Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winter Decoration for your Desk

I love snow, snowflakes and snow globes!  I like to decorate my classroom with such things to celebrate wintertime, and the possibility of a "snow day", which does occur regularly where I live here in Michigan :).  I had some time to do some shopping over my Christmas break, and I found an Austrian snow globe, which I bought for my desk.  Here's a photo:

Apparently, Austrian snow globes are special and have superior "snow fall"...which I do think is true as I look at this globe.  I tried to take a photo that would capture the effect.  If you look carefully, you can see that the snowman is holding a green balloon in his left (your right) hand.  It is lovely, and I know it will draw students to my desk.  They love the interesting objects I place there throughout the year.

Why place novelties on your desk?  It helps to make your classroom a stimulating and interesting place to be.  It also helps communicate the message that you are approachable to your students.  They might just stay and chat with you a while when they stop to shake your snow globe :).

Happy New Year, fellow teachers!  Wishing you love, joy, peace, happiness, good health and success in your classroom in 2012!!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Simple Christmas Treat!

Today I brought in a delicious French Christmas treat that was so easy to make, and it was a big hit with my students.  It's called a Saucisson LU au Chocolat (rough translation: chocolate sausage), and it's made with French butter biscuits (LU brand preferred) and dark chocolate.  I couldn't find the LU brand at my local grocery store, so I used a German brand (below) instead.   

First, you crush the butter biscuits.  I just crushed them with my hands, which I actually found to be quite therapeutic :).  Then you mix up a chocolate sauce and pour it over the crushed biscuits.

After mixing well, you'll have a mixture that looks like this:

Pour it onto foil, and roll it up into a "sausage" shape.

Put the sausage in the refrigerator overnight.  When you take it out the next day, it looks like this:

Slice with a knife and serve!

As is typical of French desserts, the saucisson is not overly sweet, but it's very chocolaty and I love the crunch of the crushed cookies.  I was touched when one of my students brought her mother to my classroom after school today.  She had saved a piece of the treat for her mom, and both of them wanted to make sure they could read the recipe correctly, which I had given to my students in French, of course. 

I can't remember where I got this recipe, but I know it came from a French woman's recipe box.  Here it is:

  •  one package LU butter biscuits
  • 3.5 ounces dark chocolate
  • 11 T sugar
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 3 eggs yolks
  • 1/2 an egg white
  • Crush the butter biscuits
  • Melt the butter & chocolate, then add the sugar and stir
  • whisk in the eggs yolks & white
  • pour the mixture over the biscuits & mix well
  • pour the mixture onto foil and roll up into a sausage
  • leave in the refrigerator overnight

Note:  the eggs in this recipe are not really cooked, so I made sure to keep the saucisson in a cooler when I brought it to school for students.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

French Show & Tell

My third year students recently finished studying how to describe objects in detail.  They learned how to describe the shape, texture, surface, weight, size, capacity, temperature and general condition of an object, including how to name what the object is made of.  In order to help them practice what they'd learned, I gave them a homework assignment to bring an interesting object from home for "Show & Tell" in French.  I asked them to be prepared to describe their objects in detail to the class.  They had to speak for a minimum of 30 seconds at a normal speed.  Here are some photos:

Students were allowed to look at a written description of their object as they spoke, but in my opinion, this activity was less like a memorized presentation and more like informal conversation.  Informal speaking is one of those areas that is difficult to assess, and I think this activity was a good way to do just that.  Also, it was a very enjoyable lesson for everyone, and a great way to get everyone speaking French! 


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fun Review Game

I learned about this review game at a conference and tried it out with my students.  It's called Organized Chaos.  It would work well for any subject!  Here's what you do:

  1. Write 8 questions that cover the topic you want to review.
  2. Make 8 copies of each question (so you'll have 64 sheets of paper).
  3. Give a few sheets of paper to each student.
  4. Ask students to crumble up each individual piece of paper into a ball.
  5. Tell students to throw the balls onto the floor, in the center of the room.
  6. Ask students to get out a sheet of paper and number from 1-8.
  7. Tell students to get up and start uncrumbling paper balls.  They write the answer to the question they find on their sheet of paper.  Then they crumble up the paper into a ball again and throw it back into the center.
  8. Repeat until they've found all 8 questions and answered them all.
  9. Collect their answers or go over the correct answers as you see fit.
  10. Put the garbage can in the center of the room and tell students to grab the balls of paper and shoot baskets with them into the garbage can.

Here's a photo of high school seniors participating in this game.  I was surprised at how much they enjoyed it, and basically at how I was able to trick them into having fun when they were really just answering questions!  I was reminded that students dearly love to do things that are normally not allowed in a classroom, even if it is something as simple as throwing paper.  I was also reminded of how much they are still children, even though they are so close to adulthood.  We spent a very enjoyable 15 minutes reviewing in this way.  Why not try it yourself?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ScreenChomp & the iPad

ScreenChomp for iPad2 is fast becoming one of my favorite apps to use in French class.  This app is basically a white board that students can draw on, but they can also import photos, AND they can record their voices! 

Here's an example of how I used it in 3rd year French.  Students had been reading and studying a short story (a chapter from Le Petit Nicolas called les cow-boys).  In the past, one of the activities I've done to help students review the story was to divide them into groups and ask them to act out a scene from the story for the class with costumes & props.  This year, I divided the class into groups as usual, and then I asked them to create a "freeze frame" of the action happening at that point in the story.  I assisted the groups by taking a photo of the "freeze frame" on one of the students' iPads.  I assigned one student in each group to be in charge of the ScreenChomp.  That student imported the photo to ScreenChomp.  Then the group had to describe what was happening in the photo in French.  Each student had to say one sentence.  The group was able to record their description in ScreenChomp, and then the group leader sent the ScreenChomp to me via email.  Later, I projected all of the ScreenChomps with my videoprojector, and everyone enjoyed watching a quick review of the story.  Here's an example of one of the scenes:

I'm asking myself if this was better than just acting the scenes out for the class as we'd done in the past.  I noticed that students seemed to enjoy it, and that they spent a little more time working on their pronunciation because they were being recorded.  I also noticed that in the end, I'd saved some significant class time by doing it this way, and that's always an advantage for me.  What do you think?


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Coffee Filter Poems

I tried a new project with my 4th year students this year, and I was very pleased with the results.  Students cut individual words out of French magazines.  After we had a large assortment, I spread the words out on cookie sheets so it was easier to see the words.  I gave one cookie sheet to each student.  Students used the words to write a whimsical poem.  After arranging their words into a poem, they checked their poem with me.  Then they glued the words to construction paper.  This project also had a simple art component to it.  Each student was given an coffee filter on which they drew a design with water-based markers.  They laid the coffee filters on their construction paper and used paintbrushes to moisten the filters with water.  This process transferred the designs to their construction paper.  The result looked a lot like water color.  Here are some examples:

Translation: My Boutique
I have a little boutique in the ocean
It's a little paradise
The design is special 
and chic
with color.
(coffee filter design shows an island with a palm tree) 

Here's another.

Translation:  Summer
It's comfortable
We don't think.
Time for a picnic,

I did this in the first week of school this year.  My students really enjoyed it, and I think it was a creative way for them to play with words.  The poems looked nice on my classroom walls, too.  What do you think?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Using iPad to review

If you've been reading this blog you know that every student and teacher in my high school has the iPad2 this fall!  I've been using an app called Doodle Buddy quite frequently in many of my classes.  It works well to review any concept quickly.  This app is essentially a whiteboard that students can use to draw on in different colors and styles.  They can vary the thickness and style of their line (brush, chalk, etc.) and they can add effects such as glitter or they can smudge a line they've drawn.   

Today I was reviewing for a unit test that students will take tomorrow in French III.  One of the things they learned in this unit was to describe a person physically.  To review this vocabulary with them, I asked them to open their iPads to Doodle Buddy and draw a face that matched the description they heard me give in French.  Here's what they drew (this is a screenshot of a drawing in Doodle Buddy):

You can see they learned words like: freckles, eyeshadow, scar, lipstick...etc.  After students were done drawing, I asked them to turn their screens toward me.  I chose a student who had an accurate drawing to connect her iPad to my video projector so that everyone could see what the correct drawing should have looked like.

Could this have been done using pencil & paper?  Yes.  But the accurate colors could not have been added easily with pencil & paper.  And the vocabulary we were reviewing included eye colors, hair color and make up.  In my opinion, the fact that students could use the correct color on the iPad added value to the activity, and students also found the app fun to use, which helped to raise their motivation.

What do you think?

P.S.  Warning:  if you use Doodle Buddy, make sure to ask your students to mute their sound button before you start the activity.  Otherwise they will quickly find all the annoying noises that this app also provides. :)


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Best cool gadget for your desk!

Keep interesting gadgets on your desk and around your classroom and create a stimulating atmosphere to set the tone for learning!  I found this unusual fake butterfly in a jar this summer for my desk.  It's attached to a very thin wire which is battery-operated (the battery is under the lid to the jar).  The wire simulates incredibly realistic movements of a real butterfly caught in a jar.  Here it is:

Yesterday a few of my students noticed this, and before long I had a crowd gathered around my desk.  Several students wanted to know where I had bought it and how much it cost, because they wanted to buy one for their bedrooms.  But the best reward of all for me was seeing a group of football players hunched over the jar, saying "That's awesome!"  I'm glad I bought was worth it :).

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fun in French IV!

The new school year has begun and I'm happy to share that the faculty at my school has noticed an unusually positive "buzz" going on.  It might have to do with the fact that we have a lot of new teachers this year, a new chaplain and also a new iPad2 program (everyone has one).  It seems like these things may have added to the usual excitement of the start of a new year.  Whatever the case, it's nice :).

I'm excited, too.  I absolutely LOVE the iPad2 and all the creative ways it can be used in my classroom.  Stay tuned for more on that...I plan to share ideas about how I'm using it as the year unfolds.  I'm also excited because I have a class of French IV this year, and I can't wait to see all that these students will accomplish. 

This week, French IV students were working on a project and they asked me if they could listen to some French music while working.  "Of course!" I said.  I stepped into the hall (for 5 seconds) to get some water needed for their project, and when I returned, this is what they were doing:

I stepped into the hall again (just for 5 seconds!) to get more water, and when I returned, this is what they were doing:

I was shocked that these girls knew the lyrics to this song since I'd only played it once or twice in previous years, and just as background music.  It makes me realize that playing background music can help them to learn French more than I thought! 

I'm sure you can see that these students were having a really good time, and learning, too.  Doesn't it look like a fun place to be?  I love my students.  I love my school.  I love my job. 

I hope you do, too.  Happy Back to School!

P.S.  The above videos were recorded on my iPad2!

Monday, August 22, 2011

5 Goals for the New School Year

Students are what it's all about!  Connecting with them, motivating them, helping them learn and hopefully having a positive influence on them in the process.  This is not an easy job.  School starts for me in just a few days, and I find myself asking what I can do better this year.  Here are a few of the goals I have for myself.
  1. Be a model of self-control and patience.  Of course this has always been a goal of mine, but this year I want to focus on doing an even better job in this area specifically :).
  2. Find concrete ways to communicate my care.  I'm thinking of sending a personal note to each of my French I students in the mail, welcoming them to class and letting them know that I'm happy to have them as students. 
  3. Find creative ways to use new technology that will enhance students' learning.  This will be a challenge as all of my students will have the iPad2 this year for the first time.  I will need to resist the urge to try and make the technology fit the learning rather than the other way around.
  4. Organize a French immersion day.  I just attended a workshop on how to do this.  The goal of this event is to increase enrollment in your high school French program.
  5.  Try "flipping" my classroom.  I've learned a lot about this concept from my colleague, John.  He has suggested that teachers begin by trying to "flip" lessons that lend themselves to the concept.  I'm going to begin by having French I complete vocabulary lists at home for homework (rather than during class), which will allow more class time to practice speaking.  I'll see how it goes!

The above photo shows two of my former students who met up in the French city that I lived and studied in.  It's a concrete reminder to me that I have had at least some influence on their lives, as I'm pretty sure they would never have visited this city if they hadn't heard about it from me.  Here's wishing all of you teachers out there a wonderful year!  Teaching is an important job, and you CAN make a difference.  

Have a wonderful year. 

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    iMovie with iPad!

    I'm in the middle of planning a trip to France & Spain for the world language students at my high school!  When school starts again in a few weeks, I want to promote the trip as widely as I can because the registration for the trip will close in September.  Since I only announced the possibility of the trip on the last day of school in June, I really need to advertise as much as possible!  So I decided to make this video.  We took this exact same trip a few years ago, so I used photos from that trip.  This movie was made on my iPad with iMovie, and with photos video clips at all.  It was easy to make!  Really!  Here are the results:

    The video will be shown on the first day of school to the whole student body. 

    I also decided that it would help me spread the news if I created a QR code (Quick Response code) of this video and put it up around the hallways.  If you aren't familiar with QR codes, they're sort of like bar codes that can be scanned with a smart phone or an iPad.  Once scanned, you are automatically taken to another website, or in this case, to my video!  I'm hoping that parents and students will scan the code while walking the halls.  Hopefully this will generate even more interest in the incredible trip that we have planned!

    iPad, iMovie & QR codes.  All three are helping me advertise my trip! :)

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    Why language teachers should teach with props

    • Props generate interest!  Students and passersby will wonder what's going on in your classroom if they see, for example, a picnic scene set up on the floor.  Grabbing the interest of your students is an important key to motivating them to want to learn.
    • Props allow you to use less English.  Those of you who are world language teachers know that it is important to use as much of the language being taught as possible in the classroom.  If you can point to a plastic apple, you can say, "This is an apple.  It's red.  It's a fruit." in another language, and students will be able to understand without an English translation.
    • Props reach students with different learning styles.  You can appeal to many of the senses with props.  In my opinion, students will remember what was taught more easily if you engage more of their senses in your lesson.
    Props can be used in many ways in a world language classroom.  I use them frequently to introduce new vocabulary (for example, I use plastic food to introduce food vocabulary).  Often I use the same props to review this vocabulary by playing review games with them, or by asking students to participate in other activities which require them to handle the props.  I also use them in skits that I act out with my classroom mannequin.  I often ask my students to act out skits using props as well.  In the photos below, my French III students (juniors & seniors) are acting out a story that we'd just finished reading (Les cowboys from Le Petit Nicolas).


    Students were able to demonstrate their understanding of this story in this way without reverting to English.  You may be wondering where I got all these.  Well, it took a long time for me to collect them all.  Many were bought at toy stores, garage sales and Halloween stores over the years.

    I think I started using props as a young teacher instinctively, because I knew that my students would need to see an object and think of the word in French immediately without thinking of the English word first if they were to really master the language.  I understood this to be true as a result of my amazing experience of learning French in France, in a university program where no language other than French was used (this is called immersion, for those of you who aren't language teachers). 

    What do you think?  I invite you to leave a comment and let me know :).

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    10 tips to recharge yourself this summer!

    I saw my  first "back to school" sign of the summer while shopping at Target yesterday.  Carpe Diem.  It's time to seize the summer, or whatever you have left of it :).  Here are some principles I'm trying to follow...they help me to feel ready for the new school year when it arrives.  

    Sunset in Frankfort, MI
    1. Give yourself permission to sleep.  The alarm will be ringing before you know it.  If you're like me, you find it difficult during the school year to get 8 hours of sleep each night.  Protect your long-term physical, emotional and mental health by allowing yourself to get enough sleep on a consistent basis.
    2. Get away.  Take advantage of the time you have to travel.  A change of scenery is good therapy.  My husband and I try to enjoy the incredible splendor of northern Michigan as much as we can.  Watching the sunset over Lake Michigan (above) is one of the highlights of the summer for us.
    3. Spend time outside.  Having the summer off is definitely one of the best perks of this profession.  Take advantage of it if you live in a climate that allows you to by spending as much time outside as possible.  I'm even trying to serve family meals outside when I can.  Soak in the sunshine and all the vitamin D it's good for you. 
    4. Make time for a hobby.  Whatever it is that you enjoy doing in your free time, make sure to do it.  I make extra time for gardening, reading, crafting, cooking, entertaining, spending time with family and going to the movies.
    5. Slow down.  I think it's safe to say that we teachers are generally not slackers, so we really need to discipline ourselves to slow down a little.  Star-gazing, cloud-watching and stopping to smell the roses or watch the fireflies come out are all great ways to accomplish this.
    6. Spend some time planning for the new school year.  Complete a project or some plans you had that you were never able to get to last year.  I try to make some new presentations, or brainstorm a new project or figure out how to implement a new idea.
    7. Exercise!  I find it hard to be consistent with this during the school year as well, so during the summer I work harder at it.  This summer I'm swimming laps almost every day :). 
    8. Reflect on the previous school year.  Ask yourself what worked and what didn't, and be honest  with your answer.  Set goals for yourself and make plans to improve or to try something new.
    9. Eat well.  Take the time to prepare healthy meals and eat at regular times.  Include LOTS of fruits and vegetables.
    10. Complete a project not related to school. I like to accomplish a few household projects, such as painting or remodeling a room, and freezing or canning fresh fruits and vegetables in preparation for the winter months.
    Simple though they may be, these ideas have really helped me to create better balance in my life as a full-time high school teacher.  I hope maybe you'll find something helpful here, too!

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    10 Tips for the New Teacher

    When I started my teaching career, I was fortunate to have a boss who mentored me.  I got into teaching through the back door, so I needed more help than the average first-year teacher!  Doug spent one on one time with me each week (even though I'm sure he really didn't have the time to do so!), giving me advice.  All these years later, I'm still following these bits of wisdom that he passed on:
      1. Be STRICT, but be NICE.  Doug always said he was going to write a book about this one day.  It is possible to be strict, or in other words, to be consistent in requiring that students do what you ask them to, without being mean.  Make this your motto.
      2. You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.  As much as possible, reward students for doing what you want them to, rather than attempting to punish every time they don’t.  This helps keep the tone in your classroom positive.  Elementary school teachers are great at this, but high school teachers sometimes forget to do this.
      3. What  you do in the first 10 days of class sets the tone for the rest of the year.  Start the year with this in mind.  If you want your students to be excited about learning, this is the time to pull out all the stops.  Lead by example, and your students will follow.  You are the teacher, and you can decide how you want your class to go!
      4. Make sure students know what they should study for a test. Students should not have to guess at what they need to study.  They should also be given plenty of advance notice regarding the date of the test (I suggest at least a week). 
      5. Make it possible for your students to succeed if they do their part.  Be clear in your directions.  Keep your expectations high while offering the suggestions and the help that students will need to meet those expectations.  Teach students HOW to study for your class.  Give written instructions for projects, in addition to giving an oral explanation of the same.  Include an explanation of how you will grade the project.
      6. Find ways to make learning FUN.  Doug gave me the idea to use “Jacques” the mannequin in my French classroom.  Doug used to teach history, and after the students studied the Civil War, he brought in a bag of musket balls and had students create “musket ball art”.  Think up your own ways to make learning interesting in your subject.
      7. Pace the lesson properly.  Maximize the learning and minimize the problems by moving at an appropriate pace.  Pay attention to how much time students need to get the intended benefit from an activity.  If you allow too much time, students will get bored and start engaging in other undesirable behaviors.  If you allow too little time, students will become frustrated and angry. 
      8. Exemplify organization.  Know what you are doing in each lesson (write out your lesson plans!) and have all your materials ready for each activity in advance.  If you appear disorganized, students will believe you are disorganized, even if you are not.
      9.  Make it count.  As much as possible, make every activity you do in your classroom count towards their grade.  Very few teenagers are mature enough to do their best at completing an activity if it doesn’t affect their grade.  And if they aren’t completing the activities you’ve planned, then they probably aren’t learning like they should.
      10. Realize that there will be days when you won’t feel like teaching.  During Doug’s years as principal at SCS, his 3 month old son died unexpectedly.  He shared with me that there were many days during that time when he felt that he just couldn’t face a classroom.  Life happens, and we’re all certain to have periods of time when personal difficulties make it hard to face a classroom.  That’s the way this profession is, and Doug told me that on those days, you just have to put on a smile and fake it. As obvious as this may seem to some, this was some very important advice that I really needed to hear as a first-year teacher.
      Doug was not your typical high school principal.  He rode a Harley-Davidson to work.  He was cool.  He led by example and served others behind the scenes, often without recognition.  He had been a master teacher himself before becoming principal.  He was without a doubt one of the most influential people in my life, and if I ever write a book, it will be dedicated to him :).

      Monday, July 4, 2011

      Activity for the iPad with Adopt an Escargot

      I mentioned in an earlier post how excited I am about finding ways to use my new iPad2 in the classroom!  I also mentioned my favorite app so far, called Face Jack.  Here's an example of how students could use the Face Jack app on their iPads in conjunction with the adopt an escargot project which I currently use in my third year French class.

      If you're unfamiliar with adopt an escargot, it involves students "adopting" a snail shell and inventing the life of the snail.  My students love it!  I used one of the shells that came in my adopt an escargot kit in this video.  I also used one of the profiles that came in the kit to describe this particular snail.  I plan on asking my students to make a video about their adopted snails next year, and to use Face Jack in the video.  Obviously, students would be speaking French in their videos.

      What do you think? 

      Sunday, June 26, 2011

      French Accents on the iPad

      Inserting French accents while typing on the iPad2 couldn't be simpler!  Just start typing...

      When you come to a letter that needs an accent added to it, just hold your finger on that letter, and then possible accents will appear.

      Slide your finger from the original letter to the letter containing the accent you wish to use, and then tap the key.  And voila!

      Stay tuned for more on how to use an iPad in your classroom :).

      Tuesday, June 21, 2011


      All students & teachers in my high school will have the new iPad2 next fall!  The teachers were given their iPads last week, and then we had 3 days of training on how to use them.  My amazing colleagues John and Karen shared their vast knowledge with the rest of us and inspired us to figure out how to use them effectively in our classrooms.  

      My favorite app so far is called FaceJack.  I can't wait to make some new movies about Jacques the mannequin to use in my classroom.  Here's what you can do with FaceJack:

      It's simple, easy and in my opinion, INCREDIBLE!  In addition to making videos about Jacques, I've thought of a few more ways to use this:
      • Students could make FaceJacks of French or American celebrities or historical or political figures, or even of anonymous people.  They could be asked to say, "hello, my name is...., I'm x years old, I'm american/french..." (or more, for advanced students).  Then they could share them with the class.  Students could even vote on their favorite (using Google moderator!), and a prize could be given to the winner.
      • French III students could use FaceJack with the adopt an escargot project.  They could be asked to make a video about their escargots (snails), and they could use FaceJack to make their snails talk!
      Stay tuned for more posts on how to use the iPad2 in your classroom!

      Wednesday, June 8, 2011

      How to use a mannequin in your classroom #11: Creative writing

      My first year students were learning to name methods of transportation, which inspired me to write a story about Jacques, the classroom mannequin.  In the story, Jacques is trying desperately to get to his girlfriend's house to pick her up for a date.  He tries various methods of transportation, but each one fails for one reason or another.  In the end, he has fallen off a bike and broken his leg, so he walks the rest of the way, dragging his broken leg behind him. When he arrives (late, obviously), his girlfriend's dad opens the door and says, "I'm sorry, but Suzette isn't here..."

      Students were asked to write a 5 line ending to the story.  They worked in groups of 2, and were instructed to write out their lines on paper.  Then they had to act out their endings for the class.  Here are some photos of their endings.

      These students borrowed some crutches for Jacques (left).  Suzette's father is on the right.

      Notice the smiles.  These girls were having a great time with this!

      Another student playing the part of Jacques (the baseball cap he's wearing is always used for the part of Jacques).
      This boy brought a wig to class so that he could play the part of Suzette.

      Poor Jacques is begging Suzette's father to tell him where she is.

      I had the undivided attention of my students the day that I taught this lesson.  Really.  You could have heard a pin drop.  How did I accomplish this?  I acted out the story (with costumes, sound effects and various props) as I told it.  My students love it when I do this sort of thing.  As you can see, they were inspired to write some really creative endings.  We all enjoyed watching what each group came up with, and all of my students were engaged in trying to communicate their original ideas in French!   


      Friday, May 27, 2011

      Making "Le Petit Prince" Come to Life

      It's always exciting when students reach the point in their language study when they are able to read an original piece of literature in its original language.  For me, this happens in French III when students read Le Petit Prince.  To help them figure out the meaning of the book without resorting to English is also a challenge.  One thing I've tried is to create 3-D representations of things that happen in the book.  For example, I created the planet that the Little Prince lives on out of a Styrofoam ball, and I hung it from the ceiling.

      In the book, the Little Prince travels around the universe visiting various unusual planets.  I created those as well and hung them from the ceiling.

      Here's the planet of the drinker.

      And here's the planet of the lamplighter.

      And here's the planet Earth and the airplane of the pilot, one of the main characters in the book.

      Having these planets hanging from the ceiling allows me to explain and review what's happening in each chapter without using English.  Obviously, students can also easily be reminded of what they're reading by looking around the room.  And every year, students in other levels of French get interested in what the planets mean and ask me about it, which gives me an opportunity to get them excited about being able to read the book in years to come.

      Thursday, May 19, 2011

      French Fashion Show

      I've collected a box of old clothing to use when students learn to name articles of clothing.  A fun thing to do in class once they've learned the words is to have a fashion show and have students model various items.  I allowed students to choose a few things from the box, and then they figured out how to say what they were wearing in French.  I made a "runway" out of butcher paper which I laid on the floor, and I put on some French music in the background.  The more outgoing students even tried to walk like models.  Here are some photos of my first year students.

      Once students walked down the runway, they told the class in French what they were wearing and also mentioned what color it was.  I gave them a grade on their spoken French for this activity.

      I know this is a pretty common activity for world language teachers to use, but I wanted you to see how much my students enjoyed this anyways.  I did not force the students to put on the clothing as I've found there are usually some who feel too intimidated by this.  However, as you can see, there were still plenty of students who seem to enjoy playing dress-up.  In my opinion, it made practicing the French words more  engaging :).   

      Sunday, May 15, 2011

      Favorite Quotes from Le Petit Prince

      My third year students have just finished reading the beloved book entitled Le Petit Prince (the Little Prince)!  For those of you who aren't familiar with this book, it's full of philosophical quotes.  I asked my students to write their favorite quote from the book on a paper star which I provided for them (stars are discussed frequently in the book).  I hung the stars from the ceiling, where they now brighten up the room and remind us of the genius of Antoine de Saint-Exupery :).

      Friday, April 29, 2011

      5 Tips to Keep Your Students Interested

      1. Cultivate the Element of Surprise!  Plan surprises and then tell your students to look forward to them...on a particular day or at the end of the hour, for example.  I've used films, games, French treats and special skits (performed by me :).
      2. Build Anticipation  Tell students about all the exciting things you have planned for them this year, next week, next month and especially in the next level of your class.  Students need to have things to look forward to.
      3. Deliver the Unexpected  Find ways to "repackage" your content.  Be unconventional.  Close your textbooks more often.  Think outside the box.  My best idea has been to create stories about a department store mannequin named Jacques, who lives in my classroom.  (See posts on "How to Use a Mannequin in Your Classroom!) 
      4. Make your Classroom Inviting  Place interesting objects on your desk, and change them once in a while.  Hang things from the ceiling.  Use plants.  Buy some air freshener.  Make the room a place everyone will enjoy spending time in.
      5. Accentuate the Positive  Take time to remind students how far they've come and how much they've accomplished.  They tend to focus on what they don't know instead of all they've learned.  For example, I tell my students how many vocabulary words they've learned at the end of each year.
      Jacques, the classroom mannequin.
      Escargot (snail) tape dispenser on my desk.


      Friday, April 15, 2011

      How to Use a Mannequin in Your Classroom #10: Jacques' Birthday Party!

      Jacques DUBOIS, my classroom mannequin, just turned 16!  So we had a birthday party for him in French I.  Students were asked to bring Jacques a present for the party.  It had to be something they made or something from home they could give away, but they weren't allowed to buy anything for him.  Students wrote descriptions of what they were giving him and why in French, and on the day of the party, they presented their gifts to Jacques in front of the class.  Here are some examples:
      This young lady is giving Jacques a wig, because he's bald :).

      This young lady is presenting Jacques with a scarf.

      One student made Jacques a French driver's license!
      My students got really excited about giving Jacques a present!  It continues to amaze me how easily I can get them to buy into the whole story.  It reminds me that they're still really just kids at heart (and maybe I am, too :).

      Students also enjoyed singing Happy Birthday to Jacques, and eating birthday cake!

      In my opinion, this was so much more successful than just having students practice writing descriptions of things.  For those of you who aren't language teachers, I should explain that first year language students typically learn to use adjectives properly, and therefore need to practice describing things.  This definitely got their attention, and it was also very enjoyable.  Who wouldn't want that in their classroom?


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