Music resources for French teachers!

I got a tweet from the fabulous Laura today asking about resources for French music, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite links!

I do Mercredi Musique in all levels of French (only for the past two years, but it feels way longer). It’s arguably my students’ favorite part of French class, and I like to keep it pretty routine and therefore, low-prep (like, seriously low prep) so we do the following things every Wednesday.

  1. I intro the name of the song, the artist and the genre. Sometimes, we predict what the song might be about (based on the title) but that doesn’t happen very often (mostly because I’m lazy and/or I forget).
  2. We watch the music video. I try to pick songs with school-appropriate videos; if there is a moment or two that is potentially questionable (I’m not about that parent e-mail life) then we have “technical difficulties” during those parts (aka I mute the SmartBoard).
  3. We express our opinions of the song and its video; I provide some helpful nouns and adjectives to that end, so I don’t have to listen to everyone say “c’est intéressant” all the time.
  4. I teach them the chorus; this involves repeating after me line-by-line and then making meaning of the words to get an idea of what the song is about. A bonus to only teaching the chorus is that the selection of songs you can use in class gets way bigger, because any stray swear words are typically in the verses and unless the kids have enough gumption to look up the lyrics and each word’s translation, they won’t know the difference.
  5. They practice the chorus with a partner.
  6. We listen to the song again, and sing the chorus each time it comes up.

My Mercredi Musique slides for the past two years are here and here. To find ideas for songs, I peruse (though a lot are in English), Spotify France, Topito, and Paroles de clip by TV5Monde. Because I want to get my students hooked on French music (and thus, my class) I try to only pick songs that are, in their words, “lit” which as far as I can glean means cool/catchy. There is the rare exception (everyone needs some Edith Piaf from time to time) but I really try to use songs that are mostly upbeat and fun; know your audience, though – sometimes the chill indie songs have been successful, but I try to play to a wide audience.


*Petite side note: As the school year winds down and throughout the summer as time allows, I will be uploading some of my units and other teaching resources on TpT (frankly, grad school doesn’t pay much and a girl can only eat so much Top Ramen). Just keep an eye out if that’s of interest to you!

La Manie Musicale de Mars 2017

Adobe Spark.jpg

It’s that time again: March Madness! For the college basketball fan, March is a huge deal of non-stop games that culminate in the college basketball championship at the end of the month. For the world language teacher, it’s a great opportunity to work more authentic music into any and all levels!

This will be my 3rd round of Musical March Madness, and it is my students’ favorite time of year – and that is no exaggeration. We listen to music pretty regularly regardless, but this is a special occasion that everyone looks forward to during the school year. And, to be completely honest? It also gives me a little bit of a break on having to craft 4 different levels of 50-minute lesson plans during one of the hardest months of the year (for me, anyway). I can take the same activities and use them in every level!

Typically I do a 16-song bracket, but as we have testing in March this year, and I will be absent a couple of days this month for various personal-life things, I’ve reduced it to 12 songs. I picked based on titles and artists that my students have enjoyed listening to over the years – however, the majority are not songs that they’ve heard before.

Please bear in mind that I also teach mostly levels 3, 4 and AP and therefore I feel comfortable choosing songs that have more mature themes. Know your clientele and make the choices that are right for you (and them!).

La Manie Musicale de Mars 2017

Soprano – Barman vs Willy William feat Keen’V – On s’endort

Vianney – Je m’en vais vs Fréro Délavega – Mon petit pays

LEJ – Seine Saint Denis Style vs Coeur de Pirate – Ensemble

Louane – Jeune vs Margaux Avril – Lunatique

Christophe Maé – La Parisienne vs Claudio Capeo – Un homme debout

Black M – Je suis chez moi vs Maitre Gims – Ma beauté

I’m excited to see who the winner is!

Professional Development in Vichy, France

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I mentioned briefly in my #authres August: version française post that I had just returned from a 2-week internship at CAVILAM in Vichy, France. I was lucky enough to be one of the 20 teachers nationwide who benefitted from a scholarship to attend this specialized training for French teachers. We were not the only teachers to attend, however – there were hundreds more from all over the world, not to mention the students who come for language learning, DELF/DALF training and other opportunities (though we did not mix with non-teachers in our courses).

The French Embassy in the US offered the scholarship and here’s what they offered:

  • 2 weeks at CAVILAM (registration paid by the Embassy)
  • Lodging in a host family (breakfast and dinner included)
  • Train tickets (round-trip) from Paris to Vichy
  • An allowance of about 225 euros to cover the purchase of books, meals and other incidentals
  •  A $600 reimbursement for the purchase of an international plane ticket

Not a bad deal, am I right?

Each week we chose 2 courses to take, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. There were no classes on Wednesday afternoons, as that time was reserved for a seminar featuring a guest speaker (one week we had Tunisian writer Yamen Manai as our guest). Friday mornings there was always a CAVILAM-sponsored breakfast to mingle with professors and other students.

My courses:

I took four courses total from this list, which were:

  • Panorama de la société française en 2016
  • Améliorer les compétences orales et écrites avec TV5Monde et médias
  • Enseigner la langue et la culture dans une démarche culturelle
  • Lexique et grammaire en action

The Good:

  • TWO WEEKS in France on the French government’s dime! Doesn’t get much better than that.
  • An opportunity to collaborate with French teachers from all corners of the globe.
  • Living with a host family; my host family was truly the HIGHLIGHT of my two weeks in Vichy. They were wonderful!!
  • Access to numerous authentic resources – I seriously brought back a folder stuffed to the gills of ready-to-go resources and activities.
  • New teaching strategies! I got to see French teaching through the lense of native speakers, which brought new perspectives and approaches. In particular, I learned some really valuable writing techniques and new ideas for interacting with authentic resources. Exposure to the CECR framework (France’s measure of proficiency) was also really interesting.
  • Generally speaking, the professors didn’t spend a lot of time lecturing; there was a lot of hands-on practice of new ideas and concepts.
  • CAVILAM has a wide variety of cultural activities; every evening there was something going on, from movie nights to afternoon and weekend excursions (day trips to Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand, Rocamadour, wine tasting, sports, food nights, etc).

The Not-So-Good:

  • For being a 2-week intensive program, I had a LOT of free time. I would have appreciated maybe taking 3 courses a week instead of two; but then again, I really like school.
  • Similary to the above note, I felt a little at a disadvantage since the second week we were at CAVILAM also happened to be the week of Bastille Day, which meant a jour férié on that Thursday, so no school. So in addition to not having our afternoon course on Wednesday, we also did not have it on Thursday which meant we didn’t experience the full benefit of taking whatever class we selected and missed some material.
  • It seems that CAVILAM combines courses; the “Lexique et grammaire en action” course was also the “Atelier d’écriture” (or something similar) so both sections ended up getting content we didn’t sign up for, and less of the content we DID sign up for.
  • I encountered a snafu when attempting to get my allowance, which was not really the fault of Campus France but it still was a major inconvenience; I had arrived early to spend a few days in Paris and thus chose to get my allocation the day of my departure from Paris to Vichy, which also happened to be a Sunday. Campus France assured me that the Western Union in question had Sunday hours (a rarity in France) but when I arrived, it was inexplicably closed. This meant I went several days without my promised allocation, and when I did receive it, it was prorated. Boo.
  • CAVILAM has on online “plateforme” that we were expected to sign up for and we were promised that all materials from the courses would be uploaded to the plateforme; some of us experienced that, some of us did not.
  • The cultural activities (namely, the excursions) were sometimes expensive (mais ça vaut la peine).

Overall, would I recommend this opportunity? Absolutely! If you are a teacher who is new to the idea of teaching for proficiency, you will leave with a wealth of knowledge and new ideas for practice. If you aren’t new to the idea of teaching for proficiency, you’ll still get some new ideas and you’ll be able to spend two weeks immersed in the French language and culture with very minimal out-of-pocket expenses.

If the SPCD Vichy training is something you’d like to experience, check out the application requirements at the French Embassy’s website! Bonne chance!



Le Nain rouge de Détroit


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!


My Favorite Spook-tacular Resources for French Class


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!


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)!

La Révolution Française: Sequence and Assessments

Last year when I went to OFLA, I was really inspired by the message that both Dave Burgess and Carrie Toth communicated to their audiences, which was to teach subjects that we ourselves are passionate about. The basic principle being that students will latch on to our enthusiasm, and engagement will grow.


This year I’ve really tried to take that advice to heart and teach more things that I enjoy – like my mini-unit on privilege, and devoting each Wednesday to listening and singing a new song in French.

In addition to French and music, one of my other major passions is history. I love history. I am a huge history buff and could literally talk all day about how our history is constantly reflected in our present. So, I decided that in my level 4/AP split we would tackle one of the most monumental historic events of all time – the French Revolution.

I was nervous to present this material as I had never taught such a unit before. Let me say first and foremost: This unit was RICHLY enhanced by the resources put together by Noemie Neighbor and I am so, so grateful that she has put this work out there for other teachers to use. 

The French Revolution is a massive unit to teach and Noemie did a great job of breaking it all down. I followed her general schema but incorporated my own level-appropriate assessments, starting with the background information of the Ancien Regime, les Lumieres, and why people were starting to question authority. We went through the major events of the Revolution, and today just finished up our unit following the execution of Louis XVI. There is a LOT more to it after that, of course, but I mostly wanted to highlight how drastically the Revolution changed the entire centuries-old structure and traditions of not only France, but nearly all of Europe as well.

My sequence went basically like this:

Week 1: Life during the Ancien Regime – the separation of society into the three “Estates” and what life would have been like for each social class and the financial troubles of the monarchy.

Week 2: How the Enlightenment influenced the push toward Revolution and the consequences of the American Revolution. Reader’s Theatre of an abridged version of Candide by Voltaire (Tresors du Temps textbook!) and the students worked in small groups to present basic information about major Enlightenment philosophers.

Week 3: The first events of the Revolution – calling of the Estates General, mostly. The students journaled from the perspective of a pre-Revolution citizen of France and compiled their own cahiers de doléances with a modern twist. We watched clips from La Révolution française, available on YouTube.

Week 4: The taking of the Bastille and the March to Versailles. The students did an interpersonal writing assessment via a discussion board on Schoology to determine whether these events were a.) necessary or b.) important to the cause of the Revolution.

Week 5: The development of the Declaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen. We read the major articles from the DDHC and compared them to our own documents, namely the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The students also prepared a guided debate during which they imagined they belonged to a certain demographic and had to argue yes or no based on their given identity.

Week 6: The attempted escape of Louis XVI, the war with Austria, and the trial and eventual execution of Louis XVI. We voted on Louis’ execution after an in-class “Tug of War” activity during which students placed post-it notes with their comments on a spectrum with “Yes” on one end and “No” on the other.

My assessments for this unit included:

Interpersonal Writing: Schoology debate on the necessity and importance of the taking of the Bastille and the March to Versailles.

Interpretive Reading: Selections from Candide and an authentic document/primary source from a witness present during the taking of the Bastille (Tresors du Temps textbook, believe it or not!).

Presentational Writing: A journal from the perspective of a French citizen under the Ancien Regime.

Presentational/Interpersonal Speaking: Both modes were assessed during our debate on the DDHC.

Interpretive Listening: Assessed while watching clips from the film La Révolution française and an informational clip regarding the invention of the guillotine.

This unit also allowed me to review some past grammar points that sometimes get a little sloppy as time goes by: adjective agreement, passé composé vs. imparfait, and subjunctive were the major points addressed during this unit.

I will write a follow-up post later this week containing links to some of the supplementary resources used during this unit.

Bonne continuation!


Privilege: A unit for Intermediates



Last year at OFLA, I was incredibly inspired by Carrie Toth’s workshops and sessions in which she talked about getting students involved in communities beyond their own through service learning projects (all in Spanish, too!). One that really stuck with me was the project she did (inspired in turn by Kristy Placido) that had students researching borrowers on Kiva who were in need of loans to grow their local businesses. Both teachers had students choose a borrower, create a video to promote him/her and then the classes voted on their favorite videos. The incredible part is that both Carrie and Kristy put up their own money to offer as a prize for the winners.

As soon as I heard Carrie describe this project, I knew I had to bring it into my classroom, and my French 4/AP split was the perfect environment to do so. While I teach a relatively culturally-diverse student population, the socio-economic diversity is not as marked. Most of my students are lucky to come from pretty fortunate families, and my school does its best to be as charitable as possible to not only our community, but the communities around us as well. Every February we have a “charity week” that raises enormous sums of money for local charities – last year was upwards of $57,000 – so thankfully the spirit of giving really is a part of our overall school culture. Still, though, I wanted to give students to the opportunity to go even beyond our own state and examine the fact that literally billions of people in the world live in abject poverty, and also to reflect on how they can use their privilege to give a leg up to those who need it.

The Intro

I introduced the notion of privilege by co-opting the activity that I once saw on a BuzzFeed article in English. As luck would have it, this same article had been translated into French – perfect! In short, I dragged my classroom trash can to the front of the room and told the students that I would give them a prize if they could throw a wadded up ball of paper into the trash can without leaving their seats. As predicted, there were outbursts from the students in the back of the class as the students in the front were easily able to toss their paper into the trash can while the students who were further away faced many more obstacles. I asked why the students in the back were angry, and whether or not the students in the front did anything to make this task easier on them. This led to a really valuable discussion about privilege – what it is, how you can be aware of it, and how you can use your privilege in a meaningful way. How could the students in the front of the classroom have helped those in the back while still adhering to the requirement of not leaving one’s seat?

After we discussed this, I wrote the word privilège on the white board and had students write their ideas of what that word meant to them around it. They all took it very seriously and I was impressed with what they were able to come up with!

The Input

During the next two-three days after the introduction, the students did a lot of reading and listening about the state of poverty in the world and the practice of microfinance as a way for entrepreneurs in developing countries – who otherwise don’t have access to their local banking systems – to create a business that earns them money to support their families but also services the community they live in. The cool thing about Kiva (and other microfinance sites like Babyloan) is that you’re not just throwing a donation at an agency with a big money pot; it’s a loan that helps an individual do something meaningful and that they will eventually be able to pay back once their business gets off the ground.


We did a couple of jigsaw reading activities where small groups of students were responsible for reading the following documents and reporting out to their classmates on what they learned.

L’extrême pauvreté par zone géographique

2,9 milliards vivent avec moins de deux dollars par jour

Mettre fin à la pauvreté est à notre portée

Le microcrédit à Brazzaville in the Thèmes textbook (Vista Higher Learning)


We also did some listening activities about the principles of microcredit and about Kiva itself.

I introduced the basic idea of Kiva/microcrédit with the animated video L’histoire de Pedro. We did a CLOZE-style activity, but I typed up an English translation of the video and had the students fill it in with English while listening to the French. (You can get that here).

Then, we watched a more in-depth report from I stopped the video after Jennie from Paris speaks, but you could easily continue on with it. The students filled out some (admittedly superficial) comprehension questions (You can get mine here).

The Product

The past couple of days, just as Carrie and Kristy did in their classes, my students spent some time perusing Kiva and finally chose a borrower to focus on. They made their videos today and tomorrow we’ll narrow down the “best” ones who will be in competition for a monetary prize from me. I will not be voting, but I’ll have the kids watch each others’ videos on YouTube and the top like-getters will come away with the prizes. I’ll share some examples tomorrow!

paris sera toujours paris

Have you ever been to a place where, the second you felt the bones of the city under your feet, you knew – just knew – that you belonged there?

That’s happened twice for me  – once in my beloved New York and again in Paris. I had the privilege to live in both places at vastly different points in my life and would go back to either one in a heartbeat. When I first went to New York I was 17 and needed adventure, which the city provided in abundance. When I first went to Paris, I was 23 and needed direction and comfort after a massive life change. I found both there in France and have been hooked ever since. It’s funny – I went back to France this summer with someone who knows me very well and after observing my interactions with our French friends and others while we were out and about in the community she looked at me and said, “You are so much more confident here than you ever are at home.” She’s right.

I won’t say much else, except that my students made me exceptionally proud these last two days as we discussed the tragic events that unfolded in France over the weekend. Their maturity, grace, and compassion remind me of why I became a teacher in the first place.

I’d like to share the 2-Day Lesson I did in class (adaptable for any level) as well as images from the “Peace Wall” my students created today. I hope you may find them useful.


paris sera toujours paris

Teachers: You are an anchor

This week is the last for our seniors, which can be a nostalgic time for everyone involved – students, parents and teachers alike. It’s an especially nostalgic time for me, as this year I’m saying farewell to the students who were in my very first classes at my current school. They’re a special group of kids for that very reason – they’re the first I’ve seen from beginning to end.

While this time of year can be so joyful, it can also be a struggle for teachers who are feeling the pressure of end-of-year exams, evaluations, grade disputes, classroom cleanup, trying to behavior manage squirrely kids, and just the general end-of-year exhaustion that always seems to hit in May. I know that, try as I might, my fuse has been a little shorter than I would like and I haven’t always demonstrated the kind of positive attitude I encourage my students to have in the face of a struggle.  I’ve found myself feeling really, really eager to just be done with it already, to have a chance to recharge my batteries.

But today as I bid farewell to an oustanding student, she handed me a gift – and with it, a reminder of something that is far too easy to forget.

the anchor

Teachers, you are an anchor. You are a constant in the midst of what can be a crazy and tumultous environment. You offer the kind of strength, stability and security that kids need in order to navigate the mess that is adolescence. Like an anchor, your presence is noticed, and it’s missed when you’re not there. Like an anchor, your strength is felt within the four walls of your classroom (how else could you get 25+ kids to pay attention to you all at the same time?!). And like an anchor, you provide enough stability for your students to withstand all of those outside forces that would seek to overwhelm them. And, as any boater knows, the anchor is necessary, and so are you.

Though the winds may be strong and the current quick and unyielding, the anchor remains steadfast and unmoved. Hang in there, teachers, and be that anchor that keeps your students grounded in the hustle and bustle that comes at the end of the school year; for some of them, you’re the only anchor they have.

Poisson d’avril!

Today was our last day of school before spring break and it was also a half day, which meant 28-minute class periods. After our daily “Quoi de neuf?” discussion about spring break plans (which practices futur proche for levels 1 & 2, and now the futur simple for levels 3-4) that left us with anywhere from 15-20 minutes left in class. What to do?

Luckily enough today happens to be April 1st which means….POISSON D’AVRIL! Students are always surprised to find that, in France and Quebec, one says “April Fish!” instead of “April Fool!” after playing a joke on someone. There is actually a real explanation for this, but I find that the version offered by the Quebecois video series Têtes-à-claques is much more interesting. In it, one goldfish tells another goldfish how “poisson d’avril” came to be – once upon a time, a young girl named Avril (April) caught a trout named Terry, who caused more than just a little bit of mayhem.

Poisson d'avril by Tangi Bertin (c) Creative Commons.
Poisson d’avril by Tangi Bertin (c) Creative Commons.

Before watching the video, I passed out a transcript as the Quebecois accent can be REALLY difficult to understand. I underlined several important phrases in the transcript (“I made it all up!” / “Sentenced to life in prison” / “Drowned in his fishbowl” etc) and at the bottom of the page, gave the English translations and had the students match them up. Most of the kids didn’t bother to read the entire transcript as they were phrase matching, which would normally drive me nuts but actually lent itself well to predicting what would happen in the video, just based on the text.

After we watched the video (checking for comprehension along the way), I passed out little paper fish that they could color and stick on their friends, as little kids do in France. I heard several shouts of “POISSON D’AVRIL!” in the hallways today during passing time, and several students had fun trying to stick their fish on me!

Happy Spring Break!