Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas & New Year's Decorations

Not long ago, my friend Martine kindly sent me some French Christmas candy called papillotes to share with my students.  Basically, these are chocolate candies wrapped in fancy wrappers, and each candy has a slip of paper inside with a French saying on it.  The wrappers on these candies are so beautiful that I decided to use them to make a Christmas decoration for my classroom. 

So, I glued wrappers to each side of some cardboard rectangles.

Then I strung the rectangles together with fishing line, and hung them from a banner made of cardboard and glitter.  The banner says Merry Christmas on one side, and Happy New Year on the other. 

Voilà, a very festive, very French Christmas decoration!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Crêpe Day!

French I students recently learned how to name some foods, including crêpes.  So with the Principal's permission, I planned a special day for students to taste crêpes during class!  I made the batter at home, then brought it to school in a cooler and cooked it on an electric crêpe maker during class. 

I told students to expect a surprise, but they didn't know exactly what it would be until they came to class on that particular day.  They were thrilled.  If you look closely, you can see that they changed the message I'd written on the board from "Happy Crêpe Day" to "Happy Crêpe Week"!

I discovered that many of my students had never had crêpes before.  I also gave them the recipe, and several of them have since told me that they've made crêpes at home for their families. 

This is a great way to help promote your French program and create feelings of goodwill in your classroom!  Try it.  It's worth the extra effort.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

How to Use a Mannequin in Your Classroom #7: Teaching Students to ask Information Questions!

Yesterday I taught students how to ask basic information questions with the help of my classroom mannequin, Jacques.  Before class began, I dressed Jacques up to look like an alien from outer space & covered him up.  When students arrived, I told them to get ready for a surprise.

  I used a fog machine to create extra excitement.  I told students to imagine that Jacques was an alien from outer space today.  Then I unveiled him. 

Jacques the Alien from Outer Space!
I projected a photograph of outer space on the screen as I told the story of how Jacques the alien came to Earth.  Then I interviewed him.  Obviously, I have to act out the part of the interviewer and also the voice of Jacques (students really enjoy this)!  He traveled by flying saucer, which I made out of a paper plate and tin foil, and suspended from the ceiling.  

Jacques' flying saucer
I think this was a good way to model asking information questions to my students, and a great way to get them interested in the lesson.  I did have to warn my colleagues not to be alarmed if they saw smoke coming out of the French room today :)!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Simple Ways to Celebrate National French Week

I've wanted to participate in celebrating National French Week for several years, but have had difficulty finding the time to plan & prepare.  So this year I decided that I'd try just a few simple ideas just to get myself started.  I began by putting up posters up in the hallways.  My French I students participated by making mini-posters of the flags of the French-speaking world.  Here are some photos.

Then I planned and promoted 3 give-aways that the whole high school could participate in.  On Monday, I gave away free croissants and Nutella at lunch.  I was worried that students wouldn't really be interested, but by the time I got to the lunchroom, a crowd was waiting for me, and the croissants were gone in under one minute.  This created quite a buzz in the lunchroom...everyone noticed!  I was very pleased.

On Wednesday, I had a raffle to give away some French & Swiss chocolate (2 GIANT Toblerone bars and a box of Merci chocolates).  French students were in charge of collecting ballots for the drawing before school.  I entered the names in a random name picker website and then used a video projector in the lunchroom to show who the winners were by selecting the names on the website.  A large crowd of students gathered spontaneously, and there was definitely a lot of excitement in the air!

Friday was the grand finale.  The final raffle of the week was for a French café lunch for 2 people, to be served to the students at a café table in the lunchroom by me!  I used the random name picker website again to choose the winners.  Here are some photos.  The lunch consisted of croque-monsieur sandwiches (which I cooked on a hot plate right there in the lunch room beside the café table), limonade and French cookies.

As it turned out, the winners were French students, and they couldn't have been more thrilled!  And no one could complain about who won since I used the random name picker in front of everyone to choose the names.

On Friday I also held a simple contest just for French students.  It was called "Colors of the French flag Day", and French students were asked to wear red, white & blue to school.  Each class voted on the student with the best costume, and that student won a bottle of Limonade.  Here are the winners from each level of French.

French I winner
French II winners...a group effort!
French III winner
French IV

French I winner

It was definitely extra work to carry this out.  But I truly was surprised by the level of excitement that these simple activities created in everyone. At the end of the week, I felt like I had promoted the study of French, and that I had taken French outside of my classroom.  It was definitely worth the effort!  I encourage you to try it and see for yourself :). 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to Use a Mannequin in Your Classroom #6: Learning to Describe the Weather!

I used my friend Jacques (the mannequin) to teach students to describe the weather today!  I had a conversation with him about what the weather was like.  He started out looking like this:
Jacques said, "It's nice today"!

Then I changed his attire a little and asked him what the weather was like again:

Jacques said, "It's cool today".

I used a spray bottle filled with water and unexpectedly misted my students with the water as I asked Jacques again what the weather was like.

Jacques said, "It's raining".

It must be really cold outside, because Jacques' lips are BLUE :).

My students look forward to hearing these conversations with Jacques as part of their lesson!

I took this picture today when I saw these young ladies walk right over to Jacques to give him a hug as they entered the classroom!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How to Use a Mannequin in Your Classroom #5 (Learning to Describe Even More Past Events)!

Students in 3rd year French participated in the wedding of our classroom mannequins, Jacques & Suzette!  Everyone had a part to play.  Students acted out the ceremony at the town hall with the mayor and then the church ceremony, so they learned about French culture as well.  Here are some photos.

The mayor presides as Jacques & Suzette sign the marriage license.

The mayor gives Jacques & Suzette their livret de famille.

At the church, the flower girl scatters rose petals.

Jacques & Suzette exchange rings.

Suzette is wearing my grandmother's wedding dress from 1933.

And of course, there was a little goofing around as well!

Later, students read a description of the wedding and practiced choosing the correct verb tenses for describing a past event in French.  It was a day to remember!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Graffiti Board!

High school students love to write messages and graffiti wherever and whenever they can.  I decided to use this to my advantage by creating a message board for my students to write messages and graffiti in French!  I purchased a white board and some colorful markers for this purpose.  Students are allowed to write on the board in the few minutes before class begins, or at the end of class if we finish our lesson a few minutes early.  The rules are:  1. Write in French only,  2.  Don't erase anything that anyone else has written, 3.  Be nice.  Here's a photo of the message board.

My students fill this board  in a week.  If you look closely, you can see that I taught them some texting phrases that week (Je t'm), so they tried it out on the board.  One year a student asked a date to Homecoming in French on the message board.  And often, students stop in after school to see what their friends from other classes have written to them.  I think it's a great way to get students to use the language in an informal and authentic way.  It's also a great way to keep students engaged for every single minute that they are in class!

Monday, October 11, 2010

How to Use a Mannequin in Your Classroom #4: Learning to Describe Past Events

This week was an exciting one in 3rd year French!  Students heard the story of how Jacques recently proposed to Suzette.  Jacques and Suzette are classroom mannequins and students have been hearing stories about their lives since they began studying French.  This particular story is used to help students learn how to describe a past event using appropriate verb tenses (le passé composé vs. l'imparfait).  After hearing this story, students were given invitations to Jacques & Suzette's wedding!  Here's a photo of the invitations.

And here's a video of the story of their engagement!

Notice the students' responses as they realize what's going on.  It sure makes learning how to use various verb tenses more exciting...for my students and for me, too. :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

How to Use a Mannequin in Your Classroom #3: Learning to Describe One's Family

First year French will learn how to describe their families this week.  In order to teach students the family vocabulary, I will introduce them to the family of Jacques DUBOIS (my classroom mannequin).  Here's a photo of Jacques.

 I used photos of store mannequins to create a Power Point presentation of Jacques' family.  Here are some of the photos I used in the presentation.

This is Jacques' uncle.  As you can see, his family is multi-cultural.

This is one of Jacques' brothers.

And this is Jacques' dog, Beau!
You get the idea.  I had fun making this presentation and am looking forward to using it in class.  I think it's a good way to go beyond my textbook to help make the topic more interesting, and maybe even a little amusing, too. :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Teaching Students Good Manners & Respectful Behavior

A few years ago I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Hal Urban speak at a workshop.  A veteran teacher, Hal taught for more than 30 years in public schools in California and says he loved every minute of it.  Hal proposes that we can teach our students about the value of having good character and using good manners no matter what subject we teach or what sort of school we teach in.  He says that everyone, no matter what their background, can agree on the following:  1) The Golden Rule (treat others the way you'd like to be treated), 2) Societies (and therefore classrooms) function better when everyone uses good manners.  Hal convinced me that it's OK to take a few minutes of instructional time to set the tone for my classroom and to help teach students something even more important than French!  I followed his advice by talking to students about good manners and the power of words at the beginning of the year.  Hal suggests placing signs near the clock (because students will look there often) as a visual reminder to keep their words positive.  Here are the signs I put up this year.

Hal tells students that negative words can be as powerful as spraying poison in a classroom, so he uses an aerosol spray can as a visual reminder to all to keep their words from being poisonous.  I made one for my desk.  Here's a photo.

I pick up the can whenever I hear any name-calling, whining, complaining or any other type of negative talk and remind everyone not to "spray poison".  This really works.  I knew that for sure the day I walked by another classroom and heard one of my French students instructing their classmates to stop spraying poison.  It's a simple way to raise everyone's awareness of what's coming out of their mouths.  

After several strategic discussions about manners and the power of words, I ask students to write the rules of our classroom.  Here's a photo of my students pledging to themselves and to me that they would do their best to follow the rules they've written this year.


These are just a few of the things I learned from Hal.  Taking the time to implement these ideas has resulted in a truly positive classroom environment where mutual respect is the norm.  I highly recommend it. 

BE the change you want to see in the world.  It can start with YOU in your classroom!

Monday, September 13, 2010

How to Use a Mannequin in Your Classroom #2: Learning to Count

Today we learned to count to 20 in first year French.  I used our classroom mannequin, Jacques DUBOIS to teach this.  The conversation went something like this (in French, of course):  "Look everyone!  Jacques has his backpack with him.  I wonder what's in it!  Let's take a look (I open the backpack and gasp)...oh my!!  There's CANDY in his backpack.  How many pieces do you think there are?  Let's count them.  (I count in French, students who already know the numbers join in spontaneously).  Wow.  There are 20 pieces of candy.  How many students do we have in our class?  Let's count.  Can you believe it?  There are 20 students in the class, and 20 pieces of candy.  What a coincidence!  I think maybe I should give all of you a piece of candy!"

So I passed Jacques' backpack around the room, and everyone took a piece of candy.  I know it sounds a little crazy, but I assure you that I had every student's undivided attention.  And everyone was smiling while they practiced counting to 20 with a partner!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flower Pens!

A few years ago I tried a new idea inspired by our high school librarian.  She had a clay flower pot filled with coffee beans at the front desk.  The pot was "sprouting" daffodils, which were really just pens made to look like flowers.  I decided to make my own flower pot filled with flower pens for my desk.  I bought various colorful silk flowers and attached them to pens with tape.  Then I covered the entire pen with floral tape so it resembled the stem of a flower. 

I placed the flower pens in a pot filled with coffee beans.  Students are allowed to borrow the pens for the class period if they wish.  I've been pleasantly surprised by how much they seem to enjoy using these pens.  Believe it or not, last year a group of 11th grade boys enjoyed them the most and would sometimes race to class to claim their favorite pen first. 

Who wouldn't want their students racing to their class with anticipation?  This is just one small way you can make your classroom a more stimulating place to be.  I think it's worth the extra effort!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Brown Paper Bag Activity

The first homework assignment for 3rd year French involved a brown paper lunch bag.  I gave one to each student while explaining the assignment.  Students were asked to take the bag home and find 3 interesting objects to put in it that represented them in some way (unacceptable items:  pens, pencils, cell phones or car keys).  They were to come to class the following day prepared to explain to their classmates in French what was in the bag and why.  I divided the class into groups of 3 and had students present the contents of their sack to their group.  Then I assigned them to a different group of 3  and had them do it again.  While all of this was going on, I rotated in and out of the groups in order to make sure I heard each student and to verify that they could name the objects.  Here's my favorite photo of this activity.

This is a good assignment for the following reasons: 

  1. All students are engaged in speaking French.
  2. Students are talking about themselves, which makes it personal and interesting.
  3. Communication is more authentic because they aren't reading what they're saying.
  4. Everyone is saying something different, so those who are listening are learning new words.
  5. Anxiety is low because students are presenting to groups of 3 rather than addressing the whole class.
  6. Each student is making their presentation twice.
Why not try it yourself?

Monday, August 30, 2010

How to Use a Mannequin in Your Classroom #1: Get Your Students Interested!

Today was the first day of classes!  My French I students were introduced to our classroom mannequin named Jacques DUBOIS.  I told them that they'd be hearing a lot more about Jacques' life as the year goes on.  Jacques also has a girlfriend named Suzette, but students don't get to see her until French II which helps to create a sense of anticipation as they go on to the next level of language study.  My students truly adore Jacques, and I find that I have an easier time getting their attention when I use him to teach something new.  Here is a photo from today's class.  You can see that Jacques has recently been in the Tour de France :).

Are you wondering where I got Jacques?  Years ago, JC Penney donated him to my French classroom when a student asked if they'd be willing.  Suzette was purchased from an antique store for about $150.  Stay tuned for more ideas about how I use Jacques in class!

Friday, August 27, 2010

8 Reasons Why I Love Teaching French

The beginning of a new school year is a good time to remind yourself why you're in this job to begin with.  I'm sure you all have your reasons.  In case you're interested, here are mine:

 #1  I love speaking French and France.  This is definitely one of my passions, so it's enjoyable to share it with others and easy to be enthusiastic about it.  I learned French in France, but when I arrived, I could barely say or understand a thing.  I was part of an incredible university program which offered 65 different levels of French to students from all over the globe.  The only language used in my classes was French, so I learned through immersion.  I understand what it takes to go from not understanding a language to becoming fluent.  It's not an easy process, but it is possible and it's fascinating.  Here's a picture of the city where the university is located.

 #2  My students make me laugh.  I really enjoy teenagers.  They are so full of life and are often very witty and frequently amusing.  Here are a few favorite photos from last year. 

#3  Teaching is meaningful.  Life is short and earning lots of money isn't a high priority for me.  Making a difference in this world while I'm here is.  Teaching provides an opportunity for impact and influence on the next generation.  I find that having a positive influence on even one student makes it worth it.  Don't you agree? 

#4 Teaching is creative.  The possibilities for being creative in a language classroom are endless.  I really enjoy that part of this job.  Last year I made a bûche de Noël (a French Christmas cake) for my French III class.  Here's a photo.

I use life-like mannequins in my classroom as I've mentioned before.  I plan to share many ideas about how I do this as the year unfolds, so if this interests you, be sure to check back.  Here's a photo of one of my mannequins.  His name is Jacques DUBOIS.

#5  Teaching requires learning.  I believe that the best teachers are those who are continually learning and growing themselves.  I find looking for new and improved ways to be more effective in the classroom interesting and stimulating.  This year I'm going to start a classroom blog, which I've never done before.

#6 Teaching means being part of something bigger than yourself.  I like being part of something bigger than my own life and my own family.  It makes my life richer. Wouldn't you agree?

#7 The rewards outweigh the cost.  I'm sure you'd agree that teaching is hard work and not for the faint of heart.  But when a student shares how I've made a difference in their life, or when I'm able to participate in helping a wayward student change their ways for the better, it's truly priceless!

#8 Variety in schedule.  I find life in the classroom to be intense.  I enjoy the rewards of hard work, but I also love the fact that teachers have time off at holidays and over the summer.  I like being able to change my focus from the classroom to spending time at home and doing things with my family during my vacations. 

Teaching matters!  Have a great year.


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