Back to School 2018 Post

Well I don't know about you, but my summer sure flew by.  I have a lot to look forward to this year at school.  Here's what's got me excited for the year to come:

ACTFL in New Orleans
My colleague Robin and I will be attending ACTFL in New Orleans for the first time in November.  I am excited to learn new things, meet other language teachers, and see New Orleans for the first time.  Are you going to ACTFL?  If so, please let me know in the comments!

Revamped Curriculum
Robin and I revised our middle school French curriculum this summer, moving away from a grammar-heavy approach and more towards a comprehensible input model.  I know the students are going to benefit from the changes we have made, and I will enjoy teaching it more!

This year, for the first time, all my students will have Cloudbooks.  We also have a set of 30 iPads in our department, 10 of which are new this year thanks to a grant.  I am looking forward to being a 1:1 classroom for the first time, and using some of my favorite apps and programs in different ways, as well as some new ones.  What are your favorite 1:1 programs?

What are you looking forward to this year?

Les adjectifs positifs: A Self-Esteem Boosting Community Building Activity

I came up with the idea for this activity at the New York State Middle School Association Annual Conference in October.  At one of the sessions I attended, two of my colleagues presented on community building activities.  One of the activities they shared involved a student sitting in a chair and classmates coming up and writing positive things about them behind them on the board.  I adapted the idea a little bit for the French classroom.  I gave each student a list of positive adjectives (below), many of which they had already just learned and were practicing.  On the back of the list, I told them to each write their name.  Then they passed the sheet to the person next to them.  On the new person's sheet, they wrote one positive adjective in French, paying attention to masculine and feminine.  They continued this until everyone had a chance to write on everyone's sheet, or until we ran out of time.  At the end, each student had a nice keepsake.

Have you ever done an activity like this?

Beg Borrow or Steal III: 7 More Great Ideas from Other Teachers

Back in 2014, I wrote a post called "Beg Borrow, and Steal: 7 Great Ideas from Other Blogs."  In 2016, I followed that up with "Beg Borrow or Steal Part II:  7 More Great Ideas from Other Teachers."  Since then, I have gathered some more resources from other teachers that I'd like to share with you here.

Color by Numbers
I first found this idea on Anne Karakash's blog Confesiones y Realidades.  Basically, you give the students a chart with numbers 1-100 (or fewer, as I did below), then the teacher calls out numbers, and the students color them in.  At the end it makes an image.  The one I did below is an Ê.  The students have a blast trying to figure out what it is as they're coloring!

I found this idea on Wendy Brownell's blog, who in turn got the idea from Helena Curtain.  Basically you give students a list of questions, and they answer for themselves and then predict how their partner will answer.  The partners then share answers and see who's a better guesser!

4 Corners
I got this idea from the Creative Language Class, but you've probably heard about this game before.  It's a great way to reinforce vocabulary.  The teacher projects on the board a question or a sentence starter, and then a response for each corner of the room.  Students move to the corner of the room that represents them.  To add a little twist, you can make it into a game.  After each question, spin a spinner (1-4) to indicate which corner of the room is eliminated.  Continue this until only one student remains.

I first blogged about this game in my post 10 Great Ways to Practice Numbers.  Students take turns counting to ten. Each student can say one, two, or three numbers. The person who lands on ten is out. You can keep going after ten, and have anyone who lands on a multiple of ten being out. This activity comes from Valérie Greer and Wendy Mercado, two middle school language teachers who presented some fantastic hands-on activities at the NYSAFLT Summer Institute. Visit their website to learn about more of their activities.

Abstract Art
I first blogged about this activity in my post Les Parties du Corps. A colleague of mine gave me the idea for this hilarious activity. A student comes up to the board, puts one hand over his eyes, and proceeds to draw various body parts that the class calls out in French, one by one. The result is this extremely abstract version of a person that's sure to elicit a few laughs, especially from the person who drew it.

Picture Description
I first read about this on Maris Hawkins' blog.  It's a great warm up activity.  You show the students a bunch of pictures, and they have to look at them and memorize what's going on in them, in silence, for 30-60 seconds.  Afterwards they write what's going on in each photo without being able to look at them.

Speed Friending
Speed dating, or speed friending as I like to call it, is an activity that many teachers use to promote speaking.  Two teachers I've learned about it from are Meghan Chance and the anonymous blogger Learning to Teach Also Teaching to Learn.  Basically, students interview each other to find out who their ideal friend would be.  What I have students do is fill in an interest inventory saying things they do and don't do (this is sort of like a cheat sheet to help them speak during the interviews), then fill in the questions at the bottom with the same information from the top to ask their classmates.   They put their classmates' initials in the boxes and then check off if they answer the questions positively.  I have students sit in twos, and after a few minutes of interviewing, they switch partners.  We repeat this for as many rounds as we have time for.  At the end of class students announce who their ideal friends are based on which classmate answered more of their questions positively.

Have you tried any of these activities in your class?  What did you do differently?

The Year in Review: My 2017 Highlights

As the year comes to an end, I'd like to share a few highlights from 2017.  Although I don't have a long list of new activities that I tried this year, I did have some great experiences that impacted my teaching (and students' learning).

Kahoot! Jumble

Early on in the year, I tried out Kahoot's new Jumble feature and blogged about it.  Jumble is perfect for activities where you need to put things in order.  Click here to read more about how I used Jumble.

PBL with ABCs

In March I attended I Project Based Learning workshop put on by the Buck Institute for Education.  I took an ABC book project that I had done in previous years and applied what I learned at the workshop to make a whole new project.  I then carried out the project, with the help of our instructional technologist.  Click here to read about the project and see the finished products!

NYSMSA Conference

In October, the New York State Middle School Association conference came to my school.  I was on the conference committee so I got to help with the planning of the conference.  My colleague Robin Murray and I also presented on Meaningful World Language Cultural Activities.  The conference was a great opportunity to meet other middle-level educators and share ideas.  Click here to read more about the presentation.

Guest Speakers

I had two guest speakers come talk to my students this year.  The first, in June, was Gilles, a student from Côte d'Ivoire, who shared about life in his country and what it was like coming to the United States.  The second guest speaker, in November, was Chloé, a student from France who has spent a lot of time in the United States.  She answered students' questions about her experiences studying abroad and what life is like in France.  Guest speakers are a wonderful opportunity to give students a fresh perspective.  Both of these guest speakers were coordinated through parents of students.  Ask students and their parents if they know someone who would be a good guest speaker!

Clark Art Institute

In December, my colleague Robin and I took a group of students to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, to view an exhibit on Impressionists and their drawings and prints.  This was my first time visiting the Clark in quite some time.  If you're a French teacher and live in the area, you should definitely consider taking your students here.  It's also a great form of professional development, because I learned some new things while I was on the tour!

Wishing you all the best in your teaching, your studies, or your pursuit of French in 2018!

Meaningful World Language Cultural Activities

Today my colleague Robin Murray are giving a presentation at the New York State Middle School Association (NYSMSA) Conference called "Meaningful World Language Cultural Activities."  I have written this post as a supplement to the presentation, with further information on some of the activities described in the presentation, but you may still find it useful even if you didn't attend the conference.

Crêpe Event

The crêpe event is a tradition in my classroom.  We tie it in with Chandeleur, and students learn about the traditions tied to Chandeleur before they have a  crêpe.  Students order their crêpes in French (from fellow students playing the role of serveur), and after eating, try flipping a crêpe in a frying pan for good luck, a Chandeleur tradition.  I have invited local restaurateurs in to make the crêpes, and I have also used pre-made crêpes from Crepini.  Parent volunteers play a huge role in helping everything run smoothly.  Click here to read more about this activity!

Pen Pal Project

My students write letters to pen pals at a school in France.  Before they write, we look around at their town on Google Street View to see what it looks like.  Letters are written in both French and English and students are encouraged to include photos of their town and their interests.  Some students even send small gifts.  Click here to read more about this activity!

Making an Authentic Dish to Donate

One year our French Club made a Moroccan couscous salad to donate to the local soup kitchen.  Click here to read more about this and other French Club activities!

Making Mardi Gras Meaningful

There are a number of activities I do to introduce Mardi Gras and Carnaval to my students.  We learn about the timeline from la Fête des Rois to Mardi Gras, learn a song by a francophone band, look at pictures of Mardi Gras and Carnaval all over the world, eat authentic food from New Orleans and the Caribbean, and decorate masks.  Click here to read more about these activities!

Nous sommes Paris

Following the Paris attacks of November 2015, my colleague and I had our students create messages of hope for the people of Paris and France.  We then sent the messages to our pen pals in France via a video.  Click here to read more about this activity.

Google Maps as Photo Prompts

I make custom Google Maps using photos taken in the francophone world to make speaking prompts that also reinforce geography.  Click here to learn more about this activity and view sample maps!

Virtual Trip to Paris

A virtual trip to Paris using French websites is a great way to get students using their language in an authentic way.  This virtual trip reinforces time, day, and date.  Click here to read more about this activity!

Google Maps Scavenger Hunt

I love having students use Google Maps to go inside French restaurants and read menus.  I designed a scavenger hunt using the easiest to read menus I could find.  Click here to read more about this activity!

More activities

To find even more cultural activities for the world language classroom, explore my "authentic resources" label.

Les couleurs

I like to embed colors into everyday instruction, but I also take a couple of days to work explicitly with them.  Here are some of my favorite activities.

Touchez un objet
Students have a lot of fun with this simple activity.  I announce to the class to touch an object in the classroom of a particular color.  This is great to do when you have a few minutes left over at the end of class.

Aujourd'hui le tableau est...
In the beginning of the year, I announce every day to the students what color the background of my SMART Board is.  Over time, I make them tell me what color it is each day.

Colorful Creations
I first blogged about this in one of my Beg Borrow or Steal posts.  Liz's Lessons has a great Pinterest Board featuring student work.  On it, she shared a drawing that a student made by writing the words of the colors they were using repeatedly.  I have my students complete this activity in groups, but you could also make this a homework assignment.

Color and Shape Bingo
Here's an activity I first blogged about in my post about French Club students becoming the teachers at an elementary schools. One of the activities the French Club students did was color and shape bingo.  In addition to a bingo board and chips, each student got a sheet with all the shapes, all the colors, and examples of colored shapes.  Most of the shapes are cognates, so the focus is put especially on the colors.

De quelle couleur est...
One easy way to review colors is to have students describe the colors of various cartoon characters.  I especially like to use the Muppets, since they are so colorful.

Les monstres coloriés
I first blogged about this in a post about incorporating Parts of the Body. This is an activity that I tried once and never repeated because it proved too difficult for the level of students I teach.  I think this would be a great activity for an intermediate class.  Have students draw a monster in various colors, then write a sentence describing the color of each body part.  It reinforces "est," "sont," and adjective/noun agreement.

What are some of your favorite activities to reinforce colors?

Designing the Perfect Planbook

My first couple of years teaching, I just used a generic planbook.  I became frustrated with the lack of space and lack of personalization, so I designed my own in Photoshop.  I use a view binder to hold everything, which is so much better than a traditional planbook because it has pockets inside for holding extra papers.

The first thing I always do every year is design a cover.  I always use a photo I've taken in a francophone country, and I add my name in a cool font.  I then print this out and stick it in the front of the view binder.  You don't need Photoshop skills to make a good cover.  Just find a photo from your travels or another image and print it out.  There are a number of really great mobile apps (I love Typic) that allow you to add fun fonts and graphics.  You're going to be looking at this binder a lot though, so I think making the cover look nice is important.

 I keep a big pad of paper in the pocket in the back.  This comes in handing when I'm assigning groups for projects or taking notes at a meeting.

While I used Photoshop to create the pages, you could easily create something similar in Word with some text boxes and lines.  If you like what I've done here, you can click on it to view it larger and print it out to use yourself!

 For those of you who don't speak French, the first line is for the day and date.  Underneath is a box for objectives, then the agenda.  On the right, a place to put the homework and check off the standards.  I have New York State standards and common core state standards.  Depending on where you live, you may use different standards.  The standards have been abbreviated for space reasons.  At the bottom is where I write notes, such as "great lesson" or "activity was too hard."

The perfect plan book is the one that suits your own needs.  Have you made your own plan book yet?  Are you planning to make one?

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