10 Activities for Music in the Classroom (that aren’t fill-in-the-blank!)

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Bonne rentrée tous et toutes! I simply cannot believe I’m not back in the high school classroom today, greeting all of my new and returning students. I know I’m where I am supposed to be right now but today, I miss those kids, my colleagues, and the energy of high school way more than I thought I would.

Even though for many teachers in the United States today is the very first day of classes, what better way to kick off the year than jumping right into Mercredi musique tomorrow?! The first thing my students wanted to know when I told them I would not be returning this fall was, “Will we still be able to do Mercredi musique?!” While my own Mercredi musique routine is a very simplified version of Laura’s Coros process (listen to the song & watch the music video,  discuss our reactions, learn the chorus & sing all together), music is a great vehicle for language and culture! And most of all – it’s FUN! I’ve seen a ton of posts on social media lately, from teachers asking how to move beyond CLOZE activities when it comes to incorporating music in the classroom (no shade to CLOZE activities – I’ve used plenty of them!). Here are a few of my favorite activities, that are also relatively low-prep.

  1. Music Word Cloud Races: I learned this one from Carrie Toth at a conference a few years ago and it is so much fun! Run the lyrics (or major words from the lyrics) through a word cloud generator like Tagxedo or Tagul and print the word cloud. Give one copy to each pair of students, and have them select a writing implement that is a different color from their partner’s. Play the song, and when they hear a word that’s in the word cloud, they have to be the first to totally color in that word. The partner with the most of his/her color on the sheet at the end is the “winner.” (Activity Hack: For more advanced students, put the words in English).
  2. Arrange the Lyrics: Super easy and can be done individually or in pairs (which I suggest). Print the lyrics and have students cut them up, line by line, then mix up the strips on their desks. Play the song, and the students have to rearrange the lyrics into the right order. (Activity Hack: At the end, give an envelope to each kid and have them stuff the strips back in. Put all the envelopes into a gallon sized Ziploc, and you’ve got your activity already created if you want to use that song again.)
  3. Embedded Reading: If you’re using a song that features a lot of a particular language structure that you want to highlight, create an embedded reading based on the story behind the song or the video that features many repetitions of that structure.
  4. Re-cap with screencaps: Take screenshots of major points in the music video, and have students retell the story using the pictures as a visual aid/support. (Activity Hack: You will probably want to do an embedded reading beforehand, particularly for novice/intermediate low students.)
  5. Recreate the video: Based on their understanding/interpretation of the lyrics, have students develop a storyboard for their own version of a music video and provide a summary/description of each frame in the TL. (Activity Hack: Give the students the lyrics firstbut do NOT show the original music video as you listen; have students compare how their own interpretations related to the “real” version.)
  6. Lip Sync Battle: This is really fun to do any time you have some extra class time but don’t necessarily want to fill it with new material (before a long break, in-between units, at the end of the school year, etc.). Students can work in pairs or groups of three to create choreography and give their best performance of their favorite target language song!
  7. Blackout or Found Poetry: Print the lyrics and give a copy to each student. Blackout poetry is a little more complex, as they are required to keep the words in their original order and “black out” the parts that won’t be used with a marker, thus creating a new “poem.” Alternatively, they could create a found poem – using only the songlyrics, but cutting them up and rearranging them into a new order.
  8. Intruder: Give each student a set of lyrics, but include words and phrases that are NOT actually in the song. As they listen, the students have to identify which words and phrases do not belong. (Activity Hack: Students can “level up” by identifying what the REAL lyrics are.)
  9. The Voice: I used this with my 4/AP students last year during our Beauty & Esthetics unit but it could be adapted to any level, particularly if you want students to be able to talk about music in quantitative terms (describing the rhythm, melody, instrumentation, and so on). Just like the blind audition stage of “The Voice”, the students turn their backs to the SmartBoard (if you have one) while you play a snippet from a lesser-known song by a target culture singer (either known or unknown to the students). If the students like what they hear, they turn around to see who the singer is. If not, they remain with their backs turned to the board. At the end of the snippet, discuss together in the TL what they liked or didn’t like. This activity is extra fun if you have access to swivel chairs! (Activity Hack: Both France and Mexico have their own versions of “The Voice” and many very famous singers like Louane and Kendji Girac started out as contestants on the show! Play their audition videos and see what the judges had to say about them – do you agree or disagree? Why?)
  10. Don’t Forget the Lyrics: A great brain break or filler for those extra five minutes at the end of class, when things went a little faster than expected! Divide the class into two teams. Play a snippet of a song that the class knows, then “randomly” hit pause (I usually did it before the chorus, as that’s what my students knew). If the team can sing the next line of the song, they get the point. Each team gets their own turn, though if they’re wrong the other team can “steal.”

Enjoy!

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Micro-unit: Les partis politiques français

 

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In an effort to expose my students to as many cultural topics as possible before the AP test, I did a very quick, brief overview of the French presidential elections and the political parties in France. And I mean very quick. I could (and should) have done a lot more with this concept but I’m feeling a little panicky about the amount of material I have to get through in the next eight weeks so we did a very brief micro-unit so they are at least familiar with the system and the candidates, should anything crop up this year’s test (given that it’s an election year).

I slapped together a brief dossier (this does not include an article I found on 1jour1actu) for this micro-unit; there’s not much in it, it’s more of a guide to help me and keep my students organized.

Day 1: Look at the graphic on the front page of the dossier and brainstorm the major values of French politics; are they similar to or different from our values? How so? Examine the logos on page 2 and try to guess where the parties fall on the left-right spectrum. Watch this video from 1jour1actu: Ca veut dire quoi, droit et gauche en politique? The students then used their devices to go on I Side With and filled out the survey to find out which French politicians/political parties best fit their perspectives on a variety of issues. We culled vocabulary related to politics and political stances during this activity as well.

Day 2: We explored some of the articles from the presidentielle 2012 dossier on 1jour1actu, bearing in mind that the candidates are not currently relevant but the practices and concepts are basically the same. I also cut up the pieces of a document shared by a fellow teacher on the French Teachers in the US Facebook page (thanks, Debbie McCorkle!) that broke down the viewpoints of 13 major French political parties on issues such as the economy, the European Union, immigration, terrorism and the army, and the environment. I put students into pairs and assigned them a political party to be the “expert” on, then they had to share out to their classmates, giving only the essential information before moving on.

Day 3: I did a quick direct lesson (in the TL, of course) on how the French president is elected (le suffrage universel direct), how many elections there are (le premier tour, le deuxième tour) and how long a President is in office in France (5 years). We looked at some of the survey results from Le Figaro regarding current candidate popularity, and then did a Venn Diagram of all of our findings thus far regarding similarities/differences in French and American political parties and processes (days 1-3) I then assigned everyone the identity of a French politician for an in-class “primary” debate.

Day 4: Students researched their candidates’ viewpoints on major political issues (immigration, economy, etc) as well as the viewpoints of 1-2 opposing candidates to prepare for our debate.

Day 5: In-class whole-group role play with me as the moderator. I asked questions about various issues and called on “candidates” at random to express their views and challenge the viewpoints of their “opponents.” We also did a quick AP-style reading from a textbook on the voting process in France.

There you have it! Fast, a little shallow, but still relevant and engaging for my students, particularly since it’s been a year full of politics in the United States.

 

January: What I Read

When I was younger, I used to read for pleasure all the time. I had, literally, hundreds of books (still do, probably). I’m not sure why, but I got out of the habit of reading for pleasure while I was in college and didn’t really pick it back up again once I hit the workforce. I realized last year that it kind of bummed me out that I wasn’t reading more, since I think it’s a big part of self-care, so I did the 2016 Popsugar reading challenge and read about 20 books on the list of 40. While I didn’t get all the way through the challenge, I really enjoyed having a goal to meet and categories of books to read (like “a book with a blue cover” or “a book that’s 100 years old”) rather than “Read this exact title” because I could tailor the challenge to my tastes. So in December I decided to do the 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge and I’d really like to make my total more than 50% this time!

Here’s what I read in January, and how I’m counting it for the challenge.

1. 97 Orchard:97orchardcover.jpg An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman

Challenge category: A book with a subtitle

I’m a big history person (particularly social history, or anything that has to do with real people) and I happened to visit the tenement at 97 Orchard street this summer when I went to New York. I saw this while I was in the gift shop but didn’t buy it, so I decided to pick it up when I saw it at my local library. The book focused less on the actual families than I would have liked (and as it was advertised) and more on the food trends of the demographics to which they belonged. Still, it was interesting to see how people lived (and ate) in turn-of-the-century New York, and how culinary traditions from the “home country” ultimately became our culinary traditions (or have been totally lost since then).

 

2. The Pearlpearl.jpg That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Challenge category: A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you / A story within a story

This book came highly recommended from a friend of mine and has generally favorable reviews on Goodreads but I was decidedly not a fan. I found it poorly written, poorly edited, and had such little connection to the characters or setting that it could have been a book about anyone, anywhere – not the situation of Muslim women in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Likewise, for all the fuss they made about Rashima being the descendant of a woman who supposedly played a huge role in the King’s palace, she was there for all of about four chapters and didn’t actually accomplish anything or play any kind of significant role at all. Nevertheless, I finished the book and like I said – it seems many of the people who reviewed it on Goodreads enjoyed it, so you can come to your own conclusions!

veldhiv3. Je vous écris du Vel d’Hiv: Les lettres retrouvées by Karen Taieb (preface by Tatiana DeRosnay)

Challenge category: A book of letters

As I mentioned above, I am a HUGE history buff (in fact, it’s my minor) and one of my areas of specialization during my undergrad was France at war in the 20th century. I was fascinated by the story of La Rafle, and how little there was in terms of documentation – almost nothing was left behind, save for a photograph of a buses full of people parked outside of the former Velodrome d’Hiver in Paris. So that Taieb was able to track down 18 letters, written from inside the Vel d’Hiv, and put together the stories of the people who wrote them is, I think, remarkable. Hard to read, but important and so, so necessary. I think there is an English translation available to any non-Francophones who are interested in reading it.

Read anything good lately?

Le Nain rouge de Détroit

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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!

 

C’est Halloween!

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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)!

#AuthresAugust: My Favorite Print Resources

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I’ve blogged before about how some of my colleagues call me the “resource queen” and to a certain extent it might be true – I do spend a lot of time scouring the web for authentic resources for my students. As much as I love a good infographic, though, over the past few years I’ve also really enjoyed using informative children’s books in my classroom and I tend to stock up whenever I’m in France (though you can buy them online too!). Bad news for my suitcase, great news for my personal library!

While my library does boast some of the “classic” children’s literature – Harold and the Purple Crayon, Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, several Dr. Seuss titles, and more – I really like using informative children’s books that explain a concept. Even better if it’s tied to our current thematic unit!

Here is a list of my go-tos and favorites!

L’histoire de France en BD by Dominique Joly and Bruno Heitz

I own two copies from this series, which presents the history of France in comic-book form: De la Révolution à nos jours and La Révolution française. My upper-levels have loved them both and I really appreciate how they present complex historical and political concepts in simple, child-friendly language with tons of visual support.

The Dis Pourquoi series from Fleurus

I love the illustrations of this series, and how it addresses so many common questions that could fit into literally anything you teach. Each book answers, in child-friendly language,  a wide variety of questions like what is a friend?, why do we cry?, why is it bad to throw paper on the ground?, why are there people who sleep on the street?, why do moms and dads have to work? and so on. Super cute!

Mes Petites Questions from Edition Milan

Each book in this series addresses children’s questions related to one specific topic – France, Paris, life and death, love and friendship, religion, soccer, school, seasons and the list continues. I only have a few so far but if I could buy one of each I would!

Questions? Réponses! from Nathan

This is a similar series to Mes Petites Questions but geared to a slightly older audience. I bought two on my most recent trip to France – one about soccer, and the other on World War II for my AP students to use this year.

66 Millions de Français… by Stephanie Duval, Sandra Laboucarie and Vincent Caut

This is another book I just bought so I haven’t had the chance to use it in class yet, but I’m really excited about it! It’s like an infographic in print form and each chapter focuses on a different aspect of France’s identity, like What does it mean to be French? or France, country of rights and obligations and my personal favorite, France seen from elsewhere.

I buy the bulk of my books in France, but there are certain occasions when I need to order something online, so Amazon.fr (or .ca) and FNAC are my go-to sites. Happy reading!