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?

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Part of the adopt an escargot project which I've spoken of in earlier posts involves students creating a dwelling for their baby snails.  Dwellings can be made of virtually anything the student desires to use!  So, the variety tends to be endless, which I greatly enjoy.  Here are some of the houses my students made.

This baby, named Pickle, lives in an empty pickle jar.
A closer view of baby Pickle in her cosy bed!
Marcel the Shell lives here.  If you've seen the video of Marcel the Shell, you'll understand the significance of this house.  (See my earlier posts for the video!)

This next snail is named Destiny's Child :).

If you look closely, you can see the baby snail on the far right.  The student cut a hole where the face should be so the  snail could be inserted.  The head of the woman in the middle is a photo of the mother of this snail.

This baby lives in a mailbox!

We built the city of Escargotville in a corner of the classroom by assembling all the snail dwellings together.  Eventually students wrote essays in French in which they described in detail what their snail's home looked like and what their snail did in Escargotville each day, among other things. 

Shhh!  Quiet!!  Baby snails!

As you might imagine, students in other levels of French get very interested in what's going on with this project once Escargotville is constructed.  I make sure I take the opportunity to talk about how exciting the project is, which I hope will encourage them to consider continuing on in their study of French. 
Vive Escargotville!


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