Friday, 23 October 2015

Warm-up/ Review Activity: Décrivez-moi!

Here's a quick activity that I did with my grade 7 and 8 classes, that got them speaking some French to each other, and reviewed adjectives with them too.  I call it "Decrivez-moi!" and it was a lot of fun.  One of my grade 7s actually said at the end of class "Thanks for the fun class today Madame."

It is very simple to set up.  If you want to use my worksheet for adjectives, here's the link


1.  Each students needs a piece of paper and a pencil or marker.  Markers make a pretty sheet, but pencils work fine too.  My students just used their pencils.  Have them sit around a table in groups of 4-6 students.  Smaller groups are less confusing when the activity starts.  They may also need a list of adjectives to consult. 

2. Make sure the students write their name at the bottom of the page, so they can find their page at the end. 

3. Use an interval timer for 30 seconds like this one on YouTube to mark the time for each turn.  When the timer starts, students pass the paper they have to the left.  They will receive a paper on their right.  In the 30 seconds, they must write one adjective that describes the person who's paper they have.

4.  Once the 30 seconds is up, they pass the sheet on, and get a new one to write on. And so on.

5.  When students get their own paper, they can add one, or take a 30 second break to see what others wrote.

I do this activity until each student had at lease 15 adjectives on their page.  About 6 minutes or so.  When the students get their paper back, they are to circle the adjectives with which they agree, and "x" out the ones they don't agree with.

During the activity, students would tell each other "Vite!" and "Changez!" "le cloche va sonner!" and "Passez le papier!" while they were playing. I added an assessment by asking each of the students about the adjectives on their page, and with which they did and didn't agree.  Boom.  Authentic conversations.

If you don't want to use adjectives, I think you could adapt this for other vocabulary review, by having the students work in teams until they have added every word that need to be covered.  Or use it for creative writing in Immersion by having the students write one sentence to create a team story to share with the class.    

What other ways could you adapt this activity?

Friday, 9 October 2015

Inquiry Activity: Best tools for French Students

 As part of our review this year, I decided to start my 7s and 8s with a small guided inquiry activity.  I thought it would be a good idea to teach students how to use the resources (tech and not) that are available to them, and get their opinions about which ones they found the most useful. 

I provided them with 4 resources, and small lessons on how to use them:

(An old-school, book-style) Dictionary (or the Word Reference App, free!)
Google translate 

...and they had to find one more tool to compare and contrast.  The question they had was this:

Trouvez un outil qui est indispensable pour un étudiant de français.  Quel outil est-ce que tu préfères? Pourquoi?

I gave the students a list of words to look up in all the resources.  It was great because they sometimes got conflicting translations, and had to depend on their prior knowledge to make sure that the translations were correct.  They were very frustrated!

They were asked to organize their thoughts about the question for our discussion about the best tool.  It was a great discussion-- many students were disagreeing with each other in French.  I had an anchor chart with discussion promtpt for the student to consult and they used them well.   Overall, Google translate lost in this activity, and the students came to this decision themselves.

What I like best about this inquiry activity is that it is short (about 2-3 classes), it is extremely guided, it focuses on thinking about how students think and therefore what tool would help them best, and it makes students have to persuade and defend their opinon in French.  These are all elements needed for an inquiry activity!  

As a added bonus, students found other resources to use, and which not to use. Here are some others that look good: (Not a true dictionary, but cool)

I liked this activity.  It was great to refresh students into using the tools they need in French class.  What inquiry-type activities have you tried so far this year?

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Song: En Classe Je Parle Français- All about that Bass Parody

I have decided, that this year, I want to be the "Weird Al" of French Teachers.

So to kick that off, I wrote some lyrics to go with the song "All About that Bass" that enforce speaking French in class.  Would you like to hear it?

Fun, huh?  I'm teaching in to my classes now, and hopefully they will create a music video in the future for it.  If you want to use it with your classes, feel free!  Here are the lyrics:

If you wanted to sing along to it, you could find a karaoke track on YouTube like this one, but minimize the screen or don't show it, so the students have to use the French lyrics!

If you do use it, and make a totally cool music video, please share it!  I would love to see it!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Book review: Other Cats to Whip: The Book of French Idioms

Summer's a great time to catch up on some reading!  Its also the time that I get to look at new books and resources that come out and think of how I can use them in my class.  This book review is for the book Other Cats to Whip: The Book of French Idioms by Graham Clark and Zubair Arshad.  The book is about 45 pages (closer to 85 in PDF), published by Idiomatic Publishing, Ltd. and was published this year, May 2015.

Other Cats includes over 50 French idioms, and cartoons that accompany the phrases.  Most helpfully, for each idiom, the authors provide an example of how to use the phrases in conversation, as they would be used by native speakers. 

The book is illustrated with funny drawing of the literal meaning of the idioms, like "pulling worms out of someone nose."  I think that these images are memorable, and if I use it with my students, I believe that there are several images that they will remember.  I think that this would lead to them trying to use the idiom that went with the image they connected with.   Since I had read the book, I know that I have use a couple of the idioms, because of the visual memories of the illustrations. 

The best part of this collection, is that all the idioms that are highlighted, seem like turns of phrases that would be useful to know-- that is they readily relate to some English idioms that we use.  Metaphoric language can be difficult for students to understand in their first language, being able to highlight similarities in their L2 would be a great asset in introducing and using more colloquial French including idioms.  Oddly enough, I use a few idioms that were in the book-- the main one being "C'est chouette!"  I say oddly, because I wasn't aware that was an idiom!  Just another symptom of learning French from living in a French country! 

While there were some of the idioms I had heard before, there were others I was not familiar with at all nor were my Franco-friends that were from Southern France and Senegal.  That's doesn't mean they aren't useful, just that I'm not sure how commonly they are utilized.   What I would have liked to see is some explanation of where the idiom is used, how it came to be, which idioms were more common than others... a little more information for the questions I had and I'm sure my students will have.  Also, the illustrations for the idioms are in greyscale, and I would love to see them in full colour. 

One concern I would have reading this to some of my students is a few of the jokes and one of the idioms included a rude word-- "cul" which translates loosely to "ass,"  so that is one idioms I wouldn't read in class.  Also, in the introduction, the author alludes to a rude word in a funny story about how the book came to be.  Probably more appropriate for the high school kids in those two instances.

Overall, I think that this could be a useful resource to bring some of those more authentic pieces to your students conversational skills.  There are a couple of ways that I would use this book in my  class.  If the illustrations were in color, they would be a great display for the wall to encourage me and students to try and use them.  I may have an idiom of the month, and display one page for the month and track students that use it.  Like a type of contest that could bring the use of the idioms to the conversations that we have in class.

Another idea that I had was to use the pages as large flash cards for the idioms.  Each idiom has an illustration, and then on the next page the translation of the important words of the idiom, as well as an example.  This would be a great set of cards to play "J'ai... Qui a..." with.  Students would read the example of the idiom, and the matching card-- the illustration would be the match.  That could be a fun game for the class to read the book together. 

If you are interested in learning more about Other Cats to Whip: The Book of French Idioms visit the book's website  for a preview and more information on the paperback version; or you can purchase the e-book on Amazon for Kindle.

Disclaimer:  I was provided with a free digital copy of this book in order to write this book review.  The copy was provided to me so that I could write an honest review of the book and its use in the FSL classroom.  I do not receive any monetary compensation for my review of resources, and all opinions and comments are my own. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

Vlog: Learning Centre ideas

Bon été! Happy summer! I am having a pretty good summer, but I'm still working hard trying to prepare (as much as one can) for the new school year! I thought that I would make a little vlog about the learning centres I've prepared for the new year. The learning centres that I create are self-contained in folders so they are very portable, and have no set up time. They are handy if you are on a cart. 

Also, I started laminiating my centres so that students can use dry erase markers and then take pictures of their work for their online portfolios. That way I don't have to make copies or worry about wasting paper. They do take a bit of prep for printing and laminating, but I do that at home! So its a pretty cheap way of making sure that I have some great activities that are fun, useful and not just "busy work." 

If you are interested in some of the files I collected to make my centres, please let me know, and I will create a link for you to use the documents I created.

Friday, 8 May 2015

My Classroom Cell Phone Policy

After I led my workshop at WCML this year, I got a few questions about my cell phone policy in class.  I have a fairly strict policy about the use of tech in FSL class.  I have to have such a policy: cell phones are not allowed for personal use in the school, and some of my colleagues aren't completely sold on using cell phones in the classroom.  And I understand their position, they have legit concerns.  My classroom cell phone policy is rigid enough that I hope I cover these concerns, but open enough that the students feel they can use the tech when they need it-- not only when I say they can.

I think its important to say that my practice changes from class to class.   For some classes, I am heavier on the consequences than others.  In others the policy has changed a few times to suit the class I am teaching.  You know your classes-- so you create the policy that works the best for them and their abilities.  So this is a choose your own adventure post.  Choose your class' own tech adventure!

The first thing I do is co-create a list of expectations and guidelines for tech use in the classroom.  (We add the sarcastic comments together.)  Students know that they are to use the tech for work only. These guidelines are posted on my cart, and on the screens of the iPads and other tech I use in class.  Not once have I heard, "I didn't know" when I've busted a student.  Sometimes the students quote the blue comments after I recite a rule.

Inevitably, when a student does something they shouldn't with the tech we're using, I have a series of consequences that I choose from depending on the severity of the transgression.

Transgression 1: Device not present on the top right corner of desk or table.

This rule was added not too long ago, because students were trying to be sneaky with their tech.  Now, all students know (and habitually place) their cell phones and iPad on the top corner of their desk when they sit down.  If they have a device that I don't see from the beginning of the class, they get a level one consequence.

Transgression 2: Failing a Screen Check.

During any activity, I can say to the class "Les écrans" signalling a screen check from all students.  They must show me their screens without changing anything.  And I know if they have changed anything, because their device will be on the home screen.  If they are honest, it is a level one consequence.  If they are not honest, level 2 consequence. 

Transgression 3: Breaking our Tech-pectations agreements.

Usually its a level 2 consequence because they should know better by now.  


My consequences are 2 leveled: Level 1, less serious, level 2 more serious, and usually includes a "heart-to-heart" chat/ lecture with me during their break.

Level 1 If the tech is necessary to complete the classwork, students become my special friends.  They get to sit with me whee I can see their screens, and work there for the rest of the period.  We all know how much teens love sitting right beside the teacher.

Level 1 If the tech is not necessary to complete the classwork, students lose their device to the l'oubliette, our lime green cell phone dungeon.  Most of my students are honest if they get caught doing something they shouldn't.  My grade 8s even made a song for times when the oubliette claims another cell phone: (To the tune of "Alouette"- Oubliette/ gentille oubliette./Oubliette/ madame va oublier.) I always forget about the phones in my oubliette. 

Level 2 If the tech is necessary to complete the classwork, students become my "pages." That is, they work for me.  They sit with me for the remainder of the time that it takes to complete the project, a short lecture on "trust" and they get to do my bidding.  They hand out books and sheets, and collect them too.

Level 2 If the tech is not necessary to complete the classwork, student loses device to the oubliette for the remainder of the class.  A chat at break, and an agreement contract.  Time in the oubliette varies too; first time, for the class.  Second time for the day.  Third time, their parents must pick the device up from the office. 

Sometimes, it is necessary to be a little creative with the consequences.  One of my students was consistently going off-task with his phone.  I confiscated it until lunch.  I locked his phone, and emailed the password to his mother.  He could still answer class from people, and make emergency calls, but he couldn't unlock it to do anything else.  I haven't had a problem since them.  Probably won't fall for it again, though.

* Of course, these "transgressions" are not the more serious problems such as looking at inappropriate materials; or cyber bullying or taking pictures/ recordings in class.  These are minor, off-topic, "look at the shiny!" infractions.  For more serious problems, I involve the school administration and follow our internet policies in place. 

My tech policy works well for me.  I know it seems very strict, but it works for my situation as a Core FSL teacher on a cart with students on rotary.  Additionally, I use humor in the enforcement of my policy, so its not as harsh as it may seem.  So far, it has been very effective in managing my classes' use of their own devices in FSL class.  My policy will change as I need it to. 

What is your class room tech policy?  Are you a rotary teacher?  What tips do you have?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Googd ideas from Twitter: iPad Rules Lock Screens

I love Twitter!  I find the best ideas by browsing my hashtags #fslchat and #langchat!  If you don't follow those groups, you are missing out!  I find great activity ideas, and classroom management ideas-- and more recently tech integration and management ideas.  This idea came from the blog:
Technology Erintegration.  I am so happy I found this blog!  So many great ideas.

In this article, she talks about 5 ways to use iPad backgrounds in the classroom.  The idea I loved (being a middle school teacher) is using the lock screen as a rule reminder.  The above picture is the lock screen I made for my FSL ipads.  Here's a close up of one of the screens:

I have the reminders for proper iPad ettiquette, a note on agreeing with the rules before the students unlock the screen, and in the top corner, a little banner that shows the iPad number of my set.

I struggled with whether or not to put the rules on the screen in French, but I opted for English because I want the students to understand the rules to which they are to agree before using the technology.  Also, students should read the TOA (terms of agreement) before anything they click on the internet, so its an opportunity to teach digital citizenship too. I think in the future, I will do a bilingual lock screen, but for now, I thought it would be more useful for my students in my Core classes to have the rules available in English. 

This idea was a hit at my school!  We are now in the process of creating lock screens for the Learning Commons sets of iPads.  Do you think this is a useful idea for your school's tech?

Monday, 20 April 2015

Using Pop Music in FSL Class

Image by Phil Fung from

I love Pop Music.  It's not the only type of music I love, but it is a pretty great way of learning a language, about a culture and about a generation.  I owe some of my French speaking skills, and my Spanish speaking skills to Pop Music.  Getting a song or lyric in my head is a great way of learning about pronunciation, and sentences, and um.. rhyming.

So, it can't be surprising that I use a healthy amount of Pop Music in my FSL teaching.  I'm specifying Pop Music here as popular music from around la Francophonie-- stuff that French people would listen to on the radio; or buy the CDs of.  I do believe there is a place for FSL music created for children learning FSL, but I really love the authentic learning about language and culture that happens when listening to and studying a piece of Pop Music from a different country.  So, for the most part, I use Pop Music and not FSL created music in class.

There are a few exceptions: I love Mike Ford's Canadiana Folky Pop Music that is targeted for FSL learners and full of Canadian history that he's researched.  But I still consider that Canadian Pop/ Folk music with a cultural focus.  Besides, he was in Moxy Fruvous, so he is practically a pop star.  (And if you haven't heard his albums Canada Needs You, Vols. 1 & 2, and Seaway you're missing out.) The other exception I make is the stuff I wrote for my students, because that was directly related to their own writing, and more of a product of learning than a tool for learning.

So in order to organize the songs that I have used, and will probably use again in my classes, I created a Google Sheet that lists the songs I've used with their links and notes.  It is available here:

As always, please preview any videos before using in your class.  One video on my list, Paradis ou Enfer would be inappropriate to watch in its entirety in class.  He swears at the end, and flashes the middle finger after 1:23 in the video.  Why did I include it?  I cropped the video to 1:20 using TubeChop to avoid the inappropriate sections, so our class could have a discussion on Sierra Leone.  It has some great visuals about the disparity between the rich and poor in that country. So it was worthwhile to use that video for me.  But, you know the rules and culture of your school.  

So, how would I use all these songs in class?  I use music in a few ways, and I thought I could share a few of those strategies with you!  

1. Where was it filmed?/ Où est-ce que l'artiste?

This is a critical thinking activity that I use in class with a music video.  It usually takes a full class to complete, as students will need to watch the video more than one time to answer the questions.  I have used the video A coup de reves by Ben l'Oncle Soul, and the first 1:20 of Paradis ou Enfer by Kaaris.  
  1. First we read the questions we will have to answer.  they are usually: 1. Où est-ce que la location du clip?  Pourquoi est-ce que tu penses ça?  2. Quelle est la signification du titre ____?  
  2. I have the students watch the video.  
  3. Then we make a word bank of what we saw in the video.
  4. I give students a few minutes to gather their thought about the questions.  Most will ask to watch the video again.
  5. Re-watch the video. Students will point out les indices to help answer the questions.
  6. Then we discuss the questions.  We consult maps or other resources to help us find the answer.
My students love figuring this stuff out.  Because the whole discussion happens in French, it is an authentic way of getting them to communicate with each other in French, and to build a curious community which is necessary for any inquiry-type activities.

2. Gimmie!/ Donnez-moi!

This strategy can be used with any song, and a video is not necessary.  Preparation includes making cards with key words from the song on them, cut out.  You need enough sets of cards for the number of groups you have.  For younger grades, focus on less words, and older grades use more words.
  1. Hand out the cards to each group of students.
  2. Students set the cards out face up between them on a desk or table.
  3. Play the song.  While students listen, the try to grab the words they hear before the other members in their group do.
  4. Player who got the most words wins.
This is a great activity for introducing new vocabulary, and new words of a song.  Sometime, I have the people act out the words they collected to consolidate comprehension.  Its a fun activity.

3. Rhymes/ Les rîmes

To activate students prior learning, especially around vocabulary, this is a great warm-up.  This can be created in a work sheet, or on a chart paper for students to copy or do orally.
  1. Write out the lyrics on a page for each student, or on a chart paper, but omit the words at the end of phrases, or in other places.  The word that is omitted must rhyme with a word in the previous or next line.
  2. Before students listen tot he song, have them predict what words will be in the lyrics, by reading the lyrics, and have students fill in the blanks with the words they think are missing.
  3. Play the songs.  In a different color have the students write in the real words. 
  4. Reflect: How many did they get right? Why did they choose the words they did?
4. Correct this/ Corrigez!

You will need the lyrics posted or copied out for all the students to refer to.  When you write them, replace several of the words in the lyrics with fakes.  This can be as obvious or sneaky as you would like it to be.
  1. With the students, read the lyrics (with the errors your put in) together.  Tell the students that there are some errors in the lyrics.  Have them predict which words don't belong.
  2. Listen to the song.  Have the students write down the correct words for discussion after the song is over.
  3. Discuss which words were wrong.  Did the students know they were wrong? How?
5. How does it go?/ Comment va la chanson?

To prepare this activity, you will need to print out the lyrics of the song and cut each line into a strip, and mix them up.  You will need strips with lyrics for each group or student.
  1. Give the students the strips, and have them read them in groups.  Before playing the song, have them predict how the song will go by placing the strips in certain order.  (I take a picture of the order for comparison later in the activity.)
  2. Play the song.  Have the student rearrange the strips as the song plays.
  3. Compare their prediction to their ordering after they heard the song.  How did it change? (Sometimes I ask the students to try and sing their version of the song.  It gets pretty funny.)
6. Find the picture for the lyrics/ Trouvez l'image des paroles

This activity takes a fair amount of prep.  You will either need to find pictures that go with a song, print out or save stills from a video or movie, or draw simple pictures that reflect lines in the song you are using.  I usually create a sketchnote for the lines, and use those.  You will also need a print out of the lyrics for the students completing the activity.

  1. Review the lyrics with the students to ensure comprehension.
  2. Have the students review the images available for matching.
  3. Listen to the song, and have the student match the images to lines or verses of the song.
  4. After they have matched them, reflect: why did they choose that image for that line?
I have a few more ideas, but I haven't tried them yet.  As I do, I will update this post.  What are some ways you use Pop Music in your FSL class?  

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Reflection: World Congress of Modern Languages, 2015

What an event!  I think that should be the first line in any review/ reflection of this conference.  There were lots of people to meet; many organization and companies to talk with and items to look at; so many workshops it was difficult to choose where to go!  In all, I am very happy that I got to attend this conference this year.  I thought it would be good to share some of the things that I learned from the amazing workshops I attended.  

Roundtable Discussion- March 26

I went to the conference early to register, because I really wanted to hear the roundtable discussion about technology in the L2 classroom.  Since tech in FSL is kind of my bailiwick (yep, I just used that word) I knew that there would be some great information to glean from the address.  The presentations were moderated by Terry Lamb, and the speakers were Jacques Cool, Sylvia Duckworth and Jim Murphy.  

The last speaker, Jacques Cool ( wouldn't you love to be a teacher with this last name??! Mine's a fish.  Which the kids don't let me forget.  Or worse it has the word 'ass' in it.  ANYWAYS...) spoke about the responsibility of teachers to innovate in the classroom.   What I found most interesting, and something I've been working on in my teaching and learning are the redefinition or addition of  the "new competencies" that our students will need to compete and success in our technological world.   Students need to know have to explore, create, collaborate, debate, solve problem and so much more in order to use the technology effectively.  

I also like that he spoke to student motivations, and how technology helps teachers fulfill those motivations.  The 6 motivations he outlined were that students want to 1- do it themselves; 2- do it now; 3- with their friends; 4- for others; 5- for pleasure or 6- for an audience.  This was the concept that really resonated with me, as I see those motivations in the actions of my students daily.  So for me, the takeaway was how am I going to use the motivations to make my students succeed?  

Cool made many more great points in her presentation, and if you would like to read it for yourself, visit his blog at (in French.)  He is also on Twitter, @zecool.

The second speaker was Sylvia Duckworth, who many French Teachers already know through her awesome teacher blog/ French teacher bible and resource E-tools for Language Teacher at  She spoke about the importance of PLNs or Personal Learning Networks for Teachers.  Duckworth noted that technology make wider collaboration between teachers possible.  She outlined 6 main hurdles to teacher development 1-no time; 2- need access; 3- need training; 4-need tech support; 5-need confidence; 6- need conviction, to know this development is worthwhile.  I appreciated Sylvia's contribution that focused on how teachers need access to this technology too in order to improve their learning.  I think we often forget about how beneficial tech is to our own development since we are often focused on our student's learning.  She also included a bunch of sketchnotes-- which I appreciate because I love sketchnotes.  Generously, her presentation is available at  for download.  

First speaker was Jim Murphy of the Center for Distance Learning in Newfoundland.  The model for schooling in parts of NFLD are an amazing example of how technology has transformed learning for some students.  As many students live in remote parts of NFLD, the CDL provides courses and education, that would otherwise be impossible for students to access.  The CDL uses a synchronous learning model, meaning that there are teachers and students that interact in a class online.  This was the interesting aspect of the presentation for me.  I have done online courses myself, and had contact with my teachers only through messaging and feedback.  Students in the synchronous model get to know and form relationships with their teachers despite the distance.  

They were all very knowledgeable people, and I was a little stunned afterwards with all the new information to process.  It was a great talk.  A great kick off!

Workshops: March 27-28

A. Paula Capa- "Speaking Only in French: It Can be Done!"

The first workshop I attended was about working towards French as the only language of communication in the L2 classroom.  What I found most helpful was the approach that the speak outlined.  That is, that you start with what the students know for a small amount of time, and then build on that time as the year progresses.  I found it affirming that so many people have questions about using French as the sole language of class.  This presentation also affirmed for me that I was on the right track.  In my class I use the "Zone Francais" in which I have a time keeper track our time for speaking French-- and then we try to beat that time the next day.  

B.  Sylvia Duckworth- "Web 2.0 and Social Media Tools in the French Classroom"

Had to sign up for Sylvia's session on Social Media and Web 2.0 Tools in the classroom.  The problem with this session was that 45 minutes was just not enough.  Sylvia had so much information and so many great ideas that people left the room wanted to try something new that coming Monday. I know I did!  I especially liked how she shared multiple strategies for an application.  I new about Voice Thread-- but I had no idea about the potential for VT in the FSL classroom.  One other great thing about Sylvia is that she shares so many of her ideas on her blog  So if you haven't already, check it out. She's also on Twitter @sylviaduckworth.

C. Bev Kukhta-Jackson- "Engaging your Core French Students"

One of my collegues in HWDSB, and a career-long champion of Core FSL, gave a fun presentation on how to engage core French students.  There were some really fun ideas like Movie Monday, and using music and other authentic media in French.  The crux of her message though-- and one that you could see she followed and felt herself-- was that the teacher needed to enjoy and love what they teach.  That is the most engaging thing you can do.  She showed a video that she made to futher her own PD, which just further exuded the love she has for her job.  She was also elected to the Board on the OMLTA- so a doubly successful day for her!

D. Bill and Hanna- "Go Digital! Supporting FSL with Digial Resources

Bill and Hanna lead the audience through the digital learning platform that is now available to all teachers in public funded schools.  The online education platform is an asynchronous learning platform, i think created by Desire2Learn.  Students are able to create and curate an online, multi-media portfolio for every subject.  Which is a pretty cool concept.  This presentation fell short of provide strategies to integrate some of these new technologies into the class.  More, Bill and Hanna were the bearer of the bad news-- National Film Board videos won't be available after the summer for school to use.  The liscencing was not renewed.  

E. Susanna Beatrice-Gojsic and Carole Knezevic- "Let Them Speak! Strategies that Maximize Student Talk Time in the FSL Classroom

Two more of my colleagues in the HWDSB presented this awesome, and helpful presentation, that was packed with strategies on making sure students get the most talk time in FSL class.  As always, Susanna and Carole provided fun, engaging and non threatening ways for students to participate in FSL class, and succeed.  The strategies they discussed allowed for maximum practice for students of their skills.  More, they explained how to implement some of their ideas.  Most generously, they provided a link to a wiki Susanna is on Twitter @sgojsic

F. Katy Arnett- Designing Differentiation for FSL Students

Having read Arnett's book, Languages For All, I was looking forward to seeing what new understanding I would leave with.  Luckily, Arnett brought tons of ideas and examples of how to integrate almost any student into the FSL classroom.  Arnett brought a number of speaking and reading/ writing activities to share, and discussed how, and why they were differentiated.  I appreciated the discussions, for me it led to an even deeper understanding of how I could apply some of these techniques and activities I use in class.  I felt more confident in my differentiation abilities after listening to this presentation.  Dr. Arnett's Twitter: @KatyArnett.

G. Trevor Gulliver- "A Dozen Ways to Use Songs"

I use music in my class almost every day.  So learning about ways to use those songs more effectively was  something I really looked forward to.  Trevor provided literally 12 ways to used songs in class.  Some of them were too close to a word cloze activity for my taste, but there were some gems that stood out for me.  My favorite ideas were the word snatch activity: students lay out small card of word between them, and as the song plays students grab the word as they hear it.  It was fun!  The second idea I loved was the rearranging lyrics activity.  You cut up the lines of a song, and mix them up.  Student have to arrange the lyrics correctly as they hear the song.  I immediately thought of other ways to use those same cards-- use them as a prediction activity when student try to arrange them in order before they hear the song.  Or as a writing activity where student get to choose a line as a writing prompt for their own lyric.  The best ideas for me, launch my brain into new strategies, and this presentation did just that.
H. Stephanie Bass- "iPads and Cell Phones in the FSL Classroom"

Ha!  I had to attend my own session.  So instead of making a note of how great the info provided was (at least I think it was) I think I will reflect on my delivery, and things I learned about myself from presenting.
  1. I am too short to stand behind most podiums.  The microphone was set up on a podium, and the top of the podium came to my neck. From the front of it, I probably looked like a talking head on top of the podium.  So I scrapped the podium, and consequently the mic and stood beside it.
  2. I make a lot of jokes when I'm nervous.  I am pretty sarcastic generally, and when I'm nervous that is amplified.  And I was really nervous.  And from the laughter of the group, really funny.
  3. I make strange analogies when I'm nervous.  I actually said, "The internet is the Wild West, and you as teachers are the Sheriffs."  Yep.
  4. I have a loud teacher voice.  Apparently I can't turn it off.
  5. I have some really supportive colleagues.  They came to listen, and were available if I needed help.  They're super.
  6. People hate completing surveys.  They hate 'em. No matter how short.  Mine is like 2 questions.  Help me out, folks!
  7. People appreciated that my presentation was available for download to follow at  The seating was not great, so I thought to give out the presentation at the beginning for the unfortunate short people in the back.  I know their plight.  So I will make sure to do that in the future too.
  8. It is fun to present.  It was fun to share what I knew with others.  
  9. My Twitter: @MadameBassHWDSB
I. Jennifer Lisi- "Using QR Code to Motivate Students"

Jennifer had a small group-- which was great for me, because I was able to ask as many questions, and make comments.  I was looking forward to learning more about QR codes; I use them sometimes in class, but after this presentation I was sure I was going to use them more often.  Jennifer offered many ideas and resources to use QR codes to support student learning.  She also offered great information that I had never thought of, like, using QR codes can make internet searching for students a little safer, as you have control of which sites students use through the code.  The one idea that I am excited to try is the QR code scavenger hunt.  I'm in the middle of creating an En route vers la Francophonie hunt for my 7s and 8s.  She is also on Twitter @Lisi_JE.

Phew! A long summary of the World Congress of Modern Languages.  I also stayed for the closing remarks which featured a great Brazillian band.  An upbeat, fun end to a great conference. 

If you are interested in more information that people have collected throughout the conference, there is a Twitter Hashtag for the conference #WCML2015, where people were Tweeting soundbites and ideas they learned.  I tweeted the ideas I heard in several workshops, and so did many others.  People are still using this hashtag to provide follow up information and reflections. So check it out! 

What reflections or highlights do you have from the WCML?  Feel free to leave them in the comments!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Welcome World Congress of Modern Languages Participants!

This year, I am lucky enough to speak at the OMLTA/CASLT World Congress of Modern Languages.  If you are visiting because of my session, Bienvenue!  I wanted to post the links to the presentation and resources here so that they are all in one place, and so that they would be easier to find. Voilà!

If you would like to download the presentation from the Conference:

If you would like the resource I mentioned at the end of my presentation:

To check out my class blog: 

Learn more about Kahoot!:

If you are willing to fill out a quick feedback survey (2 questions), please use the form below:

Monday, 9 March 2015

Les notes visuelles/ Sketchnoting in FSL Part 2

As a sort-of bridging unit, my class and I learned a bit about the value of sketchnoting, and how to start the process.  As a class, we found out that sketchnoting is counter to the notetaking we've been taught for most of our education, so we have to learn step-by-step about creating visual notes.

We looked at the major themes in sketchnoting: 5 elements of drawing (les 5 éléments), creating personalized icons (les îcones), containers (les cases), people (les personnes), and structure (la structure). For each section, we had a brief lesson and then a lot of practice using some of the worksheets I created.

 Here's an example of the worksheet we used to create our personal icons.  What we learned is that sketchnoting is about replacing some parts of our written language with a more visual one.  In order to be successful at that, you need to have a visual vocabulary ready so that those substitutions can happen almost automatically.

To get us started, we created a visual vocabulary for the words and ideas we thought we would use most often.  the goal was to make these icons simple and memorable so that when we heard these specific words, we would recall our icons and use them instead of the words.

To help my students understand what an icon is, and why we would use them, I created a short video for the students to watch about "Les îcones":

Our final activity looked at structure.  I think that this is the most difficult part of sketchnoting.  In order to choose a structure, one has to recognize the patterns in the speakers presentation.  To keep things simple, I taught my students about 7 structures that one can use for any sketchnote without recognizing the structure of the presentation.  For this acticity, students had to either retell their day, or choose a story and retell it through a sketchnote.  Here is the example I made:

Students were to use all of the elements of sketchnoting that we learned.   Now that we have moved onto researching about La Francophonie, my students are using sketchnoting to record some of the information they find.  The sidebar we took to explore sketchnoting has been really helpful to my students.  I even use it more in my personal notetaking and found it helps me tackle difficult concepts.  If you are interested in using some of the worksheets I have made, help yourself!

Click on the links below to go to a downloadable PDF of each worksheet:

5 éléments worksheet

Les îcones worksheet

Les cases worksheet

Les personnes worksheet

La structure worksheet

Friday, 23 January 2015

Les notes visuelles/ Sketchnoting in FSL

Time flies when report cards are due!  I've been trying to keep up with my assessments and marking, and so my blog here has fallen by the wayside for a while.  But I'm back, and I excited to write about my newest hook for my French students!

While I was marking my students' work, I noticed a trend (that I did not like at the time:)

My students are doodlers!  One part of me was disappointed, because I had these great Oral Communication based classes, that I thought were engaging and fun.  Seeing that the students wanted to doodle instead of listen was frustrating.  On the other hand, I thought about why my students doodled-- sometimes it helped them focus their listening.  For others I think it was because they are more visual learners.  So, with this information I wanted to find something that could incorporate art/ drawing into the class in a way that would make their doodling purposeful and effective to their learning.

With research, I found out about Sketchnoting.

I've read about the trend in English speaking classroom using Sketchnoting to help students make notes of things they hear and read.  I've always been a visual note taker-- it helps keep me engaged.  I didn't know that there was a name for it specifically until I saw Mike Rohde's The Sketchnote Handbook.  I bought it, and did some research online, and there were some English literacy teachers that started using it with their students.  (Some helpful articles I found on Sketchnoting for Education are here, here and here.)  Why couldn't this work for my FSL students?  It would be a visual way of taking those dreaded grammar and vocab notes.

While I noticed there were teachers that used Sketchnotes in their lessons, there were not many FSL teachers that did so.  So finding some resources to use in FSL class was difficult.  But, since I'm a visual learner, and a creative-type, I wanted to make some of my own resources.   To introduce the concept to my students, they were to watch the video by Claudine Delfin about Sketchnoting.

Although the video is in English (I couldn't find any French videos), the students got the basics of the purpose and theory behind using visual notes.  For our first lesson, we watched the video, and then had a PCP ( Pensez/Couplez/Partagez) discussion about the important points of the video in French.  As we shared what we thought were the important points, we created our own "note visuelle" about the video.  I created on at the front of the class, and the students were welcome to copy mine, or think of their own imagery to support their points.

As we did the notes, the students were engaged with the discussion and with creating their doodles to support their note.  Some of my most challenged students were creating great notes visuelles:

While students were waiting on the next point during discussion, they added details to their doodles, shared them with each other.

The next class, students were asked to review their notes, and share which points we had already covered, so we could continue the note.  Many students were able to form simple sentences to convey their points from the class before.  More, students commented on how much they enjoyed the process of learning how to make these visual notes.  In order to support the students' learning, and maintain French as the language in FSL class, I created a couple of "notes visuelles" in French.  I photocopied them, and distributed them to the students.  This first handout is based on a page that educator CarolAnne Maguire created in English.  I loved it, so I drew a  French version (Click link for printable version:

Our first grammar based "note visuelles" was a review about our articles:

The above note I used my iPad to create.  For my student that use assistive technology, I was able to teach them how to create their NVs on their devices. 

This is an exciting project that my students and I are doing together.  As I make more resources, I will post them.  And if you start this with your studnets, I would love to know how it goes!

Would you ever try sketchnoting in your FSL class?