Back in April I had a couple of lightbulb moments with some modifications to one of my favorite Brain Breaks, Qui a volé les biscuits de la boîte à biscuits? (And I'm just now getting around to posting them!) There's a significant shift in the structure of these activities, but the kids like them!
Both of these new games are rooted in specific units of our curriculum. My second graders were watching the second "season" of the Muzzy video series. In the early episodes of that season, Corvax kidnaps Bob and Sylvia's baby Amanda. (Don't worry if those names don't mean anything to you, just know Corvax makes off with Amanda.) I have a little Playmobil baby that represents Amanda. Students sit in a circle, and one student leaves the room; he or she becomes Bob or Sylvia, on the quest to locate their poor missing daughter Amanda. I hand Amanda to one of the students seated in the circle, and all students in the circle clasp their hands together in front of them. We call Bob or Sylvia, the student who had gone into the hall, back into the room. That student stands in the middle of the circle and looks around, trying to figure out which classmate has Amanda. They have three chances to find Corvax. When they have chosen someone to accuse, they look at that student and say, "Tu es Corvax?" ("Are you Corvax?") The accused responds with either, "Oui, je suis Corvax" ("Yes, I'm Corvax") if they are indeed the kidnapper, or "Non, je ne suis pas Corvax" ("No, I'm not Corvax") if they didn't take Amanda. If the accuser is unsuccessful in locating the kidnapper, the kidnapper opens his or her hands and reveals Amanda. Regardless of whether or not the accuser correctly identifies the kidnapper, the student who played Corvax and stole Amanda becomes either Bob or Sylvia in the next round, searching for their kidnapped daughter.
The modification I made for my sixth graders came to me while we were reading Pirates français des Caraïbes, the French adaptation of Mira Canion's Spanish reader. This plays out almost identically to the Corvax scenario above. In the novel, François the pirate captures a sailor named Charles, who is under the employ of Antoine Médina. I place a little toy pirate (who happens to be holding a telescope, which is what Charles actually has in the book!) in the hands of one of the students sitting in the circle. When "Antoine" comes back into the room, they ask, "Tu as capturé Charles?" ("Did you capture Charles?"). The accused responds either, "Oui, j'ai capturé Charles" ("Yes, I captured Charles") if they are indeed the kidnapper, or "Non, je n'ai pas capturé Charles" ("No, I didn't capture Charles"). Once again, the kidnapper becomes Antoine.
Can you think of other ways to adjust Qui a volé les biscuits? to fit into your curriculum?
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!
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!!
There is always a lot of sharing of brain breaks in the CI community. I began seriously implementing them about two years ago, and man, are they great! Fun, essential, and community-building. If you haven't visited La Maestra Loca's blog to see her amazing collection, do that now. (Well, as soon as your done reading this post!)
One of my students' favorites is a game we call Qui a volé les biscuits de la boîte à biscuits? This is one that can run a little longer than others, but I still love to do it once or twice a month. (It's in the Mafia/Bad Unicorn vein.)
The basic idea is that students sit in a circle, close their eyes, and place their hands behind their backs. I walk around the circle and place a biscuit (a little fake cookie that a friend baked for me) in the hands of one student; the cookie should be small enough for students to cup it in their clasped hands. I then tell them (in French) to put their hands in front and open their eyes. They then sing the chorus of the song, and students start to guess who they think stole the cookie.
On the the left is the slide I show to introduce the song.
Click here for a PDF of the Notebook file I use to introduce the vocab in the song.
The text of the song in English is
Class: Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?
Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?
Students raise their hands and I choose a someone to name a suspect:
Class: _______ stole the cookies from the cookie jar. (The accused's name fills in the blank.)
________ stole the cookies from the cookie jar.
Student accused: Who, me?
Class: Yes, you!
Student accused says either: Yes, me or Not me!
If the student isn't guilty, the class says, So, who?
We keep playing until the guilty student is found, or I decide we need to stop, in which case students put their hands behind their backs, close their eyes, and I retake the cookie to play again another time (that student will get the cookie a different time). Because I teach younger kids, I have to keep track of who has had the cookie, since everything has to be "fair!"
Let me know if you try this, and what you think!
I have been thinking so much about these ideas since Brattleboro. During her language lab, Annabelle used a fantastic attention grabber: she would cry hola, hola and her students replied with coca cola. It was extremely effective with both adults and students, and I walked away itching to find something that works as well for me.
With my younger students, I've had a lot of success with a song:
"Mains en l'air, sur la tête, aux épaules et en avant, bras croisés, sur les côtés, moulinets, et l'on se taît."
I'm not sure where I first heard this, but I did find a video that went well with the song, though I only actually show this video to my super littles, as I think the older ones would think it's baby-ish. (Though, it still works wonders with my fourth graders, who learned it as third graders) I also created a poster with some decent images to accompany the song; email me if you'd like a copy, as I'm still figuring out patents and using images and the like.
Anywho, I've been pondering what I could incorporate into my classes, regardless of level. I spent a lot of time talking to folks at the Express Fluency CI conference earlier this month and it started the wheels turning for me. I was striving to find something that would be culturally relevant, linguistically appropriate, and catchy, all at the same time. It made me think of a moment I had a couple of years ago when I was trying to connect with some locals during a summer in France. (Thanks, Tinder!) My friend Romain said during one of our conversations, "T'es sûre que tu n'es pas française?!" ("Are you sure you're not French?!")
I was flattered to think that I had the ability to make a French person say, "Whoa, just how good is this American girl's French?!" So...I thought maybe I could use this to my advantage in my classroom and incorporate some common expressions as attention grabbers for my older kids. I wanted something where the teacher could say the first part, and the students could respond with the second. (In my examples below, the teacher's call is red and student response is blue.)
The two expressions that really caught Romain's eyes were Allons-y/Alonzo, an expression from a Godard film that apparently made its way into Doctor Who! I also love, C'est cool/Raoul. (One could also substitute ma poule for Raoul.) After digging around a bit online, I found some other fun possibilities involving names that have cultural significance.
A la tienne/Etienne
Check out the bottom of this post for a whole list of other possibilities!
Then came the challenge of finding a great phrase for a Brain Break to mirror Annabelle's Chocolate hand game (she explains it, with photos, here on her blog). There aren't many four syllable French words, so I turned to expressions. Here are some possible ideas:
boîte à conserves
pâtisserie or boulangerie
What other attention grabbers or French-specific Brain Breaks do you have? Please share!
After playing around with the idiomatic expressions with names that I listed above, I moved on to general expressions that I though could transfer to the classroom. Here is what I came up with:
qui plus sait/plus se tait (I like this one because of the meaning behind it!)
crème de la/crême
après la pluie/le beau temps
occupe-toi/de tes oignons
laisser les bons temps/rouler
chose promise/chose due
le temps/c'est de l'argent
pas de nouvelle/bonnes nouvelle
petit à petit/l'oiseau fait son nid
quand le chat n'est pas là/les souris dansent
qui va à la chasse/perd sa place
plus on est de fous/plus on rit
qui se ressemble/s'assemble
tel père/tel fils
on est tous/dans le même bain
un sou/est un sou
l'erreur/est humaine (or, divided differently, l'erreur est/humaine)
l'union fait/la force (or, divided differently, l'union/fait la force)
quelle/salade (I'm not sure how I feel about this one, I think the fact that the teacher's call is only one syllable could be challenging.)
These expressions could also be used as passwords à la Bryce Hedstrom, and incorporated into class in a plethora of ways.
Allison Litten, the 2019 VFLA TOY, teaches French at the Marion Cross School, a public PreK-6 school in Norwich, Vermont. This is her twenty-third year teaching, and twentieth at Marion Cross.