Thursday, October 25, 2012

I don't get it.

My previous post talked about my French 1s and their horrible quiz scores.  My second set of quizzes from school 2 ended up much better than school 1.  Which confuses me of course considering I taught it the same in each place.  But...that could be the problem.

I'm about 6 quizzes in from my French 2/3 kids.  I gave them a verb quiz today on the verbs that are part of their chapter vocabulary.  Verbs that, mind you, they have had for about 2 1/2 weeks now and they've done numerous upon numerous assignments on and done very well.  So hopefully this explains why I'm really upset that they are abysmal so far.  One kid even got a 5/20.  And he's a French 3.  And some of these are verbs that they have had since French 1.

Part of my frustration is that I feel like they just haven't been adequately taught thus far.  I've been told by multiple teachers, and even the students, that the previous teacher just didn't have her heart in teaching anymore.  She often just had videos and worksheets and didn't do much to explain grammar.  She had them write a lot more than they spoke.

To top it all off, it's cold and drizzly outside.  Thankfully we have a three day weekend coming up because I'm feeling very burnt out.  Hopefully I can recharge and get back to it on Monday!

Their chapter tests are on Thursday because I have a conference on Friday.  Hopefully this is something they can get a little more prepared for.  I did talk to the 1s about their study habits.  I did see a huge correlation between the people who studied and people who got As.  I think part of the problem is that they simply don't know HOW to study.  I give them practice activities online, but they don't use them.  So we did take some time yesterday to make a list of different ways we can study.  They came up with some great ideas so hopefully they can apply those ideas for the test Thursday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


When student teaching, I learned a really cool game called avalanche that helps students practice their verb tenses.

You split the class into teams of 6 or 8 kids (I try to stay away from 7 because each person ends up getting the same subject) and put them into rows, facing the board.

You call out a verb.  The job of person 1 is to run to the board and write the infinitive and the definition.  They take the marker and hand it off to person 2.  Person 2 then runs to the board and writes the je form and conjugates it (je = I).  Then they hand it off to person 3, who then goes to the board and writes the tu form.  This continues until all six forms have been written.

Example ( would normally be on the board)

However...if at any point a student gets something wrong, you erase EVERYTHING (all while screaming "avalanche! avalanche!" that has been written.  Then, the student who was next in line (so not necessarily person 1) starts over.  This is even if they mess up the last form.  I usually count accents as well.   

Example that would warrant an "avalanche"


The winning team is the team that gets to the end correctly first.  This game works best when you have a whole list of verbs or when learning a specific tense.  I recommend writing out the verbs you are using first.  In the heat of the moment while judging 3-4 teams, it is easy to forget if they formed that form correctly.

A tweak that someone recommended to me was not avalanching them right away.  Instead of writing the next form on the board, the next person in line could fix a previous person's error instead, and then hand off the marker (so you are still wasting a turn to fix the error).  The only time you'd avalanche is if the person AFTER the person who wrote the 6th form says "yes it's all good!" and it's not good.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To be or not to be...that shouldn't be the question

For my French 1 students, obviously their skills are extremely minimal.  They just started.  When teaching a language, you can't just pick and choose what topic to do when.  Many topics require previous knowledge.  For example, you can't teach the past tense without teaching avoir (to have).  There is a general, logical flow to how to teach any student a language, and it's common to start with square one: to be.

It's hard to describe anything in any language without knowing how to conjugate "to be".  She is a student.  I am smart.  We are American.  "Is", "am", and "are" are all forms of "to be".  French is very similar to English.  Like you wouldn't say "I is" in English, you wouldn't say "je est" in French.  It just doesn't make sense.

You also need to teach subject pronouns fairly quickly.  You can't constantly be saying Emily is smart, Emily is pretty, Emily is fun.  You say Emily is smart, she is pretty, she is fun.

So in Chapter 1 of our book series, part of it is to introduce être, which means "to be".  When I taught it this time, I taught them in conjunction of one another.  I taught "to be" at the same time I taught the subject pronouns.  BIG MISTAKE.  They started thinking that "je suis" meant "I" instead of "I am".  I ended up taking a step back and emphasizing that je, tu, il, elle, etc. never change.  It's the VERB that changes with each one.  For a solid ten minutes, I gave real life examples.  I asked the class which pronoun I would use if I was talking about my mother.  Or if I was talking about my mother AND myself.  Or if I was talking about my mom and her friends.  A bunch of different examples.  They seemed to have it.

So color me confused that their average score was a 20/30 on the être quiz I just gave them.  Well at school 1.  School 2 took it today, so we'll see how they do.  I clarified a few things differently for the School 2 kids and made a few more examples on the board before the quiz, so we'll see if that helps.

I'm thinking, next time around, I will probably start with JUST subjects one day and then add être the following day or a few days later.  They will never have a grasp on verbs if they can't get subject pronouns.

There is a really catchy song I like to use with the kids that helps them remember the different forms of être.  It can be found here.