Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Youth Exchange

My father joined Rotary when I was in junior high.  For any of you who do not know what Rotary is, it is an international organization focused on basically making the world a better place.  One of their biggest programs is the Youth Exchange Program.  Because I was only 17 when I graduated high school, I really didn't feel ready to go to college.  Apparently, however, living in a foreign country for a year was a valid alternative.

That year was one of the best of my life.  Being able to LIVE the life of a French person for a year is an experience I would love to live again and again.  I went to school there, I lived with host families, I traveled, I ate TONS of brioche and nutella...

One of the Rotary mottos I learned during my experiences was, "If every 17 year old in the world went on exchange, there would be no more wars."  I believe this with my whole heart.  Going on exchange opened my eyes to a world I had no idea was out there.  Rather than just being a citizen of a tiny town in Wisconsin, I became a global citizen. 

As teachers, it is important that we help open doors for our students.  It's not just about aiding in their classroom experiences.. it's about showing them the world that is out there as well.  Urge your students to put their skills to the test and see other places.  It doesn't have to be an entire year.. even a few weeks is better than nothing (granted.. I found that my year in France costed only about 50% more than what the annual three-week trip my high school took costed)...

For those students who WOULD do well with a year abroad, talk to them about it! Give them information.  Plant the seed EARLY!  No parent wants to have their child come to them and say, "Mom...dad... I want to spend a year abroad.  Oh.. by the way...my 20 page application is due next week." (I did that.. thankfully they were 100% supportive of me going abroad, so it was a rush they were thrilled to make for me).  I discuss the option with my 9th graders every fall, as MOST students would be applying in fall of their 10th grade year.  It gives them a year to discuss it with their parents, get some more information, maybe visit a Rotary club or two.

Obviously I am biased and will always suggest Rotary.  The biggest reason being that they are 100% not for profit (unlike other exchange companies) and they have networks all around the world.  There is a major support system and students generally get the opportunity to stay with multiple host families in a year (thus giving them different perspectives).  After all, not all American families live the same, right?  Why would it be any different abroad?

There are other programs as well.  I highly recommend checking with your school guidance counselor or even doing a quick Google search for other programs that do exchanges in your area.  As always, I'm happy to give information as well, so don't hesitate to ask questions in the comments! 

Photo from chs.d211.org

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Greeting Your Class

As the years of my career continue, it is often hard to remember where I picked something up or when I even started it.  This is one of those instances, so I apologize that I cannot give proper credit.

Imagine two scenarios:

The bell rings.  It may as well not have, because your students are chattering about anything and everything.  Most likely not in French.  After a few feeble attempts to start class/shush them, finally, a minute or two later, people have quieted down and are listening to you.


The bell rings.  Immediately your students stop their conversation and stand up by their desks.  You greet them with, "Bonjour tout le monde!" (hello everybody).  They reply, "bonjour Madame!"  You then tell them to sit down (in the target language of course) and dive right into the lesson.

The second scenario is how I have done it for as long as I can remember.  From day one, I teach my students that this is how we start class.  They are expected to be silent upon hearing the bell.  It is an AWESOME way to transition into French speaking and class in general.

It may seem simple, but it works.  Yes, there are days where they take awhile to stand up/be silent (funnily enough it's always LATER in the year after they've been doing it for months).  But in general, it is a great way to transition.

Culturally it is great too.  In France, this is how teachers start class as well.  Students stand and are silent when the prof enters to show them respect.  (I'm thinking that's where I got this from, but again.. I honestly do not remember).

Every time I have been evaluated by a principal, this has been something they have picked out and mentioned as one of the pros of the things I do.  They like how I use it to more or less command the attention of my class to get things going.

Give it a shot on the first day of school this fall!  You don't even have to explain it.  Just motion for them to stand up/give them the command in the target language.  Point to yourself and say, "bonjour tout le monde!" and point to them and say "bonjour Madame!"  Then try it.  Point to yourself again and say, "bonjour tout le monde!" and then point to them and see if they respond.  Then tell them to sit down.  By day three, they will have it mastered, I promise :)  It will be a great ice breaker!

Photo from www.french.ac.nz

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cheap and Easy Alternative to Whiteboards

Greetings friends! I hope everyone is enjoying their summer!
I can't put into words how useful whiteboards are.  You can do SO much with them and you can use them with pretty much any unit to reinforce just about anything.  The awesome thing about whiteboards is you can give students immediate feedback and they can practice applying the things they have learned one question at a time.

I teach at two schools.  Thankfully at one school I have a full set of whiteboards.  However, at the other, I need to share with the other language teachers.  They also know how useful the boards are, so it can sometimes get difficult to coordinate with them. Especially if I want to use the boards last minute (if I have 10 minutes to kill at the end of a lesson or even realize in the middle of a lesson we need to stop and assess understanding).

One very cheap (and colorful!) alternative to white boards are those cheap plastic plates you can get in the summer at Target/Walmart/etc.  The only requirement is that they have a glossy finish and not a matte one.  I went to Walmart and got 8 packs of 4 plates for $8.  And they work just as well!  As you can see from my photos below, you can write on them just fine and they erase really well. (*TIP: if you don't want to pay for erasers, every time you get a hole in socks, don't throw them away... just wash them well and they work as great erasers!)

Just be sure to get them before summer is out.  They are at their cheapest now and they aren't always carried in the fall/winter.

CLICK HERE for my bundle of white board activities! $3 off for the summer.

Original plates in package      

With writing

Easily erasable
All clean!