Know what's great? Picture Talk. It is so low-prep but allows for SO MUCH INPUT (which, in my room, leads to so much organic output!). And you don't need to spend hours combing the Internet for pictures. I mean, if you're snowed in and want to throw yourself down a photo rabbit hole, I say go for it! But here's a little teaching hack for you: The National Geographic Picture of the Day. New day, new image. Job DONE.
If anyone is good at exploring different cultures, it's National Geographic. So do yourself (and your students!) a favor and check this out. Something new, every day, and it's literally just a click away.
On this first day of vacation, I have been doing a lot of reflecting. I was walking the dog, and I remembered this post that I did two years ago. It was a very impersonal “thank you“ to people who have made my teaching life easier/more fulfilling. I feel like it’s time to add to and reinforce that list. So here are the members of this year's #IAmThankfulFor list:
Justin Slocum Bailey
Justin is one of two people whose energy I try to channel when I teach. (You’ll find the other next on this list.) His extraordinary ability to connect with people makes him not only an incredible teacher, but an amazing presenter and just an overall phenomenal human being. I am lucky to have him in my life. Thank you, Justin.
I don’t think I will ever meet anyone as thoughtful and kind as Grant. His calm energy is something I always try to embrace and internalize in the classroom, especially when my crazy energy wants to take over. It is a joy to watch him teach, and I highly recommend it if you ever have the chance. I wish I could spend more time with him.
Thank you, Grant
For those of you in the iFLT/NTPRS/Ci Teaching Facebook group, you surely know Angie’s name. She is forever sharing what she works on, and she spends a lot of time thinking and reflecting on her practice. She is a dear, dear friend, and despite only being an hour away from each other, we don’t see each other enough. Nonetheless I truly value her friendship, insight, and support. She has helped me process so much, and I’m not quite sure where I’d be today without her. Thank you, Angie.
You know when you were a kid and you went to summer camp and you didn't want the time to end? That's the way I felt two years ago after my week with Anny (and Kirsten Plante) in 2018 at the Altamira/Dynamic Language teacher trainer prep. Not only was the setting beautiful, and the group of people extraordinary, but she has become for me an important person whose advice I seek and friendship I value. Thank you, Anny.
Tina is one of the most hard-working people I know. She has poured so much of her time and energy and love into helping teachers. Her Curriculum Club has been a savior for so many teachers out there, and I relish the time we get to spend together. It doesn’t happen often enough, but I still know what a truly amazing human being she is. Thank you, Tina.
Leslie Kronemeyer (you can see her in the picture above with Anny!!)
I haven’t been able to see Leslie teach, but I just love her as a person. She is being recognized all over the place, be in her own state of New Jersey, or on the national conference stage. I’ll never forget the first times I spent with her, and how meaningful our conversations were. Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher. Thank you, Leslie.
Vermont is not quite the same without Elissa in it. She has relocated to New York and that makes me sad, but she will always have a place in the Green Mountain State. I have always enjoyed working with Elissa and Express Fluency, be it during weekend immersion classes at her incredible space in Brattleboro or our August teacher training. Elissa's sweet soul and generosity are second to none, and I always feel full of heart after I talk to her.
I wouldn't be where I am in my teaching, or in my life, without my dear friend Ginny. Our journeys have taken us, and VFLA, to so many places. It has been a pleasure and a joy to work with her and to reflect back on all that we have accomplished. To say I love Ginny is to put it lightly. Thank you, Ginny.
There’s nothing in the world like a Teri Wiechart smile-it exudes warmth, happiness, and love. I was honored to be on the iFLT team this past July in St. Petersburg, Florida and work along side her. Teri is someone I would love to go on a week long vacation with, and maybe someday that will happen. Her generosity, caring, and wisdom have touched so many people, including me. Thank you, Teri.
What should I be doing right now? Writing sub plans. What am I doing? GETTING SO EXCITED ABOUT ACTFL! I just mapped out my days. I didn't want to cram too much in, because I want to make sure I have time to meet with and talk to folks. So here's what I'm focusing on:
What are YOU looking forward to? If you can't come, what do you want to learn/hear about/see?
We are in the throes of conference season; I attended MaFLA last week, and it was great! It's always interesting to go and see other state conferences; I love our intimate setting at VFLA in March, but every now and then it's nice to get out to other conferences that aren't massive like ACTFL or iFLT or even NECTFL. My Movie Talk/Clip Chat presentation made its seventh appearance this calendar year, and I was grateful to the folks who stuck around to the very end to attend my session.
But, with all of the amazing posts about people's experiences, it can make one feel lonely or like you're not meeting people or sharing or learning if one isn't able to attend these events. So I thought I'd bring my MT presentation TO YOU!
Join me tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8 PM EST for a Facebook Live Movie Talk session. This will be hosted in the CI Liftoff FB group, and I'll have a cool fun announcement at the end. Join me!
For those of you know me, you are well aware of my addiction to Movie Talk (AKA Video Chat, AKA Clip Chat). I'll be doing my MT session at MaFLA next week and NECFTL in February, and presented on it five times this past summer. FIVE. I am legitimately obsessed.
Someone just posted a question to the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching FB group about a good MT for French I. I believe that ANY MT can be adjusted to work for ANY level, but I wanted to take a moment to write about the year I based the entire content of my third grade program on four Simon's Cat videos: Fetch, The Box, Snow Business, and April Showers.
We started the year with a Card Talk, where students drew what they liked to do. This allowed us to talk about weather, times of year, people, all kinds of stuff! We spent a solid three or so weeks on this. Here are some of the activities we did on my SmartBoard with the information we gathered about students in the class.
For the picture on the left, we dragged the pictures from the bottom next to the names of the students who said they liked that particular activity. (The screen was originally just the names and the picture at the bottom.) The second picture is a set of true/false questions I asked my students orally; they wrote theirs answers on individual white boards. When I showed the third, we talked about which weather is best for which activities; this is always great because of the discussions that arise organically. There are invariably kids who like to play baseball in the rain, and we talk about how it's dangerous to swim when it's storming. The last contains sentences for goofy paired Pictionary (animals that like to do different activities, the same ones that the kids drew for the Card Talk); one student in the pair closes their eyes, the other looks at the sentence, then I cover the sentence up and the "open-eyed" students draw what they read for their partners to guess.
We then examined some pictures of kids around the world with their favorite possessions. (Ooooh, culture!) This is such a rich set of photos for Picture Talk-it's so powerful and can get you milking ALL FIVE OF THE FIVE ACTFL C's!! (Teacher mic drop.) The conversations can be so rich, and doing things like Venn diagrams, descriptive paragraph composition, and, comparison charts can really get the kids thinking about cultural differences. (The one picture that's fascinating and scary at the same time is the Ukranian boy with his toy gun collection.)
Our first MT of the year was "Fetch." It doesn't connect 100% with our Card/Picture Talks, but it has a cat and a dog and a stick and throwing and it's just fun. Simple, basic, repetitive. That's the key to a good MT.
After our first term ended, we worked with "The Box." This one is fantastic for prepositions. (BTW, it's also the video I use as a demo for when I present on MT. Someone in the group always has a cat, and we talk about how the cat may or may not like boxes. It's great.) Students make their own little paper boxes, and we play around with putting different manipulatives in them. (Confession-by the end of our work with the boxes, I did break out some Skittles for us to put in and under and beside and behind our little boxes. Life's short, right?!)
Once the weather turned, I cued up "Snow Business." Both"Fetch" and "Snow Business" have great structures for gestures. Gestures are important for me as I work with younger kids and they really benefit from that physical/oral connection. A friend of mine once told me that everything in my classes revolves around people or animals throwing things, stuff breaking, things falling....What can I say, I know what I like and what works for my kinds. I mean, if it ain't broke....
There are a couple of moments in the year when I deviate a little from Simon's Cat. During the winter, to mix things up a little, we do our Chapin/Cochien unit, which is always a ton of fun. I tie things to animals as much as I can, because, well, who doesn't love to talk about animals! I find that this unit is really beneficial from a linguistic perspective. Asking students to split words into syllables is not always easy, especially in L2, and it's not something one would think of being an "important skill." But it really is a cool exercise, and cognitively beneficial, I believe.
You can read about the unit in more detail here.
In their ELA class, third graders study folk tales. In our third term, starting in March, we read Le Petit chaperon rouge (Little Red Riding Hood), which takes us all the way through May. I love this unit because it ties into what the students are studying in their other classes. It uses a familiar story, so their affective filters are low. I scaffold it such that by the end of our work with the book, they are able to retell the story to me as I use a doll house and small stuffies and figurines to act it out. For some reason I can't upload that video to YouTube, but you can watch it here. The very last activity is homework: students retell it to a parent with images from the book, no written text in front of them. It's a powerful exercise.
So there you go-a year with Simon's Cat! I hope this give you some ideas. What are some videos you think that could serve to be the cornerstone of a year's curriculum?
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.