Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Qui est Louis?

One thing I absolutely adore about teaching is how much I learn from teaching them.  Anyone can go to school or study abroad and feel like they are well versed in their subject matter.  However, depending on who you ask, it can take a decade (or more!) of work or research to become an expert at something.  I only started taking French in high school eleven years ago..and I hate to say it, but those 4 years of high school French didn't even total what I learned in the one year I was abroad.

Needless to say, I'm still learning.  I love to learn, so this isn't a bummer to me.

One lesson I never got completely straight was that about each different King Louis.  For the longest time, I thought that the next was always the son of the previous.  Eventually I realized it skipped generations, but I never got it totally straight.

So I decided to make an activity to not only further my knowledge, but to further the knowledge of my students so that they don't continue on as confused as I was for several years.

This activity is two-fold.  The first part has students searching online to fill out a box on each Louis between Louis XIV and Louis XVIII.  This includes those who never were king.  They must fill in the dates of life of each one, as well as his father and mother.  Using this, they must do the second part of the activity, which is filling in a family tree.  I didn't include the siblings (unless they were a Louis who became king), however I did include the Dauphins in between who never got to be king.  For each one who did get to be king, I put a crown on top of the spot, where the students must also fill in the dates that the specific Louis reigned.

I love how much I learned from making this activity.  I am hoping the students feel the same way!

CLICK HERE to download this activity

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Using the Clock for Classroom Management

Where I teach, if a teacher just needs one class period off, we try to fill the sub in-house so we don't have to pay a sub for a half day, instead only an hourly wage for an hour.  I was asked a couple months ago to sub for a teacher during one of my prep periods.  It was his last hour of the day and he warned me up front that it would be hard to keep them in line.  "They're a handful," he said, "don't be worried if you can't get them to pay attention."

I went into that class expecting the worst.

Which..they definitely weren't angels..but they weren't the worst either.

I have a method that I use in my own class that works really well.  Any time I am trying to talk and the other students are talking or goofing around, I stare at the clock.  This is my nonverbal way of letting the kids know that they are wasting time.  They are very aware that if they waste too much time (usually more than 30 seconds in a class period) then they will start to owe me that time after class.

I applied this to the class I subbed for and it worked like a charm.  They were very squirrely and I had a hard time getting a few words in at a time.  So I started watching the clock.  The first time it took them about 45 seconds to notice I was now silent and looking at the clock.  Once it was quiet, I calmly said, "You just wasted 45 seconds of my and your time."  I then kept going with what we were doing.  I had to do it again a few minutes later, but only for about 15 seconds.  By the end of the period, the kids were paying attention to me (for the most part).  It's amazing how much a little non-verbal communication can change the attitude of the students.

Friday, January 10, 2014

La Revolution Francaise

In teaching, I always do my best to make things personal.  Not always in a bad way, but so that students can relate to what they are learning.

The French Revolution is no exception.

This year is the second time now that I have done this activity, and it has worked wonders in helping the students truly understand the feelings and emotions of that time period.

I always kick off my unit with this activity.  They have NO clue what is going on, therefore don't necessarily get that I am "tricking" them.

For starters, I write on the board that there will be a pop quiz today.  The quiz, however, will be multiple choice and on colors (this makes them stop freaking out so much).  I also let them know that they will be able to "buy" the answers or the English version of the quiz at the end of our activity for certain amounts of euros.

Next, I randomly (I use cards that have "R", "P" or "N" on it, you can use what you want) assign them to three groups: Royalty, Nobles/Clergy and Peasants.  I don't call them these titles because I don't want them to understand quite yet what is going on.  I usually do 2 royalty, 4 nobles and the rest as peasants.

Once they are separated, I give them each 5 fake euros for starters.  It makes them feel that they are starting out "fair".  But then I simulate everything that is going on.  This is how a "quarter" works:

1. I point out that the R's are in charge of the class.  They are in charge of their well being and must be answered to if there are any problems.  Because they do SO much for the class, each Peasant  must give each R one euro (so they are out two total).  The R's end up with roughly 20 euro apiece from this. 
*I make the peasants get out of their chairs to hand the royalty the money.  This simulates them working to give the money*

2. I then say that because the N's are such great students, they deserve 4 euros apiece.  I take 4 euros from the "bank" in my hand and just give it to the N's.  I hand the money off to them.

3. I then take 5 euros from each royal, pointing out that it costs money to run a classroom.

4. Next, I take 2 euros from each noble because they do need to make sure the electricity and heat is running in the room.

5. Finally, I give one euro to each peasant because they work SO hard.  I make them come and get the euro, though, so they have to "work" for it.

I do these 5 steps THREE total times.  I might change the wording or the amounts by 1 (which can indicate famine or prosperity), but in the end, the royals have roughly 30-40 euro, the nobles have 10-12 and the peasants have 1 or 2.

Once this is done, I hand out the quiz to EVERYONE.  It is multiple choice and asks questions about colors.  However, it is in French.  I use vocabulary they do not know and ask questions they may not know the answer to (what color is Mme's car...what color is a 100 euro bill...etc).  First, I ask if anyone wants to buy the answers for 20 euro (obviously only the royals can afford this).  Then I ask if anyone wants to buy the English translations for 10 euro (only the nobles can afford this).  Then I make them take the quiz.  Hopefully nobody asks if it counts, but if they do, I just say "it is a quiz and will go in the quiz category" so I don't have to give them a direct answer.

After about 5 minutes, we grade it.  I point out that 1 wrong is a B, 2 is a C, etc.  The kids always get REALLY upset.  But then I calm them down and say "this test does not count".

Once we are done, we discuss it (usually still without the Revolution context).  I ask each group how they feel and what they would change, and then they have an open discussion about it.  Eventually it catches on that this is about the Revolution and the "lightbulb" goes off. 

I love this activity because it momentarily places them in the roles of the revolution without actually harming their grade or being unfair.