The (Language) Teacher's Summer Checklist

Summer's an important time for teachers.  While many of us take some time to relax and unwind, it's not uncommon for teachers to use this time to reflect on the year gone by and prepare for the one ahead.  Here's what you'll find on my summer checklist:

Back Up & Reorganize Your Files
If you're like me, your files tend to need some tidying up at the end of a school year.  I keep everything on my flash drive, but I also back up to Microsoft One Drive (connected to my school email) and Box (through my home computer).  I also like to go through and delete old files, especially outdated SMART Notebook files, which can be large.

Get Organized with Evernote
If you're not using Evernote yet, you should be!  I wrote a post a few years back about how I use it to gather resources and plan lessons.  The summer is a great time to play around with it!

Get Acquainted with New Technology
You know when you find out about a new app or website, and you think, "Wow that looks really cool, but I'd really have to play around with it a bit before I could use it in my classroom?"  Well I often think that, at least.  I often find myself test driving new tech tools during the summer and sometimes even preparing an activity or lesson on them.  Doing this takes the pressure off in the fall.

Re-Evaluate Policies & Procedures
Summer is the best time to think about how you run your classroom and what changes you'd like to make in the coming year (new grading system, homework policy, etc.).  If I decide I want to make changes to a rule or policy, I wait till the fall to do it.  I think it's a bit unfair to students to go changing policies left and right throughout the year, and it starts to detract from your credibility.  It's important to go through any handouts you give out at the beginning of the school year and make sure they reflect the changes you're making.

Load Up on PD!
I try to do something PD-ish during the summer.  I regularly read teacher blogs throughout the year, but during the summer I tend to dig in a little bit more, either by browsing articles in-depth that I've saved to Pocket (another amazing organizational tool), attending a summer conference or taking a 3-hour class, or reading a book (check out my summer reading for French teachers).

Maintain Fluency
As language teachers, we have a responsibility to maintain fluency in the language(s) we teach.  Whether we achieve that through travel, through correspondence with colleagues or native speakers, watching movies or TV in the target language, or through listening to music or reading target language books or magazines, is up to us.  Lately I've been listening to a lot of Cœur de Pirate and Valérie Carpentier on iTunes.  Both are Québécoise singers.

It's important to take time off to relax and recharge so you come back in the fall more energized than ever!  In the summer I pursue my photography more intently.  I find this pastime provides a great balance to teaching.

My Weathered Flip Flops at Moreau Lake

What does your summer checklist look like?

Using "Humans of Paris" to Spark Conversation

Many of you have probably heard of Humans of New York, the photo project featuring portraits and interviews of people seen on the streets of New York.  The site has grown in popularity so much so that it has inspired a wealth of offshoots for various other cities around the world.  One such offshoot is Humans of Paris.  I recently decided to use Humans of Paris as photo prompts in class.

I gave groups of students a photo to talk about in groups.  They were to discuss and infer the end to the following sentences:
-Il/Elle est... / Ils/Elles sont... (content, jeune, vieux, etc.)
-Il/Elle a...ans / Ils/Elles ont...ans
-Il/Elle a... / Ils/Elles ont... (froid, chaud, faim, etc.)
-Il/Elle aime... / Ils/Elles aiment... (les chiens, le sport, etc.)

After they had a few minutes to discuss, the groups presented their inferences to the class.  Then we actually read the caption that appeared with the photo on social media.  The captions are in both French and English.  Sometimes the students had inferred correctly about the people in the photos, and other times they learned interesting facts that couldn't be inferred from the photo.

I liked using Humans of Paris as a prompt, because it was more authentic than just stock photos, but also because the actual captions made the activity more interesting.  Students enjoyed reading the stories behind the people in the photos.

I made an effort to pre-select photos that would elicit the vocabulary and structures we were reviewing, but also whose captions were relatively easy for them to read in French.

The great thing about Humans of Paris is that you can use it at any level.  I'm interested to hear how YOU might use this in your French classroom?

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