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.

My Experience with Goosechase

So I first heard about GooseChase on some of the blogs I read, but I was super excited when my colleague Sarah used it so I could pick her brain in person about exactly how it works.  Basically GooseChase is a digital scavenger hunt, where teams photograph the items they find with an iPad.  The teacher gives everyone a series of missions, which teams have to go out and find and photograph.  I decided to make all my missions adjectives, and students had to look through my collection of French books to find something that looked like the adjective.  Here's what the missions look like:

Students formed teams of 4 or 5 (the free version of GooseChase only allows for 5 teams - make sure you get an educator account, or you can only have 3 teams).  You as the teacher need to name the teams ahead of time, and then each team will login with one iPad (with the GooseChase app) and randomly be assigned a team.  Then they were set off to look through the books and work on the missions.

As the students complete the missions, they pop up on my activity feed.  If for some reason I don't like one, I can delete it, and if I really like one, I can award it bonus points.

At the end of class, we took a few minutes to go through the activity feed and decide if we agreed with each submission.  I guess my one complaint about GooseChase, is that if a team used an iPad that had been used in a previous class, they had to go in and delete all their submissions before they could begin.  It doesn't seem to clear.  Does anyone else use GooseChase and know a fix for this?

I used this activity the day before April break, and I think it worked well for that.  It was high energy, students were out of their seats collaborating, but it also wasn't something that students who left early for break will be behind from missing.

Have you ever used GooseChase?  What are your thoughts?

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No Prep or Low Prep Ways to Work with New Vocabulary

In a rut and not sure what to do with a new group of vocabulary words you've been working with?  In this post I'll share some low prep and no prep activities you can use, all of which promote 100% target language use.

Logique ou pas logique ? 
I think I first got the idea of comparing items and decided if they were logical or illogical from Susan Frost, a French teacher at Lake George Junior-Senior High School in Lake George, NY.  For this activity, I use SMART Board spinners, but back in the day, I would use those magnetic spinners that you can put on your chalk board.  You basically take two groups of vocabulary and spin the spinners to see if the two items make sense together.

This one compares activities with parts of the body.  It's actually funnier if the answer is not logical, for example, dancing with your ears?!

This one compares activities that begin with "Je fais" with various times or places they might be done.

Spinners can also be used with numbers to produce math problems in any of the four functions!

Mind Map
A great way to get students thinking about vocabulary is to organize it into categories, and probably the most visually engaging way to do that is with a mind map.  I first blogged about this here.  I give my students a set of words to work with and draw a mind map with 3-4 categories for them to copy and expand on, then I have them work in groups to negotiate where they think each term should go.  They are expected to speak only in French while they do this.

If you're a French teacher, you're probably familiar with LOTO, the French version of Bingo.  Instead of a 5x5 board, it's a 4x4.  Now you can make your own Loto cards for your students if you're so inclined, but I have my students make their own.  They copy down the Loto board, then they put 16 expressions in the squares.  I then act out the terms that the students must look for on their board so as to keep in the target language.  Loto works great for numbers, which, of course, I call out in French because you can't act out numbers really.

Old Standards
There are a couple of old standards that I think are worth mentioning.  Jacques a dit, or Simon Says, is a great way to get students out of their seats.  Mix it up by having a student be Jacques/Simon.  Charades or Pictionary (basically the same game but written vs. spoken) is another favorite of mine.  There are so many different ways to play it.  Often if I just have a few minutes left of class I will draw or act out an expression and have students tell me what it is in French.  Other times I will have students race to play charades in a group and the group that gets through all the expressions first is the winner.  Kids love to draw, so having them draw pictures for each other and guess what term they are drawing is always a fun activity.

What are some of your no prep or low prep ways to work with new vocabulary?

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The French Corner 2018 Recap

Now that 2018 has come to a close, I'd like to recap some of the things that happened in and out of my classroom this year.  There were some exciting times, some new things tried, and new places explored!

In February we had our annual crêpe event, where parents come in and help prepare crêpes that the students order in French and serve to each other.  Click here to read an older post about the event.

Also in February, I received a grant for more iPads for our department.  This means our department now shares 30 iPads, and students no longer have to share devices!

In April, students collaborated once again on ABC books, modeled after a French ABC book we read in class.  Click here to read an older article on the project.  What made the project different this year was that students got to go into sixth grade classes and read their ABC books to younger students.

In May, French-Canadian rapper Webster came to our school and put on a concert for our students.

Also in May, I tried this positive adjectives activity for the first time.  Every student had a piece of paper and they kept passing their papers to the person next to them, adding a positive adjective to the paper.  Click here to read more about it.

Also in May, we resumed our elementary French project, where middle school students taught mini French lessons to elementary students.  This is such a fun project for all involved!  Click here to read more about it.

In the fall, 7th graders went 1:1 in our school and I tried out a whole host of new activities and platforms, such as Canvas and Gimkit.  Click here to read more about what I experimented with this fall.

In November, my colleague Robin and I went to our first ACTFL convention in New Orleans.   I got to meet some of the teachers I follow, learn some new techniques at workshops, and soak in the culture of the Big Easy.  Click here to read more about my ACTFL experience!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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New Idea - Gimkit for Catch Up Days

I recently blogged about a new game called Gimkit, where students win "money" for answering questions and can buy upgrades with their money to try to get ahead in the game.  What's cool is that the game does not require students to look up at the SMART Board at any time.  They are working completely independently on their devices although they are all participating in the same game.  Well, I recently had the idea to incorporate Gimkit into a catch up day.  Do you ever have so many students who have to make up, turn in, and retake things that you decide to just give them a day for it?  Well from time to time, I do just that, but it's always a struggle to find meaningful work for the students who are all caught up to complete.  So I had the idea to have a Gimkit game running.  In order to keep the environment quiet and respectful for students working, the music was turned off, students had to silence their devices, and the leaderboard was not displayed for students to look at and comment on (and I could display information about make up work on the board).  There was enough time during the period to play two games.  For the most part, students were pretty respectful and remained quiet most of the time, and the other students had an opportunity to get caught up on work.

Do you ever do catch up days?  How do you keep the caught up kids engaged for the period?  Will you try Gimkit?

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