Friday, December 23, 2016

How to use a mannequin in your classroom #14: Le pique-nique de Jacques & Suzette!

I would say that after more than 20 years in the classroom that one of the most important lessons I've learned is this:  If you can get your students interested in what you want to teach them, it will make you instantly more effective as a teacher!  My mentor would agree.  When I was a new teacher, he encouraged me to find out what students wanted, and then repackage my lessons accordingly.  I have found this to be very wise advice.  

My students are immediately interested in anything that has to do with my classroom mannequins.  And why wouldn't they be?  Wouldn't it be SO MUCH more interesting to sit in a lesson where a teacher was telling & acting out a story about a life-size department store mannequin than to read a boring dialog in a textbook about Pierre & Anne who went to the grocery store?  I took that textbook dialog meant to teach students how to use the passé composé and threw it out, replacing it with a  story I wrote about Jacques & his girlfriend Suzette (my classroom mannequins, which you are aware of if you've been reading this blog) and their picnic date.  Because we were learning vocabulary about how to describe the countryside, I chose to have the story take place in the countryside.  I acted out the story for students with props.  Here's a photo.

I had already taught students how to form the passé composé (the past tense).  In this lesson, I wanted students to practice using it in the context of a story.  The story about the picnic date ended thusly:  Jacques was waiting for Suzette to show up, having spread out the picnic (see above), and he was starting to get upset and wondering where she was.  Students were instructed to write a few lines about what they thought happened next, using the passé composé.  Then they acted out their lines for the class, and they always come up with some very creative endings, so this turns out to be quite enjoyable and engaging.

A few days later, I piqued their interest again by letting them know that I was going to tell them what REALLY happened to Suzette at the end of that story.  I had the same picnic scene set up when they arrived to class, and Suzette was also there, but covered up with a sheet so that they couldn't see her.  This really causes them to be interested.  I unveiled Suzette after the bell rang, and this is what they saw:

I played the part of Jacques: Jacques got bored while waiting for Suzette, so he ate the whole picnic, and then he started shooting at squirrels with his bow & arrow...but he didn't know that Suzette had just arrived (she was behind the bushes), and he accidentally shot her with an arrow!  She screamed, and he ran to her and told her he was so sorry.  Then, he took off his shirt, tore it up and made a bandage for her leg.

Above is Jacques' shirt, which I was wearing over my clothes.  When I took the shirt off and acted out "ripping it", I didn't want to actually rip the shirt, so I improvised by ripping a sheet of paper for the sound effect.  I thought my students would think this was dumb, but one of them stayed after class to tell me that was her favorite part of the story :).  Then I picked Suzette up over my shoulder and RAN across the classroom with her to the doctor's office, where I also played the part of the doctor (see the props below).

The doctor examined Suzette and told her she would be ok.  Then Jacques hugged Suzette and told her he loved her.

There was gasping, laughing and spontaneous applause at the end of this scene.  Students were genuinely interested in what was happening.  Afterwards, I gave them a typed copy of the scene, and asked them to change the verbs to the passé composé.  As a result of these lessons, students heard, spoke, read and wrote the passé composé.  They also enjoyed themselves, and so did I.  Immensely.  I love that teaching a language affords me the opportunity to be creative.

Happy teaching, everyone!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Get students speaking by hosting a Game Show!

Bonjour tout le monde!  I hope everyone has had a great start to their school year! I haven't posted in a while, and I'd like to thank those of you who've recently reminded me that you are reading my blog which has really encouraged me to keep on writing. I'd like to share a successful lesson that I taught last week.  This lesson was used in high school French II and students were learning how to name various professions.  I took a writing activity from my textbook (which described what certain people did in their professions and asked students to guess what it was based on the description), and turned it into a television style game show!  I made index cards on which I wrote the short descriptions and the French name of the person assuming that profession.   Then I made a Power Point presentation to create a game show atmosphere.  The slides of the Power Point showed the same names and descriptions that were on the index cards.  I also inserted game show music and applause at appropriate times in the presentation, which definitely helped to set the tone.  The index cards looked like this:


Je travaille dans un hôpital.  J'aide les malades, mais je ne suis pas médecin.

 DO NOT READ THIS OUTLOUD:  Je suis infirmière. 

And then, I DRESSED UP as a game show host, and my students participated as either contestants in the show or members of the audience.  The goal was for the audience to guess the professions of the  contestants by listening to the description and then asking questions.  I welcomed my students at the door, dressed in a mullet wig, a ridiculous sport coat, a name tag that read "Gigi Paris", and a toy microphone. When greeting students, I said (in French), "Welcome sir/miss.  My name is Gigi Paris".  If they addressed me as Madame, I corrected them.  I wish you could have witnessed the giggles on the way to their seats, especially from those who try not to show their emotions.  It was almost worth all of the effort just for that!  I welcomed the class to the show with my mic and asked for a volunteer, and then gave that person the mic (an important prop for this lesson!).  They came up front and were given one of the index cards to read.  All they had to do was give the name on the card and read the  description.  In the background, I was projecting the Power Point slides at the same time, which gave the same information they were reading.  After each description, I projected a slide that showed  questions students could ask to narrow down the answer, such as "Do you work in an office? Do you travel a lot?".  The contestant could then call on any audience member to ask a question.  The rule was that the audience had to ask at least 3 questions from the screen before attempting to guess the profession.  The person to guess correctly became the next contestant, and the game continued in this manner.

My game show host costume!
This lesson was successful for several reasons: students were interested, everyone was engaged in either speaking, listening or reading French, and everyone was having a good time.  I encourage you to consider doing something similar. Your students will thank you!  One of mine approached me in my costume, hugged me, and said, "Madame, you're awesome!"  I'm sure you would love to hear that as much as I did :).  Happy teaching!!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Les petits bonhommes

Happy winter from the Mitten!  This weekend I spent a lovely few hours in my kitchen trying a new recipe.  Even though I've had the incredible good fortune to have lived in France, I had never heard of les petits bonhommes until I saw a French chef preparing them on a cooking show.  They are absolutely adorable, and ever since I saw the show, I've wanted to find time to make them for my students.  You can find the recipe here.

The recipe is not simple and does require some time.  I love to bake though, so for me it was enjoyable and also very satisfying to be able to expose my students and also my own family to this French treat!  Here's how mine turned out:

Let me tell you, these things smelled heavenly!  Not only are they cute, but to me they are so very, very French! I would describe the taste and texture as something close to a German soft pretzel, except that the dough is slightly sweet.  They are made in Alsace (during the Christmas season), so I guess the pretzel-like dough must be a German influence.

I only made a small amount since the recipe was so time-consuming, and I shared them with some of my upper level students since those are my smallest classes. What a fun way this was to celebrate French on a snowy day.  They were delighted!  And why wouldn't they be?  France offers some of the most delicious foods in the world, and this is one of the things that makes the French culture so unique and special.  I think offering my students new types of French food helps to rekindle their love of the culture, and therefore the language!  

Petits bonhommes = happy students with a renewed desire to learn :)  

 If you like to bake, I highly recommend trying this out.  Let me know how it goes if you do!


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