Beg, Borrow, and Steal Part II: 7 More Great Ideas from Other Teachers

Back in 2014, I wrote a post called "Beg Borrow, and Steal:  7 Great Ideas from Other Blogs."  Since then, I've gathered quite a few more great ideas from other teachers, so I thought I'd create a sequel post.  Here are seven more ideas from other teachers that I have used in my classroom.

The Price is Right
I previously blogged about this activity in my list of favorite new activities I tried in 2014 and my Food & Meal Taking Activities Round-Up. 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 love this activity. They work in groups to guess the price of various items I have on the SMART Board, but they have to negotiate entirely in French. They also have to write their answer in a complete sentence, reinforcing the difference between il coûte, elle coûte, and ça fait. I have had several students say to me at the end "J'aime l'activité !"

Find the Cognates
The Creative Language Class had a wonderful post on cognate practice, in which the author, Megan Smith, describes an activity for the first week of school in which each student gets a target language piece of literature.  They then write all the words they recognize (cognates) on post it notes and make a word wall.  For the past couple years, I have shown my students this infographic and had students hunt for cognates.  Between the numbers, visuals, and cognates, students actually understand more of this than they don't.  It's a great way to build confidence in those all-important first few days.

Sidewalk Chalk
A teacher at the NYSAFLT Conference I attended in the fall suggested using sidewalk chalk as a fun way to practice language and get kids outside.  In November, I had my French Club students draw flags from francophone countries on the pavement outside the entrance of the school to promote National French Week.  The students enjoyed it so much, I'm thinking this might become an annual tradition!

Using Standard iPad Apps to Reinforce Time
Stephanie Bass of Bonne idée! shared the wonderful idea to use the native clock app on the iPad to reinforce time (click here to read her presentation on using smart phones and iPads in the FSL classroom). I took this idea and had my students complete a Socrative quiz about time in different francophone cities.  Read my blog post on Practicing Time, Day, and Date to learn more about this activity and others.


At a NYSAFLT Conference a few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop by Long Island teachers Valerie Greer and Wendy Mercado (check out their website).  They had a lot of great ideas for hands on activities to use with middle school students.  One such activity was Vitesse, or Speed.  Students work in pairs.  You give the pairs a series of photos or vocabulary words written on cards.  The teacher calls out a word and the first student to tap the corresponding card gets to keep it.  At the end, the student with the most cards of the two wins.  I have done this with numbers (I call out a number in French, and the students tap the correct numeral) and food and drink.  For the food and drink, I show a series of food and beverages on the SMART Board in various colors with price tags attached.  I then announce things in French such as "I am thirsty and I would like something purple" (there is only one purple beverage, and the student would have to tap the correct word in French), or "I am hungry and I would like something that costs 2,50 Euros" (there is only one food item that costs 2,50 Euros, and again, the students have to tap the right word in French).  This way, I am reviewing vocabulary, prices and even colors.

Translated Film Titles
Dom's MFL Page had a great post on using translated film titles as a lesson.  It's a great way to show students that everything does not translate literally.  Students must use their background knowledge in French and what they know about the movies to determine which film title goes with which film.  I pre-selected about 10 movies, listed the French movie titles and showed the movie posters with the names blocked out, and let students work in groups to find  Dom also suggests visiting the movie's WikiPedia page and changing the language to French to see what the translated title is.  This is a great idea to show students how to find out what their favorite movies and TV shows are called in French.  Here are the movies I used when I did this activity (I tried to use movies that had some sort of clue in them):

-La reine des neiges (Frozen)
-Les reliques de la mort (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
-L’empire contre-attaque (The Empire Strikes Back)
-La nuit au musée : Le secret des pharaons (Night at the Museum:  Secret of the Pharaohs)
-La belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast)
-Le seigneur des anneaux : Les deux tours (Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers)
-1001 pattes (A Bug's Life)
-L’étrange Noël de Monsieur Jack (Nightmare Before Christmas)
-Moi, moche et méchant (Despicable Me)
-Super Noël (The Santa Clause)

Colorful Creations
Liz's Lessons has a great Pinterest Board featuring student work.  On it, she shared a drawing that a student made by writing the words of the colors they were using repeatedly.  I have my students complete this activity in groups, but you could also make this a homework assignment.

Pronouns, Part I

An important part of communicating in any language is being able to specify who is doing an action. In many romance languages, subject pronouns are optional and verb endings indicate the subject.  In French, however, subject pronouns are required.  Since they are so important, I devote a few days of instruction just to pronouns.  Students have exposure to the pronouns earlier in the year (especially the singular ones), but many students still struggle with them, so before they even work with the various verb forms, I do a little decontextualized review.  I know that many teachers are divided on whether this type of material should be taught in context or out of context, but I find that doing both yields good results.  While this post will outline ways I practice pronouns in a mostly decontextualized way, in my next post, I will share some ways I focus on particular pronouns in context (once students have had experience producing conjugated verb forms on their own).

First, I like to sing a song.  We all know that songs help us remember material better.  In this song, hand gestures are important.  In the below Etienne video, Les pronoms, students must copy the gestures while singing along to the song.  It's a little corny, but the melody really sticks, and some of the kids really get into it.

I also train my students in how to draw the pronouns, so they we can study using as little English as possible.  I tell them that if they can't draw a hand, just use arrows to indicate the pronoun (for third person, I don't use arrows).  Below is my "beautiful" example of how to draw each pronoun:

A warm up activity I have students do is to give each student a visual depicting a pronoun (like the ones above) or a pronoun written as a word.  Students have to find the corresponding word or image.  Since there are many students in the class, there are 30 total cards, and several potential matches for each person.

After they learn to draw the pronouns, I have students draw sentences that incorporate the pronouns with verbs.  They do not know the verb endings yet when doing these, but they do know what the verbs mean.  I call their attention to the different spelling changes, but at this stage it is just input and I am not asking them to produce these sentences.

One way I have them do this is with Nearpod, an app that I have previously written about here.  On Nearpod, you can assign students to draw something, and collect all their drawings on the board.  You could even save the drawings for later.  First, they look at a few example slides to see what I am looking for, then they try a few of their own.  All the while, I am circulating around the room reminding students to incorporate both the pronoun AND the verb (because once there's a verb, students tend to focus on that more and are more likely to ignore the pronoun).

To change things up, I also have them practice this on mini whiteboards.  For this exercise, I have the students copy the sentences off the board first to reinforce the spelling (again, they do not know how to conjugate verbs at this point).

Below is an example of a homework in the same vein that I give students.

Finally, I also do a little review with one of my favorite games, Kahoot.  I incorporate a variety of multiple choice questions:  students see a visual and select which pronoun it represents, students read a sentence and choose the pronoun that would fit in the blank, students see a name or several names and select TU or VOUS, or students see a name or several names and select either IL/ELLE/ILS/ELLES.

This wraps up how I introduce and review pronouns BEFORE students have experience conjugating verbs.  In a follow-up post, I will outline ways I target specific verb forms in various activities that are more contextualized that just reviewing them all at once.

How do you teach and reinforce pronouns?

iPad Diaries Volume 14: Weather Writing and Speaking Activities

This is the 14th post in a series on using iPads in the language classroom.  Click here to view an index of previous posts.  Note that only part of this post is about iPads.  In this post, I will talk about both high-tech and low-tech ways to practice weather and seasons.

One of the things I like to do after vocabulary is introduced is use Google Maps to look at weather and seasons around the French-speaking world.  Here is the map I use:

I have students come up and click on a pin.  A photo pops up, and the students shout out vocabulary words or expressions relating to what weather or season it is.  You can read more about how I use Google Maps in the classroom in this post.  After this activity, I put several photos (not necessarily from the map) on the board, and the students prepare a description of one photo in groups.  Each group comes up and describes the weather in the photo to the class, and they guess which photo it is.

Another fun way to review vocabulary is to draw a scene on the board and have the students write a description with as many terms they can think of to describe it.  I have students do this on mini whiteboards.  After they've done a few of these, I flip flop the roles.  I write a description on the board, and the students draw the scene, incorporating everything I've written.  Click here for a post I wrote about other ways to use mini whiteboards.

This year, I had students complete a weather forecast using the iPads.  With a partner, they opened up the Chaîne Météo app and entered in the name of a francophone city provided by me.  They then took a screenshot of the forecast for the week and prepared a script of the weather report.  Then they opened up Adobe Voice (one of my favorite apps) and imported the screenshot.  They then took turns announcing the weather for the week in French and saved the result as a video.  I graded based on pronunciation, word order, and content.

I  think this assessment is better than a traditional presentation, because some of the more reserved students are able to speak without having to stand in front of the class.  I have found that having them record their voice on the iPad results in a better product from the students.  They also have the chance to re-record if they were unhappy with their result the first time through.Note:  I am very careful about ensuring that my students do not infringe on others' copyrights when creating digital content.  I allowed them to use the screenshots from Chaîne Météo under Fair Use, in which a screenshot of a webpage used for non-commercial educational purposes would typically be considered acceptable.Here are a couple of examples of the forecasts:

Finally, as a homework assignment, I have students pick a francophone city to write a weeklong report about (this is actually done before the iPad activity).  The following day in class, students read their reports to one another, and their partners try to guess which city (of the six they had to choose from) they are reporting on.

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