(You will find all of the resources mentioned in this post, in addition to others, here.)
There are multiple Notebook files; please email me if you would like these files in PDF format.
We are preparing for a massive dumping of snow tonight here in Vermont. I decided I should pass the time curled up with some hot chocolate, blogging about one of my favorite units I do with my six graders: snowmen! I had been doing one isolated snowman activity for a long time, but a couple of years ago I discovered some new things and from there it just, pun intended, snowballed!
I can be a bit of a traditionalist, and I really like for my students to memorize and recite poetry. I think it’s a good exercise to help students make the connection between spoken and written French, and I believe it is important for students to become comfortable speaking in front of others from a young age. So for years my students have been memorizing the Jacques Prévert poem, « Chanson pour les enfants l’hiver. » We usually start working with it in January right after we come back from vacation. (Part two of this post, which I will write next week, will highlight the fantastic random connection between this poem and a popular French pop song from a few years ago I made back when students who are now college sophomores were in sixth grade. SO. MUCH FUN!!!)
I loved having not just one, but TWO fun MTs to do. They are very different, but complement each other well. So how happy was I? Super. MTs are my absolute favorite, and I was able to get so much mileage out of these.
But then IT GOT BETTER. In February of that year, Mary Peters, a colleague of mine at the Richmond Middle School in Hanover, came up with a great Pictionary activity with some of the classic Calvin and Hobbes snowman cartoons. The teacher describe one of the cartoons, the student draw what they hear. They then see the sentences written that they had just heard orally, then make comparisons between what they drew and the actual Bill Waterman images.
And if that weren't enough, my father sent me some fun snowman cartoons that we discussed in class!
I have a lot of follow-up activities, both for each video individually and some activities that combine the two videos: worksheets, readings, sentences to cut up, and small printouts of the screenshots from both videos with which students can do a variety of activities. (Directions, in French, for those activities here.)
This whole unit usually takes me from the first of the year to our February vacation. It’s very timely, and even if you do not live in a location that experiences tons of snow, I hope you can find something worthwhile here.
Have fun, stay warm, and let me know how you like these lessons!
Maybe this exists somewhere else; I can't imagine I'm the first to think of this. But I made up/unknowingly discovered a new super fun brain break today: pair/impair (even/odd). This can be a very similar set-up as rock, paper, scissors; you can have students do it in pairs, but I set it up today so the kids "played against" me in order to save some time. Once we established what pair and impair mean, I tell the kids that I only like even numbers, I can't stand odd numbers. (This is true, yet another example of how my weird brain works!) started it off the same way as rock, paper, scissors, hitting my fist against my palm and saying Un, deux, trois, voilà. On voilà, I put my hand out with 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 fingers out. My partner does the same at the same time. We add up our fingers; if the total is even, I "win" since I had told the kids I like even numbers. If the total is odd, my partner wins. So students have to decide who's even and who's odd before they start to play.
So when I did this with me "against" the class, some kids "beat" me when the total of our fingers was odd while I "beat" others when we had an even number. It was fun! Let me know if you try it, or if you have variations.
(Note: as one class of sixth graders in line waiting for me to dismiss them, two boys started playing the game while they waited for their classmates! Improvisation FTW!!
I have always understood the value of self-reflection with respect to my teaching. It's one thing to think about one's work, it's another to see it. Watching videos of me teaching is one of the hardest, yet most valuable, things I can do to improve on my craft.
I also find it incredible rewarding and inspiring to see other teachers in action. That being said, I want to share the videos of my classes with those of you out there who might want to see what happens in another teacher's world! NB-I have not edited these videos, nor have I chosen my best classes to film. As you'll see, there is some really messy stuff in there! But it's all for the sake of improving.
Take a look at my YouTube channel, and let me know if you have any thoughts about what you see!
All kids love animals, right?! What happens when you put two animals together to make a strange hybrid? You get creatures like un rangarou, un tortagon or un kangoudile !
Inspired by the books Le Cochien and Le Chapin, I created a unit that had some very interesting and unanticipated benefits. In addition to students having a fantastic opportunity to be creative and imaginative, we worked on some phonetic and linguistic elements of the French language. I did this with third grade, and I think it's a great age to begin to explore and understand the connection between written and spoken French.
I happened upon the two books Le Cochien and Le Chapin at a bookstore in France several years ago. They made me laugh, so I figured my students would like them as well. It is a simple "flip-the-flap" book featuring animals where the split in the pages is horizontal in the middle of the page so the bottom or top can be flipped to change the top or bottom of the animal. (This is hard to describe, does it make any sense?!)
In the photos below, the top left is one page, the top right is what you see when you flip both halves of the page open, and then the bottom two are what is visible when only have of the page is flipped open.
The illustrations in this book are really well done, and the kids get a kick out of the composite animals.
After I read the books to the students, I showed them some photos of other strange animal fusions. (I'm convinced that if people were to look at my Google search history, they would question my sanity!)
We spent some time in class talking about the animals featured in these photos and then decided what we should call these creatures. This was where things took an interesting turn. It was fascinating to see which students were able to divide the words into syllables quickly and easily; after working with a few of the combinations, I asked students what they noticed about syllables in French words (they end in vowel sounds). This then made it easier for students to split the words and create the hybrid names. Some students were able to make the connections when we were reading the chapin/cochien books, but looking at more photos was not also fun and amusing, but it allowed those who took more time to form the new words more practice and opportunities to make the combos.
After determining the possible names for the new creatures, students voted on which of the two they preferred.
We had some follow-up activities that included more strange combinations (mostly coming from the book Play with Your Food (as well as Dog Food and How Are You Peeling?), Pictionary, and a dice combination game.
On the left, the animals used in our dice game where students had to combine the one animal from the top and one animal from the bottom, depending on what they rolled on their red and green die. On the right, photos from the Play with your Food books. The bottom is one of my favorites of all time-a fraise-cargot!
Finally, students created their own creatures. The creature needed a name, a "species" (including the original two animals that the student blended), an age, and a preferred food, sport, and weather. Students needed to include each of these characteristics in their final drawings.
I have really enjoyed this unit; let me know if you try it, and what other activities you find complement this!
And the winner is....
What a fun couple of weeks in sixth grade it has been! A HUGE shoutout to my friend Dustin Williamson, a French and Spanish teacher in Maine, who has created his second annual Noël Madness bracket. He has found eight holiday commercials in French, and in sixth grade we have spent the past two weeks working with these ads. Students vote on their favorites after each class (we watch two commercials per class), and then next week we will do some follow-up activities with the winners. It's modeled after "March Madness," so we will have a winner for the bracket before vacation! Check back in to see where things stand! If you're on Twitter, you can see what students around the country are saying about these commercials with the hashtag #NoelMadness
Here's the note that my principal included in his newsletter to families last week:
SEMI-FINALS (winners in yellow)
Coca Cola vs. Bouygues
Migros vs. Loto or PayPal
Madame Litten teaches French at the Marion Cross School, a public K-6 school in Norwich, Vermont. This year she is teaching kindergarten and grades 1, 2, 4, and 6.