Friday, September 28, 2012

Keep it real!

Getting creative with your lessons is as important as keeping it "real".  Although students are increasingly knowledgeable about technology and about much of what it has to offer, there is nothing more enjoyable than watching students bond over a good old fashioned "board game"!  While having fun students are gaining much more.  My students here are engaged in social interaction which is a crucial skill to becoming a contributing member in our society, they are reading in a foreign language (French in this case as the board game is indeed a French version), and they are communicating in both French and English while playing the game.  Keep the enjoyment in the game by purchasing board games that are familiar to them.  Although playing board games is not as prevalent in homes today as in the past, it still exists and can be a valuable tool in promoting language learning in your class.  I try to have a board game day every couple of months in the school year.  The students look forward to game day and know that they have a choice of several games.  If you have very large classes and do not necessarily have enough "board games", have students play the games in pairs.  Two heads are better than one when reading the French directions or clues within the game.  :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Learning through "creativity"

As a teacher we all know that just "listening" to the information given to us is not enough for most of us to "truly learn" something.  When I think back to some of the best memories in my past in terms of being the student I look fondly upon my first "sewing" project where I felt proud of my "creation".  That yellow blouse that I wore for months on end until it almost fell apart was a testament to what I had learned in my Sewing 9 class.  I'm sorry that I don't remember the teacher's name but I do know that she gave me a skill that has continued with me throughout my years.  Yes, I even made my own wedding dress; and it all began in Sewing 9.  So, how do we spark the desire to learn in our students?  How do we know when what we are doing in our classrooms has truly made a difference?  Is it when a former graduate comes back to visit?  Or is it when you see a newspaper article in the local paper about something wonderful that a former student of yours has done?  or is it a simple email sent from afar that helps you realize that "something" you did sparked an interest!  The creativity that we use in class does make a difference!  We don't see it on a daily basis necessarily but we do see it!  Create a project that forces the students to go beyond the books.  Whether it be to the internet to retrieve information, or to a community member in the town or even to a local shop to explore opportunities that exist for future occupations.  Create!  Create!  Create!  Our students love to make things.  They loved to make mud pies when children; they loved to make lego cars and trucks and planes.  We must not just turn the pages but instill in our students the desire to go beyond the "easy" and to "strive for that extra achievement".  Creating something is so personal and after all is done, we all love to see something that we have created ourselves.  Hmmmm,  what will I do next in my classroom?  What will you do?  :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Role playing to promote oral expression

Role playing is not just for drama class!   Today in my senior French class I started my class by showing a photo on the screen of a family having a large turkey dinner.  Thanksgiving is not too far off here in Canada as we celebrate it in October and so immediately the students thought that the family was having their Thanksgiving dinner.  :)  I had each table spend five minutes brainstorming French vocabulary that they could use to describe the photo.  Afterwards, each table took turns to create a list on the whiteboard.  They were not allowed to repeat any of the words and so the last groups really had to put their thinking caps on!  We discussed the vocabulary briefly and they were very impressed with the number of words generated. (and so was I)  There were five people in the picture enjoying the meal and so I numbered off my students 1-5 at each table.  They really didn't know what kind of a "twist" I was going to put into the activity until I assigned each of them a role corresponding to a person in the photo.  All the number 1s were "le grand-père", 2s - "la mère", 3s - "le fils qui porte les lunettes", 4s - "le mari", and finally 5s - "a young girl - probably a daughter".  Their task? -   Each table of students needed to pretend that they were the family in the picture and that they were having a normal everyday conversation during the evening meal.  IF any of the vocabulary written on the board worked for the conversation then they were able to use it.  If not, then they needed to get creative with the conversation.  The conversations ranged greatly!  - Everything from "great potatoes, Mom" to an "argument at the table between two siblings" occurred.  Regular conversations occured!  "Pass the salt, please".  This was a great way to start conversation between students who might not know each other very well yet too as they were able to do the activity sitting at their tables without having to move around the classroom.  Make the students comfortable and language learning WILL OCCUR!  :)  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kim's Game

If you've ever been to Brownies, Guides, Beavers, or Scouts (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts) you will surely have played Kim's Game.  I don't know where this name came from or even if it truly is the correct name but this is what I remember it as from my days in Brownies and Guides.  I now play this game in my classroom when I'm working with classroom objects in French. Throughout the day today I collected classroom objects - ruler, pen, pencil, eraser, stapler, piece of paper, my mini Tour Eiffel, textbook, paperclip,  dictionary and so on.  I have them all ready to go for one of my classes tomorrow.  My students will have a few minutes to review their classroom vocabulary before we begin and I will put the box lid of "goodies" on a desk - covered with a towel at first - in the middle of the classroom.  My students will then close their books, pull out a sheet of paper and a pen and come to view the objects for a time limit of "one minute".  They are not allowed to pick up the items, move them or take notes while looking at the group of items.  They just need to memorize as many of them as possible.  When I cover up the items again they rush back to their desks and frantically write down as many of the items by memory as possible.  The student with the most items correctly listed and (hopefully) correctly spelled will be the winner.  My students love this game!  :) 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Social interaction using the second language!

Wow!  Two weeks into school now and so many names to learn! :)  I'm not sure if it gets easier each year or not but I do know that by being interactive in the classroom certainly helps!  Today I used my teaching resource found on the TpT site called "Trouvez quelqu'un qui..".  It is a combination "classroom bingo" card and a "trouvez quelqu'un activity".  Today I used it as an introductory activity with my students.  Of course, I played along also showing the students that learning each others names is just as an important part of social interaction as using "French" in the classroom.  I first wanted to be sure that everyone was familiar with the vocabulary and so we discussed it first.  The students had to go to another table first so that they are up and out of their seats and interacting with each other. Simple "est-ce que tu..." questions were used and the students willingly asked each other questions.  There really was a buzz of activity and French speaking in the class.  Their goal was to have the entire card of squares with other students names in them, but accidentally I saw another way to play the game. 

Because the card with the boxes says 'bingo' across the top (in order to use it in that fashion at another time), some of the students worked at completing "a line" and then called out bingo.  Wow! Another way to play a game.  The students got to meet new students in the class and I got to reinforce the learning of their names!  Parlons!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

2 things!

Why is it that no matter how long you have been studying French that the "numbers" seem to be the last thing to get "stuck" into the brain???   We all know that when we first start learning a second or third language that one of the first things for us to learn are the basic numbers.  So, my students came into class today at the end of the day and happened to find a "lotto" card left behind from a previous class of students.  Immediately, they recognized it and wanted to play.  It really wasn't anywhere on my lesson plan but "Why Not?".  We all made "lotto" cards and focussed on a range of higher numbers to put a bit of a better challenge to the game for the grade level.  The students were engaged and had fun at the same time.  Did it really take away from my lesson?  Not really.  It served as a reinforcement activity for the kids!  Having fun, promotes learning!  I have seen numerous "bingo" cards written in many ways.  Whether you choose to play "bingo", "loto", or "lotto", the results are the same.  Engaged students!  even the older students enjoy a game now and again.  :)

Secondly,  a proud teacher/parent moment!  My daughter has recently graduated from high school and is off to pursue her post secondary dreams!  Some of her fellow high school students have been posted on YouTube in a video presenting their artwork.  It is on display in an administrator's building downtown.  Check it out! and of course, enjoy!   Here's the link:

Monday, September 10, 2012


I'm always amazed at the wealth of availability of on-line videos to help enhance classroom lessons.  Today I began a unit about Switzerland in my classroom and was able to share exciting "tourist" type videos with my students to peak their interest as well as to help them learn about this very exciting small country.  There are so many countries from around the world that put up videos promoting their homeland. In doing so, they not only promote sites of interest, but the culture of the people, food specialties and traditions from long ago.  Before beginning a unit about another French speaking country I like to see what my students know about it before we begin.  For Switzerland, the most common pieces of information was their knowledge of cheese, chocolate and the Alps.  One of the videos also allowed us to discuss what it means to be a "neutral" country in the world.  This was definitely a great springboard to our unit. I look forward to continuing our exploration next day. :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dictionary usage

Deciding whether our students should use a "paper dictionary" or an "on-line" dictionary is often a confusing question.  For language learning it sometimes poses an additional difficulty in that there are so many websites that provide translation to the general public that it sometimes interferes with our students' true learning of the language.  There will always be someone or something that will help our students outside of our classrooms but being able to guide our students to make wise choices is still very much in the forefront of our educational responsibilities.  After attempting to "convince" my students that some websites are better than others when supplementing the teachings in the classroom and after trying to have them use only "specific" ones designated as "approved" by me, I had my students do a dictionary activity in the classroom yesterday.  It definitely was with mixed success.

My goal was for the students to see that each of the sites including using the paper dictionary had its merits, but instead all they seemed to find  was that each had a varying number of entries for one "searched for" word.  I did this activity with my grade 8s.  I am not going to leave it though.  Next week I will put the sites up on the screen in my classroom and we will explore the sites together.  On-line work is a great way to explore what the world wide web has to offer, but it is always nice to see that there is also a place for us as educators.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wow!  Today was the first day back to school with my students!  I always find it so exciting to see the students come in with smiling faces - all eager to succeed and to do their very best for the school year.  I know that for some it's "turning over a new leaf", for others "it's a new school with new challenges".  Whatever their situation is they are all there to do their very best and to learn as much as they can while "fitting in", which we all know is the most important aspect for the majority of the students.  We have a multi-grade leveled "homeroom" in our school.  It's actually called a "TA" which refers to Teacher Advisory group.  Our students are from grades 8-12 and we have "families" in the same TA.  This allows the parents to have one main "contact" teacher at the school so that it is much easier when there are 2 or 3 of their children in the school.  I love it when the younger siblings come in and join our TA.  The family dynamics are always so interesting to watch.  Over the past 20 years of working in this model I have seen all of the family members mix in like a paint pot.  Everyone mixes together.  It's just like the children in the neighbourhood where everyone plays together no matter what their ages.  Our TA is very much like that also.  Tables of students sit together and at each one there are always students of varying grade levels.  The younger ones look up to the older ones as role models to see what is expected of them for their futures. The older students help out the younger ones to make the adjustment to secondary school that much easier.

Tomorrow I will help to give out resources to the students in my French classes and meet some of these classes also.  One of the main things that I will do with them is to open up a class blog for 5 of my 7 classes.  If you look at the tab above the posts you will see a "tab" referring to blogging.  Have a look!  It's just a bit of a window into what I do within my class.  Can't wait until tomorrow!  :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Getting Started

Hi everyone!  Well, here we go!  I have recently joined "Teachers Pay Teachers" and have found it to be the most amazing site ever!  There are so many wonderful resources and ideas from teachers around the world that I just couldn't pass up on this wonderful opportunity. After having taught for so many years I consider myself to be a "seasoned" teacher :)  and love to not only stay current in my teaching strategies but also share what I have learned with others.

I want to be the teacher who is not just handing out worksheets to do but someone who enjoys what I do while trying to be as creative as possible whenever possible.  By having 3 children go through the secondary school system, I think it's allowed me to stay current and to better understand what the youth of today finds interesting.  I will not bury my head in the sand and let the time go by. So, with my new groups of students coming into the classroom this coming week I will once again dive in to learn about who they are (not only their names but who they are!!) and to share my love of my French subject area with them.  In turn, we will learn together as technology progresses at a rate that continues to be baffling to many of us.

Enjoy your long weekend!  See you Tuesday! :)