Food & Meal Taking - Activities Round-Up

In December I teach my students about food and meal-taking customs in francophone countries.  We learn about the importance of lunch time in France, different types of currency, how to order food, and how to pay for it.  Just as I did recently with my family resources roundup, in this post, I will share some of my favorite food and meal-taking activities.  You'll see a number of videos in this post; for showing students a little bit of the culture, short YouTube videos are my favorite.

1.  Dessinez un établissement
Awhile back, I blogged about this activity where students design their own French eatery.  After we learn about cafés, restaurants, boulangeries, pâtisseries, crêperies, and glaciers, students pick their favorite and look at photos of real ones before designing their own.

2.  Explore authentic menus
What better way to work with the vocabulary than with actual French-language menus.  Some of the things I do:  ask students questions about the menu in French (ball toss), have students answer comprehension questions in French as a homework assignment, give students a set of 4 menus, and a list of questions to ask each other about the menus.  If you're looking for some menus to use, I've rounded up 20 authentic French menus.

3.  Special Guest Speakers
This past summer I blogged about how much fun we have when the owners of a local crêperie, Ravenous, come visit my classes.  Students get to watch crêpes being prepared and order them in French!

4.  GeoBeats Videos
GeoBeats is an awesome YouTube channel sharing travel tips for locations all over the world.  They have a number of great videos showcasing various eateries in Paris.  Many of them are in English, but I find it worth it to show my students a little slice of life in France.  Here are some of my favorites:

5.  Sing A Sketch
After showing my students the video below, I have them create a similar short sketch in groups for a French eatery and sing it to the class.  It's more fun than just saying it!  Some students may feel shy about performing, but I don't force anyone to perform for the class that doesn't want to.

6.  Google Maps Scavenger Hunt
I also blogged about this fun activity where students visit various sites on Google Street View and answer questions about the menus they see outside the restaurants (for example "Combien coûte le pain oriental ?").  Unfortunately, Google recently eliminated Street View from custom maps, so I had to have students type in the addresses manually, but it still worked fine.

7.  The Price Is Right
I recently included this in my list of favorite new activities I tried in 2014.  This is an idea from Steve Smith of  He proposed having a game show à la The Price is Right, having students guess the price of various items.  My students absolutely loved this activity.  They worked in groups to guess the price of various items I had on the SMART Board, but they had to negotiate entirely in French.  They also had to write their answer in a complete sentence, reinforcing the difference between il coûte, elle coûte, and ça fait.  I had several students say to me at the end "J'aime l'activité !"

8.  France's Gourmet School Lunches
Yes, another video!  Although in English, this video offers a fascinating look at the food and customs surrounding school lunches in France.  I use this to spark a discussion about the importance of lunch in France and how eating is just as much a social time as it is a necessity of life.

9.  McDonald's in France Video
Okay, I know, yet another video.  I don't usually show so many videos in my class, but when it comes to food, there are so many gems lying around on YouTube that really give students a glimpse of the culture.  This one I love because it shows how a country can take something American and put their own spin on it.  They can see how, yes, McDonald's exists in France, but the experience is quite different than the one they are used to in the United States.

What are your favorite activities for food and meal-taking?  Please share in the comments!

40+ Fantastic Blog Posts of 2014

I started out 2014 with a roundup of 40 Fantastic Blog Posts from 2013.  To end the year, I've made a roundup of 40+ fantastic blog posts from 2014.  From posts about francophone culture to activities and assessments in the foreign language classroom, you'll find quite a range of articles to choose from.  Here's to a prosperous 2015!

Francophone Culture
These Photographs of Parisian Rooftops Look Like Abstract Paintings via PetaPixel
Chenonceau:  The Woman Behind the French Château via My French Life
Les rues les plus insolites de Paris via Paris ZigZag
Libération : La France d'avant et d'aujourd'hui via Géo Ado
A Look at Paris Under the Snow in the Early 1900s via BuzzFeed

Language Teacher Specific
Sample Homework Choice Systems via Musicuentos
Targeted Practice - "The Picture Activity" Game via Language Sensei
"The Club Decision" Interactive Oral Activity via Language Sensei
QR Codes in the Classroom via Musings from the Island
What Are Effective Goals and Formats for Bell Work? via Calico Spanish
My French Evolution - Part 2 - Oral Communication via Mme Mallette
Making a Fortune Teller via Spanish Plans
Too Much Grammar, Not Enough Grammar via TeachingEnglish
Renewed Teacher Philosophy Statement via Cécile Lainé
Fine-Tuning the Input via Frenchteacher
Come on Down!  The Price is Right via Frenchteacher
Interviewing Using Technology via Maris Hawkins
Rock, Paper, Scissors, Evolution via Languages & Learning
Variations on Bingo via Ayo Bermain!
Apps & Tools to Suppost MFL & Pronunciation via ICTEvangelist
Students as Digital Curators of World Language Resources via AATFTech
Teaching Music FOR Communication via Language Coaching
Fun, Team-building & Reinforcing Learning: Using Kahoot! In Your Classes via Language Sensei
Digging Deep via Changing Phase
Revamping the Writing Assessment:  Essay to Infographic via Somewhere to Share
Breaking the Mold:  Alphabet and Numbers in Context via Language Coaching
3 Reasons Why I Blend But Don't Completely Flip via 3 Rs 4 Teachers
Effective WL Instructors via Spanish Plans
How to Use Poems with First Year Spanish Learners? via Alice Ayel

French Teacher Specific
Vu sur Twitter de janvier 2013 à septembre 2014: le top du top! via L'enseignement branché
La révolution française via Je m'appelle Madame
Tel père tel fils, c'est l'histoire d'un photomontage via Territoires de langues
Dispatch from Mrs. Potier's Class via Voyageur Héritage

General Teaching
Brain-Based Learning Techniques to Try in Your Classroom via Edudemic
90 Retailers That Offer Teacher Discounts via TeachThought
Make An Interactive Infograph Syllabus via Sra. Spanglish
Why Classroom Wall Displays Are Important via Mr. Kemp
Google Art Project and Google Cultural Institute Are Promising Tools for Common Core via EdTechTeam
Photo Series Captures the Part of a Teacher's Day You Never See via HuffPostParents
What Happens When Schools Infringe Copyright via CreativeBlogs
57 Learning Technology Tools One Middle School Teacher Depends On via TeachThought
15 Vocabulary Strategies in 15 Minutes via Learning Tasks
Are You A Truly Bad Teacher?  Here's How to Tell via The Washington Post

Language Advocacy
Why Language Skills Are Great for Business via The Guardian
Science Reveals Something Surprising About People Who Speak More Than One Language via NewsMic
15 Ideas to Increase Awareness of Your Language Program via Teaching Spanish with Comprehensible Input
A Call for Greater Foreign Language Education in the U.S. via HuffPost Education
How Language Seems to Shape One's View of the World via NPR Shots
Johnson:  What Is a Foreign Language Worth? via The Economist Prospero
Learn to Code?  No:  Learn a Real Language via GeekWire

Bonus:  My Most Viewed Posts of 2014
1.  20 Authentic Restaurant Menus from Francophone Countries
2.  Beg, Borrow & Steal:  7 Great Ideas from Other Blogs
3.  Un voyage virtuel à Paris:  An Authentic Task with Authentic Resources
4.  30 Reasons to Learn French
5.  Pronunciation Practice When the Teacher's Absent

The Year in Review: My Favorite New Lessons & Activities from 2014

My classroom, December 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, I'd like to share some of my favorite lessons and activities that I tried for the first time this year.  These are activities that I won't hesitate to use again next year.  Some of them are my own ideas, but many of them are adapted from other teachers' ideas.  That's what I love about having a virtual PLN - so many of my favorite activities come from other teachers' Tweets and blog posts, and we all benefit from having this ability to share on a global level.

Certainly these aren't the only new things I tried this year, but these stick out in my mind as some of the ones I liked best.

1.  Le verbe être sur internet (adapted from Cécile Lainé) - I previously blogged about this here.  Cécile's great idea for showing students an abstract verb in context helped my students make sense of être.  I liked the activity so much that I did the same thing for the verb faire.

2.  Rock, Paper, Scissors Evolution (from Chris Fuller via Amanda Salt) - Another activity I previously blogged about here.  The students like the rock/paper/scissors part of this activity; I like that they are excited to get out of their seats and speak French.

3.  SpongeBob Verb Story - I'm certainly not the first person to write a story to reinforce grammar, but this is one I wrote all on my own.  As the students read the story, they observed how verbs changed in different contexts and then from there determined what the rules were.  Read the full story here.

4.  The Price is Right (from Steve Smith) - The one thing on this list I haven't blogged about yet comes from a great idea from Steve Smith of  He proposed having a game show à la The Price is Right, having students guess the price of various items.  My students absolutely loved this activity.  They worked in groups to guess the price of various items I had on the SMART Board, but they had to negotiate entirely in French.  They also had to write their answer in a complete sentence, reinforcing the difference between il coûte, elle coûte, and ça fait.  I had several students say to me at the end "J'aime l'activité !"

5.  Une publicité - I blogged about this end of the year activity here.  The students enjoyed being creative here, they got to use their French in context, and they learned a little bit about digital citizenship.  I would like to do this activity again this year, but with the iPads our department will be getting.

6.  Let's Roll the Dice - A simple dice game I blogged about here.  The students enjoyed this opportunity to review verbs and speak entirely in French.  It wasn't the most communicative activity we've done, but it was good scaffolding.

What new lessons or activities did you try in 2014?

La famille - Activities & Assessments Roundup

In November I teach my students about family.  We learn the names of the members of the family, reinforce "le" and "la," and introduce "mon," "ma," "ton," and "ta."  We also learn how to ask for family member's names and ages, and how to use possession with "de."  Today I'll share with you some of my favorite activities to use all this vocabulary and grammar in context.

1.  Voici ma famille project
I still do an "old-fashioned" family tree project.  It seems old-fashioned to me because I remember making one in 7th grade, but old-fashioned isn't always a bad thing.  I give the students a lot of options when making their tree so it suits their interests as much as possible.  They can do the standard poster or book (see above), they can do a video (I've gotten some really creative ones), a PowToon, a Prezi, a PowerPoint, or just about any other medium they want.  The poster doesn't have to be huge, either.  Students decide to make either their own family or an imaginary one.  A lot of kids choose the imaginary one because it gets their creative juices flowing.  Other students enjoy the opportunity to find old photos of family members and are proud to show them off to the class.  For each person on their tree, they must state the relationship of that family member to them, their age (unless it's a real person who's uncomfortable having their age published), and their nationality.  Then they must state their own name, age, and nationality.  I think it's a good way to reinforce "il A 12 ans" versus "il EST américain," which confuses students to no end.  Students do a rough draft on paper and peer review before making the final project.  On the day it is due, they present them in small groups.  I've refined this project quite a bit over the years, and at this point I still feel it is a worthwhile way to reinforce and assess these common structures.  That said, I'm always open to what other ideas might be out there.

2.  Quelle famille
This is a really fun activity I made up where students get to wear stickers on their foreheads.  First, as a class (all in French of course), we make up 3 families and draw the family trees on a sheet of paper. Each family has a brother, sister, mom, dad, and aunt or uncle.  Each family has the same set of names, but where the names go varies ever so slightly from family to family.  Then, students have a small sticker placed on their forehead with the number 1, 2, or 3 on it, and they go around asking each other "Comment s'appelle ma mère ?" etc. until they have figured out which family they are in.

3.  Imaginary Family Whiteboard Practice
This is pretty simple.  I have the students draw a family diagram (I have one on the SMART Board for them to copy), then I read off family members for them to draw.  I usually state who I am (not necessarily me, but who the central figure is) and then say things like "Ma soeur s'appelle..."  To make it harder, you could state what the family members' relationships are to each other as opposed to just the central figure.  Sometimes instead of names, I just say ages.

4.  Article: Famille : Qui vit avec qui ? from Géo Ado
The past couple years I have had students look at this article and find information about French families in it.  They learn what percentage of French kids live in blended families, who most often the single parent, and other statistics.  Then we compare those statistics to what the common situations are in their home country.

5.  Create a Family with Questions
I have the students create a family diagram on a white board in groups, then write 4 questions about the members, such as "Qui est Charles," or "Comment s'appelle le frère de Lisette," or "Quel âge a la fille."  Then, the students pair up with another group and ask each other the questions.

6.  Riddles
The classic brain-teasers.  "Qui est le frère de ta mère ?" "Qui est la soeur de ton oncle ?"  Sometimes these questions have more than one answer.  The kids really have to think hard about these, because they are just getting used to the idea of possession with "de," which throws them off.

7.  AudioLingua
AudioLingua is a fantastic resource for listening activities.  I find myself using this most when teaching family because they've got some great clips.  I have the students listen a few times then ask them some questions.  Here are some good novice level clips:
-Henri parle de sa famille
-Sylvain:  Nous sommes une grande famille
-Guy présente sa famille
-Camille:  Ma famille

8.  Ask the Teacher
I have the students write down a "personal" question for me - using our family vocabulary.  They might ask me what my mother's name is or how old my cat is, or, instead of asking a personal question, they might ask me a "trivia" question about their own family.  If I had their older sibling, they might ask me what their name is or how old they are now.  Of course, I always get this question:

But that's okay!  They can ask whatever they want, but I don't always answer all of them.

What are your favorite activities for a family unit?

My 10 Favorite Quick Videos to Start or End Class With

We all have those classes that finish a little bit earlier than we expected.  Along with ball tosses, turn and talks, and quick games, one of the things I do sometimes is just let my students sit back for a couple of minutes and enjoy a fun YouTube video in French.  Sometimes these are videos I've previously done a lesson on, and some are just for fun (but I ask them to point out vocabulary they heard).  It depends on what part of the year we're at which ones I'll show based on the complexity of the French.  Some of these videos make great class starters too.  It's nice to show a quick video to bring their minds into French mode for the period.

It looks like YouTube's embed playlist feature is a little buggy right now, so if you're only seeing the first video below, click here to view the rest of the playlist.

In addition to these, occasionally I'll show a video from one of these two lists I compiled previously:  17 Videos That Showcase Beauty of Paris and 10 Time Lapse Videos That Showcase the Beauty of the Francophone WorldI ask the students to name off the landmarks they see.

What are your favorite short videos to show in class?

5 Easy Ways to Use Playing Cards in the Foreign Language Classroom

Many teachers employ manipulatives in their lesson to make the learning more hands-on.  Playing cards  are a great way to spice up your lesson, and require no prep (other than purchasing them).  Here are 5 easy ways to use them in your foreign language lesson:

1.  Use them to group students - either by number, color, or symbol, depending on how many groups you need.

2.  Have students play Go Fish.

3.  Have students in small groups draw a card, and the other students try to guess what number is on it.  The student with the card can indicate if they need to go higher or lower (for practicing numbers up to 10).

4.  Have students in small groups draw two cards, and the other students try to guess the sum of the two numbers (for practicing numbers up to 20) or the product (for numbers up to 100).

5.  Play talking cards.  I used the idea from El mundo de Birch, and made my own in French.

Have you ever used playing cards in your lessons?  If so, how?

30 Reasons to Learn French

Poster by one of my former students

All language teachers find themselves advocating for the study of languages, and specifically for their own language.  Here are some of the reasons to learn French that I share with students, parents, and anyone else willing to listen!  Some of these reasons are academic, some are personal, some are professional, many are specific to French, and a few of them are more general and apply to language learning in general.  Happy advocating!

Reasons to learn any language:
1.  Each year, an estimated 200,000 Americans lose out on jobs because they don't speak another language (Source).  Learning French will bolster your résumé and give you skills that you just may find yourself using at work.
2.  Learning a language is thought to slow the effects of Alzheimer's and dementia (Source).  French will keep your brain sharper for longer!
3.  Learning a language increases gray matter in your brain (Source).  In other words, learning French will just plain make you smarter!
4.  Studies show that students who learn another language do better on standardized tests (Source).  French will improve your grades!
5.  People who speak more than one language statistically earn more money that those who do not (Source).  French will make you more money!

Reasons to learn French specifically:
6.  French is considered the second most influential language in the world after English. (Source)
7. French may be the most spoken language in the world by 2050. (Source)
8. French is spoken on every continent (except Antarctica).
9. French is spoken in over 40 countries.
10. French is an official language in over 30 countries and territories.
11. Many international companies, such as Dannon, Lacoste, Nestlé, and, L'Oréal, are headquartered in a francophone country.
12.  With over 40 francophone countries in the world, chances are you live near one!
13.  With over 300 million speakers in the world, you open yourself up to countless potential personal and professional relationships by understanding their language or having this language in common with someone.
14.  French is an official language of a number of international organizations including the International Olympic Committee, the United Nations, and the Red Cross.
15.  Do you enjoy comic books?  In French-speaking countries, comic books are a beloved part of the culture.  Astérix and Tintin are two very famous comic book stars whose tales were originally written in French.
16.  After English, French is the most popular second language. (Source)
17.  Interested in fashion?  Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Christian Louboutin are just a few of the French designers that dominate the fashion industry.  With headquarters in Paris, and with Paris being one of the world's fashion hubs, chances are your work will take you there.
18.  Millions (maybe even billions) of English words come from French.  That's…a lot!… of words that you will have little to no trouble understanding right off the bat!
19.  Pursuing a career in science?  France, Canada and Switzerland (all francophone countries) all rank among the top ten countries with greatest scientific impact (Source).
20.  French is a romance language, meaning it is derived from Latin.  Once you learn French, you'll have a much easier time learning other romance languages, such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian.
21.  Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  By learning French, you'll be able to experience Paris to the fullest extent.
22.  Hollywood may reign supreme over the film industry today, but the French more or less invented it.  The Lumière brothers are credited as the first to make moving pictures.  The French film industry claims a number of acclaimed cinéastes, many of them pioneers of their trade.  The list includes Auguste and Louis Lumière themselves, Georges Méliès, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean Renoir, Marcel Carné, Luc Besson, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.  Learn French and understand their films and thousands of others in a way that subtitles alone can't convey (yes, some of them made silent films, but through studying their culture you will gain an enhanced understanding of those films as well).
23.  Croissants, baguettes, macarons, crêpes - all food association with the culture of this beautiful language.  And since culture and language go hand in hand, chances are you'll encounter these foods as you learn the language.
24.  Have francophone heritage?  Learn the language of your ancestors!
25.  Everything just sounds more beautiful in French!

These last five come from Twitter users.  I sent out a Tweet asking for more reasons to add to this list, and here are some responses:

26.  From @ChrisKyriacou31:  Learning French gives access to another culture, thereby enriching one's life.
27.  From @LauraErinParker:  Communication with others - I love being able to talk to people in their language. It also makes me more comfortable traveling.
28.  From @RogerOkeeffe:  To live longer, [according] to research quoted by EU Lingua prog.
29.  From @datzespanol2:  [I] work with immigrants and want to go back to Africa.
30.  From @mmecushmore:  I wanted to live abroad.  And I did!

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