Thursday, September 25, 2014

Paris Bulletin Board

Bonjour fellow teachers!  I hope you've all had a good start to the year & that you're settling into your routine like I am.  I decided that my bulletin boards needed a fresh look this fall.  So I searched around on Pinterest for some new ideas.  I updated the look of my bulletin board by using a double border in red & blue, and some amazing silver glitter wrapping paper for the background.

I've never tried a double border wasn't too hard and I really like the look!  The glittery wrapping paper was purchased at a craft supply store (Michael's).  Here's what it looks like up close:

I also made the Paris banner.  I found these wonderful free printable letters on Pinterest here, and I love the look!  The banner was so easy to make.  I just printed the letters on white card stock, and then put decorative craft tape around the edges.  I strung them all together on red and white baker's twine, which I also purchased from the craft supply store.  Here's an up close view:

And voila!  A brand new modern look for a new school year!  While I was at it, I purchased some peel & stick chalkboard "wallies" and some wet erase liquid chalk markers (on Amazon).  It seems like chalkboard everything is the new look, so I wanted to try this out.  Here's a new decoration I made for the wall:

I hope you enjoyed these ideas...bonne rentrée à tous et à toutes! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Graduation Gifts for your Students

It seems to me that it is just as important for a teacher to end well as it is to begin well.  Educators speak a lot about beginning well, but I almost never hear anything about ending well.  I want my students to know that I've genuinely valued the brief intersection of our lives, and I want them to have a memento of our time together that will be meaningful to them in the future.  I imagine that you feel the same way!  But how to come up with meaningful gifts that won't cost a fortune?  I found an interesting idea on Pinterest that I thought I would try this year.  

You will need:  an old copy of Le Petit Prince (or any piece of literature that you've studied together), a picture frame and a printer.

  I chose a famous quote from the book, which we had read and studied together, and printed it on a page of the book in a different direction so that it would stand out.  I also chose to add a little art work.  I was very pleased with the results.  What do you think?

The total cost for this gift was $10 since I was able to find the frame on sale for 40% off at a local craft store.  I chose to make these for each of my Advanced Placement students since I've taught them for the past 5 years.  I hope they will remember their love of the French language and all the happy times we spent together learning when they look at these in the years to come.  I really liked how these turned out, and now I'm thinking about making one for myself!  Do you have any great ideas for graduation gifts?  I invite you to leave a comment!  I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. :)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

How to use a Mannequin in your Classroom #12: Describing your daily Routine

Bonjour fellow teachers!  It's the end of April...a time of year when most of us feel tired and are wondering if we can make it to the end of the school year.  It's the time of year when we feel like we're just limping or maybe even crawling to the finish line.  Creativity wanes.  We find ourselves just trying to survive.  And our students probably feel the same way.  Believe me, I know...and I feel your pain. I want to offer you some encouragement.  It is for all of these reasons that something new & exciting is just what is needed in our classrooms.  For our own sake, and also for the sake of our students.  We can not hope to pass along enthusiasm for learning to them if we're not excited about what we're teaching ourselves!  I get excited when I try something new and it turns out to be successful, and that's exactly what happened last week.  I had an idea about a new story I could write about my classroom mannequins, Jacques & Suzette.  

I decided to create a story about Suzette having a really bad day...similar to the story Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, no good, very bad Day . Right now my French II students are learning how to use reflexive verbs and how to describe their daily routines.  So I wrote this story about Suzette's routine and how things went wrong.  Basically, she washed her hair with toothpaste by accident and got a comb stuck in her hair.  Then, she tried shaving with a new razor, and cut her leg.  In the story I used the vocabulary words (toiletry items) and reflexive verbs (to wash, to shave, etc.) that we're studying in the current lesson.  When students came to class on the day of this lesson, this is what they saw:

Suzette has a "bad hair day".
 Students said things like, "Is this for us?" and , "Madame, what's wrong with Suzette?" as they entered the room.  They were interested in the lesson before I even began to teach it. A mannequin with a comb stuck in her hair is so much more intriguing than the story in your textbook that is meant to teach the same thing.  And here's the REALLY exciting part.  One of my colleagues (thanks, Katie Beth!) let me borrow some theatrical make-up...some fake blood, which is truly amazing stuff in how much it resembles the real thing... so that I could make it look like Suzette really cut her leg!

I made a video on my iPad about Suzette's day.  I used the above photos and an app called Morfo which allows you to make a photo "speak", and I created the whole thing in the iMovie app.  Here are the results: (p.s. the joke about Kansas at the end is an inside joke in our class)

I was actually teaching students how to use reflexive verbs in the past tense on this day.  I showed the video to the students, and asked them to listen to how the verbs sounded.  After viewing the video twice, students were able to tell me (rather than me telling them) what the rule is for using these types of verbs in the past tense!  The next day, I gave students the text to the video with the verbs missing, and they practiced changing the verbs to the past tense.  So, this is what I accomplished with this short video:
  1. Students figured out the grammar rule on their own & were able to tell me what it was.
  2. Students practiced their listening skills while viewing the video.
  3. Students practiced their reading & writing skills when working with the text to the video.
  4. Students wanted to understand what was happening in the video because it was of high interest to them.
I have to say that I wasn't entirely sure beforehand that they would think this video was as great as I did.  But, they actually gasped when they saw the blood and laughed at the appropriate times.  And someone even said, "Madame, WHERE do you come up with these ideas?"  

It was not easy to come up with the time to create this, but I'm so glad that I made the time to do it while I was thinking of it.  It was definitely energizing for me and enjoyable for my students.  I encourage you to consider doing something new before the year ends.  Fake blood might be just what you need to make it to the finish line!!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Encore Adopt an Escargot!

Attention fellow teachers!  If you're a teacher of French & you've not yet investigated adopt an escargot, I urge you to do so tout de suite!  Adopt an escargot is a brilliant idea invented by a retired teacher.  It involves students adopting a baby escargot (a shell!) & inventing the life of their child.  To have your students participate, you need to email Nancy (the creator of this wonderful program).  On the site, click on the image Pour le prof de français and then you will see a link to contact Le Grand Escargot.  You can purchase everything necessary from her for about $25 per kit (which is enough for a whole class).  Each kit includes beautiful escargot shells (unique colors & shapes) and each shell comes with a unique profile.  The kit also includes other activities such as a game, a template for a baby book, official adoption certificates and the right for your students to email Le Grand Escargot (the big snail).  The whole idea is incredibly creative & a fantastic way to involve students in reading, writing, speaking and understanding French.  

This year for adoption day, I packaged the "babies" in some cute red & blue party favor bags.  Here's what they looked like:

Students were allowed to pick a bag from the basket, but soon found out that a blue bag did not necessarily mean a baby boy.  When they opened their bags, they found a shell and their baby's profile, which told them if their baby was a boy or a girl, and a little about their baby's likes, dislikes and fears.

It is amazing to me each year to see how even the seniors in the class get so excited about this project.  Believe me, they are not too old to find this fun!  

This year I have the good fortune to finally have another French teacher in the building besides myself.  I asked her to act as the adoption agent on adoption day.  We named her Margaux Fargaux, and I even made an official badge for her to wear.

Agent Margaux arrived with the babies on the scheduled date & explained to students what a serious responsibility adopting a baby escargot was (in French, of course!).  She asked students to repeat the oath of escargot (found on the adopt an escargot site) after her with their right hands raised:

Margaux Fargaux did such a wonderful job!

She also put her official signature on each of the students' adoption certificates.

This year I also discovered that if you buy Avery labels, you can easily create custom labels by using the code that is given on the package.  I made these adorable stickers (in less than 10 minutes!) for adoption day.  I asked students to put them on their shirts and wear them for the whole day.  This served as excellent advertising for the French program!

We all had a great time.  I hope you believe as fervently as I do that learning another language is a fascinating & exciting process.  Convince your students of this by trying adopt an escargot.  REALLY.  If you find yourself feeling tired & lacking motivation, your students will notice & it will affect your teaching.  This might be just what you need to feel inspired again.  

Just do it.  Your students will thank you, I promise!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mock Oscar Awards!!!

Hello fellow teachers!  I'm so excited to share this new idea with you!!  I tried it for the first time in my French II class last week, and it was an amazing success on so many levels.  I imagine that many of you ask your students to make videos for an assignment as I do.  This activity was done right after my students turned in a major video project which was due right around the time of the Oscar Awards.  In the past, I have asked the class to vote on the best video & I awarded a prize to the winner.  I liked doing this because it inspired students to produce something they were really proud of, rather than just making sure they met the requirements to get a decent grade.  I also discovered that my students often surprised me.  Sometimes students who didn't shine in other areas showed amazing creativity & ingenuity that I hadn't seen before.  But this year, I took this idea to the next level.  I held a mock Oscar Awards ceremony!

Students were told about this event before their projects were due.  The categories for the awards would be:  Best pronunciation, Best costumes & Best overall production.  Students were given time in class to write short acceptance speeches in case they won. Once the videos were turned in & viewed by all of us, students voted for the best in each category using Google forms.  I told them that we would be having the mock Oscars the next day.  When students came to class they found the "red carpet" (butcher paper on the floor) & the actual poster used this year in France for the 2014 César awards (for those of you who aren't French teachers, this is the equivalent of the Oscars in France) projected on the screen as a backdrop:

  Students were also informed ahead of time that we would be having surprise hosts for this event.  I arranged for 2 of my AP French students to come and act as the co-hosts!  The AP students spent some time in their class writing opening comments & jokes and their script for presenting the awards.  They did an incredible job...they ran into the classroom yelling "Welcome to the Oscars 2014!" (yes, in French, of course) and did a great job engaging their audience.  They showed their video project from when they were in French II as part of their opening remarks.  They were the ones to give out the awards...they opened envelopes for each category that I had made for them & they gave out mini Oscar trophies (I bought a box of 12 from Amazon for about $20...see the photo above), and they also gave out prizes.  Each winner got a bottle of Orangina (a common French beverage) and a Toblerone chocolate bar (these are commonly eaten in France) students were thrilled with these!  When the winners were called, I blasted some familiar French music through my classroom speakers & threw confetti as they walked the red carpet.  The winners were handed the toy microphone and read their speeches...many of them tried to imitate real Oscar acceptance speeches, and of course this made it all the more entertaining.  

My students were so into this!  One in particular, who was sure he was going to win, came to class dressed in a suit for the event!!!

And his confidence paid off.  His group won the Best overall production:

We all laughed so hard when the monsieur on the right began his acceptance speech with, "I am not surprised.  I would like to thank myself for being so seductive (he wasn't aware that he was using this particular word), handsome, and just for being the best".  The monsieur in the suit imitated the French producers who won the Oscar for the best animated short this year by pulling his speech out of his pocket and making his hands tremble.  From time to time, when I saw that the French II students might not have understood something well, I asked the AP students to translate into English.  Here's a photo of the co-hosts:

I can't tell you how much fun this was!!  Not only that, but I also accomplished the following:
  1. AP student were validated (speaking French outside of the classroom for an audience).
  2. French II students saw what level of French they can reach if they continue on through AP.
  3. Everyone was engaged in either speaking French or listening to French 100% of the time.
  4. Everyone was interested in what was going on. (a great motivator for learning!)
  5. Students learned some cultural information (the name of the Oscars in French, the poster for the Oscars, the French prizes).
I was very pleased with the results and would recommend it to all of you.  I would like to thank Angela, a fellow world language teacher, for sharing the original idea of holding an Oscar Awards ceremony.  I would also like to thank my colleague, Katie, for inspiring me to include acceptance speeches as part of the event.  And lastly, I'd like to thank my amazing husband for giving me the idea to include my AP students in this activity.  

P. S.  The monsieur in the suit has asked me to address him from now on as "Academy Award winner". :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

La Vache qui Tache: Speaking Game

Bonjour, everyone.  I hope you are all well, and surviving the current weather conditions.  Things have been wild here in Michigan.  We've had a record amount of snow this month, record low temps and a record number of snow days at my school (6 so far!).  Vive la neige!!

I have a great speaking activity to share with you.  It seems to work best with my French III class, but it might also work in French II, and it's too easy for French IV.  It's a good game to use if students need to practice speaking more, if they need to review numbers, or if they just need a break from the usual.  This game was shared with me by two wonderful French teachers from Michigan, Marge Mandl and Suzie Martin, in a presentation they gave at our MiWLA Conference.

Everyone is a vache (cow) in this game.  All vaches sit in a circle in chairs or at a desk.  One vache (usually the teacher) stands in the center and is called la vache qui tache (the cow who gives spots).  All the cows number off and their numbers never change.  All cows start without spots (sans tache).  La vache qui tache has several circles cut from black construction paper in her pocket which will be affixed to other cows' faces with scotch tape on the back.  La vache qui tache begins the game by saying, "Moi, la vache qui tache sans tache appelle la vache sans tache numéro ____." (We'll say deux.)  Number 2 responds:  "Moi la vache sans tache numéro deux appelle la vache sans tache numéro ____." (We'll say quatorze).  Number 14 responds:  "Moi la vache sans tache numéro quatorze appelle la vache sans tache numéro sept." (etc.)

Once a vache makes a mistake, they are no longer called "sans tache", but "à une tache".  If  number 14 makes a mistake, he or she gets a "tache" (spot) on either his cheek, his nose, his forehead or his chin.  "La vache qui tache" starts again:  "Moi, la vache qui tache sans tache appelle la vache sans tache numéro vingt."  Number twenty could respond: "Moi, la vache sans tache numéro vingt appelle la vache à une tache numéro quatorze."  If number fourteen makes another mistake, he or she gets another spot.  Then he would be called "Moi, la vache à deux taches numéro quatorze."  Students may also call on "La vache qui tache."  For example:  "Moi, la vache sans tache numéro cinq appelle la vache sans tache qui tache."

My students were able to use their iPads and an app called Doodlebuddy to create their numbers.  The game continues until all vaches have spots except for one.  My students had a lot of fun with this activity and everyone was engaged in speaking French!  Why not give it a try?


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