As we all know, finding authentic resources that are level-appropriate for novices can be very difficult. Back in January, I came upon two articles in French newspapers online that I thought would be great to use in class. This article from Futura-Sciences is about the polar vortex causing extreme cold temperatures in the northeast United States this past January, something my students could certainly relate to, having had to suffer through those low temperatures! This article, from Ouest France, is about how, at the same time, parts of France were having record high temperatures for winter.
These two articles were great because in class, we were learning about weather. Since they are on a similar topic, I could have students compare and contrast these articles, tying in nicely to Common Core. Their content of the articles, however, was too difficult for my first-year students. Then I realized that the headlines and first paragraph, which summarize the story, might be all I need to use! Maybe it's obvious, but I hadn't really thought of it before. Reading headlines (and summary paragraphs - the paragraph with the larger text that precedes most articles) seems like a great way to expose novice students to authentic news stories that would otherwise be too difficult to read. Obviously we don't want to rely solely on this method, but it's another tool to add to the mix.
Before showing the articles, I introduced some of the vocabulary they would need. Then we read the headlines and the summary paragraphs together. Afterwards, I asked students to turn to their neighbor and summarize what they had just learned. Then I asked a couple of yes-or-no basic comprehension questions to the students (Il y a record pour une température minimale en hiver en France ou aux États-Unis ?).
While I probably won't share these same two articles again next year with my students since they will be a little out of date, I'm going to keep looking for headlines for students to compare and contrast. An improvement for next time might be to have the students read the headlines and summary paragraphs without me first (keeping it more student-centered and having them do more of the work on their own), then read it with them to reinforce pronunciation before moving onto the comparing and contrasting.
I took some of my ideas for using these articles from Martina Bex's wonderful blog post about using authentic resources with novice students.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself home sick for three days in a row (I don't think I've ever been out that long...I hate to miss school!). Desperate for the students to get pronunciation practice with their vocabulary, and without a French-speaking sub available, I was in a bit of a rut. The only piece of technology that the sub would be authorized to use would be a CD player. I didn't have a CD available with the vocabulary on it, so I decided to make one. My voice was in no shape to record the words, so I enlisted the help of Quizlet, Soundflower, and Audacity.
Audacity is a tool that allows you to record and manage audio. In conjunction with Soundflower, a tool that helps you manage your audio input and output, you can stream and record audio playing on your Mac. This site gives you step by step instructions on how to set it up. If you use a Windows machine, I imagine there are similar set ups to stream through Audacity.
Quizlet, if you haven't heard, is a site that lets you make and review virtual flashcards. My absolute favorite part of Quizlet is that you can hear the vocabulary words pronounced, even in French! The voice that pronounces them is a little robotic, but it's still probably the quickest and easiest way to hear how a word is pronounced in French. I made a set of all the weather terms I wanted my students to practice. Then I streamed the audio of the pronunciation of each term and made an MP3 of it. This was for a listen and repeat exercise.
For the next track on the CD, I kept the audio track of the terms, and added a techno music track (to add a track, go to File-->Import-->Audio and select the track on your computer). To find techno music you can legally add to your file, check out CCMixter. I then left instructions for students to walk in place, listening to the words then repeating them and doing established gestures for each term (for example, for "il fait froid," students pretend to be shivering). Since we had done this before with me leading the class, they knew what to do. Students were selected to stand at the front and lead the class. This is an activity that I previously blogged about last fall.
Overall, students said they enjoyed the activity. It's definitely a little silly (which can be a good thing), so it works best in a class of students with lower affective filters who aren't afraid to get into it.
Do you have a go-to activity you leave with a non-French-speaking sub? Leave a comment!
Posted by Samantha Decker on Thursday, February 13, 2014
Most teachers take photos in their classroom at some point. As photography is a major hobby of mine (I also blog about it), I tend to find myself photographing in my classroom quite often. It's a seemingly simple enough idea, but there's actually a lot of things to consider if you want to do it well. Here is a guide I made up of things to keep in mind when taking photographs in your classroom. This is somewhat of a followup post to my post about blogging in the classroom, where I touched upon some of these topics.
Choosing the Right Camera
In reality, any camera will do for classroom photography, but being a photographer, I like to use a camera that produces high quality images. At school, I currently use a Samsung NX100 (without the kit lens) with 30mm lens. This is a camera I carry around with me when I don't want to lug around my professional gear, so I didn't buy it especially to use at school, but it comes in very handy. The camera's an older (and thus cheaper) model, and I got a good deal for the two on eBay. This combo allows me to isolate subjects from their background with a pleasing background blur (also known as bokeh) but the downside is, it's a fixed focal length lens, so it doesn't zoom in or out, and the camera doesn't have a flash. I haven't found either of those things to be much of a problem. There's no need to carry a bulky digital SLR around. These days, there are plenty of smaller cameras that produce high quality images.
Getting Permissions from Parents
If you're planning to photograph students and then publish or share those photos, you really need to get permission from parents. In this day and age, most parents are fine with having their child's photo posted on the blog, but there are some who are not, and they have the right to decline permission. Some students are also camera shy. If they don't want their photo on the blog, they don't have to get the permission slip signed. I send home a slip at the beginning of the year which explains to blog to the parents. This gets the parents informed about the blog, so they can go check it out. The permission slip also states that the child can be photographed by any local media that come into the classroom. That way, if your local newspaper or even TV station comes to cover an event in your class, you're all set.
Photographing the Students There are a few ways you can make your photos of students better:
- When photographing various activities, it's nice to get a variety of whole-class and single-student shots. Sometimes we get so caught up in taking pictures of small groups of students, we forget to get the whole class in motion.
- Don't forget to get some shots where students' faces are obscured (perhaps with heads down working). This may sound odd, but you can post these on the blog if you don't have enough photos of students with permissions.
- Get a shot of the entire class at some point. Although you may not be able to post it on the blog, it makes a great memento and it's great to show to just the students at the end of the year.
- Don't forget videos too! This is something I forget a lot myself. Almost all digital cameras today are able to record video, and video can capture activities in a way photos can't.
Photographing the Classroom - While I don't post these pictures on the blog, they are great mementos. I also use them when I'm planning to "redecorate" the classroom. I take an image into Photoshop and sketch where things will go.
Quick & Easy Touch Ups
When I'm taking photos in the classroom, I'm usually not editing them afterwards, but sometimes I have to. Most photo editing programs (even Microsoft Paint) will allow you to crop your photo (for instance, if you need to crop out a student without a permission slip). Anything beyond that, you'll need something a little more advanced. Photoshop.com is a free, web-based version (albeit just the basics) of Adobe Photoshop. If a photo comes out too dark or too bright, you can fix that here.
Put Them on Your Blog - This is a pretty obvious place to share photos. Blogging platforms like Blogger make it easy for you to upload photos to your blog, even if you're not HTML savvy.
Put Them in a Portfolio - Photos are a great piece of evidence to show to an administrator or supervisor before an observation. Since he or she can't possibly see everything that's going on in your classroom, photos help fill in the blanks. If you have a teaching portfolio, photos make a great addition.
Share Them with Students - At the end of the school year I make a slideshow using Animoto with photos and video clips of my students from the year to show them how far they've come. The program costs a little extra to make a clip longer than 30 seconds, and even more to get an HD version, but I find it well worth the money. Even for someone like me, who is proficient in iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, it is just so easy to use and professional looking. The money you spend on it is well worth the time you'll save making it yourself, and it will undoubtedly look better here. You do give up a certain amount of creative control, but I haven't found that to be a problem with what I use it for.
Local Media - Don't forget to promote your program! Send your photos of interesting events in your classroom to your district public relations person or to local newspapers, so people can see why learning a foreign language is important.
Posted by Samantha Decker on Saturday, February 01, 2014
I had been planning this post for awhile, but now seemed as good a time as any to write it, given the current hot topic of authentic resources on foreign languages teach blogs and Twitter (some blogs that have weighed in with some thoughtful posts: Language Sensei, Sra. Spanglish, and Martina Bex, among others).
I just finished an activity with my students that I call "Un voyage virtuel à Paris." This is the third year I have done activity. I used to do it over the course of two days, but I decided that condensing it into one day would be more practical. The purpose of the activity is to have students practice telling time, the days of the week, and dates, while navigating authentic websites with both familiar and unfamiliar vocabulary. To accomplish this, students must imagine they are planning an imaginary trip to Paris for a week. They must find flights, a hotel, and sites to see. When they find this information, they record it on their itinerary, using both numbers and and then spelling out the numbers as words (this to reinforce the numbers in French). I provide detailed instructions to help them navigate the sites, and students are allowed to work together and ask me for help as well if they get stuck.
It's important to make sure students understand before embarking on this "voyage" that these are real sites and that they are not to enter any personal information on them.
Here are some of the sites they visited:
Air France- Students picked a time to travel and made note of when their flights were. Some students were able to figure out that "Première" meant first class, and went ahead and flew in high style.
Hotels.fr - Students chose a hotel in Paris to stay in and recorded the price.
La Tour Eiffel- This is one of several tourist sites students could visit. They had to pick a time to visit when it was open and determine the price.
Other sites students could visit:
The day following the activity, I had students discuss what they learned (in English...a rarity!). It was nice to hear the students comment that they felt better about larger numbers, days of the week, and dates. They also mentioned that it helped them feel more confident that they can navigate these websites even without understanding every word on them. Every year, I make some changes to the activity. For next year I thought it might be a good idea to give the students an imaginary budget, to make it more authentic. This activity can be as simple or as complex as you have time for. If you wanted to extend it further, you might consider having students plan meals at restaurants. See my posts here and here about restaurant menus.
There are so many ways you can take this activity, and I'd like to hear what you would do with it! How might you change or improve this activity before taking it to your own classroom?
Posted by Samantha Decker on Saturday, January 25, 2014
About a month ago I shared my scavenger hunt using Google Maps to explore real Parisian restaurants. While I love having students explore Paris this way, I also like to use the more detailed menus to teach with. Some ways I use menus: Ask students to discuss what they want and how much it costs or have students answer questions about the items on the menu for homework or on a test.
Below are some menus I've used in my classroom along with some others I've added for more variety. You'll notice that not only are there a variety of countries and continents represented, but also the type of food contains quite a range. I'll admit that I do show my students McDonald's and other fast food menus. While they are not the healthiest places to eat, I show students what McDonald's is like in France - how it looks different and offers different menu items. It helps dispel the myth that the French eat only haute cuisine, and helps them understand how an American concept like fast food has been adapted to suit French tastes. Additionally, many of the items on the menu are cognates, making it an easier menu to comprehend. The varying currencies on the menus open up an opportunity to discuss more than just the Euro.
The menus with stars are better suited for intermediate or advanced students, and the ones without stars are especially useful for novice students.
- African Village Hotel, Djibouti
- La Banquise, Montréal, Québec
- Café Be, Printemps, Paris
- Chameleon, Paris*
- Le Cochon Dingue, Québec
- Le Cochon Dingue (Carte Lunch Weekend), Québec
- Le Coco's, Tahiti, Polynésie française*
- Complètement Toqué, Bastogne, Belgique*
- La Croissanterie, France
- Déli-cieux, Printemps, Paris (a café on the roof of Printemps)
- La Grillardière, Casablanca, Maroc
- Hôtel DuPeyrou, Neuchâtel, Suisse*
- Le Mabouya, Sainte-Luce, Martinique*
- McDonald's, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France
- Paillaird, Québec, Québec*
- Pause et Vous (Page 1, Page 2), Lyon France
- Le Piano, Porticcio, Corse, France*
- Rapide Pizza, Six-Fours-Les-Plages, France
- Restaurant Farid, Dakar, Sénégal
- Au Stade, Antananarivo, Madagascar
View Des restaurants francophones in a larger map
Posted by Samantha Decker on Friday, January 17, 2014
Happy New Year from the French Corner! If you're on school break and need a little reading material, I've rounded up some of my favorite blog posts from the last year (in no particular order). These posts range from news stories on the benefits of learning another language to cultural vignettes to ideas for the foreign language classroom. You'll also find my top five posts of the year.
- Not a Cliché: The French Love Their Bread from My French Life
- Authentic Input Versus Grammar Drills: A Case Study from Cecilelaine
- Drawing and Gesturing: Keep Your Students Engaged in Listening from Cecilelaine
- The Importance of Learning Foreign Languages from Montana Public Radio
- Your Mind on Languages: How Bilingualism Boosts Your Brain from Huffington Post
- Gallery Walk from The Comprehensible Classroom
- Being Bilingual: The Neuroplastic Workout from Livingbilingual
- Letting Go of the Vocabulary List from Amy Lenord
- The Conversation Circle from Amy Lenord
- 15 Fun Collaboration Activities for World Language Teachers from Calico Spanish (a #langchat summary)
- Speaking a Second Language Delays Dementias... from NBC News Health
- Putting the FL in STEM from Transparent Language
- Peer Editing for Success from Oodles and Gobs
- 14 Haunting And Magnificent Vintage Photos Of Paris At Night from BuzzFeed
- World Languages Students Are Poppleting from Langwitches Blog
- I've Got a New Way to Write from The Comprehensible Classroom
- Exciting Syllabi from The Creative Language Class
- World Languages, Facebook, Pinterest, Culture and Literacy from My Languages
- Reading in French from Changing Phases
- Thinking in a Foreign Language: How to Do It and Why from Lingholic
- Authentic Resources + Embedded Reading from Señorita Barragán
- Picture Prompts from Elmundodebirch
- The Right & Wrong Way To Use Technology For Learning from TeachThought
- Fantastique French Work with StoryBird from MFL Tomlinscote
- The Quick Sketch & Share – Interactive Homework Review from Language Sensei
- Extend Your Discussion from The Comprehensible Classroom
- Using Google Apps to Make Interactive Stories from eTools for Language Teachers
- Présentations : commençons par le commencement from Territoires des Langues
- Translated film titles - a languages game from Dom's MFL Page
- Beginning of the Year: Getting to know you game from Maris Hawkins
- Tout le monde qui... from Je m'appelle Madame
- 7 familles + une from Territoires des Langues
- Ideas to Get Your Students to Your Site on Day 1 (or 2 or 3…) from Language Sensei
- Teaching Activities Created in Mentormob and EdCanvas from 3 Rs 4 Teachers
- Using Infographics to Promote Your Department from Ritzforeignlang
- Grade 5 French Stories from French at RCS Elementary
- Get 'Em On Their Feet from The Creative Language Class
- J'adore la musique francophone from Les Chevaliers du Château des Champions
- Design a Worksheet Homework from Frenchteacher
- Class Project: Reasons to Study a Foreign Language from Classroom Creativities
And to top the list off, here were my top five most viewed posts of 2013:
Posted by Samantha Decker on Wednesday, January 01, 2014
I've posted before about using Google Maps to reinforce geography, but today's post will be about how to harness the power of street view to provide students with a fun activity that's also authentic. This can be done as homework or in a computer lab (as I did it). I actually let students work in groups because the task can be a little challenging.
If you're not familiar with how to create your own Google Map (which is now done in Google Maps Engine Lite), here's a nice video tutorial from YouTube user Jen Jonson:
Once you're familiar with how to make a Google Map, this task will be a lot easier. I made a scavenger hunt related to different eateries, but you could make a similar one related to shopping for clothes or other things you might see around town.
I focused my scavenger hunt on Paris, since there is such a variety of different places to eat there. I should probably mention right about here that this task does take some time, but you're welcome to use my map if it suits your needs (there is one reference to me in there though), or use it as a starting point. Basically, you need to "walk" around the neighborhoods of Paris in Google Street View until you find a spot you want to ask a question about. I mostly chose establishments in the Quartier Latin, Île St-Louis, and Champs-Élysées. With eateries, you need to find places whose menus are readable upon zooming in (unfortunately, not always possible). You don't need all the establishments to have readable menus, though. Some of the questions can center around what they see in the window or advertised on the awning. Then you drag your place mark to that spot. Keep moving it a little until it is EXACTLY in the right spot when you right click on it and click "Street View," otherwise your students are apt to get lost and confused. The only moves they should have to make are to turn around at most. Another reason not to have to make them maneuver in street view is that Google doesn't always upstate their street view imagery uniformly. There are some areas where from one angle you see a restaurant, then you move a foot forward and it becomes a souvenir shop!
In the description for each place mark, write a question. Here are some examples of questions I used:
-Tu vas chez _____________. Qu'est-ce que tu veux ?
-Tu veux un croissant. Où vas-tu ?
-Tu vas chez _____________. Combien coûte le ___________ ?
-Tu vas chez _____________. Une salade et un soda, ça fait combien ?
The students love this activity because they love Google Maps (especially Street View), and they inevitably pick up on other cultural tidbits along the way. Students who finished the activity early were given free reign to explore Paris on their own. I encouraged all students to continue exploring Paris (and the rest of the francophone world) on their own at home.
Here is my map, which you can see better by viewing it in a new tab (see link below):
View Une chasse au trésor à Paris ! in a larger map
Posted by Samantha Decker on Friday, December 13, 2013