Having fun with students during remote classes: a mini-unit on Les Loisirs

Tonight I quickly put together a Jeopardy game for the end of a very short unit on Les Loisirs. It came from a strong desire to do a fun activity with my students. I like, as my readers know, the format for Jeopardy games on playfactile.com, but even though I have mentioned it before, I am recommending that platform a second time for remote learning. Over Zoom the teacher can screen share the game and students take turns playing for their team. I think you will find it fun too.

So, here is a set of slides for a mini-unit on Les Loisirs and here is the promised game. As I just completed it in a hurry tonight, let me know if there are any mistakes and I will correct them. And, it’s a crazy world out there, so I hope you find some fun in your teaching. And, as always, I would love to hear where you find that fun in the comments below.

P.S. If you like Jeopardy, here is one more for you, one that I wrote with the help of a colleague a while ago.

Screencast-O-Matic in the World Language Remote Classroom

I have been hearing a lot about the importance of establishing relationships with students. Students learn from teachers who value them. And, they feel supported by teachers who allow themselves to be known by their students. In September when I return to the classroom I will be teaching in a hybrid format. My students will learn in the classroom every other week. During weeks when they are not in the classroom, they will receive remote lessons. What that means is that I will deliver lessons in person with a mask on live while teaching those at home. I am concerned that teaching with a mask and teaching through the computer will put distance between me and my students, so I intend to make some videos from home with my mask off.

I want to tell you about using Screencast-O-Matic to make videos for your students because it could be useful while you are creating World Language lessons for remote learning or for live lessons when you have a mask on. The tool is free if you limit yourself to 15 minute videos. I have upgraded because I use it to do pre-recorded webinars for teachers, but you don’t need to.

There are so many benefits to filming yourself. A video is, first of all, a close-up view of the teacher and it can be clearer and more succinct than an in-person interaction. Students can watch a video over and over if they are having trouble catching something you said. When you film with Screencast-O-Matic you can show your slides and show your face so that students benefit from both. For these reasons, this is a tool that I will continue to use for years, even after the pandemic.

To try to get you thinking of what you could record, in this post I want to address the idea of recording personable brief pieces about yourself which are opportunities for students to get to know you better. And, I want to show you how to use these pieces as that “teacher talk” that you do in your classrooms to introduce the material that students can expect to learn in the unit and that you are modeling for them to use the material themselves at the end of the unit. To this end I have three examples for you.

Each of these three examples are just that, examples. Obviously, you can not use my videos because they are for my students to get to know me. By the way, it is really hard for me to share these with you because they are personal and not perfect, which is exactly the point. We film ourselves not to seem perfect but to be who we are. The lighting isn’t perfect, we stumble on our words, I am not a native speaker and yet I share these with others and I didn’t even do my hair and makeup for the session. You get the idea. I am a flawed human and I model that for my students every day and hopefully it makes me more personable and allows them to take more risks.

Here is the first video. Maybe you want to try one like this. I will show this to my beginning students the first day of class. It is a video of me introducing myself speaking all in French.* I ask the students to listen to it to see what they can understand and not to worry if they don’t get everything. Then, afterwards, I ask them to share with the class the strategies they used to try to understand. This sets us up for the year to try to learn how to take a breath and understand new language.

In this second video I am doing something that I am sure you have done before. To teach school supplies, I show the students my bag, take out the supplies that I have and comment on them. I do this at the beginning of the unit as an introduction and then the students see authentic videos where school supplies appear. My video is the easiest and most accessible of the ones they will see. I go slow and repeat, but I use full sentences and natural rhythms of language so that they hear real language. Afterwards, I post the video to Google Classroom with some true false questions about quantity and color of the school supplies for students to answer. For example, I don’t say “True or false, this is a pencil.” but instead ask, “True or false, Madame has three pencils that are yellow.”

While those two videos were for Novice speakers, my third video is for continuing language students. In this video I am sharing the activities I do during the pandemic before I ask students to share with me what is possible for them to do when social distancing. I will show the students the video and then ask them true false questions to see what they remember.

Thank you for reading my blog posts. I have really enjoyed the appreciation and the comments I receive. Would you please consider leaving a comment to say what topics you film or are going to film?

*Please note: the presentation about me is an excellent idea from Creative Language Class.

Movie Talk for Remote Learners

Many of you rely on Movie Talks to tell stories in collaboration with your students. It seems it has become as popular as TPRS stories once were. And now that many of you have tried remote teaching, I am sure you have experience of how to do Movie Talks virtually. I would love to talk with others about their techniques.

So the other day, I wrote out my ideas and sent them to a trusted friend and the following lesson plan is the result. Please take a look to see if you can benefit from any of these ideas and then leave a comment below to tell me what you have found that works.

Can do statement: I can narrate events.

To do a Movie Talk with remote students, you can use the screen share function to share the slides and ask students to work in their “journal” (their composition notebook).

Unmute students.
Rhapsodie pour un pot-au-feu Movie Talk
Show the slides and ask students the questions. Students will use the pictures to try to answer by predicting what happens in the story. (If this doesn’t go well because all of the students are trying to talk at once, you can mute the students and take suggestions in chat.)

Mute students. Watch the video of the story Rhapsodie pour un pot-au-feu — linked in the slides as well.

The last slide has six pictures. The teacher asks the students to take out their journals and number one to six. Then the teacher describes one of the pictures and the students write the corresponding letter.

Unmute students
Rhapsodie pour un pot-au-feu Group Reading
Ask students to read the captions for the pictures out loud to the class.

The last slide has six pictures. Put students in breakout groups of four. The students tell each other what is happening in the pictures and write the descriptions down in their journals. Students prepare for everyone in the group to be able to give the answers. After three minutes, the teacher reunites the group and calls on individual students to volunteer to say what is happening in each picture.

Students will need to have a copy of the slides to see the pictures while they are in breakout groups. Post the Describing Pictures to Google Classroom. Having them write in their journals while working with their peers, helps them stay focused in breakout rooms.

Rhapsodie pour un pot-au-feu Questions
While this looks like a quiz and the students can see what they get right and wrong, it is a disguised reading activity. The purpose of having the questions is to hold the student accountable for reading and working to understand the information.

Rhapsodie pour un pot-au-feu Presentational
Show the students the sentences with the verb endings highlighted. Read the sentences to the students. Ask the students to take out their journals and write the sentences paying attention to the verb endings. Check work with the slide that has the answers.

In their journal, students write a paragraph starting with, “La mère veut que la famille soit à table, mais c’est très difficile parce que…,” and ending with, “À la fin, la famille…” Students are to add 5 activities that different family members do. Students can put their answers in this Google Form.

September 2020

When we are headed back to school in September, the learning our students will need most will be in the realm of social emotional learning. How do we address this while still practicing French? I have put together some resources to help start off your school year.

Here is a set of slides dedicated to running Advisory Circle in French. I have labeled them for the corresponding proficiency level. There are opportunities to greet other students, share with classmates and play games. I am planning to use these ideas in the beginning days with my continuing students.

I hope they inspire you and add to your plans for La rentrée 2020, a precarious time for us all.

Update your resources on Identity to create a set of lessons for remote learning

When you go back to school in September, it might be smart to have a toolbox of remote learning lessons should you need them. While we hope that we will be teaching in person, there could quickly be a reason due to the pandemic for you to have a few individuals, part of the class or the whole class learning remotely. To that end, let’s address updating your identity unit and make a few changes to produce a set of emergency remote learning lessons.

Let’s start with my example, a set of lessons where I incorporated activities around talking about one’s identity, in a very limited way because of the simple language available to a Novice Mid student. My thinking here is that my students will get a brief introduction in the first months of studying French so that they can then build on it as their proficiency increases.

At the end of the lesson there are two activities to talk about diversity. One is a way for us to acknowledge membership to different groups and to discuss it and the other is a simple poster to read from UNICEF to connect to the value of having an official identity.

I hope there are some ideas here that you can borrow for your teaching. And, more importantly, if you have some additional resources and activities for the Novice Mid learner, share them with your networks and here in the comments so that we can all learn together.

Planning for September: Remote learning lessons on La rentrée

We have made it to the end of the school year. Remote emergency teaching has been challenging at best. The question we are all asking ourselves is, “What have we learned from this experience should we go back to remote teaching?” As teachers we have a lot of hope that we will be back in the building with our students in September. Most of us know what and how we would teach if that is the case. As teachers we are also planners. What can we do now to plan for teaching remotely again?

I am trying to have a few sets of lessons for remote learning should I need them in the Fall. My latest attempt is a set on La rentrée. It fits in nicely after my set on Je me présente. Please tell me what you like about these lessons and what you would change. I need the help of all of you to continue to get ready for whatever may come next!

La rentrée Copy for Blog

My motivation behind putting these on my blog is to share my efforts. If we all share then the job becomes less demanding and we all learn from each other. Please provide feedback or questions if you are able in the comments.

Se présenter, a Remote Lesson

Here is set of lessons on Se présenter for a synchronous class on a platform like Google Meet during which you can share these slides by sharing your screen. After, you can post the slides to a learning management site like Google Classroom, giving each student their own copy. While you are presenting you can do some of the activities together and preview some of the other activities without taking the time to do them. Next, during the asynchronous time, students can work through the activities at their own pace.

There are three simple technology tools that I incorporated into these lessons, EdPuzzle, Quizlet and Flipgrid. EdPuzzle is a platform where the teacher can ask students questions during a video. Create a class so you can see your students’ scores. Quizlet is an online flashcard and vocabulary game tool that gives students lots of repetition with a set of vocabulary. I always tell students which games to play in what order. For this tool as well, create classes so that you can see your students’ progress. Fligrid is a tool where the teacher leaves a video to start a conversation and the students respond via video.

Use Flipgrid at the end of this set of lessons to do the assessment. Post a video where you record yourself doing what you are asking the students to do. Your students will post videos to respond. Then you can enable the comment function and assign students to respond to their classmates. In order to make it fair to all students, there are two key things to do that I learned from Rebecca Blouwolff, the ACTFL teacher of the year. First, make sure to disable the like function to avoid student competition. Second, ask students to respond to someone who doesn’t have a response yet. That way, hopefully at the end of the assignment each student will have one response. Through Flipgrid you will have an assessment for which you can give students feedback. Try to be specific and personal in your comments to try to motivate students.

This set of slides wouldn’t be your full lessons for greetings and leave-takings, it would be just part of the unit and then you can adapt your regular in person lessons to flesh out the rest of the unit. I hope you will get something out of this resource, whether you use it as it is or take inspiration from it to do something else!

C’est délicieux: All the effective components in a simple set of remote learning lessons

The most important piece of this blog post is the example. Here is a set of slides that is written for Novice High Students learning French. It is a week’s worth of remote learning, to be done at home. There are opportunities for live lessons with the teacher, but the set is intentionally simple and streamlined to not include any additional apps or technology tools. If you desire, there is room for you to add in apps like Quizlet, EdPuzzle, Fluentkey, Google Forms, Peardeck and Flipgrid, but I am encouraging you to use this set of slides as is, without additional tools, to keep it simple for you and for your students.

My intention with sharing an example is to show you how to include the components of effective lessons in your remote learning lessons while keeping your lessons simple. To start, when writing remote lessons, we have to draw in students, so the theme has to be specifically targeted to interest students and very relevant to their lives. At the same time we are trying to make it relevant and interesting, we have to build on vocabulary that we have already introduced in our classes and limit ourselves to vocabulary that we are teaching in the unit as we want to give students the building blocks for the tasks we are asking them to complete. Try to make sure your list is not too long and is high frequency language. And then we also have to find creative ways to repeat the vocabulary as repetition allows for students to acquire the language.

I tried to simplify the task of writing remote learning lessons into a limited list of tasks:

  • Determine the length of time and level of your mini-unit of lessons. This will help you choose how many activities to include and what level of can dos to address.
    Choose a theme and an essential question. Make a title slide with the theme expressed.
  • Find 3-6 authentic resources. Enter them into your slides. I like to find a couple readings, most often infographics, and a few videos.
  • Plan what students will be able to do by the end and plan backward to come up with the targeted vocabulary. Take vocabulary from the authentic resources and from the formative assessments you plan to do along the way. Make a slide of the vocabulary.
  • Plan the activities that students will do with the authentic resources as a way to build to the summative assessment, even if it isn’t going to be graded traditionally. Make sure to include the three modes in your activities, Interpretive, Interpersonal and Presentational.
  • Create a summative assessment for the set of lessons so that you can give students feedback about their progress. It is through this feedback that you can motivate students to complete the lessons.

Vary your activities. To respond to things they have read, ask students to answer questions on the material, make captions to match to pictures, order events in a story, sort ideas into categories or check off items on a list. Ask students to respond to questions about themselves or ask them to interview others and then report back. When they listen to a story, ask students to pick out some vocabulary from the story or ask them to identify the characters and the setting. To be clear, these activities are carefully planned for teaching for proficiency.

Try to be clear in your directions. You will notice that for the level that I teach, I have made my directions in English. And, you will also notice that I attempt to highlight in blue where I would like to see students respond.

Your lessons should be the strongest materials that are on topic that will interest the majority of students. And, they are the ones that will be accessible to most students. Limit yours lessons to only the best resources. And, your interactions with students should be as personable as you can make them to try to motivate your students to participate. With proficiency based activities, topics of interest to students, personable feedback and authentic resources, you are making the best attempt possible to draw in students.

Keep remote learning simple 2: Taking a Break

I was encouraged by the response to my last blog post. Teachers want to keep their remote teaching simple for themselves as much as for their students. More students will be able to access your materials if you keep them simple.


The example that I want to share with you this time is a week-long set of lessons about taking a break. I have included two videos, one is a kids’ cartoon and the other is a children’s book, and then there are three infographics. This lesson is for Intermediate Low learners of French. The theme of the lessons, taking a break, has a strong Social Emotional component which is relevant as we are finishing up the school year during the Coronavirus pandemic and need to practice self-care.

If these lessons would work for your students, I suggest that you post this set of lessons to your students on the School Management system that they use, giving each student their own copy. The students will fill out the responses on the slides and submit them back to you for feedback.

These lessons are self contained and don’t rely on external apps or technology tools, yet if you know that your students are comfortable with some technology, I have a few options for you. You can use EdPuzzle for the cartoon and a Google form to present the video of the children’s book. Yet another idea is that you could make a Quizlet vocabulary quiz using the vocabulary phrases that I gave when I asked students to make their own dictionaries. I think that those are three ways that technology could marginally enhance the lesson.

In addition, I want to show you how you could use Flipgrid and give some hints on how to do some live teaching with this lesson. One way to use Flipgrid is as a daily message to greet your students, briefly present the material you are teaching and then ask the students a question that they will respond to by sending back a video to you. For this lesson specifically one of your Flip Grids could be about how you take a break, using the vocabulary that is introduced in the lessons, and then ask students how they take a break. In your live teaching segment, you could put students in breakout groups to ask and answer the questions of the interview and then you could have a chance to ask students the questions in the class discussion slides. Alternatively, you could go over all the slides with students during your live teaching segment.

Again, I want to encourage you to use these slides just as they are, without the added technology, keeping your remote learning teaching as simple as possible, again both for you and for your students.

Here is the set of slides for Lessons on Taking a Break

EdPuzzle of Bernie & Corneil Cartoon
Google Form of video of Children’s Book Rien du tout

Questions for Rien du Tout

Simple remote learning lessons for French class

In the move to remote learning this Spring of 2020, it is tough to make lessons equitable when some students may experience technology and connectivity issues. In this blog post I want to show an example of how to keep lessons simple. I will share with you a low-tech yet online solution for providing students with lessons for a week.

My example is a set of slides on Google Drive that serves as lessons that students can work on independently. While the lessons include links to video clips, everything the students have to do is contained in the slides. There aren’t any exterior apps that are used and therefore difficulty remembering usernames and passwords or issues with returning work to the teacher.

You can give each student their own set of these slides by posting to your school management system. They write their answers to the questions right into their own copy of the slides and return them to you in the school management system.

By supplying you with an example of a week of lessons, you can then adapt it to use the technology that you know your students can handle. For example, you can take the videos and post them to EdPuzzle or Fluentkey and make the questions a quiz. You can ask the questions in the lessons on Flipgrid or Voicethread and have students post back to you videos of their answers. You can take my vocabulary list and make a Quizlet out of it so that students can quiz themselves on the vocabulary before doing the activities. Or, with this content, you can have your students respond through a Google Form or a quiz on Canvas. It is my hope that you make this your own but that you also consider using my low-tech version so that it is as simple as possible for your students.

In addition, this lesson has possibilities for live teaching, if that is available to you. The discussion questions that I ask can be questions that students ask and answer. If you use Zoom, you can create breakout groups of four and ask students to ask each other the questions. And, when you come back together into the large group, students can complete a Zoom poll to reflect on their use of the target language. Another option is if you run a live class you can share your screen and go over the slides with the students.

Here is a link on Google Drive to the lessons made around the opening sequence of the film Avril et le Monde Truqué. The theme of these lessons is Science and Innovation. I hope you will find them useful.

I would love to post another set of lessons for you in the near future. To that end, please tell me in the comments what works for you and what would be helpful changes. Thank you.

Resources for the lessons:
French Review Article
Canberra Alliance Française Packet for the Film
Images from the Film