Thursday, March 29, 2012

Best French Substitute Lesson Plans

I have never been an occasional teacher. It's kind of my ultimate nightmare... the nerves all teachers get before the first day of school - EVERY - SINGLE - DAY! I doubt I could do it, and kudos to those of you who do!

I have some ideas about what a good substitute lesson plan is compared to something that will make the day go horribly wrong. Some things, I learned from experience the hard way, and other things are just my gut feeling.

Right in the middle of a project, where the students understand exactly what is expected of them, and they have all the tools necessary to do their work is the perfect time to be away, if you ask me. Of course, illness, injury and family emergencies never happen at just those moments. Today was one of those "not quite right" moments for me, and I thought that the items in my "Emergency Supply Plans" folder would be just fine, but alas... apparently I have an unhappy substitute teacher.

I'd love to hear from those of you who have been a supply teacher in an FSL classroom. What are the best types of lessons for the teacher to leave behind, in YOUR opinion?

(P.S. I do intend to follow up this post in a couple of weeks with some suggestions of my own.)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Imaginary Inventions & Real Winners

If I Could Invent an Innovative Teacher Product...

I admitted to my husband last week that I really secretly love the TV show Dragon's Den. (Shark Tank is the newer American version) A fellow teacher blogger Jenn, at Best Practices 4 Teaching just started a fun link-up, in her spring fever mode. View her blog post to see the creative and funny suggestions submitted by other teachers!

So, here's my stab at it... trying to save teacherdom, one cool invention at a time!

Do you always lose your favourite pen? In the middle of marking, do you have to stop and look for a different colour of pen because one student submitted work in the same colour of ink as what you were happily using to correct? Do you sometimes like to switch between ink & pencil for making comments without "messing up" a student's work too much? I think this would be a fabulous invention! And if I had several of them, I'd happy loan out "extra pencils" because at the end of each period I would just have to ask for them back and no student would be able to forget to return them! Priceless, I think! ;-)

Teaching Materials Give-Away and Contest

Fellow Canadian middle-school teacher blogger Krystal Mills at Lessons From the Middle is having her very first giveaway as she tries to reach a follower goal she has set for herself.

Everyone who enters will receive a virtual goodie bag she's compiled, and the contest portion means that some lucky winners will receive a prize pack worth over $40, a $25 Amazon gift card, TeachersPayTeachers (TpT) store-specific shopping sprees or a TpT gift certificate. She is planning to pick 13 winners in total, in addition to everyone getting the free "participation" prizes. Well worth checking out her blog, don't you think? She's been sooo flexible too - to enter you can follow any one of the contributing teacher-authors' blogs, her blog, her facebook ... or all of the above for multiple entries!!
(Disclaimer: I donated a couple of products for her giveaway, but am not benefiting monetarily in any way. If you choose to follow me to enter the blog, I'd be really happy!)

Bonne chance!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Free Articles on Technology & Education

Free in-depth articles on the use of technology in education may or may not interest you, but I just found this resource that I'm very excited about, so I thought I'd quickly share it. (Can you tell that sometimes I miss those scholarly days when I was still a student?)

I tried to get my hands on a particular article from the magazine Tech Trends, but everywhere I looked online informed me that I would need to buy it ($35??? Yikes!) or go to a reference library to read it.... so disappointing! Then I realized that Tech Trends allows readers to download a few of their most popular articles for free at Try it out! Scroll to the bottom of the page I linked to, and if you don't see the articles under the heading "DOWNLOADS" then click on the gray title bar with the heading to open that section.

What other really awesome technology sites, newsletters, or print publications am I missing out on?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

End of March Break? A freebie for you!

Well, March Break is over for us now and unfortunately at my school, we are returning to a situation requiring crisis counselling tomorrow at school. I don't really know the student from my school who was tragically killed in an accident this weekend, but I'm sure many, many of our students and staff will be feeling the effects of this loss. For them, I'm so sorry! My thoughts are with you.

On a more positive note, I thought I'd finish off this mini-vacation with a freebie.

When I saw these door hanger freebies from Ann Marie Smith of Innovative Connections, I thought that they were so brilliant and original, I decided to create some of my own for French teachers (with her permission, of course!) Visit my TpT store through the link above or the direct link to my store front to download my gift to you. It includes three for your classroom and one that may be used as a cool French personalized incentive for students.
If you've been enjoying a spring break as well, I hope your transition back to school is a smooth one!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Virtual Professional Learning Circles

A colleague recently commiserated with me about what a pity it is that specialty teachers like us aren't offered in-service training and professional development, including time for idea-sharing the same way many other teachers are. I disagree. I feel we are rather fortunate that we aren't given this time.

What??? Am I out of my mind? (Yes, I can hear your thoughts as you read this! It's a gift all French teachers have, isn't it? How else would we understand what students are trying to say in class in the target language?)

How many workshops have you attended that went like this description I recently came across in another teacher's blog? Have you ever attended a learning opportunity offered by your school, board, district or professional organization, just because it was offered to you for free (or worse - because you were EXPECTED to go)? I know you have! We are too fatigued, too stressed thinking about the OTHER things we need to be doing - "and now they want to add THIS to our day too?" - to really network, listen with an open mind for new ideas, and to fully benefit from such learning opportunities.

As a "specialty-subject, rotary" modern languages teacher I don't get to sit in on in-service meetings about TLCPs, analyzing student test scores, and a million other educational topics that aren't really all that inspiring to me personally. Being a Gemini, I do however love to talk and am full of ideas and opinions. This lead me to seek out connections elsewhere.

I think this really started with a maternity leave and wanting to connect to other like-minded moms online. I created a facebook account while I was pregnant, and this is one of the primary places I've connected with other teachers. From poking around a little bit, it does seem that Ontario teachers may be more active on facebook than some other regions. But if you look for yourself and find a lack in your area, don't complain about it - start a group yourself! I firmly believe you get back what you give out... lend a helping hand to other teachers around you, be gracious and kind, and soon you will find others reciprocating! I find it really disappointing when I hear that Core French teachers (or ANY teachers, anywhere, for that matter!) feel isolated and like they don't have a chance to connect with our peers.

Well, this post is quickly becoming WAY TOO LONG for my liking, so let me get right to the point...

Try these resources and suggestions to connect with like-minded teachers in YOUR area - or beyond, by creating your own personal online version of a Professional Learning Circle!

  • Suggest to your curriculum coordinator that a teacher-created activity-swap be held one afternoon shortly after school. It could either be a "bring 10 copies" kind of approach, or individual teachers could courier or email files to be shared (including the source, instructions and tips for use!) in advance and a PDF/photocopied booklet containing all the goodies can be compiled and shared with attendees who contributed. Try quarterly if the first one is less successful than you'd like! Word will get out eventually, and personally I LOVE the idea that only those who give, receive.
  • See if your school board or district's intranet has an electronic chat board or discussion group. Suggest one if not, and if it does exist, visit regularly to post a suggestion or see if you can comment on other people's posts to encourage sharing. Don't use the excuse of low traffic to discount this suggestion. You build traffic, interest and value through your own contributions, which attracts other teachers.
  • Join relevant teachers' groups on facebook, such as Ontario teachers - resource and idea sharing, Ontario Core French Teachers or French Teachers.
  • Check out teacher forums that appeal to you. How about the Canadian or Middle school forums at ProTeacher or the French Teachers chatbaord at I've made wonderful connections in some of these places!
  • I'm just starting to check out teacher bookmarking and resource sites such as Cube For Teachers, which is still quite new and has the potential for huge growth over time.
  • If you are interested in sharing your original teaching resources with others, forums on sites such as TeachersPayTeachers are awesome sources of potential collaboration. I'd love it if you used my referral link to join TpT's seller community, even if you are only planning to share items for free, just so I know I helped you find this network.
  • One avenue I've stayed completely clear from at this point is Twitter. Yet I do hear that there is a lot of really exciting educational stuff happening there. Are you braver than I am?
How are you fostering your own virtual Professional Learning Network? I'd love to hear about what strategies are working the best for other French teachers out there!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

My Blog Firsts

This has been a week of firsts for me with my new blogging adventure. Here are three new things that have happened...

My First Blog Award
Wow! I've been awarded the Liebster Award for new blogs by Addie Williams, a fellow Canadian teacher-blogger, who founded Teacher Talk. Thank you Addie!
image of Liebster award at TeachingFSL

The rules of the Liebster award are as follows. You must:
1. thank the person who awarded you.
2. link back to their blog in your post.
3. copy and paste the Liebster award button.
4. award 5 other bloggers that qualify (with 200 followers or fewer).
5. notify the ones you chose by leaving them a comment on their blog so they can do the same.

Drumroll, please.....
image of Drumroll in anticipation at Teaching FSL

The blogs that I'm giving the Liebster award to are:
1. Mademoiselle Lisi, a new French teacher-blogger in Ontario
2. Tammy Gaudun at Ontario Teachers
3. Lessons from the Middle
4. Teaching Tweens
5. The Middle School Survival Guide

Blog Button to Link to FLS Teacher Resources More Easily
I also managed to put together a blog button that I'm reasonably happy with, after a couple of failed attempts. Check it out in the right hand side of this page. There is code there that you can copy and paste into your blogroll if you'd like to add my blog. I'd be sooo excited to hear from you if you do!

Thanks to this site for the code, and to Microsoft Word for the Word Art and drawing tools that I finally ended up using for the text and beret graphic!

My First "Guest" Blog Post
I am not certain if I am categorizing this "first" correctly, being so new to the blogging world! I am a contributing blog author to the Bilingual Teacher ClubHouse 2. (I believe the number signifies this is kind of an offshoot from the blog's original direction.) A teacher contact of mine started this blog to share bilingual teaching resources, however she is in the lovely United States of America, so her natural inclination was to think "English + Spanish = Bilingual" much as my first thought is "English + French." When I asked though, she broadened her site and added a tab just for French. See my posting about the Saint Patrick's Day freebie - a gift for your FSL students - that I'm offering at no cost for this week only!

So, is that really a guest post, or not? I'm uncertain if it counts if I'm an (ahem!) contributing author!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Creating Educational Games Online

I've been a member of Quia for a few years (off and on) and promote it to my students for review prior to a test. It's also great for students who have gaps in their skills or need extra practice to make use of the fact that I've paid for an annual membership there. You don't need to buy a membership to play the activities at Quia. What the membership allows you to do is to create your own activities, copy and modify activities others have made, and otherwise customize the learning games for your own students. Being a bit of a control freak, I find it's worth the money, provided my classes have access to the computer lab on a more or less regular basis. If you are less picky about the content perfectly matching your theme or being at exactly the right level for your students, by all means be a freeloader take advantage of the work other educators around the world have already done for you! I have aspirations of making better use of Quia activities using uploaded audio files and images, but have only dabbled around with these tools so far.

Lately, I've been playing around with a new learning game web site. I am getting to better understand the web site Zondle through their video tutorials. This is a free site where teachers can create their own educational games, and students can access it for free as well. It is more image-based and appealing to tweens (according to my students). Here is an example of a game at Zondle:

zondle - games to support learning

What I find really cool about Zondle (aside from it being free for teachers to use their own original content and questions for games) is that it is perfect for short attention spans and a variety of interests. You only need to enter a set of questions ONCE and students can pick which game they want to play, based on that content. If a student gets bored with a particular theme he or she can change it. They don't want to play my fishy game any more? Well how about one where you dress your own pizza? Or win chances to throw a javelin by answering the questions correctly?

Another site I feel like I haven't exploited fully yet is Quizlet. I've been creating the odd set of flash cards for my students' use there for about four years now, but have yet to fully commit to incorporating the tools this site has to offer in my teaching practice. I do like the game Scatter that you can play with any set of "flashcards." I find it is similar to the Fly Swatter game we play sometimes in class.

Here is one I set up for my grade 8 animal unit from the Pearson Education textbook On Y Va 2.

Image of Quizlet grade 8 Core French unit vocabulary review - TeachingFSL

Not exactly higher-level critical thinking, but if it keeps the learners engaged for a period of time while they are getting familiar with new vocabulary, I think it's worth the time it takes to set up a set of cards. I'm particularly interested in those applications that take it up a level, beyond just pure memorization and would love to hear have you used these educational games in your second language classroom!

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