Online games that promote proficiency

When you want to play games with your students yet you want the games to promote proficiency, try out a few of these ideas.

  • Play Quizlet with fill in the blank instead of translation. Request that students play Match and Gravity. Here is an example on the topic of Mes Activités.
  • One of my favorites is Jeopardy on Factile. Here is a beginner’s version that I call Les Premiers Mois.
  • A Kahoot game is a way to circumlocute and ask students to guess from four options or it can be a regular trivia game. Here is a game for La Famille and another for Ma Journée and then a trivia game for Les Super Héros.
  • And finally, have students read in French about some super heros such as Superman, Spiderman, Wolverine, Hulk, La femme invisible and Wonderwoman. Then play the reverse guessing game Akinator and see if the Akinator can guess the super hero.

Quick Start to using the Massachusetts World Language Framework

This year, in 2021, our state finally updated the World Language standards. You may be thinking about how you can align your teaching to these standards. If you were already following ACTFL’s World-Readiness Standards, you will find this document very familiar. But for some of us, the framework will mean changes in the way we teach. How to get started? Here is a short list of essential hints on implementing the new Massachusetts 2021 World Language Curriculum Framework.

  • The World Language Framework is online. You will want to bookmark it for easy reference. The framework was written by teachers here in our state. You probably know some of them, at school or personally. There are many voices who represent you in this framework, teachers who have classroom experience with real kids locally.
  • Where to start? When you are having an inclination toward big-picture thinking, read only the guiding principles. Think about what you are already doing. Don’t concentrate on how much road you have in front of you. You have already put some of these guiding principles into action.
  • A highlight from the Guiding Principles section is, “Students become proficient in a language by using it.” This simple idea can be a guide for your classroom. Measure activities not by what vocabulary they practice, but by whether or not students are negotiating meaning through communication.
  • My favorite highlight from the Guiding Principles section is, “In effective programs, students use the target language to tell their own stories and to examine their own identities.” Intercultural understanding starts with understanding one’s own culture and talking about oneself.
  • A good start as you ease into or dive deeper into teaching for proficiency is to commit to teaching in a more interesting and effective way through using Can Do statements based on the Standards.
  • The Framework was written for each level to stand alone as a two-sided handout. Think about printing the level you are teaching (the one you are aiming for) and have it out at your workspace as you plan.
  • Pay close attention to the verbs in the Standards. They were used very intentionally to progress from level to level. You will recognize the verbs from Blooms.
  • To understand how to bring students one level up, look at the level they are at in a specific mode and then look at the level you are aiming for. You will learn what you need to do to extend their skills.

Consider printing out these pointers as a handout for you or your teachers and use it like a progressive checklist.

Teaching Intercultural Competency

While we are teaching students to communicate in another language we are also teaching them intercultural competency, so that students can learn to interact in other cultures. As I am currently planning lessons I feel fortunate that there has been a lot written on teaching culture and some of the guidance is available for free on the Internet. In this blog post, I will show you free materials that I borrowed from to build my toolbox to teach intercultural connections.

Two resources that I merged to make a pre and post assessment

A guide to co-creating classroom guidelines with your students and setting the tone the first day

Build rapport between the members of your class by having them divide into groups to prepare to teach the whole class playground games from around the world.

  • Article on playground games around the world

My favorite three activities / warm ups from: Intercultural Learning Toolbox of Classroom Activities

  • 2 visions for 1 reality
  • 60 seconds = 1 minute, or does it?
  • Drawing with 2 hands

Lesson plans for Lessons that address cultural competency

Along the way, students reflect by writing in a blue exam book that they keep as a journal. In addition, when we look at specific cultures, they write their thoughts. For some ideas of prompts, here is an ACTFL document.

Though all of these resources are in English, many of them are straight-forward enough for students to navigate in the language they are learning. I wish you great luck with the teaching of culture to your students. A deep understanding of culture promotes tolerance and justice. This is truly important work.

What are the resources you have found to teach Intercultural Competence? Please add to this post with a comment so that we can start a conversation.

Dollar Street: Images of families from around the world

“People in other cultures are often portrayed as scary or exotic,” says Anna Rosling Rönnlund, the inventor of Dollar Street. “This has to change. We want to show how people really live. It seemed natural to use photos as data so people can see for themselves what life looks like on different income levels. Dollar Street lets you visit many, many homes all over the world. Without traveling.” 

La famille Mbusya

In a unit on families, the images from Dollar Sense can give students information to answer the question “What is a family?” To get to that answer, students can observe families from different countries around the world.

To start, preview the site with your students. Then give them an assignment where they read about different families, think about the information and do some writing for themselves. The sample assignment that I linked here is for Novice level students.

How have you used Dollar Street in your class?

P.S. Thanks to the comments by readers, I was able to make a second activity that is similar using the site Là où je dors

Non gendered language in French family unit

When a person has told us that they are gender non-binary, we refer to them with language that is not gendered. In addition, when we are speaking to people who have not specified their gender or to all people, we can use inclusive terms that aren’t gendered, we can use traditional language that is gender neutral or we can alternate between feminine and masculine forms.

In the French language there isn’t an official way to use gender neutral language. We have to go looking for examples in newspapers and explanations online for ideas of how to do this. While there are ideas for making language gender neutral, I need to clearly state there are no official rules and not everyone will accept these options.

Here is a slide deck to use in your teaching. Of course, these additions are not static nor are they finalized. As the will evolve and change, keep in touch with others about the latest accepted versions of non-gendered speech.

Movie: Une vie de chat

Every year I get a few requests for materials to use with a film. I always direct teachers to this excellent packet to be used with the film Une vie de chat.

This is a film that I can recommend because teachers can buy it on Amazon Prime with the audio in French and show it in their classroom from their own computer. Teachers aren’t always able to buy DVDs in French in this country and even if they already own a film, many schools no longer have the ability to show DVDs. An additional problem is that some of the French movies that appear on Amazon Prime and Netflix don’t have the audio in French. You will see on this blog materials for Belle et Sebastien and the French audio isn’t available on Amazon Prime. So given all this, I figure Une vie de chat is a good film to share with teachers seeing that all teachers can access it.

Please find below sample activities from the packet to do with your students in order to use this film to teach language and culture. Depending on the level of your students, they might have trouble understanding the film. For example, my students who are Novices can’t understand the dialogue of this film. I was able to show it when I had students who were Intermediate Low.

If you do rent or buy the movie on Amazon Prime, you will have it on your own account and won’t be able to leave the movie for a substitute teacher without sharing your login information. I don’t see films as a very good activity without the teacher seeing that while your students watch the movie you will probably need to repeat lines for them and stop periodically to explain in simplified French what is happening. My suggestion for this film is to watch it with your students, to comment frequently in simple French as the action is happening and to repeat important lines a few times.

I love sharing a film with a class. The shared experience is very rich as you share the emotions you feel with others. Enjoy!

Here are the teaching slides

Preview the film
Show the poster
Here are some questions to explore the imagery and design:
a. Qui vois-tu sur l ́affiche du film?
b. Qui est le personnage principal?
c. Quand est-ce que la scène a lieu?
d. Quelles impressions as-tu? Est-ce que ça fait peur ? Est-ce que c ́est menaçant?
Mystérieux? Pourquoi ?
e. Dans quel pays/ dans quelle ville est-ce que le chat vit? Trouve une preuve.

Show two posters
Compare the English version of the poster with the French one and spot the differences:
a. Quels sont les 4 personnages qui apparaissent sur l ́affiche anglaise?
b. Compare le titre français et le titre anglais du film. Pourquoi sont-ils différents?
c. Quel titre te semble le plus accrocheur? Pourquoi?
d. Quelle version de l ́affiche (anglaise ou française) préfères-tu? Pourquoi?
e. Imagine, en quelques phrases, l ́histoire du film.
f. Fais une liste de thèmes et de mots-clés liés au film.
g. De quel genre de film s’agit-il d’après toi?
un film d ‘horreur, une comédie, un film policier, un film d ́amour

Hand out the vocabulary for descriptions

Students describe the characters on the slide

Guessing game. One student describes a character and the other students identify which one.

Bande annonce activity

First scene, 3 minutes
Do a Movie Talk with Une vie de chat Picture Talk
Give students the handout of vocabulary
Ask students to read the Script
Ask students to do Scramble (here’s the answer key)

While watching the film
Page 7 of the PDF

After watching the film
Page 12 of the PDF

Qui parle à qui? with the slide

Match each character with the right description with the slide

Page 19 of the PDF

Strategies for reading with Novices

Here are strategies for teaching reading so that the next time your students are tackling a text, you can rely on these ideas. I have ten to share to support you in your teaching of reading to Novices.

  1. Choose an accessible text. For this post I will refer to a text that I used in the first few months, La langue français dans le monde. Look for simple, short texts with images, good use of color and italics or bolding to bring out meaning. Prioritize maps, infographics, lists, ads and labeled images.
  2. Give students a paper copy to read and write on or have them on their devices open the reading in an application like Notability that allows them to mark it up.
  3. Start by previewing the topic. Ask students their personal opinions or their own practices related to the theme.
  4. Define some of the most relevant words you think the students won’t know and read out loud to students the key parts of the text from slides with bolded words that will help with overall meaning.
  5. Remind students of their reading strategies in their first language. Ask them to look for clues in the title, pictures and cognates and remind them to use the context.
  6. Continue by having them reread the whole reading in pairs to discuss and puzzle through it.
  7. As the teacher, I walk around to check in with my students. I allow them to ask vocabulary questions and when they do I put translations on the board for all to see.
  8. Tell students that they are reading for the general idea. Beginning readers need to learn that they don’t need to understand every word, but instead to get the idea.
  9. Ask if one student can help the class understand by stating the general idea of the text in French. Ask students questions that check for comprehension.
  10. Make connections with the reading. In this case I showed a video with a lot of images and little text. Students saw the names, flags and some images of different Francophone countries. Then I asked them to tell me something they observed and to say whether it was something they knew already or new to them. Make sure to bring out the cultural and justice ideas by asking students to make connections.

Other examples of Novice readings:
Calendrier scolaire avec prénoms
Fourniture Scolaires Liste Modèle
Pour une rentrée scolaire éco-responsable
A chaque classe son emploi de temps
Pour le quatre-heures

Vos stars préférés en 2021

Example of readings that was rewritten to be Novice:

Poetry Month, my small contribution

April was poetry month and I was teaching my novices a unit on school, so I incorporated in my lessons Pierre Ruaud’s poem “Pour la rentrée”. How to use this authentic resource? Well, I would want my students to understand the meaning of the words and the playfulness of the poem. Culturally I know there is a great tradition in France of teaching students to recite poetry, so I decided to ask my students to do the same. And, I see the rhythm of a poem as an opportunity to work on pronunciation.

I have a novice low activity on pronunciation using names that I have shared on these pages before. I use it in the first few days of class. This activity, two units later, would build on that work now that the students have been speaking the language for longer.

Here is the poem. You can use this handout for your students.

And, here are the slides that I used in teaching this lesson.

The steps were simple. I read the students the poem in English while they looked at the French. I then read the poem in French and asked them to listen to the pronunciation. I asked them for their observations and then I gave them a brief lesson on pronunciation using words from the poem. Next, I asked students to practice using a video of a French student reciting the poem and then record themselves reciting the poem on Flipgrid. This technique can be used with any poem, of course!

I have a second example to share, to show you how to use the same technique with a different poem. Here are the slides and here is the handout.

School then and now

I am showing the trailers of two different films to get students to use their observation skills to compare school 70 years ago and now. My students are novice learners, so there is limited language to rely on to do these activities.

What I like about this activity is that the students observe and compare and are able to use language that is given to them to show their ideas. Here is the presentation with the trailers from the two films and the graphic organizer.

You will see on the edges of the graphic organizer suggestions for language for the students to use as they compare school then and now. Students will show their thinking by organizing the terms into ones that describe school in 1949 and ones that describe school in 2019.

Please note there is a swear in one of the trailers. It doesn’t bother me because I usually mute the audio quickly at that point!

My motivation for making this very scaffolded assignment was to build towards having students compare their school to one in another part of the world. I included in the presentation a video on school in Montréal for your students to compare with their school. The video is an excellent look into perspectives in Québec and it addresses teacher / student relationships, support for LGBTQ+ students and recreation during the school day.

As a further activity for students to prepare for comparing schools, I have included an activity for a song from TV5 Monde. The vocabulary that is employed in the activity will give students additional vocabulary to rely on. It is my hope that by including additional parts of the unit you will see how the Venn Diagram activity can be used to support students speaking in French about culture.