"My teaching, and quite frankly my life, has never been the same since
[observing Allison’s classes]."
[observing Allison’s classes]."
I have uploaded a bunch of resources to my TPT page to accompany both the French and English version of this story. (I'll add more English resources if there's an interest, so let me know if that's something you'd like! Enjoy!!
A few years ago, I wrote a one-page story for my fifth graders. (At this point in time, students started French in fourth grade, so my fifth graders were still relatively basic with their language capabilities.) It's pretty ridiculous and the kids start to roll their eyes about half-way through the story, but they enjoy it and I believe it has some pretty useful elements. (I have since created two more Christophe stories but have not done anything with them in my classes. I literally wrote them yesterday!) I also intent to upload some of my accompanying materials to TPT, so when that happens, I'll let you know. (And I have A TON!) One of my favorite follow-up activities is really simple, and could be adapted for multiple situations. Because I've been teaching this story for so long, I basically have it committed to memory. I project the story on my screen and stand facing my students. I then attempt to recite the story from memory. When I finish each sentence, my students indicate whether or not I have said the sentence correctly. One point for Madame for back-door input! (Sometimes I legitimately screw up, especially with the times and kinds of balls, and sometimes I'll do it on purpose. My kids LOVE it when I make mistakes, and it's one of my favorite/easiest comprehension checks.)
I originally wrote Christophe et la balle de golf in French, but there were a number of requests in the elementary CI Facebook group for an English translation. So, that cohort is currently benefiting from my sleep issues!
Here are some of the main reasons why I like this story and think it's successful.
1-It's repetitive. Five of the seven paragraphs have the exact same formula, and the other two are similar in their set-up. This allows for the students to become familiar with certain structures, and my brainwashing woks, I mean, they internalize the phrases. I have loaded the story with some important and useful phrases, so the students are repeatedly exposed to things they might actually say!
2-I sneak days of the week and times in there! If you noticed in the note above, there are seven paragraphs! I know, I'm crafty! (I wrote an even simpler one with different times when I decided to use the story earlier in the year.) I get a silly amount of joy when I feel like I am doing something cunning.
3-It's absurd. I kind of modeled Christophe after one of my favorite "literary" characters from my childhood: Amelia Bedelia. All of that being said, I am seriously considering writing a series of Christophe stories to publish. I'm not in love with the options for younger elementary students out there in French. I wanted something simple, short, and accessible. So, when you don't find what you're looking for, sometimes you have to make it yourself.
4-It's accessible. I know that not everyone one lives in an area where golf is a "thing," or even exists. But maybe the format will be helpful to you and you can adjust it to fit your needs and the needs of your students.
So, PLEASE talk to me! Would you be interested in this? I would originally publish them in French, but would happily do an English version. I feel like I might be able to fill a gap that exists; I am be excited to create materials that will be useful to folks, but I want to be sure I'm meeting y'all's needs. Let me know in the comments, or email me.
If someone were to look at my Google image search history, they may question my sanity. (Well, that probably happens on a regular basis, anyway!) But I am a staunch believer in "a picture is worth 1000 words" in the language classroom. I love to spend Sunday mornings with some chill music, coffee, and my computer to root around the Internet for the wackiest, craziest photos I can find.
I have been presenting a lot on Movie Talk recently. (Haven't seen my MT session? You can see the presentation from VFLA this year here!) One of the things I discuss in the presentation is how I teach vocabulary and all of a sudden I realized that my approach may be worthy of a blog post! So, here you go!
The specific example of my standard in-class vocab introduction that came to mind was when I was doing the Movie Talk of the Monty the Penguin commercial. (If you haven't seen it, grab some tissues and check it out, and download my supplemental materials.) I was teaching the word "present." Sure, I could (and did) show simple photos like this:
I ask a lot of questions about the presents here. How many? What colors? How big? What do you think are in the presents? What colors are the ribbon? Is the present on the right open or closed?
You can certainly get a lot of mileage out of basic pictures like this. But....wouldn't it be more fun and interesting to show crazy photos? Like these?!?!
My Google image searches are extremely deliberate (and can be pretty darn specific!). Again, when working with the Monty the Penguin MT, I wanted to teach two basic word: "hides" and "plays." I chose pictures that contained vocabulary that the students already knew, or had simple cognates, so I could ask more circling questions around the images.
My students knew the words tree, boy, hat, cat, girl, little. So, my questioning went something like this. "Who is hiding behind the tree? Who is hiding under the hat?" (If I had a class that had already worked with prepositions, I could ask questions with longer answers: Where is the boy hiding? And if you want a good MT for prepositions of location, check out the Simon's Cat "The Box" video with ALL OF MY ANCILLARY MATERIALS HERE!)
For the "play" photo, I would ask about the number of people in the photo, little or big kids, etc.
Another one of my favorite examples of fun photos comes from my slideshow for the "Lily and the Snowman" MT. (Don't know it? Read all about my snowman unit, and steal my stuff that goes with it!) The word was "melted," but I also wanted to teach "to melt." What better way to show that than with...fondue! (And when the kids made the connection between the French and the English, well, the looks on their faces was priceless.)
We started with the photo on the left, talking about what had melted, under what circumstances things melt, at what temperature, etc. Then, before showing them the photos on the right (which I did one at a time), I asked them about what they would put in melted cheese. Then we talked about the first photo. I then asked them if there was anything else they would eat that was melted, and we brainstormed more possibilities for dippers for chocolate fondue. (Of course, I threw in some gross combos just to keep them on their toes and engaged.)
Perhaps some of these ideas got the wheels turning in your brain to explore some new ways of bringing new words/structures into your classes. What are some of YOUR favorite ways to introduce vocabulary?
When I post things, I often assume if what I put out there, especially with respect to brain breaks, already exists. So I am not taking credit for either of these ideas, because I'm sure someone else has thought of them before! Nonetheless, maybe with one more avenue of delivery or little reminder, they will move closer to the frontal lobe of teachers' brains and they'll implement them soon!
(Another post on Brain Breaks here.)
Aller-Retour/Chocolate - eyes closed
This is a classic language Brain Break. (I was so happy when I figured out a decent French modification for the Spanish Chocolate, and you can see this in action in my classes in the videos in this post.)
Annabelle (née Allen) Williamson's also has a blog post on this Brain Break.
The other day, when I had to be a student's partner because we had an odd number of kids in the class, I thought mid-play, "HEY! What if we were to try this with our eyes closed?!?!?!" Boom: added challenge.
Papier, caillou, ciseaux - teacher vs. class
Again, another staple Brain Break in many language classes. (And again, Annabelle has more variations here.) It's a fun one, but sometimes we just need a change. (And again, I'm 99% sure this is floating out there on multiple blogs. But again, even if it's a reminder for some, this post is worth it!) Soooo...the other day, when I wanted something super SUPER quick, we did it with a modification: me vs. the class! Students stand up where they are, and we do a giant game. I count (like a normal round-un, deux, trois, voilà!) and put out my rock, paper, or scissors on voilà. Students do the same, and whoever "loses" against me (i.e. puts out paper if I put out scissors) has to sit down. We can often get it so kids are eliminated and I end up playing against one student for a final round. But I never "get out." I explain to the kids that because I'm the teacher, I'm invincible!
LIFE HACK: I have found through personal experience that LOTS of kids start with scissors. If I happen to play when we do the "snake" version of this, I usually win the whole thing because of this little trick.
Do you have any other minor changes to other brain breaks that we can add to our toolbox?
As a FLES teacher, TPR is often my go-to Brain Break for my K, 1, and 2s. However, it's good for everyone to mix it up a little. There was a question in the "CI/TPRS for French Teachers" FB group about Brain Breaks for "circle time." Here are some of my favorites that don't require a lot of moving or shuffling around of kids and can have quick transitions.
Below the descriptions are a couple of videos during which I do all of the following Brain Breaks. Check out the time stamp for each one.
WARNING! I filmed these today, the day we came back from vacation, so the kids are SQUIRRELLY!! Not my best decision, but I was chomping at the bit to get this post out. I seriously debated on whether or not to publish the videos, but I decided, why not. Yes, there's a girl who pulled out an apple and started eating it in the second class. Yes, there are a boy and a girl who seem truly smitten with each other in the first class. Yes, a stuffed giraffe appears in the camera in the second class. I certainly felt at moments like the worst teacher out there. But I guess it's good to see the rough days as well as the home-run classes! We're all human, right?!
Tiens, voilà main droite (#1 1:50)
This is a hand-clapping game, easy to do in a circle and great for hand-eye coordination.
Aller-retour (#1 5:10)
Another hand-pattern game in partners. This is my take on the Spanish chocolate. I really like the words I chose in my French version (in French, aller-retour means "round trip").
Papier, caillou, ciseaux (#2 4:45)
There are soooo many variations of this, but here's the basic (kids playing in pairs against each other), and one alternative way (me "against" the class). Check our La Maestra Loca's blog for different versions of this.
(And can I just say it totally cracks me up when, at 6:30, one girl shouts, "Hey, I gagne!" and one of her classmates responds with, "You do NOT gagne!" Man, I love this age group!)
Dansez comme maîtresse (#2 0:38)
Silly!! This was actually the first time I've ever done this BB with this class, and I thought it went pretty well and didn't need a ton of introduction.
Animal movements/statue (#1 10:25, #2 10:10)
I ADORE this one! It's a great comprehension check as well.
There's one more I thought of that I forgot to film today: On ferme les yeux, on touche le nez. Students close their eyes and try to touch their noses with one finger. We do it once with the left hand, and once with the right hand. It can get goofy, but it just serves as a little reset!
Allison 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.