Ways to Reinforce Geography in French Class



Perhaps a better title for this post would be, "Ways to Reinforce Where French is Spoken," since a major part of geography for me is just getting students to realize that French is spoken in other countries besides France.  Here are a few of the ways I do that.



I keep a container full of pens with flags of francophone countries for students who need a writing utensil.  The name of the country is also attached to the flag.

When we're learning about weather, I give students an assignment where they have to describe the weather in a French-speaking city for a week.  You can read more about it in this post.



For National French Week one year, I had my French Club draw flags of French-speaking countries outside the school with sidewalk chalk.  You can read more about it in this post.



Also during National French Week, students bring in dishes from various parts of the French-speaking world, and point to the country that it's from on a map.  Students keep track of what they ate on a sheet and write their favorite item.

When time allots at the end of the year, I do a project with students where they create a short commercial for a French-speaking country or region using Adobe Spark Video.  You can read more about it in this post.

Outside my classroom, there is a bulletin board where I feature student work during most of the year. At the beginning of the year, though, I feature photos taken in French-speaking countries.  The above bulletin board features a map with photos pointing to different French-speaking countries on it, and the below bulletin board features photos I've taken in French-speaking areas.





I have some posters around my room which I created which show off the French-speaking world.  The one above is also the header for my classroom blog.  The one below is one we often point to when discussing where in the world a particular French-speaking country is.





In my post Using Google Maps to Reinforce Francophone Geography, I share how using photos taken in French-speaking countries and then placing them on a map can be a great speaking activity.



Another weather activity I do with students is to create a weather forecast on the iPads using Adobe Spark video.  You can read more about that activity in this post.



Guest speakers are another great way to get students exposed to the culture of countries you may or may not have ever visited yourself.  I've had guest speakers who lived in or were from Senegal, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and France.  Often times the visit was accompanied by some type of project or activity to tie in to the presentation.



In the front of my classroom, I have flags of French-speaking countries and organizations that use French.  I reference these at the beginning of the year when discussing the usefulness of French and where it is spoken.

So, what ways do you use to reinforce geography with French students?

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My Experience Norming with Students



Last fall I started following Annabelle Allen aka La Maestra Loca (read her blog here) after seeing her present at ACTFL in New Orleans.  Recently I read her blog post about norming your class with your students and I decided to try it in my own classroom.

It is important prior to this activity to explain what a norm is, since many students aren't familiar with the term.  Our school has a saying that the principal says on the announcements every day, which is, "Be safe, be respectful, be responsible."  I explained that these are examples of norms.



Above is a student sample of a worksheet I had them fill in, following steps similar to those outlined in Annabelle's blog post.  First, they individually list their hopes and dreams for the class, citing one long term goal, and one short term goal.  Then they worked with one or two other classmates to generate three norms to help them achieve these goals.  It's important that students understand that their goals are outcomes and that their norms should be steps they can take on a daily basis to achieve them.  Some students were unclear about this at first and were putting things like "be fluent" as norms, but with further clarification, they caught on.  Eventually, they paired up with another group and pared down all their norms to four norms.



Once they had settled on their norms, one representative came up to the chalkboard and wrote each one.  Then, everyone took turns coming up to the board circling their favorite norms.



The chalkboard after one class finished the activity.

At the end of the day, I looked at which norms were written and circled the most and I generated a list of four norms to post in the classroom.  Here it is:



The beauty of this is, this pretty closely matches what I've always tried to instill in my students at the beginning of the year, but now that they've thought critically about this and come up with it themselves, it means so much more to them.  Thanks Annabelle, for sharing this wonderful idea!

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The First Day of School



I guess I've never done a post that outlines what I do on the first day of school, so here it is.  I've gotten my ideas from a variety of resources, so I will try to give credit where credit is due.  First of all, I will say I got a lot of my ideas from this wonderful post from Creative Language Class, but I put my own spin on it.

I like students to walk away on the first day not only excited about the year ahead, but actually able to say a few words in the language they signed up for.  By the end of this lesson, students will have learned the following words and expressions:  Bonjour, Je m'appelle, Comment t'appelles-tu ?, and Au revoir !  Of course they will hear many other words and expressions along the way, but the aforementioned are the ones I am targeting.



I use a Prezi (see full Prezi at the bottom), and once class begins, I zoom in on this slide and announce my name to the class.  Students shout out what they think it means.



Then I zoom into this slide (which I stole directly from Creative Language Class!), but I don't say it out loud because I am speaking all in French.



Next, it's time for attendance.  I say "Ici," and point to the floor, as in, right here, and then "Absent," and put my hands in the air like I don't know.



I then show this quick video to demo what attendance should look like.  It's a mashup of YakIt Kids (which sadly, is no longer available) and the animoji feature that you can get on newer iPhone models.  Then I take attendance, and each student says, "Ici !"



Then I share a little about myself.  I show a photo of myself when I was a student at their school, a photo of me in Paris, a photo of my cat, a photo of my riding a horse, and a photo I took in Paris since I love to take photos.  I describe all these photos to students in French.



Then I ask the class, "Permission de parler anglais ?," which is a trick I got from my colleague Lisa.  By asking permission before speaking English, it reinforces how important it is to speak French as much as possible.  At this time I break into English.  Some may not agree with this, but I like to talk to them a little bit about what to expect and congratulate them on working through the first part of class entirely in French.  I share some of the topics we will be learning about, some of the different ways we learn, and I also tell them about French Club.



Then we go back into French for the rest of the lesson.  I get them to say what they think "Comment t'appelles-tu" means, and when they've figured it out, everyone makes a name tag.



Each student gets half a sheet of card stock which they are instructed (in French, of course!) to fold the long way ("like a hot dog"), then write "Je m'appelle" and their first and last name on one side, nice and large.  While this is happening, I usually play some French music for them.  Later on, when they pick their French names, they will write the same thing on the other side, but replace their first name with their French name, assuming it's different.  Students are asked to keep their name tags in their binders and put them on their desks at the beginning of each class until I've learned all their names AND French names.  Eventually I let them know they don't need to use them anymore and they can recycle them.



Next it's time to introduce themselves.  I show them this video to model how I'd like them to introduce themselves.  Then I model with a couple of students.  Then I ask them to introduce themselves to the people they are sitting next to before getting up and introducing themselves to other classmates in French.



If time permits, I will have students complete a survey/interest inventory for me as well.  This is done in English, since students obviously would not know how to answer questions like "What's one thing I should know about you?" in French.  Then it's time to say good-bye!



Here you can get a look at the whole Prezi.  I have been doing some version of this lesson for a number of years, and I like that it gets them excited about class and also speaking some French.  Going over rules and procedures is left for later on, once everyone has settled in.

What do you do on the first day of school?


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10 Reasons I Love The Middle Level



As I enter my tenth year teaching middle school French, I realize there's a lot to love about the middle level.  Sure, middle school, like any level, comes with its own share of challenges, but I find the rewards generally outweigh them.  It's the only level I've actually taught (aside from student teaching and substitute teaching), but I honestly can't imagine it any other way.  Luck and timing brought me to the middle level, and I'm here to stay!  Here are ten reasons I love teaching middle school:

1.  Middle schoolers are a delightful blend of child and young adult.  Many of them still possess a childlike demeanor, but they are learning to think more like adults.

2.  Teaching students a language from their first day to the end of the first year allows you to see the foundation they build in language acquisition.

3.  Middle schoolers don't mind goofy songs and dances to learn a language (heck, a lot of high schoolers still like them too!).

4.  Teaching lower level French means the students know a lot less, but the language you're working with is less complex, making comprehensible input less challenging to create.

5.  I love seeing students discover the French language and culture for the first time.  The beginning of the year is the most exciting time for this, as students discover what countries speak French and how much French they actually already know (cognates and English words borrowed from French).

6.  Reading from a French children's book when we have a few extra minutes is a perfectly acceptable thing to do!

7.  I love watching my middle schoolers teach elementary students the lessons they prepared after school for them.

8.  Middle schoolers still have some level of appreciation for my dorky and quirky sense of humor, even if they try to hide it sometimes!

9.  Middle schoolers have so much energy, which can be both a blessing and a curse, but mostly it's a blessing.  My job would be boring if I didn't have all that energy to work with and channel!

10.  Middle schoolers can be quirky and unique and they are at a time in their lives when they are trying to develop their own identity, and it's fun to watch them grow, not just in the language, but as people!

Have you ever taught middle school?  What's your favorite level to teach and why?


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Using Superhero Comic Book Maker



This is just a quick post to share a new tool I recently used to give students speaking assessments.  It's called Superhero Comic Book Maker HD.  I wanted students to collaborate on the iPads to demonstrate their knowledge of how to ask and answer basic questions in French.  I was hoping to use the Sock Puppets app, but it proved to be too buggy.  After Tweeting a request for alternatives, technology guru Joe Dale suggested the Superhero Comic Book Maker app.  I gave it a try and it proved to be easy to use and kid-friendly.  Students were to, with a partner, choose a background and two characters, then record a short dialogue.  In order to make the characters' mouths move you have to keep tapping the character while you speak.  My colleague Sarah lent us her mini recording studios so students could create higher quality, easier to understand audio.





The only major downside with this app is that there's no way to export what you've created, so in order to grade them, I had to go on each individual iPad and look at them.  Any projects I wanted to publish on my blog I had to AirDrop to my phone and then upload from there.  So it's a bit tedious.  Here are some of the results:











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They're Poets and They Know It!



With our revamped curriculum this year, I had an opportunity to try some new projects with my students.  Over the past year, I have developed an interest in writing poetry, and I thought it would be neat if my students wrote their own.  The great thing about poetry is that there can be a lot of repeated structures and each line can be simple.  I was thinking about having students write a poem that repeated the structures "Je suis" and "Je ne suis pas."  I wrote a sample poem showing what I was looking for:



Basically, the poem alternates with lines saying positive things about myself (using both nouns and adjectives) and things that I am not (using only adjectives).  I also included some photos that illustrate the sentences.  I helped students prepare a rough draft in class and then they peer reviewed with a neighbor.



Here are some of their masterpieces!











On the day it was due, students shared their poems in small groups and snapped their fingers after each one was read.

I also had students write a poem for someone else, using "Il est" or "Elle est."  This was right before Mother's Day, so some students wrote the poem for their mothers.



The above student made hers rhyme.  Impressive!





Have you ever had your students write poetry?  What did they write about?

Making a Fortune Teller to Practice Structures



So in an effort to reinforce the structure "tu es," I recently had my students make fortune tellers.  If you don't know what a fortune teller is, read all about them here.  To start with, students get a template (see below and at the bottom of the post).  On the outer corners, they write numbers in French that they can count to.  On the small triangles, they write various activities that they have learned how to say.  In the center triangles, they write compliments using positive adjectives.

Above is my example, pre-folding.



Once they have finished, they fold it up and share with their friends.  When a friend picks a number, they count to that number while opening and closing the fortune teller.  When they pick an activity, they open and close the fortune teller for each syllable.  Then they repeat before lifting up the flap to reveal the compliment.



I encouraged students to take these home and try them on their family members, especially those who have French-speaking family members.





It was a fun way to review some vocabulary!



I didn't bother putting instructions on how to fold, since most kids already know how to do it, and I was able to help those who didn't.

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