Tuesday, December 2, 2008

UNIT PLAN: Marie au Marche

Here is a play I've been using with my Grade 2 class this term. I wanted to have the option of a song (although we have not used it much as it turns out) so I based this play on Jacquot's version of "Ma Mere M'Envoie t'au Marche." There is a workbook to accompany it...
I wrote the play specifically to review some vocabulary they already know from their first two AIM units. In retrospect, it was maybe a tiny bit too hard for Grade 2 kids (although they have enjoyed it and responded positively), but I bet older kids would love this one!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

UPDATE: Isn't it nice when they 'get' it?


(we are playing the song which accompanies the play we're reading)

Child A: Hey! If you listen to the song? It's like the *song* is about the same thing as the *story* is!

(we are colouring puppets of the characters in the play)

Child B: You know, these puppets are about farm animals, and the story is about farm animals.

Me: Oui

Child B: So we could, like, *use* the puppets to, you know, act out the story! Like a play!

At last, the light dawns :)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Conversations with a JK child

I taught SK-5 last year and this year am additionally teaching JK. It's a little different. You can definitely see difference even with them being only a year younger than the SK kids, and they say some really random things (for example, my ball broke and one of them said 'oh, it's too bad I am not a fairy princess, if I was, I would fix it for you.') I have done a lot of action-based games with them (Simon says has been a big hit because they can understand all the French just by copying my actions). The big push the first week though was 'je m'appelle...' primarily because I wanted them to learn *my* name! So, on Friday, I had this conversation after school with a JK child:

Me: So I would say 'Je m'appelle Joanna, right?
Child: Oh, yes. Um hm.
Me: But that's not what YOU would say, is it?
Child: Oh, no. No, no, no
Me: How come?
Child: Because my name's not Joanna
Me: It's Sara
Child: Right
Me: So what would you say instead of 'Je m'appelle Joanna'?
Child: Je m'appelle Sara
Me: And other people, they could do it too, couldn't they? With their names?
Child: Oh, yes
Me: So, you've got a mommy, haven't you?
Child: Uh huh
Me: And what's her name?
Child: Hana
Me: So, she would not say 'Je m'appelle Joanna, would she?
Child: Oh, no
Me: And she would not say 'Je m'appelle Sara' either, would she?
Child: No. No, no, no
Me: Well, what would she say?
Child: Je m'appelle Mommy!

Oh! So close!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

WEBSITE: French Teaching Activities

I created this website as part of an assignment for the additional qualification course Computers in the Classroom. I intend to use it with my 3/4/5 split class this year---I want some one-on-one time with the older half/younger half, so I thought I could give them lab time once a week where I work with one half and the other half can do self-directed learning with the computers. They have a choice of the following items:
  • Read something
  • Watch a music video
  • Watch a movie
  • Listen to a Podcast
  • Play a game
Under each category, there are pre-selected links for them. I do use YouTube as a teaching tool, so be aware that if you plan to use something like this with your class, you'll need to have a conversation with them first about 'safe surfing' i.e. you click on the links your teacher gives you, and nothing more. My students know from last year that I consider activities like this to be special, and we don't *have to* do them. If I get any hassles, I turn it off and that's the end. So I am not anticipating any funny business! And I also will be teaching computers as well as French this year, so we will have plenty of time to talk about how to behave on-line.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

RESOURCE: Pocket Chart on the Cheap

I love playing games with vocabulary cards, and have long been coveting one of these pocket charts. Pocket charts are hanging charts with clear pockets on them in which you can place cards as you work with them. They are fabulous things, great fun, but at almost $40 beyond what I cared to spend. Then I found one of these at a hardware store. It's a hanging jewelry organizer---basically, a big square with lots of clear plastic pockets on them. For about a third the price :) Yes, it's a little smaller than the 'official' pocket chart, but as I am a classroom-less French teacher who must carry everything around with me anyway, I am okay with something I can roll up and stuff in my tote. And it's two-sided, so I can keep cards for two different classes in it at the same time. It will make my card games so much fun! So, now that I have my pocket chart on the cheap, what do I plan to do with them? Here are some games you can play with vocabulary-based word cards.

1) Copy some key vocabulary words onto cards and place in pockets in random order
2) Begin lesson by pointing to cards in order and reading each word with class
3) Then choose one of the activities below. Every time you point to a word, students must...

Find it in their story as quickly as possible
Use it in a sentence
Say the English translation
Say the word's opposite
Say another in the same category (e.g. if a colour, then another colour, etc.)

Some other games you can play with the cards:

Students must sort the words into categories of their own choosing
Make a Bingo card, play game of Bingo placing the words up on the chart as they are called
Place words to make a sentence on the chart. Students must put the words in order
Make picture cards. Students must say the word for the picture
Make sentence cards. Cover up one word at a time and students must fill it in

Friday, August 8, 2008

INFO: Good Ol' M. Le Bec

At long last, the famous M. Le Bec has deigned to be photographed :) I have spoken before about my puppet, and how I use him with the children. Here is a little more detail.

The main purpose of M. Le Bec is to encourage oral communication from the children. He can be used to reinforce concepts which are being taught. For example, during our unit on food, it came out that M. Le Bec really likes les bananes, because they are jaune, and he has a bec jaune. So every time I would take out the plastic banana, I would make a big show of starting to say something about it, only to have M. Le Bec interrupt me excitedly and start whispering in my ear. I would roll my eyes, feign impatience and report to the children that M. Le Bec says he really likes the bananas. By the third or fourth day, they were able to complete my sentence: "parce que les bananes sont jaunes, et M. Le Bec a un bec jaune!" His daily interruption became an event they would wait for, and they would happily play their part in this little script. They all know the words for bec and banane and jaune very well!

He can also be used to illustrate more concrete concepts. For example, during my Sk circus unit, I had him do a little act on the funambule (tightrope). The children would watch with breathless anticipation to see whether he would make it all the way across before falling. After several VERY close calls, he would inevitably fall (children: "OOOOh! Il tombe! Il tombe!") Finally, on the very last day of the unit, he made it across---to the loud and enthusiastic delight of all the kiddies.

I have also found that M. Le Bec is helpful with the discipline. He doesn't always behave himself perfectly, for example. He lets other people distract him when he is on the carpet, and does not always choose a sensible place to sit. This provides me with openings to discuss such matters with the children, without actually discussing it with them. No child need feel ashamed or rebuked because it is not about them, after all :) And more importantly, M. Le Bec often gets the answer wrong, and responds very nicely to the gentle correction of the children. A wrong answer is not a crisis in my class, and I really believe that the model of M. Le Bec encourages them to try just the same.

I love teaching with my little buddy :) I know the children do too. One of the highlights of the year or me was the parent who came up to me and told me that her child came home one night and asked "Mommy, do you think Joanna knows that M. Le Bec isn't real?" Awww. That's what happens when the writer grows up to be a teacher. Joanna knows, sweetie. She just likes the whole story of him, you know?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


For my summer AQ course 'Computers in the Classroom' I had to prepare a curriculum-based lesson plan. I chose to do an extension lesson on a popular song I teach to my older classes: Y'a un Chat' by Charlotte Diamond. The kids enjoy this song a lot and I have a Powerpoint that accompanies it, showing the lyrics, karaoke-style, as the song plays.

For my extension lesson, I used one of the pre-fab 'color me' backgrounds in Kid Pix: a cat. The lesson walks the students through labeling the parts of the cat and colouring it in. The lesson reviews body part words (as well as teaching some new ones) and is a great opportunity to review colours ("de quelle couleur sont les oreilles de ton chat?") and numbers ("le chat a combien des dents?") As far as computer skills go, it will review and/or teach students to use the text tool and paint bucket tool in Kid Pix.

Download the lesson and try it out!

Monday, June 16, 2008

GAME: Vrai ou Faux?

I often have down-time with my classes where we have already packed up, but their classroom teachers are late coming to get them. Here is a fun game I play with them. Basically, they understand a lot more French than what they can produce on their own, so I am always trying to get them to use complete sentences when they answer me. So I started a 'Vrai ou Faux' game with them where I give them a sentence, and they have to do a thumbs up if it is vrai and a thumbs down if it is faux. For example:

[name] porte une jupe
[name] mange une pizza maintenant
[name] a un chien
[name] a deux soeurs


We played it for a good week or so before I had the brainstorm to ask if anyone wanted to 'be the leader.' Magic! Somehow, if I ask 'does anyone want to make a sentence' it would be nooooo, too scary. But does anyone want to be the leader, they all want that, and they ALL (even my more shy students) capably gave me FULL sentences they thought up themselves. Some examples :

Pas de la glace ici
Joanna porte un bijou
C'est mon fete aujourd'hui
J'aime la pizza
M. Le Bec est acrobate
Logan n'est pas elephant
John porte les pantalons

These came from my SK kids. Five year olds! I am so proud of them. I am amazed that I can speak to them only in French in proper sentences, and they understand everything. And now they are starting to get confidence saying sentences on their own instead of just one word answers. Go kids!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

UNIT PLAN: Le Cirque

I use a lot of booklets from Enchanted Learning with my SK classes. They are little thematic collections with great pictures for the kids to colour in. I find that my SK kids really need independent seatwork time; they can't sit on the carpet for thirty minutes straight. Colouring is great for kids this age because they can do it independently, and it's not so complex that it throws them if I come around and chat with them while they work (which is really where the important learning happens!) To get an idea of how I use these books, here's what I did for Le Cirque, our last unit of the year, which we completed today.

Intro Lesson: With my puppet, M. Le Bec, I told them we would be learning about the cirque. They already knew many of the animal words (le tigre, le lion etc.) from our animal unit, but the people (acrobate and funambule) were new to them, so I had M. Le Bec demonstrate using a metre stick as his platform. He proved a fairly capable acrobate (the kids all ooh'd and aah'd as he balanced on his bec and his ailes in various dramatic poses) but not so good a funambule. I used his many mishaps to reinforce 'il tombe!' which they had learned earlier in the year.

Secondly, I went through the book with them page by page, giving them a second to look at the picture and jump in if they knew the word, then saying it for them clearly and prompting them to repeat. When the book was done, I gave them the first page (the cover page) to colour.

Subsequent Lessons: Our carpet time always begins with some general comment ca va, le jour, le mois for 2-3 minutes. Then I spend a few minutes doing some sort of mini-lesson with them. For Le Cirque, this was generally M. Le Bec practicing his little circus acts while the kids all watched and chimed in with 'funambule!' or 'il tombe' or various other related phrases. I had predetermined that M. Le Bec would not be successful at the funambule until the very last lesson!

I generally give them the books one page at a time (or else you have impatient ones who scribble on all of them and then have nothing to do for the rest of the week!) so for every class, I would copy one more page for them. Before sending them to their tables with it, I take a minute and go through my model book again, showing them each page and letting them say the word. After 3-4 days, they can generally do this unprompted; I flip the page, they say the word, and we go through it in less than a minute. Sometimes, if we've gotten through the rest too quickly and have some extra time, I'll stop and ask questions about certain pictures, for example "le tigre, il est grand ou petit?" or "de quelle couleur est le lion?"

When we hit the 15-minute mark (or thereabouts) I'll send them to their tables with the page of the day. While they are colouring, I'll go around and chat with them about what they are working on. It's a great chance to review classroom words with them ("est-ce que tu colorie avec un marqueur or avec un crayon?") and to reinforce the unit vocabulary in a fun way ("oh! M. Le Bec fait l'acrobate sur ton oreille!") The children are also allowed to talk to each other, but my rule is that they must use the French words they know. I allow the occasional English word with kids this young, but I do remind them if I hear them say in English a word they know in French (or if I hear whole conversations in English!) They can also get extra tickets (which can be traded for prizes when they have enough of them) for things like saying a whole sentence by themselves, or using a word in an appropriate context and not just for the sake of using it. They are highly motivated to get the tickets, so it encourages them to try and push themselves, using as much French as they can.

Sometimes, the colouring goes quickly and if many seem finished, I'll stop a few minutes early and we'll play a game. The two favourites right now are Beep (which reviews numbers) and Vrai ou Faux (which reviews a lot of things!) I'll post more about these another time.

Last Few Classes: They generally take at least two classes to assemble the books. The pages tend to get a little tattered as they collect them, so I'll give them some class time to glue each onto construction paper. When they have all their pages glued, I staple it together and they can take them home.

I did a special activity for the end of the circus unit, because it was our last book of the year. I staged a circus for them in class. Some of the kids brought costumes; I let them get themselves organized with those, then got them on the carpet and brought our M. Le Bec, who has been practicing his funambule. Hourra, he finally got it. They all cheered from excitement. Then I had various stations set up around the room:

Jongleur: They had to juggle a ball between their two hands
Funambule: Tightrope walk across two metre sticks
Clowns: Some little bristol block men they could link together
Acrobate: Hula hoops

They went in groups of four to each station in rotation and played each game. Then I gave them some Barbe a Papa (cotton candy) as a special treat.

It was amazing. I combined two of my classes for the afternoon, and both of them wound up staying to watch the fun. I took pictures for their class scrapbooks. My one regret was forgetting to bring music. And, I wish we had more time, but that it always a concern for most teachers. I talked it up for a few days before it happened, so the kids were all quite excited, but they behaved beautifully and took turns with all the equipment. The principal came in to visit and was impressed that they knew the French words for everything!

Le Cirque was an excellent unit and went exactly as I planned it to. It was a wonderful way to end my SK year.

Friday, May 30, 2008


I created this blog to have a central spot for collecting, sharing and creating resources I use in my FSL (French as a Second Language) classroom. I've found a ton of websites out there for other kinds of teachers; not as many for those teaching French. I've done websites before, but a blog is a little easier to add to on the fly, and there are some cool ways to search it now that tags are pretty much a standard feature. So I hope other French teachers out there find this helpful. I welcome comments and feedback, as well as pointers to cool things I haven't yet found.

As to my teaching philosophy, I believe that as a primary/junior teacher, my job is not to much to drill sergeant the kids into a perfection they won't achieve at this young age, but to keep French fun and get them interested. I use a lot of different techniques such as drama and gesture (I am trained in the A.I.M. method), music, multimedia and games. For the younger students, I have a puppet called M. Le Bec who is our class mascot. I'll post more about him in a separate post!

Anyway, the best way to keep up with new additions to this blog is to add it to a blogreader or subscribe to an RSS feed. I'll try and post at least once a week, even in the summer. Let's all share our best resources and get ourselves ready for next year!

(by the way, I am still looking for a permanent contract; if you are in the Toronto area and like what you see on this blog, feel free to drop me an email!)