Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ADMIN: About Comments

I welcome comments from anyone reading this blog. Lately, however, I have been getting spammed with comments in Chinese. I ran some through Google Translator, and they appeared to be Viagra ads and such. I am getting approximately two of these per day.

To whomever is sending them, please stop. The blog comments are moderated and I will not approve them. You are wasting your time, and mine.

I know not everyone out there in Internetland speaks English, but with tools like Google Translator, it is easy enough to get your legitimate, non-spam comments across in one of the three languages I do speak. So, new blog policy:

Comments will only be approved if they are not spam and if they are posted in English, French or Spanish.

Any comment posted in a language other than these three will be rejected, unread. If you have something legitimate to say, use the internet and get it translated. Otherwise, don't waste your time as I won't post them :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

LESSON: Les Cartes (JK)

I have had people ask me how to do a French-only lesson with kids as young as JK. What I have found works best is to do activities that are very action-based where you can say the French and it is obvious what it means based on what's happening. For example, I play a lot of games with cards and my current card set for the JK class is squares of different colours. We did a few lesson-type stuff to learn the colours, and now we are reviewing using the cards. Here was my script for day 1 with the cards:

Me: Oh, regarde! Ja'i une surprise [they already know the word surprise from other things]
[I show the cards, they ooh and ahh]

Me: C'est une carte. C'est une carte orange [show it] C'est une carte. C'est une carte bleue. [show it]. Carte. Tout le monde dit: carte. [they say it]

Me: [show orange card] Carte bleu? [they respond 'non' and some shout 'orange' already. Others will wait for next prompt] Non, pas une carte bleue. C'est une carte orange. [point to orange part] Orange. Orange. [they repeat. Now they understand that orange refers to the colour and carte refers to the card that it's on]

Me: [repeat with a few other colours]

Me: Maintenant, j'ai un jeu [they know the world 'jeu' already] Regarde la carte. C'est une carte rouge? Oui or non? [one child at least will answer, usually more than one] Oui, c'est une carte rouge. [hold up another card] C'est une carte jaune? [again, answers from them]

Me: [hold up a card and say nothing but look at them expectantly. A child or two will inevitably shout out the colour.]

Me: Oh! Bravo! Fantastique [etc.] [Give card to child with large, emphatic motion] Carte pour toi.

Me: [repeat until they get one wrong or do not guess. Place card ina second pile away from the kids.] Oh! Carte pour moi!

Continue until all the cards are gone. Then pick up one of the piles, and start counting them. By 'deux' they will be joining in on the counting. If you win (unlikely; I never play the game with them until they are ready to win it) then say 'je gagne!' with large, exaggerated happiness. If they win, say 'la classe [or tout le monde] gagne' with same. And then make a sad face, point to yourself and say 'je ne gagne pas!'

I have started introducing some variations, a few weeks into the game. When I do not win, I say 'Je ne gagne pas, je pleure' and pretend to cry. They think this is hilarious. I also have my puppet scootch over to sit with them before we start playing. He prefers to be on their team because I never win :) Sometimes, he will waver and go back and forth, pondering who he wants to be with. The children will prompt him with 'avec moi!' or 'avec la classe!' with great excitement. Madame not winning the jeu is the most hilarious thing ever. The other day, I forgot to cry, and they prompted me with 'pleure, maintenant!' All in French, JK or not :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

MISC: French Week '09

I blogged last year about French Week, an annual event at our school. This year, it's happening early (aka now) and I thought I would share the schedule for this year's events. There are some repeats here: Chef Suzanne is back for more French cooking fun, and we're having another gym day since that was such a hit as well. But I am trying some new things, including (gulp) a craft. I am terrible at crafts, so I really hope our bonhomme comes out nicely tomorrow. So, French Week:

General: Announcements and O Canada in French; posters throughout school
Monday: Chef a L'Ecole visit
Tuesday: French computer games
Wednesday: French gym games
Thursday: Bonhomme craft
Friday: French stories for house games

It was a challenge to build excitement without the carrot of an assembly to look forward to. I thinkt eh kids are getting very into the activities and having a great time!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teaching in context

I had a great teachable moment today in the vein of 'rolling with what they give you' and teaching in context. One of my Grade 2 students had a birthday, and offered me one of the extra cupcakes. We've done some food-related talk before (mostly relating to their classroom teacher's prodigious junk food stash and her generous sharing of same) so they were all up on the gateau du chocolat stuff. But here was the kicker---the mound of creamy white frosting was topped by a gummy bear.

What luck! One of my two main puppets is a bear (M. le Ours) and I knew I could make a fun story out of this. So I immediately picked the gummy bear off the top of the cupcake and ate it. Then I made a big show out of telling the kids oh no, what will M. le Ours think about this! We'd better not tell him that JOANNA MANGE UN OURS!

So, of course, as soon as he poked his widdle chapeau out from inside my bag, the children all started shouting at him:

'Joanna mange un ours! Joanna mange un ours!'

And, off his look of abject horror:

'Je mange un ours aussi! Tout le monde mange les ours!'

And then, the hastily proferred reassurances:

'C'est un bonbon ours'
'C'est un ours du gateau'
'C'est un ours pour manger'

And my favourite, when M. le Ours reminded them that HE is an ours (and he has a chapeau):

'Oh! Je ne mange pas les ours avec chapeaux!'

Thus assured of his safety, M. le Ours spent the rest of the lesson eyeing the remainder of my cupcake and sulking when I didn't give him some. Finally, we decided he was acting like a bébé about it and made him go back in sac.

The children though this whole thing was hilarious. I am sure I will be hearing about bonbon ours for the rest of the week.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Planning for Pre-K

We have a Pre-K class this year, and I have been finding it a challenge to plan for them. They are 2.5-3 years old, and I see them twice a week (on consecutive days) for 15 minutes. 15 minutes is hardly any time! What to do?

I finally have hit upon a method that is working for me. I'm doing a three-part lesson: review, content-based activity and short, active game. I've planned one good lesson a month, and I'll do the same lesson for every class for the duration.

Here are my September and October lessons:


Review: once I introduced bonjour and au revoir, this was my 'review' component. but I spent most of the first three weeks teaching them my name.

Content-based activity: I introduced the 'balle' to them, along with the words for throw and roll. They all got to say the words and practice doing the actions in a game.

Short, active game: Simon Says, but without the tricking them. They just had to copy me and touch the body part I touched.


Review: Bonjour, au revoir. I also introduced 'sac' and demonstrated taking out and putting back my puppets.

Content-based activity: I introduced a few ner words with the balle, including 'boite' to throw it into. Sometimes, the puppet would refuse to throw it into the boite (introducing 'non') and sometimes he would throw it somewhere else instead (for example on somebody's tete!)

Short, active game: Simon Says, evolving into the head, shoulders, knees and toes song.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Did you know...

JK child comes up to me on the playground today: "Hey, did you know that Bonjour means hello in French?"

Noooooo, I didn't know. Thanks for explaining :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ARTICLE: The Sony Reader, a Teacher's Pet

I have written an article for Teleread about using my Sony Reader to store unit plans. I love how detailed the teaching guides for my curriculum program are, but they are so big and bulky. It's hard for teachers without a dedicated classroom to have them handy at all times, and it's a little obtrusive to have it out in front of the students. I also found that a lot of the information, while useful to have available during my planning, was not necessarily something I needed in the moment, in the classroom. So I was able to condense the unit guide substantially for the cheat sheets I was taking into class with me for stuff like the kinesthetic review word lists.

I finally had the brainstorm to type these up and put them on my Sony Reader. Now, I don't need to worry about photocopying multiple copies for my two Grade 1 classes so I can keep track of who is where---the Reader picks up each guide just where I left off. The Reader is small so it's easier and less obtrusive to have in class with me. And the children are so used to seeing me with gadgets (I use a lot of tech when I teach) that they don't even notice. Best of all, I can have all my planning stuff with me both at home and at school.

Check out the article!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First week back!

I have been plotting my first-week-back shenanigans with the puppets. M. Le Bec will surely have some news about his vacation to share with the children when classes resume. This will be a good time to teach my returning students some new words. I am thinking I will have M. Le Bec be very sad, and when we ask him why he is triste, he will answer that he misses the plage. But wait a minute, M. Le Bec, you were not AT the plage! You were at camp, with me! I'll have some other places He Has Not Been that he will try and say he has, and the children will learn some new vocabulary. Finally, I'll tell my errant little oiseau that if he can't behave himself, he won't be able to stay. I'm sure he'll straighten up and fly right at that!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

RESOURCE: 100+ Links to Use with Kids

I love using the internet and computers with my students, and earlier this tear, blogged about some websites I created to use with my classes. I had long been desiring a more on-the-go and dynamic way to keep these valuable links up to date and to add to them on the fly, and the news that Geocities will soon be closing has prompted me to migrate the links over to my profile at Delicious. I can add to these links using any web browser (rather than waiting until I at home with a webpage editor), and I can easily remove broken links. I can also filter which links the students see by sending them directly to the link for a tagged set. For example:
When I let my students use resources like this, we have a standard rule that they are only allowed to click on links that I provide for them. So if a link sends them to YouTube, they can watch that clip, and that clip only. If they click on anything else, they lose computer privileges. If you plan to use these links with your students, I encourage you to surf safely and to teach THEM how to do so with a rule like this one. Our school IT person had a fit when I told him I wanted to send students to YouTube, but once I showed him that these were quality links and that the students were being taught to surf them safely (which is an important computer skill to teach them!) he unblocked YouTube for me and let me use it with the kids, who greatly enjoyed the experience and never even thought about clicking away from the safe links I provided them.

How could you teach with these? The possibilities are endless! My students particularly enjoyed the various types of music videos. A favourite activity of mine was to let them pick their favourite and have them keep a list while they watched of every word they know which they heard during the video. You could have each student keep their own list and then have a contest to see who can get the most words!

Feel free to post to the comments if you have other ideas for using these links!

Friday, June 12, 2009

UNIT PLAN: Daisy La Chienne

I wrote this story as a year-ender for my SK classes. They had been doing colouring book-based work for most of the year and acquired a good working vocabulary. I am trying to get them ready to start proper plays next year. The story involves Daisy, our principal's dog (you could of course edit the file to use the names of dogs your students might know) coming to school to look for her friend. I made a little cahier of activities as well. They had a little trouble with the word search, but enjoyed everything else. Don't under-estimate SK kids---they can handle real work:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

INFO: Music Friday 101

I do music with my Jk and up classes every Friday and thought I would post some info on how that works. Later, I will do a follow-up post where I list the songs I covered this year and how each of them went over.

The cds I used were mostly Kidzup, Jacquot, Charotte Diamond and Kidzup with a smattering of Matt for the older classes. If I were teaching more older students, I would use Matt more, but the vast majority of my students are JK/SK and, next year there will be a pre-K class too.


1) If I never hear 'La Belle Pieuvre' again, it will be too soon Smile It's a great song, don't get me wrong. The kids LOOOOOVE it. They love it a little too much. I had classified this as a junior song, but the senior kids would not give it up and asked for it every week. So on music days, I was doing it with SEVEN classes. Every. Single. Week. Perhaps after a summer off, I will be ready to try again Smile

2) Songs with repetition are great. Je Suis Une Pizza is a perennial hit, and there is a song I found at the library called 'Dans Mon Pays D'Espagne' by Marie Martine that my senior kids enjoyed. Other good ones for repetition are B-I-N-G-O (Kidzup), Kumbaya (Matt), Jouez au Hockey and Nageons (Jacquot) and Y'a Un Chat (Charlotte Diamond).

3) I found a great Kidzup cd on that has many little kid songs they already know in English. With a few exceptions, these were the only songs I did with the JK kids. I started with Mouton Noir (Baa Baa Black Sheep) and it's a fairly long song with many verses. By Christmas, they knew ALL the words and could do it perfectly. Don't under-estimate the little ones! It'll take a few tries, but they'll learn it.

4) They love the powerpoints. I was teaching three computer classes a week in addition to the French and had little time to make new ones. That is one of my regrets about this year; I know when I did have them, it made such a difference. What I do is rip the cds onto my mini-laptop and then I can run the whole class, Powerpoints and all, off the one machine like a glorified jukebox.

5) As far as structuring the classes goes, I typically will spend the first ten minutes introducing a new song. I will always play it once through with no Powerpoints, no explanations, just straight up, and have them listen for words they know. Then we'll go back with a Powerpoint or whatever props, and go over the words, have them repeat etc. We'll practice once or twice. Then it will be request time, and they can request previous songs we have done.

6) The last five minutes, I reserve for a video. This will typically be a short Disney clip in French, usually the part from the movie with a song. I like using stuff they know in English so I don't have to deal with comprehension issues. The goal of this portion of the lesson is not for them to sing along, but rather for them to be exposed to French media and for them to begin to listen for words they know and to develop the comprehension that they DO know a lot of words and are great little French speakers! Second term, I mixed it up a little and brought in YouTube finds which did not originate in English. Bebe Lilly and Pigoo were runaway hits!

7) With my older students who know songs already from JK/SK, they asked for the music Fridays right away. With my younger kids, I began by just teaching a few songs here and there (not on a Friday) so they had one or two to work on, then introduced the formal 'music Friday' in late October (C'est L'Halloween is a good first song to introduce this type of program). This way, they had a repertoire already of a few little songs we could practice.

8) I use my music manager software to help me run things. I have all the songs loaded onto my mini-laptop, and what I did was assign each one a genre of either 'junior' or 'senior.' Then I rate the songs---unrated songs have not yet been taught, 1 star is a junior song which has been taught, 2 stars is a senior song which has been taught and 3 stars is one the whole school enjoys. I have smart playlists set up which automatically add songs to the list based on these stars. For example, my 'junior untaught' playlists has all songs with the genre 'junior.' My junior teaching playlist has all songs which are either 1 or 3 stars (i.e. the taught junior songs and the taught whole school songs). When I am prepping for the class I go through the two untaught playlists, pick the song I want and click on the appropriate star to add it to my teaching playlist.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Put in my place by the Four-Year-Olds

We were talking about food, because that's the JK book right now. As usual, I had come to class with an example. "I am going to a fete," I told them. "And I need to bring something to mange. What should I bring?"

We went through their whole little book in search of suggestions. I got to the cookie page. "Ph, biscuits! Maybe I should buy some biscuits and take them!"

"Noooooo," say the kids. "You don't BUY biscuits! You MAKE them! At your maison!"

"I am not a very good chef," I tell them. "Maybe I need to bring all of you to my maison to come and help me."

The children share a look between them. Then:

"Oh, come on. It's not THAT hard!"

Put in my place by the four-year-olds. The life of a kindergarten teacher...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Writing with the senior kids

Today's writing topic was 'dans mon sac, il y a...'

One of the kids calls me over to tell me that she has lots of things in her sac. Great, I say. You'll have lots to write about.

Withering glare. And then:

"Well! If I had known we were going to have to write about it, I would have brought a different sac!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Teaching JK kids the word for present

I was trying to teach my JK kids the word for present, and I used a little example of me needing to buy one and not being sure what to buy. After eleventy-million repetitions of the word cadeaux, we got to the good stuff: suggestions. Every boy suggested a different transformer toy. Every girl suggested Something Princess: princess sunglasses, princess shoes, princess dress, princess wand etc.

So I stopped them for a second and asked them what I should do if the recipient did not like princesses.

Dead silence.

Then one little girl puts up her hand and says 'Um, you could try mermaids?'

Cause that's totally different, right?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

MISC: Schedule for French Week

It was French Week at our school last week, and all eyes were on me as I prepared a full week of special events and activities for my students. Here's what we did:

Monday: Made decorations for Thursday's assembly. I had animal drawings for the students to colour in (all of the songs for the assembly were about animals) and some of the classes needed costumes for their performance.

Tuesday: Chef Suzanne from Chef a L'Ecole came to school! She did a workshop with all of my students from SK and up, and it was a huge success. Several teachers said it was the best French Week program we have ever had, and most of the children were so into it that they did not even notice until after the fact that Chef Suzanne did not use any English when speaking with them!

Wednesday: Gym Day en francais. I played a variety of games with the children in the gym. The older students were away on a field trip the previous time I had done this; it was a new experience for them, and they had an amazing time.

Thursday: French assembly! Every class performed a song or skit. The high points were my Grade 2 class performing an adapted version of this song complete with penguin costumes and a dance, and my Grade 3/4 students performing Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch in French, complete with a stuffed parrot to poke and throw :)

Friday: It was 'free dress day and pizza lunch' day, as it always is following an assembly. We relaxed with an entertaining video exploring Montreal.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lesson Plan: Gym en Francais

The senior kids (plus both gym teachers) are all away on a field trip today, and the kindergarten teachers were fretting about their kids missing gym. I thought this might be a fun chance for me to do something different with my little ones, and reinforce/expand some of the more action-oriented gesture vocabulary. After all, the kids were already in gym clothes and everything, and it is not often that this big, open space is free for me :) So here is what we did:

1) Warm-up. This is a game we do in class, where I call out certain commands (leve toi, assieds-toi, tourne, saute, touche les pieds etc) and they comply. In class, I sometimes let the children lead it, but I did it myself for this to save time

2) Game 1. I wanted to introduce balle, lance and attrape. So I threw the ball and had them all 'court' after it. First child to reach it would throw it again. This was basically just an excuse to run around the gym, but I had to keep up with them to mediate any disputes about who got the 'balle' first.

3) Game 2. Introduces 'roule.' I had them sitting on the line and it was like a relay, you couldn't go until the person before you came back. They had to scootch along the floor rolling the ball to the other line, then back to the starting line. If they wanted to cheer on their friends, I suggested 'vite!'

4) Game 3. Introduces 'donne un coup de pied' for kick. Same game, but they have to kick the ball to the line instead of rolling it. If you have some over-enthusiastic kickers, as I did, you may want to try the gentler 'roule avec les pieds' instead of actual kicking.

5) Game 4. Rest from the running, and review for lance/attrape vocabulary. They stand in a line and throw the ball down the line, making sure it does not land on the 'plancher'. If they get all the way up the 'ligne' without dropping it, they get a point.

5) Game 5. A combo relay game. They went to the ligne rouge in the middle, jumped over it, ran to the ligne noir at the wall, bounced the ball three times, then ran back and gave the balle to the next person.

6) Cool down. We did a few simple stretches. I managed to get in quite a variety just with basic instructions like 'met les main comme ca' or 'les pieds comme ca' or 'les mains en haut.'

What fun! I have two more K classes this afternoon. We'll see how it goes! I keep a t-shirt here for the occasional lunchtime video and I am thinking of changing into the workout stuff. I got some real exercise here!

And the kids did amazing. We actually had the whole class in 100% French and they used the new vocabulary quite easily. I'll have to see if I can get the gym more often.

WEBSITE: French Teaching Resources, Part 2

I blogged previously about a website I set up to use with my students while teaching. For Term 2, I have created a sequel. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

At last, the light dawns...

From one of my SK children after yesterday's class:

Child: Joanna, I figured something out today

Me: Oui?

Child: When you go like this with your hands [mimes counting out with fingers] and you're talking, you say the same words every time you do that. It's almost like you are saying numbers. Like counting!

Me: Oui!

Child: So un is one, and deux is two, and trois is three...

At last, the light dawns :) In AIM methodology, you aren't supposed to explain things to them in English---you're supposed to let them figure it out based on the context. So, even if it takes them awhile, you're supposed to let it take awhile :) This child may have taken four months to realize what was going on with this particular context, but she won't forget the numbers now!