The First Day of School



I guess I've never done a post that outlines what I do on the first day of school, so here it is.  I've gotten my ideas from a variety of resources, so I will try to give credit where credit is due.  First of all, I will say I got a lot of my ideas from this wonderful post from Creative Language Class, but I put my own spin on it.

I like students to walk away on the first day not only excited about the year ahead, but actually able to say a few words in the language they signed up for.  By the end of this lesson, students will have learned the following words and expressions:  Bonjour, Je m'appelle, Comment t'appelles-tu ?, and Au revoir !  Of course they will hear many other words and expressions along the way, but the aforementioned are the ones I am targeting.



I use a Prezi (see full Prezi at the bottom), and once class begins, I zoom in on this slide and announce my name to the class.  Students shout out what they think it means.



Then I zoom into this slide (which I stole directly from Creative Language Class!), but I don't say it out loud because I am speaking all in French.



Next, it's time for attendance.  I say "Ici," and point to the floor, as in, right here, and then "Absent," and put my hands in the air like I don't know.



I then show this quick video to demo what attendance should look like.  It's a mashup of YakIt Kids (which sadly, is no longer available) and the animoji feature that you can get on newer iPhone models.  Then I take attendance, and each student says, "Ici !"



Then I share a little about myself.  I show a photo of myself when I was a student at their school, a photo of me in Paris, a photo of my cat, a photo of my riding a horse, and a photo I took in Paris since I love to take photos.  I describe all these photos to students in French.



Then I ask the class, "Permission de parler anglais ?," which is a trick I got from my colleague Lisa.  By asking permission before speaking English, it reinforces how important it is to speak French as much as possible.  At this time I break into English.  Some may not agree with this, but I like to talk to them a little bit about what to expect and congratulate them on working through the first part of class entirely in French.  I share some of the topics we will be learning about, some of the different ways we learn, and I also tell them about French Club.



Then we go back into French for the rest of the lesson.  I get them to say what they think "Comment t'appelles-tu" means, and when they've figured it out, everyone makes a name tag.



Each student gets half a sheet of card stock which they are instructed (in French, of course!) to fold the long way ("like a hot dog"), then write "Je m'appelle" and their first and last name on one side, nice and large.  While this is happening, I usually play some French music for them.  Later on, when they pick their French names, they will write the same thing on the other side, but replace their first name with their French name, assuming it's different.  Students are asked to keep their name tags in their binders and put them on their desks at the beginning of each class until I've learned all their names AND French names.  Eventually I let them know they don't need to use them anymore and they can recycle them.



Next it's time to introduce themselves.  I show them this video to model how I'd like them to introduce themselves.  Then I model with a couple of students.  Then I ask them to introduce themselves to the people they are sitting next to before getting up and introducing themselves to other classmates in French.



If time permits, I will have students complete a survey/interest inventory for me as well.  This is done in English, since students obviously would not know how to answer questions like "What's one thing I should know about you?" in French.  Then it's time to say good-bye!



Here you can get a look at the whole Prezi.  I have been doing some version of this lesson for a number of years, and I like that it gets them excited about class and also speaking some French.  Going over rules and procedures is left for later on, once everyone has settled in.

What do you do on the first day of school?


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10 Reasons I Love The Middle Level



As I enter my tenth year teaching middle school French, I realize there's a lot to love about the middle level.  Sure, middle school, like any level, comes with its own share of challenges, but I find the rewards generally outweigh them.  It's the only level I've actually taught (aside from student teaching and substitute teaching), but I honestly can't imagine it any other way.  Luck and timing brought me to the middle level, and I'm here to stay!  Here are ten reasons I love teaching middle school:

1.  Middle schoolers are a delightful blend of child and young adult.  Many of them still possess a childlike demeanor, but they are learning to think more like adults.

2.  Teaching students a language from their first day to the end of the first year allows you to see the foundation they build in language acquisition.

3.  Middle schoolers don't mind goofy songs and dances to learn a language (heck, a lot of high schoolers still like them too!).

4.  Teaching lower level French means the students know a lot less, but the language you're working with is less complex, making comprehensible input less challenging to create.

5.  I love seeing students discover the French language and culture for the first time.  The beginning of the year is the most exciting time for this, as students discover what countries speak French and how much French they actually already know (cognates and English words borrowed from French).

6.  Reading from a French children's book when we have a few extra minutes is a perfectly acceptable thing to do!

7.  I love watching my middle schoolers teach elementary students the lessons they prepared after school for them.

8.  Middle schoolers still have some level of appreciation for my dorky and quirky sense of humor, even if they try to hide it sometimes!

9.  Middle schoolers have so much energy, which can be both a blessing and a curse, but mostly it's a blessing.  My job would be boring if I didn't have all that energy to work with and channel!

10.  Middle schoolers can be quirky and unique and they are at a time in their lives when they are trying to develop their own identity, and it's fun to watch them grow, not just in the language, but as people!

Have you ever taught middle school?  What's your favorite level to teach and why?


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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.




Loto
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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