Sunday, August 28, 2016

Creating a Positive Classroom Climate in French Class

School starts back next week, and I've been giving a lot of thought to how I'm going to create a positive classroom climate in my middle school French Immersion class. This year, I'm changing grades, so my practices and routines seemed to call for an especially thorough auditing.


Right from the first day of school, I plan to reward risk taking, model it, and to do whatever I can to keep the classroom a positive and safe space for my students. No put downs is a given, but especially important in a second language learning environment. Part of my beginning of the year speech will be about not making fun of people for trying, learning by doing, and the importance of practice. We will talk about the role of student talk time in the target language, and about how everyone needs to move forward from where they are according to their own goals and needs.


I've been intrigued by the idea of classroom meetings for some time now, but haven't really been sure how that would work in my grade 8 homeroom. Since I'm moving to grade 6 this year I think I'm ready to give it a go. The ideas in this document about Discussion Guidelines are great. Once a week (maybe even every second week, during those busy periods of the year) should be enough and I'm really looking forward to trying this out. I would love to hear from you if you have experiences to share from a similar grade, and especially with a French Immersion class.

Be sure to check out some of the other awesome blog posts below on setting our students up for learning through a positive classroom culture as well!  I especially love the one called "The Fridge" by a high school math teacher, since this past year my students wanted to know how to say that their work was "fridge-worthy" en français. (What do you think? I offer "Celui en vaut le frigo", "Digne d'afficher" or "Digne d'exhiber" as possible bulletin board titles and terms to share with families.)




Sunday, May 15, 2016

Shop for Resources & Your Money Goes to the Red Cross

All Canadians and even those beyond have been horrified by the devastation recently faced by residents of Fort McMurray in Alberta. Being the wonderful, sharing, collaborative community that it is, a number of Canadian TPT teacher-authors from coast to coast wanted to help.


Being so far flung, a financial contribution is the best way we could see to make a difference. Visit any of the stores shown in the link up below tomorrow (Monday May 16th) and all profits from your purchases will be donated to the Red Cross for the Fort McMurray wildfire relief fund. Many of these stores will be offering discounts as well, in the hopes of boosting sales and therefore making a bigger contribution.


Sunday, May 01, 2016

Bright Ideas for Using Kahooot

Technology, 21st century teaching and learning, #edtech, engaging students by letting them use the device that seems almost parasitically attached to their hands... had enough yet?

Well, those who know me know that I *DO* in fact embrace incorporating technology in my program. They also probably know that it is a bit of a love/hate relationship and that I don't hesitate to share my frustrations with others in the hopes that we can truly improve and move beyond some of those issues, rather than taking a "Pollyanna" everything-is-sunshine-and-roses perspective.


This year, my virtual PLC has been all abuzz about Kahoot. My Bright Idea this month is based on getting the most "pedagogical bang" out of kids' enthusiasm for this fun, free tool.


Use Kahoot games to connect with previously taught content rather than  picking a random topic for fun. This suggestion seems like a no-brainer, but my students have ALWAYS pushed for "just one more kahoot" because they really love playing, and they'll be fine with it being on any old topic, just for fun. Keep repeating to yourself "I am the teacher, I am the teacher." It's important that you actually use Kahoot as a pedagogical tool. What are you reviewing, introducing, or making sure they understood by playing it?

If you find the music & excitement leads your students to do silly things like scream out or instinctively press a button without really even reading the answers, consider lengthening the possible response time. You can also turn OFF the music, which I did the one & only time I used Kahoot as an actual capital T "Test".

You can also try just plain old classroom management & end the game if they aren't engaged in the learning as opposed to just the fun. They'll remember that and make better choices the next time they have the opportunity to play.

For a foreign language class, it's important that the Kahoot have NO ENGLISH. In order to justify spending time on something that is really just a glorified multiple choice quiz, it MUST be ALL target language on the screen (and ideally in discussing the right vs wrong answers and cheering one another on, but I'm probably dreaming here!)

Another tip is to try to focus on questions that require students to analyse or interpret something, and to apply their knowledge, rather than just being a straight up recall or comprehension question.

Kahoot autogrades, which is great. What I didn't know when I first started using it though is that if you don't download the results at the end of the Kahoot session, the results are lost. SO make sure to save results to Google Drive or to download the spreadsheet of responses. This appears after the chance students have to respond to how they felt about the kahoot. This screen I don't leave up for too long, but it's a necessary step to get through to save the results.


For more ideas to get you started in Kahoot, you can check out this blog post by Matt Miller of Ditch That Textbook. Here's a Kahoot that I made & played in my grade 8 French immersion Geography class (based on the unit A of the Ontario Curriculum) - feel free to play it in your class. (Preview it to make sure you and I taught the same content similarly, so your students have a positive experience with it. If not, make yourself a copy and change whatever questions you need to first.)

For the love of all things warm and fuzzy, please DO NOT just use Kahoot in your classroom every Friday as a "reward" for decent behaviour the rest of the week. Yes, Core French teachers, I am speaking to you. It is a great tool, yes. But using it in a mindless, insignificant way only serves to further undermine the status of FSL. Please use it judiciously and keep the "treat factor" with some sound practices embedded. I promise that it won't ruin the fun!

I hope you liked this tip, and if so, be sure to follow me on PinterestTwitter and TpT for lots of other great stuff!



Friday, March 25, 2016

Higher Order Thinking through App Smashing in the FSL Classroom

At the fall OMLTA Conference back in October, I presented about moving beyond the boundaries of a single app or tool in order to foster creativity, problem solving and other higher order thinking skills in our students.

You can access my presentation on the OMLTA web site if you are a member. For my colleagues elsewhere, I've decided to share what I presented here on my blog. At some point again in the future, I may revise it a little and re-submit a second proposal to share it again, based on the feedback I got from the session's participants. I was pretty happy with how everything went, and think I could improve it even a little further.


Since the spring OMLTA conference is right around the corner, sharing this has been on my mind as an outstanding "To Do." I'm really excited that for this year, the OMLTA seems to have responded to feedback from the past year or two & now the conference is Friday AND Saturday. In the past, the Thursday afternoon sessions have been hard for teachers to get coverage to attend, and there is an option to JUST pay for the Saturday for those modern language educators whose employers maybe are not supporting them in their efforts to participate in high-quality foreign-language-specific Professional Development.

Hope to see you there!




Monday, January 18, 2016

Secondary Smorgasbord: Sub plans for FSL? Covered!

Oh, the touchy subject of teaching and illness. A couple of years ago, in Ontario the government changed the law so that it essentially stole away sick days which could previously be banked and that some teachers had saved up for years. Since that happened, my philosophy is unless it's ABSOLUTELY necessary I be at the school, if I'm in need of a sick day, I'm darn well going to use it!

I know, I know... it's SOOO hard to plan for a supply teacher when you already aren't feeling well. That's why a little advanced preparation is necessary. Do it early in the year, when you're already working with your class to establish other routines and get things organized. If you didn't do it then, January is a perfect time to get set up right for the rest of the year!



1) Make sure to designate a student or two per class as "Mini-Prof" or "Adjoint-Suppléant" to help ensure that the day runs smoothly and to allow you to take advantage of technology to allow FSL experiences to happen, regardless of whether or not the substitute teacher speaks French. These students can use their own login info to access the internet if your supply teacher cannot.

2) In conjunction with the above tip, you can share links or instructions directly with your students on whatever classroom management tool you might already be using to facilitate things, and eliminate the "but the teacher didn't tell us that" stories that inevitably follow an absence. Train the student helper routinely to project the class blog, Edmodo page, Google Classroom site or whatever you use. Be sure to have them practice this in advance, in your presence.

3) For a sure win, let the students play a game that they are already familiar with. Leave instructions for the Occasional Teacher, but be sure to also leave them a note that the kids KNOW how to run this and that the instructions are purely as a back up, in case of any squabbles and for the teacher's peace of mind.

My past tense oral practice game "Les Indices" is perfect for that! Play it a couple of times with students and then they'll be able to take the lead from there, and happy to do so too!


If you have a copy of the movie The Ant Bully (my school board pays for a licence through our online video resources), grab this set of free true or false questions for the movie, provide instructions to have the sub (or a student!) play the movie in French, and go back to sleep!

Feel free to check out my Chanson de Dimanche activities, freely available through my blog as well. Be sure to leave me a little comment if you used one - I love to know when I've helped someone out!

Many thanks to The ELA Buffet & Desktop Learning Adventures once again for proposing this great topic for middle & secondary bloggers!


Have a great week! Be sure to check out these products if you need a little hand for Sub Lessons!








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