Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Passe Compose vs Imparfait: Write it Out!

Most language teachers will agree that teaching the preterite vs imperfect is not a fun task.  In English, it's something we do naturally, but in another language, it's a whole other story.

I've always given them a list of common "trigger words" to watch out for in regards of passe compose vs imparfait, but that generally is more useful only in fill in the blank activities.

I tried something super simple today but super effective.  As a warmup, I projected a random photo I found on Google on the board.  In this photo is an older couple eating breakfast, and the clock is even behind them.  I informed the class we would be writing a story, but every story needs its background.  We quickly review that the background/setting of a story is the imparfait, so I instruct them to come up with a few settings of what they see in the photo as the background of the story.  They did this individually.  After a few minutes, we came together and started the story.  I even let them pick a name for the couple.

Once we established the setting, I let them pick groups of two or three.  I showed them the end photo of the story and told them their task was to continue the story to wind up at that end.  I reminded them that they needed to have the metaphorical "bomb" go off (the interrupting action as they know it... more to come on that later) and switch to passe compose.

Each group presented their story, and they were all very different!  It was fun to see what they came up with.  It was also great practice for them as their presentational assessment which would be to write a short story using their vocabulary as well as their knowledge of imparfait and passe compose.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Speed Friending for Interpersonal Practice

Good morning friends!  Hard to believe another school year is upon us.  I'm really looking forward to this year as it is the first year that our full, new curriculum will be implemented.  I'm hoping with that will come a ton of more good ideas that I can flood this blog with.

One of the major shifts I have made is in my assessment practices.  I really started getting into it around the semester switch last year and I found it to be very effective. Rather than the usual pen and paper exam with a random oral exam thrown in, each unit has three major summative assessments: presentational, interpretive, and interpersonal.  I talk a bit about those in THIS blog post.

Getting students to talk to one another is difficult, as they tend to gravitate towards the same friends each time.  It occurred to me to try something different so that they can "interview" a lot of people in one chunk of time.  I decided to set it up like speed-dating (but of course in junior high we call it speed-friending).  For a class of 24 students, I set up 12 desks in a circle facing the outside, and then another 12 desks facing each desk from the inside circle.  I then told them to sit in any random desk.

Once students are in their seats, I set a timer on the board for two minutes.  They are required to speak French the whole time.  Then, after two minutes I have them rotate.  I've varied how they rotate.  Sometimes it's just one space, sometimes I roll a die to determine how many spaces.

This activity helps prepare them well for the interpersonal exam by helping them to be comfortable not only just speaking, but speaking with whoever they happen to be paired up with.

I've even taken it a step further sometimes (for example during the free time unit) and had them take notes on each person they interview.  Then they are required to write about who they want to be friends with and why.

photo from