Les Griots d’Afrique

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As part of French 3’s “Legends and Supernatural” unit, I wanted to address the griot storytelling tradition of Francophone Africa – and WOW I did not anticipate it being so hard to find #authres for this mini-lesson. To be honest, I almost abandoned it all together but I’m glad I didn’t because it shaped up to be an interesting lesson! Plus, it exposed my students to a culture that I tend to shy away from because I am not as familiar with it as I would like to be.

Here’s my lesson sequence:

Day 1: I did a TPRS-style story to illustrate the role of a griot in society. I had one student play a griot, and several others play the roles of people in a village who want stories or songs for their family history. The students just had to act out what I narrated.

Day 2: We did the “C’est quoi un griot, d’abord?” reading with accompanying questions, then watched a TEDx video (in English) of a griot playing traditional instruments and singing; in the latter half of the video he explains what a griot is. We then started the process of watching a video of a griot (I think – at least an African storyteller) tell the legend of L’Homme et le hibou. This is a VERY challenging video; I provided the students with unfamiliar vocabulary and also asked some guiding questions in English to help them figure out what to listen for.

Day 3: We continued with the L’Homme et le hibou video and then broke down together how the story fits the typical characteristics of a legend (animals, magic, personification and a lesson). Then we watched the trailer for Youssou N’Dour’s documentary I Bring What I LoveI had the students do a CLOZE exercise of his explanation of his heritage and upbringing as a griot. There are English subtitles for his French speech, but they are very much just paraphrasing what he says and do not correspond word-for-word to his dialogue; you could alternatively just play the audio first and the video later. I would recommend at this point playing one of N’Dour’s songs.

Day 4: We read the legend Comment le lion devint roi and decided together if it fit the characteristics of an African legend or not. The version of the legend I used comes from http://www.conte-moi.net and there is audio and accompanying exercises in addition to the actual text.

Day 5: Begin the final assessment; the students work in groups of 2-3 to retell a legend, griot-style (or they may write their own legend). I have given them strict parameters in order to keep it simple enough for their proficiency level and also asked that they create a slide of images for any unfamiliar vocabulary that may come up in the legend, to make it more comprehensible for their classmates. We’ve spent the entire semester working on past tense narration, so that is really my linguistic focus for this assessment.

Here is a link to my resource packet for this lesson. As per usual, if there are language errors or formatting things you would like to change, please fix them on your own copy.

Bonne continuation!

 

 

Top 5 of 2016

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Another year of blogging in the books! I’m sure I’m not the only one who is more than happy to bid farewell to 2016 and who is hoping for a less eventful, more peaceful 2017. This was my most productive year of blogging yet and I have to say, I really enjoy the process. I’ve always enjoyed writing and having an outlet to do so has been very soothing, particularly since my real-life family and friend audience doesn’t always understand the trials, triumphs and tragedies that come with teaching. So thank you for reading! I hope, in some way, I’ve been able to contribute something to the profession this year.

So what did readers like in 2016? It seems my more reflective blog posts were all the rage but for some reason, my post on daily routine/reflexive verbs continues to garner a lot of traffic (I’m not sure why; it’s probably the most boring French topic known to man, other than chores, but I think it’s one many of us feel obligated to teach anyway).

The top 5 posts of 2016

5. La Routine Quotidienne

4. August #authres

3. The Power of the Do-Over

2. A Play on Write, Draw, Pass

1. Don’t Look Back

On Failure and Embracing Change

December is always a reflective month for me. In part because it’s the end of the year and I think everyone has a tendency to look back at the year that’s gone by as well as ahead to the year that’s coming. On a more personal level, December is my late father’s birthday month and I think often of him and how life might be different were he still here. This month, I lost a college friend to an extremely rare, unexpected illness just days after she was placed on a transplant list, and a childhood friend lost her mother hours after a double lung transplant that she had waited twelve years to receive. December also marks the anniversary of the biggest, most life-changing event I have ever experienced.

It marks the month that I flunked out of music school.

Many people know that I studied music in college and that officially it’s my minor. Some people know that I actually spent over three years as music major before switching to French. Not many people know that the reason I switched was because the music department at my university deemed that I longer had the right amount of talent to continue in my degree program and I had to find something else to study.

I had never failed on such an enormous scale before in my life. To say that I was crushed is only the half of it; I wanted to be a musician for my whole life, and I had spent my middle school and high school years preparing to that end. Private voice and piano lessons, music theory courses, singing in several different choirs, interning with my high school choir director, participating in theatrical productions, everything. After the failure, I spent the entire month of Christmas break in a complete fog and deep depression. I had no idea what was next for me or how to move on. All of my friends were music majors; I had lived in the music residential college. It was truly the only life I knew.

In January, a tiny voice crept into the back of my head. Maybe you could study French, it whispered. After all, I had taken language classes on the side and intended to minor in French anyway. I had a great relationship (and still do) with my French professors. The voice became a little stronger as I considered the prospect of studying something I actually felt good at, as I looked at the possibility of studying abroad: Why not French?

Looking back now, my failure as a music major was one of the best things that ever could have happened to me. I felt like I was made to study French, and immediately it felt easier than music ever had. I felt like a missing piece of my personal puzzle had finally been found. In studying French, I found so much joy and opportunity and everyday I’m thankful that I wound up where I am.

My failure also taught me one other thing: change comes whether we like it or not. Despite how much we may plan for our futures, none of us truly know what’s coming. At first, that was a scary sentiment but now it brings me comfort and a feeling akin to adventure or exhilaration. I have no idea who I am going to meet in the course of the next six months or a year, or what opportunities may present themselves that I don’t yet know about. I have no idea who or what may enter my life to change my worldview, to spur that little voice again that says Why not this?

What’s going to come will come – opportunity or misfortune, success or failure. We can’t predict or control it; what we can do is embrace the change and try to imagine what life has in store for us.

Here’s to 2017.

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

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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!

 

Gift Guide for the Modern Teacher

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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

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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!