10 Ways to Incorporate Culture Into Your Everyday Lessons

As French teachers, we focus so much on language, it can be easy to forget the culture piece to our teaching.  Not all culture needs to be taught explicitly or have its own lesson, though.  There are lots of ways to incorporate culture into your every day and create a more authentic experience for students.  Here are a few easy ways to do just that:

1.  Have students write their names on their papers the French way (SMITH John).  I believe it was my cooperating teacher when I was student teaching who first suggested this to me.

2.  Lots of students like to listen to classical music while they are working on a test.  Play some Debussy, Ravel, or Saint-Saëns for them.

3.  Count starting with your thumb, as is customary in France.

4.  When learning numbers, practice by reciting French phone numbers to students so they can see the formation.

5.  Use authentic artwork or photos from French speaking countries as speaking or writing prompts.  See my post on how I use Google Maps to incorporate geography into my lessons.

6.  Write your 1s the French way (which look like 7s to Americans).  Be sure to explain this to students!

7.  Use Canadian zip codes to practice alphabet and numbers at the same time.

8.  When using mobile devices, have students use the French keyboard.  They will be able to see how the letters are laid out differently, but they also get the advantages of French autocorrect and predictive word guesses!

9.  Doing a pen pal project?  Consider snail mail (or at least a snail mail component!).  In this era of digital everything, students really relish a real live piece of paper from France.  They get to see French handwriting and notice other nuances, such as the "carré" style of paper commonly used.  Read my post on how I do my pen pal project.

10.  Got 5 minutes left at the end of class?  Why not have the students sit back, relax and watch one of these beautiful videos showcasing Paris, or one of these beautiful videos showcasing the francophone world.  Better yet, show them as they are coming in the door!  It will inspire wanderlust!

What are your favorite ways to incorporate culture into your everyday lessons?

iPad Diaries: Volume 8

This is the 8th post in a series about using iPads in the French classroom.  Click here to view an index of previous articles.

I first got the idea to use Nearpod from a post on Sra Spanglish's blog.  Nearpod is an interactive presentation app.  Instead of standing at the front of the room, pointing to your presentation on the SMART Board or whatever other piece of technology you are using, students now see the presentation on their device (in addition to seeing it at the front of the room).  This is helpful because many students focus better when the focus point is nearer to them, and for students in the back of the room, they can see much better.  The students can't advance the presentation; only the teacher can.  This is helpful for keeping students with you.

Aside from simply viewing the teacher's presentation on a device, you can embed several different types of interactive comprehension activities.  When students participate in the activities, their names show up on the SMART Board for the whole class to see.  In light of this, I allow students to use nicknames if they prefer to keep their responses anonymous.  The activities you can choose from are open-ended questions, multiple choice questions, polls, and draw-its.  They take longer than simply asking the class to answer out loud or calling on students, but they are more effective because more students are engaged.

I found the open-ended questions to take too much time the first time I used the app.  I gave students a picture prompt and they were supposed to type the vocabulary word.  Students were overly concerned with spelling (which I guess isn't a bad thing!).  Multiple choice proved to be much more efficient in this type of situation.  Open ended questions would probably be more useful for situations where full sentences are required.  You can then click on a student response to display it for the class.

Multiple choice questions are useful, but it quickly shows students what the right answer is when they look up at the board (see below), so I mute the board during each question.  As you can see, the pie chart gives you a quick glimpse of how students are doing (they had a picture prompt for the question in the below example).

Polls are great for questions that don't have a right or wrong answer.  For the example shown at top, I showed students a picture and they had to react to how they felt their mood would be (such as a snow day, or no homework).

Draw-it is good for when you want students to, well, draw.  So far I have only used it to have students draw vocabulary words and it took waaaaay too long.  I'd like to try this feature again when I teach weather and have the students draw scenes as I describe them to them.

If you're using Nearpod with your students, I recommend getting the free app.  It's much less buggy on devices than the web-based version is.  You can also import images and PowerPoints into your presentations, so there's no need to start from scratch!  There appears to be a "homework" version of the presentation, where students complete it at their own pace, but this requires an upgrade.

Have you used Nearpod?  Do you like it?  What is your favorite interactive presentation app?

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