Pronouns, Part II - Verbs in Context

I previously blogged about introducing students to pronouns out of context.  In this post, I will share some ways I target specific pronouns in a more contextual setting, while also reinforcing ER verb forms.  Each of these activities targets several, but not all, subject pronouns.  In real communication, all the pronouns are not used together in the same situation.  Splitting them up across activities also helps students focus more on the pronouns you're working on.

Talking Questions (Je/Tu/Nous/Vous)
I often give my students an envelope of questions to ask each other in groups.  At this stage, it's hard to sustain a conversation without some support, so the questions help them along.  Sometimes I'll give them a question where they have to fill in the ending (such as "Do you watch _____") to make it more personal.  I like to use this as an opportunity to reinforce the difference between tu and vous.  Students have to think about how to answer a question about just themselves or about them and their family or them and their friends.  I give students a reference sheet to help them with this.

Speed Friending (Je/Tu/Nous/Vous)
Some people call this speed dating.  I call it speed friending since it's really just about finding friends.    After seeing a lot of teachers (Meghan Chance most recently) use this activity, I adapted it for my classroom.  I wanted students to practice conversation skills, but also work on using negatives.  Before partaking in the activity, students fill in the top half of the sheet with information about themselves.  They then copy the affirmative side into the questions at the bottom.  Then, they interview 3-4 classmates (I announce when it's time to switch, and half the students move systematically to a new spot).  If they answer affirmatively to a question, they put a check mark.  If they answer negatively, they put an X.  At the end of the activity, the classmate who has the most check marks is the student's ideal friend.

Ask Anything (Tu/Vous)
Using the quick question feature on Socrative, I have students write questions for various people (me, the principal, a student, a question directed towards a student and his or her friends and family to elicit a plural "vous").  For the question for the principal, the students vote (using the included feature on Socrative) on the best question to ask him, and I send the top vote-getting questions in each class to him to answer (in English, which I then translate back into French).  Sometimes students get off task and write silly answers when using this app, so they have to enter their names first to be held accountable.

Caption Homework (Je/Nous/Il/Elle/Ils/Elles)
For homework, students have to find a photo (a personal photo, one from the magazine or the internet, or they can draw something) and write a caption about what is going on in the photo.  If they are in the photo, they use "Je," if they and another person are in the photo they use "nous," and if they are not in the photo, they use the appropriate third person pronoun.  It helps them think about which pronoun they need in a particular situation.  I make a bulletin board of their creations.

Photo Memorization Activity (Il/Elle/Ils/Elles)
This is an activity that I adapted from Maris Hawkins.  She shows a series of photos on the board, then takes them away and students write what they remember.  I chose characters doing various things that my students know how to describe in French.  They had to write a sentence about what each character was doing (some of the characters were in pairs so that all of the 3rd person pronouns were covered).

Write, Draw Pass (Il/Elle/Ils/Elles)
I blogged about this idea from Martina Bex a couple of years ago. Students write a sentence, on a piece of paper, pass it to the person next to them who draws it, then folds the first sentence down and passes it to the next person, who writes a sentence based on the picture, and so on. It helps a lot to give example sentences.  Martina even has a template you can download! Here is an example:

Picture Captions (Il/Elle/Ils/Elles)
I previously blogged about this activity as well.  You can read the post for more details, but essentially, students imagine a sentence in French, draw a picture of it on the iPad, and then post it to a virtual notice board (last year I used Lino, this year I used Padlet).  Then someone else comes along and writes a caption for it.  Now, in order for this to work, you need to allow the students to edit each others' posts, which unfortunately can lead to students writing off-topic captions.  Alternatively, you could have the students sign up for accounts and login so they are held accountable.  I think this activity could just as easily be done with whiteboards though - once students are done drawing the picture, they move to a different desk and caption someone else's.  This is how I plan to do it next year.  Sometimes technology improves a task, but sometimes it also adds new challenges.

Guess Which Picture (Il/Elle/Ils/Elles)
For this simple review activity, I give pairs of students a sheet with a number of different images of people doing various things on it.  The students take turns describing an image (e.g. "La filles chante" or "Les garçons jouent aux jeux-vidéo") and having their partner point to the one they are describing. I usually do this as a station on a review day.

Picture Description Relay (Il/Elle/Ils/Elles)
Similar to the previous activity, I have students do this activity in groups of three.  Each group gets a page with 6 photos, lettered A-D.  All over the classroom, crumpled up, are each of the images, with a number on them.  Each group member takes a turn finding a ball of paper, opening it up, memorizing it, and then providing the number and a description of what's happening in the photo to the group.  The group then determines which image that is on the sheet, and writes the appropriate letter next to the number that the first group member provided.  It's extremely fast-paced, and a fun way to promote speech.

Why I Love Charades

Charades is an age-old game that is fun for practicing vocabulary.  I have been using it since my student teaching days and don't see myself stopping anytime soon.  Here are seven reasons why I love charades and several ways I've adapted the game for various topics.

Reasons I love charades

  1. It's an extension of what we do every day!  Keeping in the target language 90% of the time, we language teachers are accustomed to using lots of gestures, and our students are accustomed to seeing them.
  2. It keeps students in the target language.
  3. It can be made into a fast-paced, energetic competition.
  4. Students are familiar with it, thus it's easy to explain in the target language!  In a 90%+ TL world, that's a huge plus.
  5. It applies to many topics.
  6. It is low or no-prep, and can be pulled out at the end of class when you wrap up early.
  7. When done with vocabulary words written on paper, it hits on both reading and speaking.

How I play charades
  1. I always start by showing students how I like to act out the terms.  This makes the charades process much easier.
  2. Sometimes I throw on some dance music and just have students repeat after me the terms and the actions.  There's usually a lot of giggling and laughing during this activity, but they don't forget it!
  3. Jacques a dit/Simon says is a great alternative to traditional charades.
  4. I often turn it into a competition.  I give students in groups each an envelope filled with the terms written on strips of paper.  Students take turns looking at the terms and acting them out.  The first group to empty the envelope wins.

Topics that lend themselves to charades
  1. Parts of the body
  2. Useful classroom expressions (such as "Levez-vous," "Parlez," "Ecrivez," etc.)
  3. Weather and seasons - I have students announce to their classmates whether they have a season or a weather term before acting it out
  4. ER Verbs - You can use just the infinitives, use a subject and a verb, incorporate negatives, or just use them with J'aime/Je n'aime pas.
  5. Irregular verbs - Take a verb like "faire" for example, and use it with expressions that use "faire".
  6. Months - I usually act out an event associated with that month (see below).
  7. Adjectives - I haven't done this yet, but I am planning to this year.  Obviously, some adjectives lend themselves to charades more than others.  You could combine this with "être."  For instance, a person pointing to him or herself and then laughing would represent "Je suis comique."

Difficult charades:
  • L'hiver/Winter:  I pretend to ski because it doesn't apply to any particular weather term
  • Le printemps/Spring:  I pretend to smell a flower.
  • L'été/Summer:  I pretend to be sunning.
  • L'automne/Fall:  I pretend to rake leaves.
  • Il neige/It's snowing:  I pretend to catch snowflakes on my tongue.
  • Il y a des nuages/It's cloudy:  I frown and point upwards.
  • Janvier/January:  I pretend to be cold.
  • Février/February:  I make a heart shape with my hands.
  • Mars:  I pretend to be cold and then hot, signaling the changing weather of March.
  • Avril:  I pretend it's raining with my fingers (April showers).
  • Mai:  I pretend to smell a flower (as in, April showers bring May flowers).
  • Juin:  I walk away from the class waving, as if to say good-bye.
  • Juillet/July:  I pretend to wave a flag, in honor of both the French and American national holidays.
  • Août:  I pretend to be sunning, since August is a typical vacation month in France.
  • Septembre:  I step forward and wave to the class, mimicking the first day of school.
  • Octobre:  I make a scary face.
  • Novembre:  I pretend to eat for Thanksgiving.  Outside of the US, a different charade will need to be used.  I hate to use something that doesn't exist in the French speaking world for a charade, but students are aware of this.
  • Décembre:  I pretend to offer a gift.
  • Je ne comprends pas/I don't understand:  I pretend to tear my hair out.
  • Travaillez avec un partenaire:  I point to a person and then to myself, as if to invite someone to work with me.
  • Travailler/To work:  I pretend to mop or wash a desk OR I pretend to type.
  • Regarder la télé/To watch TV:  I gaze off into the distance and pretend to change the channel.

So, if you haven't played charades in awhile or if you haven't played them at all, give them a try?  What are some ways you adapt and extend charades?

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