Come Into My Classroom

If I’ve been quiet these last few weeks, it’s because I’ve been struggling enormously to accept the very ugly reality my country has been living. Much like Amy, the election season and results have effected me enormously, as a woman and, without going into specifics, a member of a minority group that a certain President Elect has chosen to malign over the course of the last year and a half.

Then his administrative appointments came, and it started getting worse. Betsy DeVos is from my state and I can tell you very few (as in, not any) complimentary things about her stance on public education. Then, our state government began the process of dismantling teacher, firefighter and police pensions and healthcare, and things got even uglier.

I’m not sure where this overwhelming public negativity towards teachers came from, and I know teachers are supposed to remain publicly apolitical but our jobs are political. They have been politicized on a state and national level and one thing I’ve never been particularly good at is holding my tongue. So I won’t.

If you think public schools are failing, come into my classroom. Please let me prove you wrong. In fact, here’s an outline of my week:

We’ve studied geography, exploring the region of Québec. We’ve read and interpreted authentic Francophone legends, discussed their cultural implications and value and we’ve summarized and created together, synthesizing the information that we’ve learned.

We’ve learned how nearly half of the world’s population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water, the grave illnesses associated with that, and how our own actions can impact the lives of others. We’re researching solutions and implementing a plan of action.

We’re comparing family traditions not just between “American” and “French” cultures but how celebrations and traditions can vary across the many cultures represented in our classroom, so that we can better understand not just the world we live in but the people we live WITH in that world.

We’ve interacted with native speakers on social media. We’ve read, listened, written, spoken, sang, danced and laughed and did I mention?

We did all of this in a language that is not native to ANY of my students.

On a wider scale, our school is preparing a Diversity and Inclusion Day, in response to the hateful rhetoric currently infecting our country, to show that our diversity isn’t something to be scared of, but something to be proud of.

We’re gearing up for Charity Week, which is bigger and more loved than even Homecoming week and dedicated 100% to serving others. Lest you forget, in one week our school raised $84,000 for last year’s chosen charity. High schoolers. In one week.

So please, tell me again how public schools are failing our students. I’ll tell you again to just come into my classroom and see for yourself.

 

Le Nain rouge de Détroit

2-nain-rouge-900x1200

I’m in the middle of a unit on Legends & the Supernatural with my level 3 students and I think it’s going well! I love units like this, that are so rich in culture and it’s a perfect opportunity to address cultures other than France, as both Quebec and Francophone Africa have very rich storytelling traditions. I’ve also made narrating in the past tense my major grammar focus for this entire semester, so reading legends lends itself well to that.

Additionally, being that we live near a “francophone” city (Detroit), I also wanted to incorporate a little bit of local history. The legend of the Nain rouge is unique to Detroit and features the French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. I wanted to have my students read the legend but could NOT for the life of me find an authentic French version of it anywhere online!! I did, however, come across a very old (like, late 1800s old) book called “Legends of le Détroit” that included a chapter on the Nain rouge and I used that to write my own version of the story in French, which you can find here. Please note that I’m not a native speaker, nor is my colleague who proofread it, so if there are mistakes or whatnot, please fix them to your liking on your own copy!

We did some Reader’s Theater to accompany this legend, and afterward we discussed the Marche du Nain Rouge that takes place in Detroit every spring, to drive away the Nain from the city and hopefully prevent any more bad things from happening in Detroit! It was a cool bit of local/regional history and allowed me to show how French culture is still alive in our own area.

Bonne continuation!

 

Gift Guide for the Modern Teacher

gift-guide

Well, with the passage of (American) Thanksgiving, the gift-giving holiday season is officially upon us! While I really like giving (and receiving) gifts, I’m not always good at picking out gifts for people I love. I know requesting a list tends to take the magic out of surprising a friend or family member, but I always like to make sure I’m getting them something that they’ll actually want and use, not just something that think is cool.

And while I am always grateful to receive gifts and I do believe it’s the thought that counts, I’ve been on the receiving end of about five hundred Eiffel-Tower-shaped ornaments, knickknacks, posters, lotion bottles, you name it – so I think I’m not the only one who appreciates a solid gift recommendation! While it’s not the only part of my identity, being a teacher is certainly a big part of who I am and I really do appreciate when people buy gifts with that in mind; that being said, I think a good gift is one that brings both pleasure and purpose.

Gift giving is always a subjective practice and there is no one-size-fits-all, but if you know a teacher, love a teacher, have a teacher, or are a teacher who simply wants to treat yourself during this holiday season, here are a few of my go-to suggestion that are both fun and useful. Maybe you can even benefit from a few last-minute Cyber Monday sales!

Instant Pot: If you have a little money to spend on the teacher you love, the Instant Pot is like the Crock Pot’s way cooler cousin. It’s a pressure cooker that can cook rice to perfect in five minutes, a whole roast in 1 or 2 hours and countless other meals. It’s definitely on my list this year!

Essential Oil Diffuser: I’m definitely not an essential oil enthusiast, but I have to admit that a little lavender oil in a diffuser goes a long way toward helping me chill out and sleep better.

Stitch Fix gift card: Admit it – after a while, shopping for cute teacher clothes gets a little tedious. I tend to gravitate more toward function than fashion, but black-pants-solid-top-maybe-a-scarf outfit gets a little old. Stitch Fix is a personal styling service that sends five pieces of fun, fashionable clothing (or even accessories) to your home for only a $20 initial styling fee. You can try on the clothes, pick what you want to keep, and mail the rest back in a prepaid USPS bag. The $20 fee is applied to whatever you keep; if you keep all five pieces, you get a 20% discount. (If you don’t want to get a gift card but want to sign up for Stitch Fix, you can do so here). I’ve been using Stitch Fix semi-regularly for about four years and I LOVE it.

Blue Apron gift card: Who likes grocery shopping? Not me. Blue Apron sends awesome recipe ingredients straight to your home. Help your favorite teacher out and get them a box of healthy food so they can avoid the school cafeteria!

The Happiness Planner: This is more than just a regular planner – in addition to the usual calendar and to-do list, the Happiness Planner has room for you to note down each day’s goals, meals, exercise routine, what went well about each day and what your hopes for the next day are. At the end of each week, they also offer a “weekly reflection” space with thoughtful writing prompts.

Lush bath set: I am a LUSH junkie and cannot recommend their bath products enough. Their products are vegan, cruelty-free, and use all-natural ingredients. Great for relaxing in the bath at the end of a long week!

Lunch Crock: The Lunch Crock is an electric mini-crock pot that lets you have a nice, hot lunch every day! I love to put leftovers in it and plug it in about an hour before lunch starts; it’s so awesome to have a warm lunch during the cold winter months.

Anthropologie Candles : These smell awesome and the jars they come in are super cute and can be repurposed for small items around your home!

Nespresso: This is a pricier item and it’s one that I don’t have yet but I seriously covet. My friends in Paris have one and I know I’m going to sound like a crazy coffee snob but deal with it because this machine is LIGHT YEARS better than the Keurig. The coffee is of far superior quality, it makes an awesome espresso or regular coffee, and certain machines will froth milk for you for lattés and cappuccinos. And the pods are recyclable, which the Keurig pods are not. Your machine is also guaranteed by Nespresso – if it ever needs to be serviced, they will send you a replacement machine while you wait for yours to get fixed. How cool is that?

Contigo travel coffee mugs: Simple, but the BEST travel coffee mugs I have ever encountered and a must for the on-the-go teacher who likes a hot beverage. My coffee or tea stays hot (not lukewarm, HOT) literally for hours in these mugs. Can’t beat it!

Happy shopping, and happy holidays! Also please note, there are no affiliate links here – just recommendations of products that I really enjoy!

 

 

Mystery Student

mystery-student

In the past 24 hours, the subject of “how do you get kids speaking in the TL?” has come up twice; once with a colleague and then again on last night’s edition of #langchat.

There are definitely a lot of strategies that one could use – I’ve written before about my love for Class Dojo and after a brief hiatus from the system I brought it back just to see how my kids would respond and sure enough; they’re back to wanting to speak more and more French.

But then, it comes time to set up an interpersonal speaking activity in-class. Those are always frustrating for me because I can never monitor everyone at once and am never certain that everyone has participated in the way that I would like them to. Enter the “mystery student” tactic which is very simple and has worked well in all of my classes so far (though I wouldn’t use it every day or for every interpersonal activity just to keep it novel).

  1. I announce to the class that I am going to randomly select a student. I will not tell them in advance who the student is. Since I have every kid’s name written on an individual 3×5 notecard, I can choose randomly from the stack.
  2. After I choose the mystery student, I announce that I am only going to be listening to THAT student, to see if he or she remains in the TL for the entirety of the activity. I still mill about the room so they don’t know who the mystery student is, but my ear is always trained on that one kid.
  3. If the mystery student is successful, everyone will receive points (no more than 5) for the activity. His or her name is then revealed and everyone thanks him or her.
  4. If the mystery student is NOT successful, then no points are given (just nul, not 0/5) and the mystery student remains a mystery. Better luck next time!

Give it a try! Let me know how it works in your classroom!

Rethinking the Choice Board

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One of the first things I did when switching to a more proficiency-based teaching model (and the subject of one of the earliest blog posts I made) was to ditch traditional homework in favor of a Choice Board due at the end of each unit. A Choice Board is a great way to incorporate student voices into your classroom, as it allows them to choose which assignments to pursue outside of class time and it can be a way to get students to interact with the language in a more authentic way (and is more interesting than a workbook page!).

My Choice Board has always had two parts – the top part, or the “written work” and the bottom portion, which are speaking prompts. I’ve been giving Choice Boards to all of my students for about three years now and I absolutely believe they are the biggest reason why my students are (generally) very comfortable speaking French in class and why the eventually become very proficient speakers. I do not spend a lot of time honoring the “silent period” of language acquisition and I do indeed force output, which can be a controversial topic in the SLA community. In my experience (and I’m hardly an expert) there are many kids who, if not forced to speak, simply won’t. With the Choice Board, they can accomplish a task whenever they are ready and in a one-on-one environment with me; that way, I can still assess how their speaking skills are developing and they don’t have to put themselves “out there” in front of their classmates if they aren’t ready yet.

That being said, this year I felt the need to start revamping some of my Choice Boards to better reflect improvements in my teaching practice. Before, the top “written work” was separated by the letters A, B, C in which A corresponded to vocabulary, B corresponded to grammar and C corresponded to culture. Students were to get a tic tac toe with each letter (A-B-C) in order to fulfill the top portion assignments. The vocabulary prompts tended to be things like “Draw a birthday party and label the elements” (eeeeek!) and the grammar prompts had things like, “Create a 10-question -ER verb quiz and an accompanying key, then quiz a classmate!” (oh mon Dieu!) The speaking prompts on the bottom were similary separated by topic.

I’ve evolved a little bit since then and have been working on revamping my Choice Board to make it more culturally and linguistically authentic. I definitely still have a long way to go, but the current version for French 2 is I think a baby step in the right direction. The prompts are still labeled A B C for organization (I still want the tic-tac-toe element) but there is (I hope) less isolation between grammar, vocabulary and culture. Some of the written tasks are not as authentic as I would like, but I think it’s a definite improvement over earlier versions.

The speaking tasks have remained mostly the same; I’m working on developing a way to present the information in a less visually-confusing way and to remove the linguistic segregation that is still present on the labels but does not really correspond to the given prompts. I’m open to suggestions!

C’est Halloween!

cest

On veut des bonbons! (You know, from the Têtes-a-Claques video. Anyone? Bueller?)

I have to confess, I’m not a huge fan of Halloween, but my students are! Last week I shared some of my My Favorite Spook-tacular Resources for French Class but since then a few more resources have cropped up that I would like to add to the list and incorporate into my instruction!

My French 3 kids will use a lot of the resources from the link above, but I’m always on the lookout for opportunities for my upper levels (French 4 and AP) to work on their comparison skills since that’s such a huge part of the AP test. We won’t spend a ton of time on Halloween since we’re right in the middle of our Haiti/L’eau, source de vie unit but I didn’t want to totally miss the opportunity to address the differences between Halloween and Toussaint (and their cultural links)!

I’m not sharing the work I’ve made to go along with the following resources since my students haven’t done any of this yet and I know some of them are aware that I keep a blog. I almost always follow a traditional IPA format, though, and at the end they’ll do an AP-style cultural comparison.

Articles/Infographics/Videos

Infographic: Halloween: de plus en plus populaire

1jour1actu: Qu’est-ce que la Toussaint?

1jour1actu: Ceux qui sont contre Halloween

Video: La Toussaint, une tradition toujours très présente chez les Français

After we interact with these documents, we’ll work on stating our opinions about both holidays with a Beyond “Oui” and “Non” speaking activity, then work in partners to do a comparison of the two in order to prepare for our cultural comparison.

My students also LOVE this crazy Halloween video by Têtes-à-claques, so we’ll probably watch it again as per our tradition.

 

My Favorite Spook-tacular Resources for French Class

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Most days, I can say that I really don’t regret my decision to study French instead of Spanish. I think the French language and culture have a lot to offer students! That is…until the end of October rolls around, my students are squirrely, Halloween is approaching and Spanish teachers have a great cultural and linguistic opportunity in Day of the Dead and French teachers get…la Toussaint. Womp womp.

I’ve done lessons on la Toussaint before and while it’s been a great educational opportunity, it’s not exactly the most engaging subject as Toussaint tends to be eclipsed by the two-week vacation that all French students get in honor of the holiday (which no one really celebrates beyond laying mums on a loved one’s grave).

My French 3 kids have JUST started a unit on Legends and the Supernatural (previously done at the end of last year with my level 4 kids), so they’ll be seeing most of these resources but they really could be adapted to (almost) any level. Our grammar focus for all of first semester in level 3 is passe compose and imparfait, so this unit lends itself very well to narrating stories in the past!

Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a way to use the language to honor this spooky season, consider some of these resources!

MovieTalk

Alma (used in conjunction with this article)

Dirt Devil commercial 

Vampire’s Crown

The Black Hole

Video/Listening Resources

Créatures Fantastiques: Le Loup-Garou du Québec

Créatures Fantastiques: Le Windigo

A la découverte des catacombes avec Donia 10 ans

The Michel Ocelot film Les contes de la nuit

Story Time: Experience Paranormal

Le Conte des trois frères (Harry Potter)

Reading Resources

Most of my reading resources for this unit are self-created Embedded Readings of the following stories:

Le Nain Rouge de Detroit (try as I might, I cannot find a document that is already in French, thus I created it myself based on the details here)

La Peau de chagrin by Balzac (far too long/difficult to read in class; embedded version with the highlights is the way to go)!

Barbe Bleue by Perrault (I choose this one as it is particularly scary/gory for a fairy tale!)

Les Lavandières de la nuit

Article: J’irai dormir dans les catacombes!

Et voilà! Hopefully these resources will help carry you and your students through the spooky  Halloween season (and help take the sting out of not having a calavera to decorate or an ofrenda to build)!