A Play on Write, Draw, Pass

If my students had an all-time favorite activity, it would probably be Martina Bex’s Write, Draw, Pass. It’s like the game telephone, but written and with images. They love to see how well the story stays together (or how crazily it falls apart!) as they pass the papers around.

Last week, I needed a quick, no-prep way to work on si clauses with my level 3 students. We’re not going super in-depth with it, just enough to say “If I did _________, then ______ would happen.” Since the imperfect (the part after “if”) and the conditional are SO similar in French (they have the same endings!) the students really need practice differentiating between the two since they always tend to make it either usingly ONLY the imperfect or ONLY the conditional. So, I busted out Martina’s Write, Draw, Pass template and we made a story chain!

For simplicity, I provided the very first “If” clause and the students filled in the rest. Of course, I went with “If there was a zombie apocalypse…” and in the first box, the students had to finish the sentence with what they thought WOULD happen. After that, they passed it to a neighbor, and the neighbor drew a picture that represented the first sentence. They passed again, and in the third box, they continued the story using the last half of the first sentence as the beginning of the next “If” clause. So it went like this:

If there was a zombie apocalypse, I would fight the zombies. If I fought the zombies, the zombies would die. If the zombies died…etc.

When the kids got their original papers back, they had a lot of fun seeing how their original scenario panned out!

And, of course, because you can never have too much of a good thing, I adapted the same activity to my level twos who are currently working on the difference between the passé composé and the imperfect. We used Amy’s One Sentence Story template and created a Write, Draw, Pass story chain one sentence at a time. It was fun, which at this point in the year is super necessary (still three weeks left! gah!) but still requires them to use their language and keep their brains thinking!

Bonne continuation!

Petit Prince Chapters 10-17

French 4/AP continues on our journey of reading Le Petit Prince! It’s been going well, but is a long process due to the number of chapters in the novel and how often we stop to write/discuss/draw/summarize/etc. This is exacerbated by end of year field trips, AP tests, senior exams, and so on. Unfortunately I won’t have time for the mini-unit on soccer that I planned for this year which is a SUPER bummer, but I’m hoping I can start with that in a few of my classes next year, to re-cap the Euro Cup that’s happening in France this year. Otherwise, I plan on giving my exams prior to the official exam day, so perhaps on that long class period we can get out on the pitch and my soccer kids can show us how it’s done.

So, what’d we do for Petit Prince chapters 10-17?

Chapter 10

I printed out the illustration of the king that accompanies chapter 10, and asked the kids to write all over it and surround the king with as many words and phrases as they could in response to the question, “What makes a good king?” We discussed this together as a class, and then I read the chapter aloud to them as they followed along. When we finished, they journaled on a quote from the chapter – It is more difficult to judge yourself than others. They discussed their responses to this journal in small groups.

Chapters 11 and 12

I handed each small group a stack of post-its and had them read chapters 11 and 12 together (for my independent readers, they read alone). On each post it they had to tell me the following things:

  1. Key vocab they wanted to remember
  2. A quote or passage that they found interesting and why
  3. A 10-word summary of the chapter
  4. A question they had about the chapter

It was at about this point that I had a TON of kids out for AP testing and didn’t want to continue the book without them, so with those remaining in class, we did a roleplay in which the Little Prince’s flower is visited by a butterfly – what would the rose tell the butterfly about the Little Prince?

Chapter 13-14

The students read these chapters alone and updated their character maps. There was still a ton of AP testing going on at this point, so it was not as interactive as I would have liked it to be. We played Freeze Frame to re-cap the major events of the book so far.

Chapters 15-17

We had a couple of big discussion questions for these chapters, as the Petit Prince makes his final stop on his trip, on the planet Earth. The first was: How would you describe the earth to someone who had never heard of it?

In responding to this question, I asked the students to draw a visual representation of the Earth and note it’s major physical features, as well as other things they thought were important to know. We did a roleplay in which one person was the “alien” and the other had to explain the Earth to that person. We also did this as a whole-class activity, with me playing the role of “alien.” I really tried to ham it up and make them dig deep with their language – for example, a student would say, “There are big cities with buildings!” and I would respond, “What’s a building? Who goes there? What do you do? Why?”

Our other discussion question was about the role of snakes in film and literature – What do you think of when you think of a snake? In what stories does a snake play a big role?

We also played The Marker Game to review and did a few listening assessments.

Coming up next – we just finished what is probably my favorite project to do with my kids that follows Chapter 18 of Le Petit Prince. Stay tuned!



Petit Prince Chapters 5-9

French 4/AP continues to plug along reading the Petit Prince and developing their Interactive Notebooks as we do so. I think the work we’ve been doing so far has been useful, but so very time consuming. Much more than I had anticipated! I hoped to average about 2 chapters of the novels per day, but am usually only getting through 1, between all of the pre-reading, during-reading, and post-reading activities. I think I need to cut down a little bit! That being said, I do feel as though my students have a more profound understanding of the novel.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 addresses the baobab, a fairly big symbol in the novel. In real life, a baobab is an enormous tree also called the “tree of life” that bears an extremely nutrient-dense fruit. For the Petit Prince, however, a baobab represents a problem that, if too long neglected, may not be easily solved. For a pre-reading activity we watched a short informational video on the baobab trees. We read the chapter, and then the students cut out a printable I found online of a baobab tree and decorated it with what they thought were our community’s biggest “baobabs” and why.

The “baobab” printable is on the left hand side.

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 is very short, so we talked a lot about what sadness is/what do you do when you’re sad and journaled accordingly in our notebooks. The students read the chapter in their Reading Clubs and each group tried to come up with a 10 word summary for the chapter! It was fun to see how creative they could get and oddly enough, my “lowest” readers in each class had the most comprehensive 10-word summaries!

Chapters 7 and 8

These chapters are so important to the development of the book, as they are the chapters when we meet the Petit Prince’s flower for the first time! As a pre-reading activity we journaled about our best friends and added chapter vocabulary to our notebooks. We read the chapters via our Reading Groups, but summarized as a class. Finally, for our post-reading activities the students did an Inside/Outside summary for the flower. They used one page in their notebooks and drew a vertical line down the center. Right on the middle of the line, they illustrated the Petit Prince’s flower. On the left hand side of the page, they had to describe the outside of the flower – what physical characteristics does she possess? On the right hand side of the page, they did the same but for her interior characteristics – what kind of personality does she have?

Inside/Outside drawing for the flower.

Since this was a Friday I wanted to keep the mood light, so we also used this day as a chance to re-cap all of the vocabulary we had studied so far via a game. I chose several illustrations from the chapters we had already read in class and had the students partner up. One partner sat with his/her back to the board and an iPad in hand with the Educreations app open while the other partner described the image in as much detail as possible. We compared their drawings to the originals, and then switched roles so each student got a chance to describe AND draw!

Chapter 9

This is the chapter in which the Petit Prince prepares for his big voyage and bids farewell to his flower. We started first with the following prompt: What objects does the Petit Prince possess? If you were stranded on a desert island, what objects would you want to have and why? It was a good jumping off point for a review of the conditional, which my students are familiar with but tend to use inaccurately/confuse with the imperfect as they are so similar. We discussed as a group and then I read the chapter aloud. We also took the time to add to our Character Maps and update/tidy our notebooks. Chapter 9 is a sort of natural “breaking point” between sections of the story so it was a good place to stop – tomorrow we will assess on what we’ve read so far!

Working on the Character Map – document from Carrie Toth.

Interactive Notebooks and Le Petit Prince

So, I’m embarking on a new adventure – one that I actually thought I would never attempt but that after some time and consideration, came to be the most logical conclusion for the next unit in my French 4/AP split.

Combining interactive notebooks and novel study.

Let me admit up front that beyond what I’ve seen on social media (Pinterest, mostly), my knowledge of interactive notebooks is incredibly rudimentary. I get the concept but since I’ve never planned on doing them I haven’t done much investigation, but that’s definitely about to change!

I’ve known since the beginning of the year that French 4/AP would be reading Le Petit Prince. I want this to be a positive reading experience to them, since most of them have never read a novel in French before (we do lots of other kinds of reading, including fairy tales and legends) but I also wanted them to exhibit deep learning in the process as there is a lot of symbolism and metaphor in this novel. And, superficially, I wanted each student to have a place to organize their notes and activities for the novel that was separate from the rest of their school stuff. While my students are relatively responsible young people, most of their French supplies get stuffed into a two-pocket folder and I don’t want anyone to lose any key pieces of the puzzle as we move through this unit.

I’m sort of just jumping in with both feet and I’m not sure what to expect of this experience but I’m excited and my kids were surprisingly thankful that I provided them all with individual notebooks just for this novel. We read chapter one together today and did a pre-reading survey, a vocabulary foldable and a journal entry already (I’ll share more specifics in my next post!) but tomorrow I’m taking a page from Carrie Toth’s book (punny, I know) and splitting them into groups based on their reading preferences. Each group will have a slightly different task to complete based on their needs (to be recorded in their interactive notebooks) and all will begin the same Character Map.

Not to get even more ahead of myself, but I am also considering using the Seesaw app as a supplementary resource to allow students to post their best/favorite journal entries, illustrations, notes, whatever as an individualized assessment tool. So instead of telling everyone “turn in the journal entry from chapter one” I might ask them to take a photo of their best journal entry from chapters 1-5 and upload it to Seesaw for me to assess.

I’m hoping to keep a record of the process here in the blog. If you have any ideas or suggestions, PLEASE feel free to share!


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!


What We’re Loving Right Now

Happy February!

Things continue to truck along here in my salle de classe. As I blogged earlier, this year has been challenging. That’s still true, but we’re trying to keep on keepin’ on. Scheduling cards went out last week and thankfully, many of my students plan to continue their studies in French. 20 out of 30 Level 2s want to move on to Level 3, and a whopping 30 out of 35 Level 4s want to continue on to AP. My one sticking point is the jump from Level 3 to Level 4 – only 15 out of 36 have signed up so far. I’m not sure what the disconnect is, unfortunately, but it looks like I should have a full schedule for next year, but I’m terrified that after a year of a regular AP class I’ll probably be back to teaching a split, but that’ll be a worry for a year from now.

On a more positive note, here’s what we’re loving right now.

1. Mercredi Musique continues to be a huge hit in most of my classes. I was absent on Wednesday last week and thought we’d just have to wait until the next Wednesday, but there was such a demand that we did Mercredi Musique on Thursday instead. My formula is pretty simple – we listen to a song by a French/Francophone artist and watch the music video (if there is one) and afterwards, the students discuss if they liked/disliked it and why at their tables. Then, we sing the chorus together.

2. Fizz Buzz is a super-easy brain break that my kids have a love-hate relationship with. I can’t remember where the original idea came from, unfortunately! We stand in a circle and count in the TL, basically, but the twist is that whenever you get to a number that has a five in it or is a multiple of five, you say fizz. If the number has a seven or is a multiple of seven, you say buzz. This causes just as many groans as it does laughs, and as a bonus, helps the kids remember their numbers in French as well.

3. The French Revolution is our current until in my Level 4/AP split. History is one of my huge passions – I can nerd out big time when it comes to discussing the French Revolution, the two World Wars, or the women’s rights movement. I really wanted to infuse more of my own passions into my classes and thought the French Revolution was a great place to start. There are so many parallels between French and American society in that particular time period it really makes for a great cultural comparison. Plus, the kids are already somewhat familiar with the Revolution from their history courses, so they’re enjoying seeing it now through the lens of a culture they’ve spent four years studying. It’s been a lot of fun!

Side Note: I would LOVE a TPRS Publishing book related to the French Revolution. How cool would that be?!

4. Schoology Discussion Boards have completely changed how I assess Interpersonal Writing – meaning, I actually assess it now. The Discussion Boards have been super awesome for controversial topics; for example, we most recently did a debate in Level 4 about whether or not the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen should be adopted as law by the Assemblée Constituante and the French monarchy. Each student belonged to a group that would have been represented during this time – the monarchy, the nobles, the clergy, the Tiers-Etat and women – and had to argue “their” viewpoint and respond to others’ posts. My class of 26 generated over ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY posts in one 50-minute period! Some of them even started integrating hashtags in French and attached Revolution-related memes to their posts. The feedback I got was overwhelmingly positive so the Discussion Board will be sticking around!

Bonne continuation!


Joyeuse Fête des Rois!

Epiphany is one of the holidays I was lucky enough to celebrate in France and I have to say, it’s one of my favorites. Not because I’m particularly religious, but my goodness do I love that big ol’ puff of almond goodness, la galette des rois. Not to mention the fun little traditions that go along with it!

Since French 2 is when my students learn about holidays in the Francophone world, I do most of my holiday celebrations during that level. Yesterday, we learned about la Fete des Rois and today we “celebrated” it by eating some galette!



When the students walked in, they saw 5 images projected on my SmartBoard but no captions – three kings, a fève (the figure that goes inside of the galette), a galette des rois, a crown, and a little boy under a table. I asked them to imagine how the images were related to one another, which really got their attention and I think they had fun trying to figure out a story to tie everything together.


First, I did a MovieTalk of a Léo et Popi video in which a family celebrates Epiphany by eating a galette des rois. I liked this video for the MovieTalk because I could build some suspense when the little boy opens the bag that his dad brought home – they were dying to know what was inside! It was also fun to watch them begin to realize what was happening when the mom in the video found the fève in the cake. After we did the MovieTalk, we went back to the original 5 images to see how we could better connect them.

Then, the students watched this video that gives some more detail on the holiday and filled in an IPA-style listening comprehension sheet. On the back of the listening comprehension was a quick reading I had typed up based on this slightly more difficult authentic resource.


At the end of the class, we were ready for some output! I put the images back up on the board and the students wrote a short summary of how all the images were related to one another, based on what we read and listened to in class.

Today, we ate some galette that I made at home (relatively easy if you buy packaged puff pastry) and the students then completed a speaking activity in which they had to call my Google Voice number and explain the holiday as though they were living with a host family in France and calling a friend back home to fill them in on what happened. Not totally contextualized, but it was a fun way to get ’em talking and using the past tense, which we’ve been working on for the past several weeks.

Se lever du pied gauche

Have you ever had one of those days where you’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed, and for the rest of the day nothing seems to go your way? Me too. I think in this profession it happens more often than we’d like to admit! While I’m a big believer in the idea that life is 10% what happens to you and 90%  how you react to it, I can admit that sometimes I don’t react all that well when I realize I’ve woken up 40 minutes late, or forgotten my lunch at home, or that I’ve washed my face with hair conditioner instead of facewash (yes, this has happened. More than once).

Well, we’ve definitely all been there, and so have our students. Because I’m required by my district to teach reflexive verbs in both the present and the past tenses in level two, I decided to try and make the most of a tricky grammar point and add a little bit of realistic humor.

I based this part of my unit around the French idiomatic expression se lever du pied gauche, which we would express as “to wake up on the wrong side of the bed” but which literally means “to get up on the left foot” in French. This was a good hook for my students, who had fun trying to piece together all of these words (which they know individually) and make both literal and figurative meaning out of them.

I then did a MovieTalk about a guy who wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. By the way – have you heard of Film English? It’s aimed mostly at ESL students and teachers but there are so many fabulous short video clips and lesson ideas that it really is a treasure trove for MovieTalk as well. In any case, in this video there’s no dialogue, but there is an interesting twist when the man “splits” in two and we can see how his day would have unfolded normally AND if he had woken up on the wrong side of the bed. I really try to flood the kids with input during this stage and do pop-ups of the grammar where I actually do very little instruction and let them work out the rules on their own. Happily, a lot of the kids got it pretty quickly.

Since this is only level 2, I can’t say that I expect them to reach mastery of these concepts at this stage but they’ll see the material again in level 3 when we reach our friendships and relationships unit. Well, we did a lot of listening, reading, describing the video, and even put together a skit in small groups in which the kids had to describe to a friend their “weird” day – such as I woke up in the dog house or I brushed my teeth with soap and washed my face with toothpaste, etc. When it came time for our writing assessment, I was pleasantly surprised with what some of them had to say:



Bonne continuation!

La Routine Quotidienne

The subject of la routine quotidienne (daily routine) is one that can be a bit controversial among some of the teachers who make up the #langchat community. There are many who say that daily routine verbs (wake up/take a shower/get dressed) are not high-frequency enough to devote time to, but I disagree; in part because I’m expected by my district to teach these verbs so I might as well make it interesting, but also in part because these verbs help me to better engage with my students in the target language.


For example, the student who is habitually late to first hour can now tell me why in French – My sister showers for too long every morning.

Or when we do our beloved “quoi de neuf?” discussion at the beginning of class, students can start to expand a little more – I’m tired because I have too much homework and go to bed at 2 AM every night.

Likewise, daily routine verbs are a good lead-in to other reflexive/reciprocal verbs that they’ll need later on – like when we talk about health and injuries, and relationships in level three.

While it seems like daily routine verbs might be a little bland and difficult to contextualize, there are some things you can do to spice it up!

The Intro

I typically introduce the daily routine using a simple PowerPoint presentation I put together while I was still in college. I had my roommate take pictures of me in various places around our apartment, going through the motions of a typical day. (They’re silly pictures – in the “I’m taking a shower” scene I’m clearly standing in the shower with all of my clothes on and a towel on my head.) I start out by telling the students that I’m a huge perfectionist, I have a very strict routine, and then I go through the presentation. During this time, I also do some PQA so the students can start to hear the other forms of the verbs and they’re not just stuck listening to “je” all the time.

After I talk about myself during the presentation, I announce dramatically that even though I’m a perfectionnist, I have a terrible roommate who parties at all hours of the night, goes to bed at 2AM, brushes her teeth with my toothbrush, etc. The kids think this is hilarious.

When I finish with that, I show the script and highlight a few key sentences that contain both reflexive and non-reflexive verbs, and I ask the students to spend some time trying to figure out what they think it means. They already have a basic knowledge of object pronouns, and so they are pretty quick to understand that in the case of a reflexive verb, the subject is doing the action to itself. In addition to the presentation, co-constructing meaning, we do TPR movements and a lot of PQA, which means at least two full class periods of CI.

The Practice

As I teach high school, moving away from home and living with a roommate is a very real possibility for the vast majority of my students. Having lived with roommates for all of my adult life, I know how tough it can be when your personalities and routines don’t mesh, and how important it is to communicate about those issues so a household can run smoothly.

So, we went on the hunt for roommates! We started with an authentic reading via the website Appartager.com, where people seeking roommates post advertisements and descriptions about what their apartment has to offer, as well as the kind of person they’re looking for. It was a great way to review basic adjectives as well as rooms of the house, which I never spend a lot of time on but the students pick up fairly easily. After we read a few posts, we talked about what makes a good or bad roommate and why it might be important to know the routine of someone you’re living with.

I put together an interview sheet with 5 simple questions, and had the students respond to them first from their own perspective. Then they had to ask the questions of their classmates and record their answers in the appropriate form of il or elle. (My students have a habit of writing down answers verbatim – so, from the je perspective – when interviewing one another.)

Screen shot 2015-04-13 at 9.23.06 PM

We finished up with a presentational writing in which each student had to pick which of their three partners would be the best roommate and describe why they chose that person.

The Assessment

This week, we’re wrapping up present-tense reflexives with a short assessment based on this Time for Kids article. It’s not totally authentic and I did have to translate it from its original English to French, but it serves the purpose well enough and offers a little cultural context into everyday life in France. I designed an IPA-style reading task and will include a writing extension in which the students imagine that they’ve been asked to write a similar article now from their American perspective, aimed toward a French or francophone audience.

While it’s not the most scintillating subject, I hope I’ve added a little more context and interest to our Daily Routines unit. It may not be a popular choice to include in a proficiency-based World Language curriculum but as it’s a subject I’m required to teach, I’d like to spice it up as much as possible.

Next week we move on to reflexive verbs in the past tense – stay tuned!