Creating a Scavenger Hunt with Google Maps

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

Update December 2014:  Google no longer supports Street View in custom maps.  This is a huge impediment to this activity, but you can still make it work by having students manually type in addresses.  Put the questions in a separate file or on a printed sheet.  Unfortunately, the address doesn't always drop students in the exact same spot.  This manual method adds some frustration, but overall, the feedback I got from students after trying it this way was that it was still fun and engaging for them.

Addresses and questions for this map:

1. 14 rue Monge, Paris -- Tu veux un croissant. Où vas-tu ?
2. 3 rue du Mont Cenis, Paris -- Tu vas chez les Comestibles. Qu'est-ce que tu veux ?
3. 4 rue du Colisée, Paris -- Tu vas chez Pomme de Pain. Qu'est-ce que tu veux ?
4. 15 rue Xavier Privas, Paris -- Tu vas chez La Maison de Gyro. Combien coûte le pain oriental ?
5. 15 rue Xavier Privas, Paris -- Tu vas chez La Maison de Gyro. Le pain oriental et le gyros baguette, ça fait combien ?
6. 19 rue de la Huchette, Paris -- Tu vas chez Amorino. Deux “petits” cornets de glace, ça fait combien ?
7. 20 rue Norvins, Paris – Tu veux une baguette. Où vas-tu ?
8. 20 rue Norvins, Paris – Tu as faim ! Tu vas chez le Consulat. Qu’est-ce que tu veux ?
9. 9 rue du Mont Cenis, Paris -- Tu vas chez le Croq'minute. Combien coûte la crêpe chocolat ?
10. 9 rue du Mont Cenis, Paris -- Tu as soif ! Tu vas chez le Croq'minute. Qu’est-ce que tu veux ?
11. 19 rue de la Harpe – Tu vas chez Le Saint-Séverin. Combien coûte la combinaison “gourmet” ?

Hot Topic: Staying in the Target Language

Staying in the target language (in my case, French) is such a hot topic these days, because there are so many opinions on how much we should do it, how to do it, and why or why not to do it.  The ACTFL recommends that at least 90% of a foreign language class should be conducted in the target language.  I'd say if you take all my classes and average out how much target language is spoken each day, it probably comes out to about 90%.  I want to share with you when I do and do not stay in the target language.  Now, as teaching is always a work in progress, this could change, but this is what I do right now.  I've also shared some useful resources with you as to how to stay in the target language.

When We Speak French in My Class

  • When addressing students at the beginning of class.  We always start the day with a hello, saying the day and date, and later in the year, the time and the weather.  This is a tradition passed down to me by my French teachers.
  • When introducing vocabulary.  Most of the vocabulary I teach can easily be represented by a picture or a gesture.  If it can't, students will have a sheet with English on it so at least we don't have to speak English.
  • When explaining instructions for a task.  Usually this can be accomplished with modeling using student volunteers, acting out the task, and using cognates.  It takes a little more time than just explaining it in English, but I feel it's worth it.
  • When introducing simple structures (such as masculine/feminine).  Through modeling (and yes, having a student recap in English...see below!), the students come to understand without me having to use English
  • During activities (such as games, white board review, and guided conversations between students).  I always set up these activities and model them so that students can participate in them without speaking English.  Yes, sometimes students slip, but I'm always there to remind them to keep in French!
  • When asking simple questions or making simple statements, such as permission to use the bathroom, or saying you don't understand.  Students learn these expressions at the beginning of the year.

When We Speak English in My Class
  • During drills and emergency procedures.  At these times, I feel the use of English is necessary to ensure immediate understanding of all students.
  • When explaining rules and procedures at the beginning of the year.  Having first year students, I just can't explain my procedures to students without using English.  I'd rather take a day and have my thoroughly understand everything then try to explain it in French and have students not sure about certain things.
  • When students have questions they can't express in French and/or I can't answer in French and have them understand.  Sometimes you just have to switch over for a minute!  I try not to be so stubborn that I leave students in the dark when switching to English for a minute would clear things up so well.
  • When introducing a complex concept.  I'd say there are one or two times a year when I just bite the bullet and teach something in English.  My rationale is that I'd rather spend one day in English and have them truly understand it and leave that much more time for using it in context in French.
  • When a students recaps instructions for an activity.  Once I explain the instructions for an activity in French, I gauge if students understand.  If they don't, I usually try to go back and simplify the instructions.  If that still doesn't work, I have a student summarize in English.

Whether you agree or disagree with when I do and don't use French, please share your thoughts in the comments!  There's nothing wrong with a healthy discussion, so feel free to be honest.

Here are some great resources to read about using the target language in class:

J'apprends le français parce que...

I previously shared one of my bulletin boards for National French Week back in August but I thought I'd share some more examples with you now.  I know it's a little late, since National French Week is almost over, but this is something you can do any time of year.

I give the students a template, and instruct them to express visually why they are learning French.  This is an optional assignment for my students (it's actually a contest), but you could also make this a required assignment.  Students are so creative in their drawings and collages!

These mini posters are on display for the whole school for the rest of the year, so many students and faculty get to appreciate them as they walk by.

My New Favorite Reading Strategy

Photo by US Department of Education

About a month ago I stumbled upon this blog post, an archive of a #langchat Twitter chat about using texts to teaching communicative proficiency (if you're not familiar with #langchat, go learn about it here!).  One of the contributors, @SenoraDunkin, mentioned a reading strategy that involves students crossing out words they don't know and then reading the text.  What a brilliant idea!  I have subsequently used it in class, but I put a little twist on it.  I show them a text on the SMART Board, and then I cross out the words that I won't be able to explain to them while staying in French, and we read the text together afterwards.  I'd also like to try it the original way, since it fosters more independence, but I decided to try it my way first.  I knew if students did it themselves from the get go, they would cross out all sorts of words that they might actually be able to figure out if they thought about them.

I have had great success reading short articles with my students by using this method.  They are able to see just how much they are able to get out of a text even without understanding everything (sometimes we crossed out whole paragraphs!).

I think this is an example of how powerful social media is as a professional development tool.  To be able to share ideas with people I've never met is something that was unfathomable even ten or fifteen years ago.  Imagine how we'll be sharing ten to fifteen years in the future!

Qui est-ce ? A Celebrity Guessing Game

Playing a guessing game is a popular way to reinforce all sorts of vocabulary.  I wouldn't be surprised if many of you have done a similar type of assignment to the one I am about to describe, but since there are so many different ways to go about it, I thought I'd share what I do.

Around this time of the year, my students are learning how to describe people by saying their nationality, profession, age, and where they are from.  After we have learned the vocabulary, students pick a mystery celebrity.  I encourage them to be creative in their choice.  The celebrity can be real or it can be a character, and they can be living or dead.  Then the students write six hints as to who the person is.  First, they state if it's a boy, girl, man, or woman.  Then, they state their profession, age, nationality, and hometown (all in complete sentences of course!).  Finally, they say "Il/Elle s'appelle X.X." with the "X.X" representing the person's initials.  They put all of this information on a mini poster with a picture of their person covered by a flap, so no one can see who it is at first.

This assignment could easily be adapted for upper levels by using different tenses, and/or allowing for more details and expansion in the responses.

Once the students have completed this assignment, they go around the room reading their clues and trying to stump their classmates.  It's always fun to see what celebrities students pick.  Here are some examples:

Halloween Resources Roundup

With Halloween around the corner, it's time for me to share a few of my favorite resources for getting into the spirit, and those that others have shared.

At the beginning of class I give students a sheet with pictures of various Halloween items.  At the bottom is a word bank (each term starting with un, une, and des).  On the SMART Board, I have categorized the pictures into two columns, masculine and feminine.  Students write the words under the picture they think corresponds to it.  They can work with partners, but they must speak only in French (pointing to an item and guessing "Le fantôme ?").  This exercise allows me to introduce new vocabulary without just standing and having them repeat.  It also has them looking for cognates as clues.  When they run out of cognates or words they already know from previous lessons, they must look at the masculine and feminine (le, la) and the chart on the board to further narrow down their answer

I love this video.  It's a great way to reinforce the pronunciation of "C'est"!

Another great video, from Nightmare Before Christmas.  I show this as the students come in and leave.

Here are some more resources from around the web:

  • It's important for students to understand how customs in French-speaking countries differ from those in their own country (for instance, understanding what la Toussaint is).  1jour1actu has plenty of articles in their archives on Halloween and Toussaint.  You now need a free account to access the content.
  • Maria José has some videos and links to activities on her blog FLE en ESO.

10 Great Ways to Practice Numbers

Numbers 0-9
Numbers 0-9
by Denise Krebs is licensed under CC BY-2.0

Learning the numbers can be pretty tedious if you don't spice things up and use a variety of activities with your students.  Here are ten ways I've used to review the numbers, some of which I tried for the first time this year.  Some may be obvious, while others may be new to you.  What ways do you use?  I'm always looking for new activities to try.

  1. Have students read an infographic and say what numbers they see.  A great way to incorporate culture too.  See my post on infographics.
  2. Have students count items out loud in the textbook or around the room.  See my post on how I used this activity with my students.
  3. Have students practice writing North American (or whatever continent/country you live in) and French phone numbers.  You can dictate them, students can dictate them to each other, or students can take turns dictating them to the class.  A basic, yet tried and true activity.
  4. Another fairly basic activity:  Play "Plus haut/Plus bas."  Students (in partners or small groups) take turns writing down a secret number while the other student(s) guess the number.  The student that wrote the number tells them if they need to go "plus haut" or "plus bas."  This can also be played with the whole class, with one student guessing a number written behind them on the board.
  5. Dix:  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 in August.  Visit their website to learn about more of their activities.
  6. Partner bingo:  Another activity from Valérie and Wendy!  Just like bingo, except students work in partners and have a list given to them of what order to call out numbers (one for partner A, one for partner B, with a different order).  Students take turns reading off their lists, so they get both listening and speaking practice.
  7. Find your match:  I've seen lots of activities floating around Pinterest where you put items that go together (like compound words or verb forms) on plastic Easter eggs (the kind you can open), and the students have to put them back together correctly.  I tried this with numbers, and the students had fun finding their match.  One one half of the egg is the number, and the other half is the number written as a word.
  8. Quizlet:  This is not an activity I spend a lot of time on in class, but I love to show students how much fun it can be to practice numbers at home.  Just telling them, "Go to this site!" isn't as effective as showing them the site.  If I have a couple minutes at the end of class, I open the Quizlet page with the numbers 0-100, and go to the scatter game, and invite students up to play.  Sure, the whole class is not as fully engaged as they are with other activities, but most of them are excited and want to play, which means plenty of them will be compelled to go play it at home.  I encourage them to beat the record!
  9. Number roll:  I first saw this on Pinterest as a word roll.  Give groups of students a 6x6 grid with numbers on it (write ABCDEF across the top, and 123456 down the left side), and give groups two dice, one with numbers 1-6 on it and one with letters A-F on it, and have them pronounce the number that corresponds to the coordinates they rolled.

  10. Sing a song about the numbers!  This video by Alain le Lait was probably intended for a younger audience, but my 7th graders love it because the video is so bizarre!  I make them dance like the worms while they're singing it too.

Links Roundup

I don't do many posts like this, but I've come across so many great resources lately, I thought I would share some of my favorites with you:

Le web social de 2000 à 2010

Le web social de 2000-2010 by Philippe Martin on Flickr isn't exactly current up to present day, but it's such a great authentic resource I think it still warrants sharing.

This article by GéoAdo magazine talks about a type of café recently opened in Paris where customers can enjoy the company of cats while they sip a tea or coffee.  I showed this to my students and they gave their opinions after hearing two arguments, one for and one against the concept.

La ligne du temps de la langue français, shared by En Français IF on Pinterest, shows where different writers and famous dates in history fall on the timeline of the French language.

Sept familles + une from the Territoires des Langues blog shows how to use this classic game to reinforce actions in French.

Le modèle SAMR, shared by @FrenchTeacherCA on Twitter, reminds us how to use technology effectively in the classroom.

This article from 1jour1actu talks about the changes in French schools this year and even includes interviews with students about their new routines.

The "Refreshed" World Readiness Standards, shared by Maris Hawkins, are an update (still in draft form) of the US National Standards published by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages with changes to reflect Common Core State Standards.

Using Infographics to Reinforce Numbers and Cultural Nuances

Infographie facebook en 60 secondesInfographie facebook en 60 secondes (left) by Olivier MORDEFROID is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Infographics, such as the one at left, have been a popular tool in language teachers' bag of tricks for a couple of years now.  They are a great tool for teachers of novice learners because they are so visual.  Lots of icons, cognates, pictures, and numbers help the student more easily decipher the meaning of the text than a simple article.  They're also a great tool for teaching culture since they are authentic resources.

I like to show infographics to students after we have learned the numbers.  They read the numbers out loud and determine what the text is saying.  Some infographics have decimals, which is a great way to teach the difference with the comma in place of a decimal point in French.  Sometimes I ask questions in French that can be answered by looking at the infographic.

Infographics are much less intimidating to a novice student (or any student I suppose) than an article, because they are much more visual.  What's more, they open up the door for critical thinking and cultural discovery.  Hidden in all the "boring" statistics displayed on them are many messages waiting to be discovered by students.  For instance, when we looked at an infographic about pets in France, students learned that cats are in fact more popular dogs (perhaps not a vital piece of knowledge but certainly a little piece of culture to take with them).

Video infographics take the medium to the next level by forcing the viewer to look at information in a certain order and take each bit in one by one.  In the video below, students learned some staggering statistics.  We determined that since 2.3 billion people around the world use the internet and there are about 7 billion people in the world, roughly 1/3 world uses the internet.  Just one third!  Students then came to the conclusion (with some help from their teacher) that even though internet is readily available to most people the US (if not at home then at least at school or in the public library), there are many impoverished parts of the world where few families can afford internet.  We also learned that roughly 1/7th of the world uses Facebook and 1/7th also uses YouTube.


There's no doubt using infographics has the potential to satisfy a number of standards.  For those of you in the U.S., it could easily satisfy ACTFL's Connections, Communication, and Comparisons, as well as a number of Common Core State Standards for ELA/Literacy.  Of course, exactly what standards it satisfies depends on specifically what you have students do with the infographic.

I know I've just touched the tip of the iceberg on how to use infographics in the foreign language classroom.  I'd love to hear how you use them!

For lots of French infographics, visit my Pinterest board.

Facebook 60 sec infographic by Olivier MORDE-FROID

Get Them Moving with a Warm Up Exercise (Literally)!

Thailand Details - Aerobics Mural at Samitivej Sriracha Hospital - Sriracha, Thailand
Thailand Details - Aerobics Mural at Samitivej Sriracha Hospital - Sriracha, Thailand
by Marshall Astor is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Charades is a great way to review vocabulary, but before I have students do charades I like to do this "warm up" activity to review the words and what actions are associated with them.  All I do is turn on some techno music (no words), have the students step in place, and repeat after me as I call out the words and make the actions.  It's a great activity for a Monday to break everyone out of "weekend mode."  This can be done with just about any topic that lends itself to charades.  Most of the students find this activity to be silly, but in a good way!

Try This Fun Activity to Review Numbers

by Andy Maguire is licensed under CC BY-2.0

Counting is a great way to review numbers, but just sitting and counting can get pretty boring.  One activity I like to do that makes the counting more interesting is a little scavenger hunt through the textbook and around the room where they count various items (using the numbers 1-20).  This is a good activity to do a day after introducing the numbers, and before doing any activities or games that require students to use numbers in isolation (which is more difficult than saying them in order).  This activity also introduces students to the expressions "il y a" and "combien," as well as some other words (any words the students wouldn't know I label with a picture on the page with the questions - a great way to preview future vocabulary!).  When the students are counting the items, they have to count out loud in French.  They work with partners to figure out what some of the questions are asking.  Using the textbook makes it more interesting than just putting the items on a worksheet because it becomes more of a scavenger hunt to figure out what it is on the page I want them to count.  I could easily assign the textbook part as homework, but I think it's really important that they count out loud in French, which is less likely to happen if I assign it as homework.

Here are some of the questions I ask:

Dans le texte... y a combien de photos à la page 5 ? y a combien de couleurs à la page 40 ? y a combien d'horloges à la page 52 ?

Dans la salle de classe... y a combien de tableaux ? y a combien de filles ? y a combien de garçons ? y a combien de livres dans la bibliothèque ? (my classroom library)

The second half of the hunt gets the students out of their seats while they count items in the classroom, which, if like me, you like students to get out of their seats at least once per class, is always a bonus.

There are lots of different ways to review numbers, and this is just one way I use.  What are your favorite ways to review the numbers?

Photos of Paris Then & Now

Over on my photography blog, I am posting a series of "then and now" shots from various locations.  My most recent one is on Paris, so I thought I would share the photos with you here.  All of the "now" photos were taken by me.  I have published to Flickr quite a large collection of photos of Paris, so I thought it fitting to do a then and now post with this iconic city.

Notre Dame then:

Notre Dame, ca. 1900
"Notre Dame" (Public Domain Image) from State Library of Victoria via WikiMedia Commons

Notre Dame now:
Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre Dame interior then:
Notre Dame, Paris, France, 1903 n2
"Notre Dame" from Brooklyn Museum (Flickr: Notre Dame, Paris, France, 1903.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Notre Dame interior now:
Inside Notre-Dame

Sacré-Coeur then:

Sacré-Coeur now:
Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre

Arc de Triomphe then:
Crowds of French patriots line the Champs Elysees to view Allied tanks and half tracks pass through the Arc du Triomphe, after Paris was liberated on August 25, 1944  (LOC)
Image with no known copyright restrictions from Library of Congress
 via Flickr

Arc de Triomphe now:
Twilight at the Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel then:
PARIS - Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
Image with no known copyright restrictions from George Eastman House
 via Flickr

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel now:
Looking Back at the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Notre Dame gargoyles then:
Notre Dame de Paris. Tower with Chimeras
Image with no known copyright restrictions from Cornell University Library
 via Flickr

Notre Dame gargoyles now (notice the bird from the last photo?)
A Lonely Bird at Notre-Dame

Opéra Garnier then:
Opera House in ParisImage with no know copyright restrictions via Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Archives via Flickr

Opéra Garnier now:
L'Opéra Garnier

Place de la Concorde then:
Paris Place de la concorde et Champs-Elysees 19Jh
Public domain image From Auktionhaus Zeller via WikiMedia Commons

Place de la Concorde now:
Place de la Concorde

Eiffel Tower at night then:
Eiffel Tower in 1900
Image with no known copyright restrictions from Brooklyn Museum via WikiMedia Commons

Eiffel Tower at night now:
Paris' Shining Beacon

The Louvre then:
Cour du Louvre
Image with no known copyright restrictions from Cornell University Library
 via Flickr

The Louvre now:
Musée du Louvre - Pavillon Richelieu

Move a Step Up Bloom's Taxonomy with This Vocabulary Activity

Once again I was inspired to use a mind map in my lesson thanks to all the blogs I have been reading that use mind maps (namely Territoires de Langues and Classemapping).  Last week I introduced my students to the classroom expressions we use to keep in the target language. I showed them the video I made with VideoScribe (see my previous post) and we practiced pronouncing the words a little bit, then I had the students sort the words into three categories on a mind map (participation physique/active, participation académique, questions/problèmes) in groups of three.  They were not allowed to use English (they could say things like "parlez...ici ?  Non, ici !" and some of them even said the names of the categories in French).

This was hardly the most exciting activity we'll do this year, but I was pleased with how engaged the students were (speaking entirely in French for the most part), and it was a step up on Bloom's Taxonomy (classifying) from just the normal recall that generally comes with vocabulary when you first introduce it.  The fact that some words could sometimes fit into more than one category was the part of the task that I was concerned might confuse students.  In fact, it actually made it more interesting, because students had to negotiate in French with their partners in order to decide what one was best.

At the end of the activity, I showed them my version of the mind map, but I told them (in French, bien sûr !) that this was just one version and that theirs might be different.

How do you use mind maps in your classroom?  I've started a Pinterest board with mind maps I'm finding all over the internet.

Listening Activity for Novice Learners

I first found the above video from a great blog called FLExporations.  I love it because, while it goes by very fast, there is lots of vocabulary in it that my students already know after barely two weeks of French.  I decided this would be a great listening exercise at the end of class, but I decided it really needed some subtitles - still in French - to help the students follow along.

I went to Amara and subtitled the video in French (except the last bit, which was too fast to bother showing in class).  If you'd like to show this version in your class, click here.  You have to select French as the language underneath the video for the subtitles to appear.

After watching the video, I asked students in French what the names of the teachers of various subjects were, then I asked them to tell me what "grenouille" and "informatique" meant in English.

P.S.:  I was inspired to buy my own Playmobil set to have my students make videos with.  Once I have my students make the videos, I will share them in a subsequent post!

Introducing Yourself to Classmates

I'm sure many of you have your students create some sort of introductory poster at the beginning of the school year to display on the wall.  It's a simple idea but a great way to teach lots of new vocabulary and have students work on something relevant to them.  I had been using the same template for years when I decided to spruce it up this year.  I was inspired by this great post from Territoires de Langues suggesting making this activity into a mind map.  I loved the idea, but given my students' limited vocabulary at this point of the year, I had to give them more guidance.  So this is what I came up with:

Feel free to use it in your class!  Let me know what you like about it or what you might change.  Students are given a list of vocabulary terms to like or dislike and learn how to state their nationality before completing the activity.  In the center goes a picture, drawn or brought in from home.  Here's how they look on the wall:

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