Nous Sommes la France: Responding to a Global Tragedy on a Local Level

By now, as a French teacher, you've already made you've already made your decision as to how, if at all, to address the terrible events of Friday, November 13, in Paris, with your classes.  You either chose not to address it, perhaps because your students are too young or because you didn't feel you had the appropriate amount of time to dedicate to it.  Or maybe you spent a day or even a week on it with your students.  Whatever it is you did, you had your own students' backgrounds and ages in mind when you made your decision.  In this post I am going to share what we did with the French students at our school on Monday of last week.

Social media was abuzz following the events, not only with updates as to the latest developments, but also with teachers sharing how they planned to address things with their students on Monday.  Teachers were incredibly generous in sharing their lesson plans and resources on Twitter, Facebook, and on their blogs.  After perusing their ideas, and keeping in mind that I teach 7th graders, I decided that the best course of action would be to briefly address what happened without getting into too many details, share some facts about the United States' friendship with France, and then let them create posters to send to their pen pals in France in the form of a video.  My colleague and I decided that it would be nice if we both did the same activity.  We each showed showed our students examples of designs that had been circulating on social media (the Jean Jullien Eiffel Tower peace sign, among others), and encouraged them to draw inspiration from those but also come up with their own designs.  They could also include phrases such as "Je suis Paris," "Nous sommes la France," or "Nous sommes avec vous."

I photographed each poster, then put them into a video.  I sent the video to the school in France where we have our pen pal exchange (click here to read about the project).  My students, the 7th graders, are excitedly awaiting their first batch of letters from their pen pals in France.  My colleague's students, the 8th graders, wrote to students at the school last year.  The English teacher at the school in France said that they really appreciated the video, and they posted it on their school's website.  Our students here in the US were so pleased to know they had done something to lift someone's spirits following these tragic events.

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that every student took this activity seriously.  They genuinely wanted to do something to help.  We hung many of the posters in the hallway and shared the video with the other teachers in the school, and many of them indicated how proud they were with the students as well.  Some of them also showed the video in their classes.

Here is the video, as well as some of the posters hanging in the hallways:

iPad Diaries Volume 9

This is the 9th in a series of posts about iPads in the language classroom.  Click here to view an index of previous posts.

In this post, I am sharing with you a presentation about the benefits of using iPads in the language classroom.  I adapted this presentation from one that I had on display at a fundraising event for the Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning, the wonderful organization which gave our department the iPads.  This presentation incorporates a lot of the ideas from my previous posts, as well as ideas I'll be addressing in forthcoming posts.

What are some of the ways you feel iPads benefit the language classroom?

10 Ways to Incorporate Culture Into Your Everyday Lessons

As French teachers, we focus so much on language, it can be easy to forget the culture piece to our teaching.  Not all culture needs to be taught explicitly or have its own lesson, though.  There are lots of ways to incorporate culture into your every day and create a more authentic experience for students.  Here are a few easy ways to do just that:

1.  Have students write their names on their papers the French way (SMITH John).  I believe it was my cooperating teacher when I was student teaching who first suggested this to me.

2.  Lots of students like to listen to classical music while they are working on a test.  Play some Debussy, Ravel, or Saint-Saëns for them.

3.  Count starting with your thumb, as is customary in France.

4.  When learning numbers, practice by reciting French phone numbers to students so they can see the formation.

5.  Use authentic artwork or photos from French speaking countries as speaking or writing prompts.  See my post on how I use Google Maps to incorporate geography into my lessons.

6.  Write your 1s the French way (which look like 7s to Americans).  Be sure to explain this to students!

7.  Use Canadian zip codes to practice alphabet and numbers at the same time.

8.  When using mobile devices, have students use the French keyboard.  They will be able to see how the letters are laid out differently, but they also get the advantages of French autocorrect and predictive word guesses!

9.  Doing a pen pal project?  Consider snail mail (or at least a snail mail component!).  In this era of digital everything, students really relish a real live piece of paper from France.  They get to see French handwriting and notice other nuances, such as the "carré" style of paper commonly used.  Read my post on how I do my pen pal project.

10.  Got 5 minutes left at the end of class?  Why not have the students sit back, relax and watch one of these beautiful videos showcasing Paris, or one of these beautiful videos showcasing the francophone world.  Better yet, show them as they are coming in the door!  It will inspire wanderlust!

What are your favorite ways to incorporate culture into your everyday lessons?

iPad Diaries: Volume 8

This is the 8th post in a series about using iPads in the French classroom.  Click here to view an index of previous articles.

I first got the idea to use Nearpod from a post on Sra Spanglish's blog.  Nearpod is an interactive presentation app.  Instead of standing at the front of the room, pointing to your presentation on the SMART Board or whatever other piece of technology you are using, students now see the presentation on their device (in addition to seeing it at the front of the room).  This is helpful because many students focus better when the focus point is nearer to them, and for students in the back of the room, they can see much better.  The students can't advance the presentation; only the teacher can.  This is helpful for keeping students with you.

Aside from simply viewing the teacher's presentation on a device, you can embed several different types of interactive comprehension activities.  When students participate in the activities, their names show up on the SMART Board for the whole class to see.  In light of this, I allow students to use nicknames if they prefer to keep their responses anonymous.  The activities you can choose from are open-ended questions, multiple choice questions, polls, and draw-its.  They take longer than simply asking the class to answer out loud or calling on students, but they are more effective because more students are engaged.

I found the open-ended questions to take too much time the first time I used the app.  I gave students a picture prompt and they were supposed to type the vocabulary word.  Students were overly concerned with spelling (which I guess isn't a bad thing!).  Multiple choice proved to be much more efficient in this type of situation.  Open ended questions would probably be more useful for situations where full sentences are required.  You can then click on a student response to display it for the class.

Multiple choice questions are useful, but it quickly shows students what the right answer is when they look up at the board (see below), so I mute the board during each question.  As you can see, the pie chart gives you a quick glimpse of how students are doing (they had a picture prompt for the question in the below example).

Polls are great for questions that don't have a right or wrong answer.  For the example shown at top, I showed students a picture and they had to react to how they felt their mood would be (such as a snow day, or no homework).

Draw-it is good for when you want students to, well, draw.  So far I have only used it to have students draw vocabulary words and it took waaaaay too long.  I'd like to try this feature again when I teach weather and have the students draw scenes as I describe them to them.

If you're using Nearpod with your students, I recommend getting the free app.  It's much less buggy on devices than the web-based version is.  You can also import images and PowerPoints into your presentations, so there's no need to start from scratch!  There appears to be a "homework" version of the presentation, where students complete it at their own pace, but this requires an upgrade.

Have you used Nearpod?  Do you like it?  What is your favorite interactive presentation app?

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.
Volume 8 - I shared how we used Nearpod with the iPads.
Volume 9 - I shared a presentation on the benefits of using iPads in the language classroom.
Bonus!  Other Language Teachers Blogging About iPads or tablets:
Mme Mallette
Sylvia Duckworth
Nicole Naditz
Sara Spanglish

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...