I teach my students about food and meal-taking customs in francophone countries. We learn about the importance of lunch time in France, different types of currency, how to order food, and how to pay for it. Just as I did recently with my family resources roundup, in this post, I will share some of my favorite food and meal-taking activities. You'll see a number of videos in this post; for showing students a little bit of the culture, short YouTube videos are my favorite.
1. Dessinez un établissement
Awhile back, I blogged about this activity where students design their own French eatery. After we learn about cafés, restaurants, boulangeries, pâtisseries, crêperies, and glaciers, students pick their favorite and look at photos of real ones before designing their own.
2. Explore authentic menus
What better way to work with the vocabulary than with actual French-language menus. Some of the things I do: ask students questions about the menu in French (ball toss), have students answer comprehension questions in French as a homework assignment, give students a set of 4 menus, and a list of questions to ask each other about the menus. If you're looking for some menus to use, I've rounded up 20 authentic French menus.
3. Special Guest Speakers
This past summer I blogged about how much fun we have when the owners of a local crêperie, Ravenous, come visit my classes. Students get to watch crêpes being prepared and order them in French!
4. GeoBeats Videos
GeoBeats is an awesome YouTube channel sharing travel tips for locations all over the world. They have a number of great videos showcasing various eateries in Paris. Many of them are in English, but I find it worth it to show my students a little slice of life in France. Here are some of my favorites:
5. Sing A Sketch
After showing my students the video below, I have them create a similar short sketch in groups for a French eatery and sing it to the class. It's more fun than just saying it! Some students may feel shy about performing, but I don't force anyone to perform for the class that doesn't want to.
6. Google Maps Scavenger Hunt
I also blogged about this fun activity where students visit various sites on Google Street View and answer questions about the menus they see outside the restaurants (for example "Combien coûte le pain oriental ?"). Unfortunately, Google recently eliminated Street View from custom maps, so I had to have students type in the addresses manually, but it still worked fine.
7. The Price Is Right
I recently included this in my list of favorite new activities I tried in 2014. This is an idea from Steve Smith of Frenchteacher.net. He proposed having a game show à la The Price is Right, having students guess the price of various items. My students absolutely loved this activity. They worked in groups to guess the price of various items I had on the SMART Board, but they had to negotiate entirely in French. They also had to write their answer in a complete sentence, reinforcing the difference between il coûte, elle coûte, and ça fait. I had several students say to me at the end "J'aime l'activité !"
8. France's Gourmet School Lunches
Yes, another video! Although in English, this video offers a fascinating look at the food and customs surrounding school lunches in France. I use this to spark a discussion about the importance of lunch in France and how eating is just as much a social time as it is a necessity of life.
9. McDonald's in France Video
Okay, I know, yet another video. I don't usually show so many videos in my class, but when it comes to food, there are so many gems lying around on YouTube that really give students a glimpse of the culture. This one I love because it shows how a country can take something American and put their own spin on it. They can see how, yes, McDonald's exists in France, but the experience is quite different than the one they are used to in the United States.
What are your favorite activities for food and meal-taking? Please share in the comments!
Posted by Samantha Decker on Monday, January 19, 2015
I started out 2014 with a roundup of 40 Fantastic Blog Posts from 2013. To end the year, I've made a roundup of 40+ fantastic blog posts from 2014. From posts about francophone culture to activities and assessments in the foreign language classroom, you'll find quite a range of articles to choose from. Here's to a prosperous 2015!
These Photographs of Parisian Rooftops Look Like Abstract Paintings via PetaPixel
Chenonceau: The Woman Behind the French Château via My French Life
Les rues les plus insolites de Paris via Paris ZigZag
Libération : La France d'avant et d'aujourd'hui via Géo Ado
A Look at Paris Under the Snow in the Early 1900s via BuzzFeed
Language Teacher Specific
Sample Homework Choice Systems via Musicuentos
Targeted Practice - "The Picture Activity" Game via Language Sensei
"The Club Decision" Interactive Oral Activity via Language Sensei
QR Codes in the Classroom via Musings from the Island
What Are Effective Goals and Formats for Bell Work? via Calico Spanish
My French Evolution - Part 2 - Oral Communication via Mme Mallette
Making a Fortune Teller via Spanish Plans
Too Much Grammar, Not Enough Grammar via TeachingEnglish
Renewed Teacher Philosophy Statement via Cécile Lainé
Fine-Tuning the Input via Frenchteacher
Come on Down! The Price is Right via Frenchteacher
Interviewing Using Technology via Maris Hawkins
Rock, Paper, Scissors, Evolution via Languages & Learning
Variations on Bingo via Ayo Bermain!
Apps & Tools to Suppost MFL & Pronunciation via ICTEvangelist
Students as Digital Curators of World Language Resources via AATFTech
Teaching Music FOR Communication via Language Coaching
Fun, Team-building & Reinforcing Learning: Using Kahoot! In Your Classes via Language Sensei
Digging Deep via Changing Phase
Revamping the Writing Assessment: Essay to Infographic via Somewhere to Share
Breaking the Mold: Alphabet and Numbers in Context via Language Coaching
3 Reasons Why I Blend But Don't Completely Flip via 3 Rs 4 Teachers
Effective WL Instructors via Spanish Plans
How to Use Poems with First Year Spanish Learners? via Alice Ayel
French Teacher Specific
Vu sur Twitter de janvier 2013 à septembre 2014: le top du top! via L'enseignement branché
La révolution française via Je m'appelle Madame
Tel père tel fils, c'est l'histoire d'un photomontage via Territoires de langues
Dispatch from Mrs. Potier's Class via Voyageur Héritage
Brain-Based Learning Techniques to Try in Your Classroom via Edudemic
90 Retailers That Offer Teacher Discounts via TeachThought
Make An Interactive Infograph Syllabus via Sra. Spanglish
Why Classroom Wall Displays Are Important via Mr. Kemp
Google Art Project and Google Cultural Institute Are Promising Tools for Common Core via EdTechTeam
Photo Series Captures the Part of a Teacher's Day You Never See via HuffPostParents
What Happens When Schools Infringe Copyright via CreativeBlogs
57 Learning Technology Tools One Middle School Teacher Depends On via TeachThought
15 Vocabulary Strategies in 15 Minutes via Learning Tasks
Are You A Truly Bad Teacher? Here's How to Tell via The Washington Post
Why Language Skills Are Great for Business via The Guardian
Science Reveals Something Surprising About People Who Speak More Than One Language via NewsMic
15 Ideas to Increase Awareness of Your Language Program via Teaching Spanish with Comprehensible Input
A Call for Greater Foreign Language Education in the U.S. via HuffPost Education
How Language Seems to Shape One's View of the World via NPR Shots
Johnson: What Is a Foreign Language Worth? via The Economist Prospero
Learn to Code? No: Learn a Real Language via GeekWire
Bonus: My Most Viewed Posts of 2014
1. 20 Authentic Restaurant Menus from Francophone Countries
2. Beg, Borrow & Steal: 7 Great Ideas from Other Blogs
3. Un voyage virtuel à Paris: An Authentic Task with Authentic Resources
4. 30 Reasons to Learn French
5. Pronunciation Practice When the Teacher's Absent
Posted by Samantha Decker on Wednesday, December 31, 2014
My classroom, December 2014
As 2014 comes to a close, I'd like to share some of my favorite lessons and activities that I tried for the first time this year. These are activities that I won't hesitate to use again next year. Some of them are my own ideas, but many of them are adapted from other teachers' ideas. That's what I love about having a virtual PLN - so many of my favorite activities come from other teachers' Tweets and blog posts, and we all benefit from having this ability to share on a global level.
Certainly these aren't the only new things I tried this year, but these stick out in my mind as some of the ones I liked best.
1. Le verbe être sur internet (adapted from Cécile Lainé) - I previously blogged about this here. Cécile's great idea for showing students an abstract verb in context helped my students make sense of être. I liked the activity so much that I did the same thing for the verb faire.
2. Rock, Paper, Scissors Evolution (from Chris Fuller via Amanda Salt) - Another activity I previously blogged about here. The students like the rock/paper/scissors part of this activity; I like that they are excited to get out of their seats and speak French.
3. SpongeBob Verb Story - I'm certainly not the first person to write a story to reinforce grammar, but this is one I wrote all on my own. As the students read the story, they observed how verbs changed in different contexts and then from there determined what the rules were. Read the full story here.
4. The Price is Right (from Steve Smith) - The one thing on this list I haven't blogged about yet comes from a great idea from Steve Smith of Frenchteacher.net. He proposed having a game show à la The Price is Right, having students guess the price of various items. My students absolutely loved this activity. They worked in groups to guess the price of various items I had on the SMART Board, but they had to negotiate entirely in French. They also had to write their answer in a complete sentence, reinforcing the difference between il coûte, elle coûte, and ça fait. I had several students say to me at the end "J'aime l'activité !"
5. Une publicité - I blogged about this end of the year activity here. The students enjoyed being creative here, they got to use their French in context, and they learned a little bit about digital citizenship. I would like to do this activity again this year, but with the iPads our department will be getting.
6. Let's Roll the Dice - A simple dice game I blogged about here. The students enjoyed this opportunity to review verbs and speak entirely in French. It wasn't the most communicative activity we've done, but it was good scaffolding.
What new lessons or activities did you try in 2014?
Posted by Samantha Decker on Wednesday, December 24, 2014