Friday, May 30, 2014

Murder Mystery to Practice Question Words/Formations

Sometimes you come across ideas that are so amazing, you have to share them, even if they are not your own.  This is one of those occasions.

I have had the pleasure of having an amazing person observe my classes the past few months.  She is studying to be a French teacher as well and has needed some practicum hours.  From time to time she has taught a lesson to one of my classes.  Yesterday, her task was to come up with something to practice question words and question formation with my French 2s.  Oh boy did she deliver.

In the activity, students were all given a description of the "incident" along with some important vocabulary words.  In this incident, poor Jean-Pierre was killed right before he was going to propose to his girlfriend at her birthday party.  He was found strangled about 20 minutes after leaving the party to get the engagement ring.  The students were also given a list of 4 suspects.  Each suspect had a short description of how he/she knew the victim and also revealed a potential motive for each person.

Four students were chosen to be the suspects.  They were each given a special longer description of their character.   The description was specific with details about where they were at certain times of the party, their occupations, their relationship with the victim, etc.  None of the suspects knew who was the killer (not even the killer himself).

Once everyone was given their papers, they split off.  The suspects took that time to really analyze their character and know the information.  The rest of the students had to come up with various questions they would ask the different suspects in order to figure out who was "le coupable".

This activity worked SO well.  The students were so engaged and really got into it.  By asking questions, they were able to figure out who the guilty party was.  They also were able to stay in the target language for most of the lesson, which is always a huge plus.

This is definitely an activity I will be adopting for future classes.

                                             (image from

Friday, May 23, 2014

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope everyone has a restful and safe Memorial Day Weekend.  The final countdowns to the end of the year can begin!

Just for fun, I have decided (at last minute) to throw a TPT Memorial Day sale.   Everything in my store is 20% off now through Monday.  I have some awesome new resources in there including a subjunctive unit bundle, a passe compose bundle, interactive number and alphabet powerpoints, and a travel project.

Oh.. and that free gift with a $25 purchase is still good!  Make a $25 purchase and leave at least one piece of feedback, and I will share my google drive folder with you.  This folder literally includes every resource I have ever had and will ever have.  Plus? It's meticulously organized by topic and/or book and chapter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Storytelling to Reinforce Vocabulary

One thing I LOVE to do with my students is to find clip art or drawings that depict a story that goes along with their vocabulary.

I usually find 6-8 photos that can follow a story and put them on a piece of paper.  Then, I ask them to write a story that the photos could illustrate.  I give prizes to the stories that are the most "extravagant" but still follow the photos.  Extravagance includes accuracy, details (both seen and unseen), extras, etc.  I also leave out the "last photo" and ask them to use their imaginations to finish the story.

At the end, they all share.  It's always a lot of fun to see what they all came up with, especially for an ending.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Battleship for Letter and Number Practice

Regularly practicing numbers and letters is very important in any language.  Letters and numbers are everywhere, so students should be able to express them and understand them. Being able to spell words for students in French is also a great way to keep your classroom even more in the target language.

Making a board is super simple.  I just turned my document in MS Word so that it was landscape instead of portrait.  Then, I put in a table that was 21 boxes wide and 15 tall.  Down the first column on the left side, I put in letters and then I put numbers across the top row.  I also included the terms at the bottom for hit, miss and sunk.

Students each get two boards: one for putting their own boats in and the other to mark their guesses for their partner.  I actually laminated a classroom set and put them in manila folders so that when you open the folder at a 90 degree angle, it looks kind of like a battleship board.  By laminating them, students just use dry-erase markers to do their marking, then they can be reused over and over again.

The kids love this game! They especially love saying hit, miss and sunk in French while playing. It is nice because it can be conducted 100% in the target language.

CLICK HERE for a free download of the template!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ditch the Flashcards Part 2: 9 Other Great Ways to Reinforce Verb Conjugations

A couple weeks back, I wrote about different ways to practice vocabulary other than using flashcards.  This got me thinking that it could also be useful to discuss verb conjugation tactics as well.

Conjugating verbs correctly, while annoying and nit-picky at times, is very important.  Students need to not only be able to conjugate based on who is doing the action, but they also need to be able to accurately express the tense of the action as well.  Unfortunately, the best way to do that is drill, drill drill, but these are some ways to practice that don't feel so repetitive.

1. Dice tic-tac-doe
This is a favorite with my students.  I generally pick the harder verbs of the verbs we are working on.  They love having six games of tic-tac-toe going at once and the intensity definitely rises when students are trying to roll the die to get to a certain board.

2. Avalanche
This is a team game with a lot of activity and excitement.  It requires teams to know the definition and the 6 different conjugations of any given verb.  It particularly helps with those difficult verbs.. when teams keep getting avalanched over and over again, you can always bet they will remember the real conjugation when it comes time for the test.

3. Songs
I often teach songs with especially difficult verbs.  It may not 100% teach the spellings, but it at least gives kids the right direction to think when it comes to the spelling.  It also really helps with pronunciation of the conjugations and helps them realize that often, the je, tu, il/elle/on and ils/elles forms all sound the same.

4. Anagrams
Giving students only a specific set of letters and making a game/challenge out of them coming up with conjugations always helps to reinforce the spellings of different conjugations.

5. Whiteboard practice
Just throw together subjects and verbs on slides and voila... you have an activity for students to practice verb conjugation.  I always set my slide up so it shows the subject and verb first, then on the click shows them the right answer.  It's a great way to give them immediate feedback, which is important.

6. Spoons
This game is great for getting students to either group conjugations of the same verb or different verbs of the same form (for example, all of the "tu" forms).  When teaching multiple tenses, you can even put different tenses in there and have them group by subject or infinitive.

7. Category sorting
Like spoons, it helps students to group conjugations together.  I will often put 20-30 conjugations in a list on a sheet. First, students must sort each conjugation into the correct infinitive.  Then they must sort conjugations into the correct form (je/tu/etc).  Sorting into the correct form helps students to see patterns of any given subject (for example: tu conjugations almost always have "s" or "x" for the ending).

8. Foldables
While these work great for vocabulary, they can also work well for verbs too.  It requires students to keep re-doing any of the problem areas but not anything they already have figured out.

9. Conjuguemos
I've said it before, I'll say it again: I love Conjuguemos. It's an awesome online tool for students to not only practice what they're learning (you can do just about anything: verbs, vocab, grammar, you name it), but to get immediate feedback.  If a student is struggling with a particular verb or two, they can set it to just put those verbs up when it quizzes them.

                                              (photo from:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Plus Haut/Plus Bas: A Fun Way to Practice Numbers

Have any of you ever seen the Price is Right?  Remember that game where you have three different prizes and you have 30 seconds to guess the price while Bob/Drew tells you higher or lower?  While thinking of a way to practice numbers with my students, this game came to mind.

I haven't quite figured out how to apply it, but I'd love to do some sort of contest where each student has a partner and they have 60 seconds to get as many right as possible.  It could get boring having only one group go at a time in class, but there also needs to be some accountability.

In the meantime, I came up with a different way to do "plus haut" (higher) and "plus bas" (lower).  Remember the Who am I? game I discussed in a previous blog post?  This is VERY similar to that.  I put slips of paper with numbers written on them in those badge holders (I HIGHLY recommend you get a set of these.  I use them a lot for games and whatnot.  They're awesome because you can keep reusing them for different units by putting different slips in them).  I give each student a badge but put it around their neck backwards so that the number is on their back.  Then, they must figure out which number they are.  They guess a number and whoever they are asking has to say "plus haut" or "plus bas".  Once they figure out who they are, they turn the badge around to their front.  This not only requires number knowledge on the part of the asker, but also of the teller.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Anagrams for Verb Practice

One thing that drives me bonkers is that, no matter how many times we go over the four main verbs in French (to be, to have, to go, to make/do) the kids STILL don't remember how to conjugate them.  Of any verbs in the French language, these are the ones to do.

Because of how often we work on these verbs, it's easy to run out of ideas of how to practice them.  I've done everything under the sun: dice tic-tac-toe, straight up conjugating worksheets, whiteboards, word scrambles, you name it.  I came up with an idea this week that kind of puts a spin on word scrambles: anagrams.

The activity has two parts and the difficulty depends on the level.  French one only did this activity in the present tense, while French 2 and 3 got to do it in present, futur simple, passe compose, imparfait and conditionnel.

I started off with a powerpoint with 20 slides.  Each slide prompted them to write a conjugation (I had them use whiteboards).   Then, they had to show me the answer upon me counting to three.  Then I clicked the mouse, which then revealed the answer.  Each one they got right, they got a point.

At the end of this activity, I had them grab random letters and accents (I just typed a bunch of letters into MS word and cut them with a paper cutter) that was equal to the number they got right during the powerpoint.

Then I handed out a worksheet that required them to fill in the letters at the top.  Using the letters they got, they had to come up with as many conjugations as possible.  For each conjugation, they had to indicate which of the four verbs it was as well as which subject (French 2 and 3 also had to indicate which tense).  For every three conjugations they got, I gave them a point of extra credit (I RARELY give extra credit, so this was a treat for them).

This activity worked really well because it incorporated them coming up with the conjugations upon me giving them a subject and verb, but then the roles switched and they had to come up with not only the conjugations, but the subject and verb as well.

One thing I would do differently next time would be to give them maybe one or two "free" letters.  Once they got started, they could pick a letter or two to add to their list.  Some kids got majorly screwed over and could only make one or two conjugations.

Overall, though, they enjoyed it.  They love anything that has a competitive edge to it.

After doing this activity I realized how many different places I could apply this activity.  It could be applied to ANY verbs, not just the four main ones in French.  It could even be applied to grammar and/or vocabulary. You could even get multiple topics into one with the activity if you were to do a grammar concept in the powerpoint and vocabulary and/or verbs with the anagrams.

Want a copy without having to do any of the work? Check it out in my TPT store.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Week

I will be brutally honest.. I love teacher appreciation week.  It's nice to get some recognition that may not happen during the rest of the year.  Those little notes that kids give you thanking you are always something to treasure.

But this is my shout-out to a couple teachers who have played a HUGE role in where I am today.

Let's start back in elementary school.  This teacher's name was Mrs. M (unfortunately, she has since passed away).  I went to a rather small, rural elementary school.  When I was in first grade, there were two full first grade classes, two full second grade classes, and one split first/second.  I was shafted with the split (Mrs. M taught this split).  However, instead of saying shafted, I should say gifted.  I was always a pretty good student anyway and often finished my work early.  Because of it, I followed the second graders a bit. 

Mrs. M was one of those teachers that you knew loved her job.  She did everything she could to make it fun.  We played games, she gave out prizes for reading and math, she always pushed me to do more.  And I did.  The following year, there were no splits, and when I was in second grade, I was in Mrs. M's class again! 

Halfway through the year, it was clear that I was bored.  I had more or less learned all of this the year before and wasn't being challenged enough.  Mrs. M suggested I be bumped up to third grade halfway through the year.  After lots of testing and a school board vote, it was approved.

It may not seem like THAT much of a life-altering thing, but it was.  Moving ahead a grade meant I was 17 when I graduated from high school.  Because I was young, that was one of the major reasons I chose to do a year abroad.  I doubt I ever would have chosen to do so had I not skipped a grade.  Because this teacher believed in me, my world was changed forever.

I kept in contact with her growing up via letters and the occasional visit, and she even came to my high school graduation party (even though we had moved 2 1/2 hours away when I was in 5th grade).  She passed away when I was in France, after a long battle with cancer.  I never knew she was sick...I'm guessing that's why she made such an effort to come to my graduation party.

The other teacher I want to shout out to is Mrs. G.  She was never "technically" my teacher, but she was the teacher who was my first cooperating teacher during student teaching.  So many of my organizational techniques and fun ideas came from my time with her.  She is the most organized teacher I have ever met.  And she runs a class that students LOVE to be in.  Even French 3 kids are speaking almost all French.  Kids come to class prepared and ready to learn.  Even in the hallways, they speak French.  When I think about the kind of classroom I want to have some day, the type of French teacher I strive to be, I think of her.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


So I have officially passed the 20,000 page views threshold. 

Considering I have only been blogging for a year and a half, that is incredible to me.  I have seen my blog posts swirling around Pinterest.  I have seen my page view numbers grow and grow.  My goal when I started this blog was to help others.  I wanted to be a resource.  Another place to go for ideas.

Looks like I am succeeding! :)

To all of my readers: Thank you for helping me along.  I hope this is just the beginning of a great place to go for ideas and tips.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Late Work: To Accept or Not to Accept?

That is most definitely the question on A LOT of teachers' minds.

School isn't just about teaching facts and figures.  We are teaching these students how to be productive members of society.  We are preparing them for the REAL WORLD.  That scary place where you have to pay for stuff and be responsible for yourself.

Many teachers are afraid that accepting late work does not teach students responsibility.  In the real world, missing a deadline can literally be the difference between having a job and being unemployed.  In college, not a single one of my professors accepted late work.  Accepting late work gives them a security net that they might get too used to and could cause major repercussions some day when it is taken away.

But... let's think for a moment about the purpose of homework for a second here.  Why do teachers assign homework?  Contrary to popular student belief, it's not to torture them.  It's to reinforce the things we are learning in class.  As a language teacher, I simply CANNOT give them the practice in class that they need to truly succeed.  I only see them 45 minutes a day.  Homework is so important when it comes to practicing and retaining their skills in my room.

So.. with that being said... accepting late work has its pros too.  Most students, if they couldn't get any credit for it, would choose not to do the work.  Why bother if it won't have any benefit to them?  I tell my students at the beginning of every year to not focus on their grade.  I got an A all throughout high school in French and graduated with minimal speaking ability.  I have students with C's that can speak better than students with A's (I will be diving in to grading in a future post). What they need to focus on is the skills they are learning in the classroom.  They need to think about where they are at the end of the year in regards to where they started.

With the help of my cooperating teacher while student teaching, I instated a policy that I still use to this day.  All work is due at the beginning of the hour on the day it is due (unless otherwise noted).  (This is where the in-folder comes in handy.  I give a last call for anything to be handed in, I clip it together, and it goes in my personal "to grade" folder in my stuff.  Anything that shows up in the folder after that is considered late.) I accept late work until the day of the test for that unit, but they only get 50% credit for it.  Some teachers I know give them X number of days or weeks, but who has time to keep track of all of that?  I sure don't.  Having a concrete "this is the last day to hand in late work" makes my job a lot easier.

This is a great balance and leaves the kids with the best of both worlds.  It encourages students to still get the practice they need, but it also shows them there are consequences to not handing in something on time.  I have had parents complain that 50% is a steep penalty and that it should start small and get bigger for the amount of time it's been missing.  I remind them that the students have known from the beginning that this is my policy and that keeping track of how long the work has been missing is just WAY too much work for me.  Accepting late work already puts more work on my plate, so it's only fair that they have to "pay" for it in some way (their grade).

What is your late-work policy?  Feel free to share in the comments if you have a policy that works really well for you.