In Praise of Gimkit's "Draw That" Mode

Gimkit recently released a new mode called "Draw That"  While they say it won't be around forever, I am hopeful that it will come back as a Forever Mode, because my students and I simply love it.  It's essentially an online version of pictionary.  It's pretty simple to play:  a volunteer (or a random student) selects a term from the set you chose to play with, and once they click it they have 30 seconds (or whatever length you choose) to draw the term.  During that time, the rest of the class tries to guess the term.  Little by little, some of the letters are revealed (the remaining letters are blanks so students can see how many words and how many letters there are).  You can choose how much of the term you want revealed over the course of the round.  If the term has accents in it, they will appear at the bottom of the screen for students to click on.  Once the time is up, the round is over.  Anyone who guessed the term correctly gets points, and the drawer gets points for every person who guessed it correctly.  So far, I have been using a list of terms that are sentences starting with "Je."  They are all verbs.  It's important to remind students to think about what they are going to draw before clicking on the term, because once they click it, the clock starts ticking and a significant amount of time can be wasted if the student hasn't thought about how they are going to draw the term.  

What I like most about this game is that it's very engaging and very easy to do with a hybrid or virtual class.  I would say the only thing I don't like about this mode is that it's all or nothing with respect to spelling.  French spelling can be very challenging for novice learners, especially with all the different accents, and I think it's a bit discouraging when they come so close but don't get any positive reinforcement for it.  It would be great if maybe they got a certain number of points for each letter they guessed correctly.  I don't grade this, but I think it would improve students' self confidence if they were rewarded for partially correct answers.  Click here to read the full details on this mode.

Here are some photos and videos of the game in action:

A student's interpretation of "Je joue au foot."

Students guessing the term "Je chante."

A video of a round in progress.

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Incorporating My Own Photography into My Teaching

Some of you may be aware that I actually have a "side gig" as a professional photographer.  I got really serious about photography about twelve years ago.  I share with my students on the first day of school that I am passionate about photography.  It's something about me that shows them I'm human and have interests outside of teaching.  A couple of years ago, I had a student who was also very interested in photography, and we were able to connect over this shared interest.  Now, what does photography have to do with teaching French?  Well, the two of them can sometimes be fused, because I love to share photos from my travels through the French-speaking world with my students.  Sure, you can go on Google and find a photo of just about anything from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to a baobab tree in Senegal, but there's something about showing your students your own personal photo (and telling them that you took it) that makes it more real and authentic for the students.  It also reminds the students that you've had these experiences personally and draws them in further to what you're teaching.  And hey, you don't have to be a professional photographer to incorporate your own photos into your teaching.  Here are some of the ways I have incorporated my photos into my teaching:

On Display
I have posters of some of my photos from my travels through the francophone world hanging in my classroom.  I've also made bulletin boards outside my classroom door.  Some of the photos were taken on class trips that they themselves will get the opportunity to go on in middle and high school, so that adds an extra carrot for them to keep with their studies.

Photos from my travels through the French-speaking world on display outside my classroom

A photo I have on display in my classroom.

My "Pourquoi le Français" Video
Click here to read about my beginning of the year activities for getting students excited about French.  I have a video that I update every few years with video clips in French to hook students into learning the language.  In the past several versions, I have begun the video with my own photos from my travels.  Email subscribers will need to view this post on the blog to see the video, as always.

You will note the use of copyrighted material in this video. Both United States and French copyright law allow for the use of small portions of copyrighted work for educational purposes with credit given to the creator. Any copyrighted works used in the above video are believed in good faith to be acceptable uses and are credited at the end of the video.

Enrichment Video for Students
I made the below videos at the end of the year last year, when students were learning about different countries that speak French.  The videos take students on a tour of the places I've been in the French-speaking world through my photos.  I have now added the video to my Independent Exploration collection (click here to read more about that) for students to watch in their own time.

Speaking & Writing Prompts
Sometimes I use my own photos as speaking and writing prompts in daily lessons.  It's neat to be able to share that I took the photo they are writing or speaking about.

A photo I have used for a speaking prompt.

I recently incorporated my own photographs into an assignment where students took an imaginary trip to Québec and wrote down details about where they went.  Click here to read my post about collaborative PowerPoints that incorporated that assignment.

A photo taken in Gatineau, Quebec that I shared with students for an assignment.

A student's assignment incorporating my photos. Click here to view more!

Cultural Lessons
I have shared my photos of Monet's home and gardens in Giverny, France during a lesson on French Impressionism, and I have shared my photos of New Orleans during lessons on Mardi Gras and Black history in New Orleans.

A photo of the Japanese bridge in Monet's garden that I have shown during an Impressionism lesson. Click here to read more about how I teach Impressionism.

A photo of a trumpeter in New Orleans that I have used in a lesson about Mardi Gras and Black history. Click here to read more about these lessons.

Now, does all this mean that my photos are the only photos I share with my students?  Absolutely not!  But don't forget that your own photos, regardless of your skill level as a photographer or even when you took them, will be more meaningful to students than ones that you found on the internet, so consider incorporating more of them into your teaching if you don't already.  By the way, click here to read more posts I've written about photography over the years.

How do YOU use your own photographs in your teaching?

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Collaborative PowerPoints, Part III

This is my second post about using collaborative PowerPoints in class.  Click here to read my first post, where I discuss the basics of how to set one up and provide a few ideas, and click here to read my second post, where I share some additional ideas.  In this post I'll share some more activities I've done with them.

(Email subscribers need to visit the blog to watch the video)

Templates for the activities mentioned in the video:

Carnet de Voyage examples:

Click here to view more!

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Reflections on Our Virtual Mardi Gras Celebration

I recently blogged in this post about how I planned to celebrate Mardi Gras with my students.  I shared both hybrid and virtual activities.  After we had our virtual celebration the Wednesday before break, I wanted to share some reflections from myself and from the students.

What Went Well
-The students were so creative with their costumes and dishes!  There was such a great variety of cultural elements to share.  Some students dressed up in medieval attire, some made masks or unearthed masks that their family had acquired during travels to New Orleans or other locales, one student dressed up her grandmother in Mardi Gras attire, and another made a jester costume complete with face paint!  Quite a few students dressed up their dogs and stuffed animals.  Students who didn't dress up prepared dishes like King's Cake, gumbo, jambalaya, and pralines.
-Students' reflections showed me that they got a lot out of the experience.  Because they got to see so many costumes, masks, and dishes, they got a lot of exposure to the different ways Mardi Gras and the Carnaval season are celebrated.

What Didn't Go Well
Ultimately, although in most classes the majority of students participated, there were some classes in which many students were unprepared or unwilling to turn on their cameras to show what they had prepared.  This left the class with far fewer opportunities to explore Mardi Gras.  This continues to be a challenge with virtual learning.  Some students who were hesitant to turn on their cameras did email me photos of what they had prepared.

Below are some photos that students sent in:

Click here to view more!

Students also completed a follow up assignment in which they shared what they learned and what they thought looked cool from their classmates' creations.  Here are some of the things they said:

"Roi du carnaval de Nice 2009, France 2" by fr.zil on Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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How We Celebrated Chandeleur Virtually

Well, I've been trying to post my new hybrid and virtual ideas related to holidays before the holiday actually occurs so that readers have an opportunity to use any resources they like in their own lessons, but in this case, I'm a little late to the game with this post on Chandeleur, which occurred on February 2.  I figured that many of these ideas could be of use to readers next year or at any time for any type of virtual taste test, so I'll share it now.

In this post, I shared how we did our first virtual taste test of the year for National French Week.  Whenever asking students to buy or prepare a dish at home, it is important to have an alternative for students who may not be able to obtain the dish or ingredients.  For the National French Week taste test, I offered to provide students with a treat if they asked me.  For the Chandeleur taste test, I asked students to prepare a batch of sweet or savory crêpes at home.  For the students who weren't able to make crêpes, I couldn't very easily provide them with ingredients, so I devised a non-food alternative (and any student was technically free to choose this, they didn't have to have "extenuating circumstances").  The alternative option was to either draw/design an ideal crêpe and list what would be in it, or find a photo of an ideal crêpe, but they must be prepared to describe what's in it (in other words, don't just save the first image you find on Google without learning about what's in the crêpe).  I provided students with a document laying out these options, as well as a description of the difference between sweet and savory crêpes, links to batter recipes, and ideas for fillings.  See the document below, or click here to view it full size.

Students were given this information well in advance so they could plan ahead.  Then, leading up to Chandeleur, students learned about the holiday with the Nearpod lesson below, which includes some facts in French followed by a Time to Climb.  Email subscribers will have to view this post on the blog to see the Nearpod and videos below it:

Then, we watched the videos below. Please contact me if you would like me to share a subtitled version of the videos with you.

After Chandeleur, students sent me photos of their crêpes, since a Zoom screenshot simply doesn't do it justice.  Here are some of their creations (plus a behind the scenes batter photo!):

Finally, after our virtual taste test, students had a follow up assignment, in which they had to answer the following three questions:

1. What kind of crêpe did you make/draw/find online? Was it sweet or savory? What was in it? If you made it, did you enjoy it?
2. Describe one crêpe that another student made or designed that you'd like to try. If you were absent, name another type of crêpe you've heard of or seen that you'd like to try.
3. Name one fact you learned about crêpes recently (for example, how they are made, what they represent in Chandeleur, where they originate, what types exist, etc.)

Here are some of the things they said in their responses:

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