Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The "Airport" Conversation Game

Today I played a conversation game in my French III class that was a big hit, and more importantly, got everyone speaking French and having a good time while doing it.  This game is good for upper-level students.  The directions take a while to explain, but it's worth it!  I wish I could remember where I got this was passed on to me by another teacher somewhere along the way :).  

Students are to imagine that they are strangers stranded at an airport due to a snowstorm, and are to have a conversation based on this premise.  Only one person is allowed to speak at a time.  Students take turns asking each other where they are from, what they do for a living, and so on.  Each student is allowed to invent his own identity.  The more creative they get with this, the more fun everyone has!  Before the conversation begins, each student is given a secret index card which tells them their role in the game.  There are 2 spies, 2 policemen and 3 chatterboxes.  The chatterboxes are to try to change the topic of conversation as often as possible.  The policemen are trying to figure out who the spies are and arrest them.  The spies are trying to work a particular line into the conversation before the policemen arrest them.  The spies' cards say something like:  You are a spy.  You will say "I ski often in the Alps".  The other spy will say "I like snails".   The spies are trying to work these lines into the conversation in a natural way.  If a policeman suspects someone of being a spy, he stands up and says "I arrest you".  If he is correct, the game ends.  If not, the game continues until the spies are able to say their lines, or until the other policeman arrests a spy.  


Some of the identities the students came up with this time were: Elf, Bella, Bertha and Molly.  There was a lot of laughter, and students were engaged in speaking French for the whole game.  Explaining the directions and playing one round took a whole class period.  I think my students felt good that they were able to carry on these conversations without having previously written a script.  This is a great activity to use when students are tired and need a change in their routine.  I recommend giving it a try!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Speed-dating Speaking Activity!

Bonjour everyone!  I hope you've all had a great start to the new school year.  It's been a busy one for me, and I've gotten a little behind in my blogging...but I've been trying some new ideas in my classes that I'd like to share with you.  This one actually was inspired by my principal, who mentioned it in passing in one of our departmental meetings.
The idea was to try a speed-dating style speaking activity.  I divided my class into groups of 2.  One student in each group had a profile that I created giving basic information such as their name, age, where they lived, their nationality, etc.  To make it more fun, they had a simple costume to wear as well...I have various masks & hats that I used for this.  The profiles included Jack Sparrow, Santa Claus, Yoda, Elvis, George W. and so on.  The other person in the group was the interviewer and was given a card on which I'd written some basic questions in French, such as What's your name?  How old are you?  When is your birthday?.  I used a timer, and the interviewers had a certain number of seconds to ask their questions.  When the timer went off, the interviewers rotated to the next person and asked their questions again.  During this time, I was circulating around the room & trying to listen to each group for a few seconds.  Here's a photo of what it looked like:

After 5 rotations, I exchanged the cards the interviewers had with the questions on them in French for a card with the same questions written in English, and I asked them to try the last 5 interviews by trying to ask the questions with only the English prompt to look at.  Once again I circulated around the room listening to each group.

  Once the interviewers ended up with the partner they started with, they all switched places with the students who had the profiles and we did the whole thing again. 
This took an entire class period, and all of the students were engaged in speaking French 100% of the time.  I was reminded of how much they like to dress up and how even just a hat or a mask can suddenly render an activity exciting to them.  It was a big hit!  This activity was done after completing unit 1 in my textbook which included these basic informational type questions, and actually they had been tested on unit 1 last week.  I used it as an informal assessment of their ability to speak French without reading it from a card.  I'd like to find even more ways to engage them in showing what they know how to say in French!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Student Projects for Le Petit Prince

I imagine that many of you out there in the blogosphere enjoy reading Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry with your upper level French students like I do.  I've collected many ideas over the years for activities to use while teaching this wonderful book.  I think these ideas  were passed on to me by my friend Mary, and I believe she found them on the FL Teach ListServ.  I use these at the end of our study of the book after students understand the book well.  I usually give students the choice of one of the following:
  1.  Write, create and illustrate 4 postcards written by the Little Prince to his flower from some of the planets he visited in the book.
  2. Create a board game or a card game that uses questions based on Le Petit Prince.  Illustrate the game and write original questions and answers to be used in the game.
  3. Design and create a planet that the Little Prince might have visited, maintaining Saint-Exupéry's style.  Write a description of what happens when the Little Prince visits the planet and also explain what the planet represents.
Students are given written directions describing the requirements for each choice.  I make sure that the same amount of writing is required for each one.  I also ask students to present their projects to other students in the class.  This year, I had some wonderful examples of project #3.  Here they are:

The Planet of the Dolphin.  Notice the chunks of broken glass used as ice & glaciers!

The Planet of the Pegasus!

These young ladies got very excited about this project because they are both very creative and love making crafts.  I think it was a success because they were drawing on their knowledge of the book, using written and spoken French, and because they enjoyed the craft element of the project so much!  What do you think?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Doodle Buddy App for iPad

We have just completed our second year of a 1:1 iPad program at my high school!  Now that it's summer (hip, hip, hooray!!), I'm reflecting on the apps that I've used in class & trying to determine which ones have been the most useful. One that I seem to keep turning to is called Doodle Buddy

Doodle Buddy is a FREE white board app.  Students can draw or type in various colors and styles on a blank white board.  They can also change the background of their boards to designs offered within the app, or they can upload their own photos from their camera roll as the background.  I've found this last feature particularly useful.
Here's an example of how I used this app while helping students to practice using ordinal numbers.  In the past, I would have had students draw animals, placing them on different levels of Noah's Ark, on a worksheet as they listened to my instructions in French.  This year I tried this instead:  students used a photo of Noah's Ark as their background in Doodle Buddy.  Then, rather than draw the animals on various levels, they were able to use the "stamps" provided within the app since many of these stamps represented the animals I asked them to draw.  Some of my students still wanted to draw the animals rather than use the stamps.  It was much quicker & easier for those who chose the stamps.  Once the activity was complete, students were able to share their doodle buddy with me via email. 
You can see that this student chose to type his French name at the top of the photo, scribble out something on the bottom right , and use animal stamps to place the animals on the appropriate levels of the ark. 
The possibility of drawing on top of photos is one that I find to be very useful in a French classroom!  I'm sure that I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of all the ways this app could be used, and I'm hoping to discover more ways to use it next year!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hooray for Middle School French!

I've been using a brand new program for middle school French this year, and I continue to be extremely pleased with the results.  The program is called Ah, Bon? by Joanne Thomas (2011).  This semester I had a new group of students and was able to teach through chapter 4 (a little further than I got with the first semester group).  One of the wonderful things about this program is the way Joanne has incorporated just the right amount of practice that middle school students need in order to be successful.  Here's an example of what my students could do after about 12 weeks of class:

Students wrote the scripts for these videos in about 10 minutes.  They were able to do this with ease, and their spelling was excellent.  Then I asked them to practice reading the script a few times with a partner, and to see if they could do it without looking down at the words.  As you can see, the students were familiar enough with the phrases they were using to recite their scripts without really memorizing them.  If you don't speak French, it is also worth noting that the students are speaking with excellent pronunciation.  I ended up sharing the videos with their parents, and they were absolutely thrilled to see what their children could do!  What a great way to promote your French program!

I highly recommend Ah, Bon?.  I have found it to be extremely successful and worth every penny spent for all the resources that Joanne has so generously provided on the wiki space that accompanies the book.  She has also just published a Spanish version (2012).  If you're looking for a new middle school program, check it out!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Le Petit Nicolas & Twitter!

Do you use Le Petit Nicolas (Sempé-Goscinny) in any of your classes like I do?  I've discovered two new resources this year to use while teaching this book that are super cool!  How did I find these resources, you wonder?  I learned about them both from the many talented teachers I follow on Twitter.  Voilà a compelling argument for why all teachers should be connected on Twitter. 

The first resource I learned about is the blog of a fellow French teacher I follow on Twitter (@juanfrance).  This blog is wonderful because students can read chapters from Le Petit Nicolas online here, but more importantly, they can listen to audio recordings of individual chapters being read online here too!  I recently tried having my students listen to the recording of a particular chapter on their iPads while reading silently at the same time, and found this to be very effective.  I was surprised at how appreciative they were.  In the past, I would have had students read the chapters aloud in groups.  I find that they retain less when they read aloud, as more of their brain power is focused on pronunciation. Merci, Juan, for this great resource!  I actually learned about this blog from another wonderful French teacher on Twitter, @sylviaduckworth, who tweeted about it.  Merci, aussi à Sylvia.

The second important resource is a new movie that came out in France in 2009 called Le Petit Nicolas.  The film is based on the book, and students will recognize scenes from many of the chapters while watching the film.  It is fabulous, and my students absolutely adored it.  One of them even purchased the DVD for herself.  I showed this movie in  French with English subtitles after students had read and studied many of the chapters  and it was a huge success.

I hope you'll find these ideas helpful.  And if you haven't yet connected with any other teachers on Twitter, now you know of at least two that are worth following!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Popplet Lite App for iPad

Popplet Lite is a FREE app for iPad which allows the user to diagram or map ideas with ease.  I've been meaning to try this app with my students all year, and finally did so in my French IV class.  We had just finished reading Le Comte de Monte Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo) as a class.  This was a lot of work and took us a lot of time.  After finishing our study of the book, we watched the film in French.  As is often the case, the film is quite different from the book.  I wanted my students to compare the book with the film in French, and using Popplet to do this worked really well.
I asked students to map out the differences and the similarities between the book and the film, and then to share the popple with me.  Here's an example of a student mapping the differences:

And here's a popple showing the similarities:

I found this app very easy to use and very intuitive.  It is also possible to insert photos into the frames, and I can see many possibilities for using that feature.  I'm sure I haven't even scratched the surface of all the ways this could be used!  My students seemed to enjoy it, and it was a great way to visualize the ideas they were trying to express.  It's also easy for the students to share their work with the teacher in this app.  I would recommend it!

Friday, February 22, 2013

I LOVE Quizlet!

Have you heard about Quizlet? It's a very powerful tool all teachers should know about! Basically, Quizlet is a website that allows you to create flashcards in many languages. Students can access the cards you've created and play games and even take tests in order to learn the words on the cards.  They can also listen to any word in French and hear how it's pronounced.  And it's FREE.
I decided last year to make Quizlet flashcard sets for every unit for each level of French that I teach.  That was a lot of flashcards!!  I put links to all the sets on my class web pages, and now students can go there any time they want to and study for any unit they want to, which I think is a great resource for a teacher to provide.  If you would like to see the sets I've made, or even use them, you can search for my user name (madamermwood) at the Quizlet site.

The questions becomes, however, how to integrate this tool into a world language classroom.  If you ask students to complete an activity on Quizlet during your class time, how do you hold them accountable to do so?  There is a very easy solution to this, and I learned it from my friend Joanne Thomas.  She published a fabulous new French program for middle school which I'm using, and she has integrated Quizlet into the whole program.  Joanne asks her students to complete an activity and then provide proof of completion by sending her a screen shot of the final "page" of the activity.  Here's an example of one:

Students can't get to this view until they've completed the whole activity, so this works very well.  A word of caution, however.  If a student clicks out of the activity, they have to start again at the beginning of the activity. 

I've seen how well Quizlet works to help students learn by using Joanne's middle school program, so I've begun to use it in my high school classes as well.  I've been assigning Quizlet activities during class as review before a test or quiz.  I sometimes give students part of the hour to complete the activity, which I can do easily since I'm lucky enough to be in a high school that has a 1:1 iPad program.  I'm happy to report that Quizlet works well on iPads!  Students can complete the activity in class and send me a screen shot from their iPads.  I can easily see how everyone is progressing by walking around the room and looking at the blue progress bar you see in the upper left hand corner of the screen shot. 
Obviously, it would be easy to assign these activities as homework as well.  There are many ways you can use Quizlet, and it really does help students improve their mastery and even their spelling of the vocabulary words.  My favorite activity is the new "Speller".  In this activity, students hear a person say the vocabulary word in French, and then they have to type it correctly with accents included.  The screen shot above is from a "speller" activity.

If you haven't tried Quizlet, I encourage you to check it out!  You won't be disappointed :).

Friday, February 1, 2013

Puppet Pals App for iPad!

This year I tried a new project at the end of the semester as a way to review what we'd learned.  My high school is in year #2 of a 1:1 iPad program, and I consider myself lucky to have this amazing tool to work with when considering a new project.  I decided to try an app I'd heard of called PuppetPals HD.  This app allows students to create puppet shows using different backgrounds and different characters, and they are able to record their voices as well.  The possibilities for creativity are endless, and to top it off, the app is free!

I asked students to create a puppet show after giving them specific guidelines for what I expected to be included.  Students had a lot of freedom to create whatever sort of story they wanted to.  While creating these projects, I was happy to see lots of smiling and giggling going on.  I was also pleased with the results.  Here's an example.

I was delighted to be able to give my students a new and different way to use and practice their French.  I would recommend this app for use in any world language classroom!


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