(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 pretty much fell in love Tina Hargaden's video post in the CI Liftoff FB page in which she took us on a tour of her classroom, explaining her procedures and classroom setup and such. I decided to do something similar, but with the hopes of getting some ideas and feedback and (both positive and negative) criticism of my approach to my space.
The video is 10 minutes, so hopefully you'll be able to get through the whole thing without turning it off with thoughts of, "Good grief, this is boring," or, "Man, is this painful or what?"
As I mention in the video, I have a new room this year. I requested to switch rooms, as I wanted something where I had the students in closer proximity to me. I had been in a rectangular room for the previous two years, and while I loved the big space, I didn't like how "far away" the students in the back of the room were from me when I was at the front of the room. My Smart Board was on one of the short walls, and it was not possible to move it to one of the longer sides of the rectangle. (Admittedly, I have a tendency to stay anchored at the front of my room on my stool, next to my computer. I'm hoping to get away from that this year and move around a lot more, circulating in the room and being among the students more often.) So I'm working with a smaller space, which has forced me to rethink some of my previous set-ups (e.g. my FVR library).
I have some thoughts for a follow-up video, so if there's anything you'd like me to explain in greater detail, please let me know in the comments!
I'm really excited to use lots of rejoinders this year. There are some great blog posts out there on this idea, especially by Bryce Hedstrom and Grant Boulanger, two incredible teachers who have been instrumental in stressing the importance and usefulness of the concept of rejoinders. I've seen these short phrases quite a bit here in Brattleboro at Express Fluency, and want to make a concerted effort to incorporate them into my classroom and make them part of the classroom culture. I believe that in arming the students with short, common expressions in French, I can cut down on the amount of English spoken but also empower the students to feel confident expressing themselves in French.
Sooo...I started thinking about it, and had a lightbulb moment: combine these great expressions with some fantastic images-bitmojis!
Examples of my bitmoji rejoinders
(see all of them here; it's a view-only image, but you can make a copy for yourself!)
For those of you who don't know bitmojis, it's a personalized emoji that you create. Check them out here! You choose hair color, facial features, skin tone, outfit, the whole she-bang! Then you can filter through the categories to find a particular image that fits an emotion, situation, or thought. Here are some examples of my favorites. Bitmojis are most often used on mobile devices, but you can now put use them on a laptop or desktop computer.
You can download a bitmoji extension to Chrome to allow you to access your own bitmoji library. A little green smiley face appears in the upper right corner of your browser window. Click the little face and then browse through their categories, or search a specific word. You can then copy and paste into other documents or email messages.
Not only are bitmojis ubiquitous with our students (ergo, I'll be wicked cool for using them), they are fantastic images! Make your own bitmoji, and let your rejoinder imagination run wild!
PS-I decided that I am going to choose only 10 or so to have up posted at the start of the year. I am hoping I'll have my act together enough to be able to pull them out as the year progresses, introducing them organically as they fit classroom situations.
Allison Litten, the 2019 VFLA TOY, teaches French at the Marion Cross School, a public K-6 school in Norwich, Vermont. This is her twentieth year teaching, and seventeenth at Marion Cross.