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?