(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!!
...you do Movie Talks featuring kids, dogs, and lemons!
You spend lots of time exploring images from books by Saxton Freymann, such as How Are You Peeling? and Fast Food.
SOOOOO much fun!
GAH!! So much to write about! But I'll take it slowly (never easy for me!), and give a little at a time.
I wanted to share something I'm doing with my fourth graders right now. (I started this in the first week of school.) These are the first students at my school who, as fourth graders, have already had two years of French. I've been their only teacher, so I know them quite well, but I have made it a goal to include even more personalization in my classes this year. So we started the year with a Card Talk around food; on a regular sized piece of paper, students drew two things they liked to eat, and one that they didn't. This allowed for a lot of PQA, sharing, and community building. After a couple of weeks, we finished going through their drawings, wrapping up with some true/false and fill in the blank questions. (See the video of that class here.)
Then I did a Picture Talk, which I've never done. I chose some photos from the book Hungry Planet and made a Notebook file with them. (Some of the photos from the book are in this Time article.) We did a little “geography lesson,” looking at the large world map I have in my room. The first photo I showed the students was the image below.
We talked about what we saw, and then I asked how much they thought the food cost. (This was a fantastic opportunity to bring in big numbers, which are annoying in French!) I taught the the words for "fresh" and "packaged/canned," and we compared which countries had more fresh and more packaged food, how many people. (I'm gone today at the TCI Maine conference, and I left this reading with this chart for the kids to do with the sub.)
NB-Annabelle Allen just reminded me about using Google Maps street view to look at places. I'm going to go back next week and revisit the photos from the book looking at where the families live!
All of this is is in preparation for my FAVORITE activity: Movie Talk!!
(I used the animated short Feast; here's a link to ALL of my resources for the clip.)
There is something to keep in mind about this "unit." I came up with this idea THE DAY BEFORE SCHOOL STARTED. I ditched all of the plans I had created and started from scratch. And it just keeps growing. There's a good chance I'll just be wrapping up right when report cards go out and parents come in for parent/teacher conferences. AND THAT'S OK! CI enables us to be flexible, and that is so liberating.
Again, check back in a couple of weeks to see how it all plays out.
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 K-6 school in Norwich, Vermont. This is her twentieth year teaching, and seventeenth at Marion Cross.