Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Winners of movie subscriptions & The Final Countdown

My Rafflecopter giveaway expired Monday at midnight. The TEN winners, as chosen through Rafflecopter are:

These people will be getting an email from me by tonight with their subscription information.  Congratulations, everyone!

If you are a little sad that you didn't win, Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources may be able to help you out if you hop over to visit her blog quickly Her giveaway rules are that you just have to be one of the first ten people to comment in order to win!  (So easy... I wondered why I didn't think of that!?!)

Notice the kind of unattractive green box at the side of my blog?

It's been there since the OMLTA Spring conference this year, when representatives from the Ministry of Education were in the unenviable position of facing a hall full of teachers - twice, as the opportunity was offered to elementary and to secondary teachers - to give the news that they could only share highlights of the French curriculum (which has been in the review cycle for FIVE years now) as it was finalized yet not yet approved for release.

I'm excited because it's under a month now until spring officially ends, which was essentially what they stated as meeting their current timelines (some time spring 2013... no more delays, they insisted).

I'm raring to go... ready to start figuring out how I'll address the supposedly massively revised curriculum expectations. How about you? If you teach French in Ontario (or other subjects for which the curriculum is also supposed to be revised), are you excited or dreading the coming changes?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Chanson de dimanche ... volume #3

My giveaway contest for indieflix is coming to a close... don't forget to enter if you haven't already! I've got ten to give away, so your chances of winning are pretty good!!

image logo for chanson de dimanche at Teaching FSL

For my third instalment of "Chanson de Dimanche" I present La Mer... une chanson classique et romantique. It's my favourite song from the French Kiss soundtrack, back from when I first started teaching.  Your students might recognize it from the first season of Lost (if they're old enough to have watched that) or from Finding Nemo, or from the ending of Mr. Bean Goes on Holiday, and even Austin Powers!

Copyright by Moyan Brenn
Aside from the fact that this is a song recognized around the world, and a beautiful opportunity to inject a little cultural appreciation, it could be used as a fun activity in French Immersion when learning about bodies of water (la mer, l'étang, les golfes) in Geography or a thematic unit.

I also love the fact that if a student realizes that they've kind of heard this song in English before, you can point out that in this case, it was written in French first & wasn't just a case of American music having a francophone version. The English is not a direct translation and the French version is much more beautiful!

I've prepared 4 different classroom activities based on this song (plus the thematic tie-in I proposed above, and of COURSE bookmark this for a Valentine's Day lesson about romance... or why not even Earth Day?  In this download, you'll have:

  1. A fill in the blank adjective agreement reading activity with the lyrics 
  2. A handout asking students to identify the prepositions within the song.
  3. A simple listening activity to place the four verses in order while listening.
  4. And a 2-page writing activity with suggested writing prompts (or of course you can prepare your own) and a one page "publishing template" to use to show off student work on a bulletin board.
What else would you do with this song? Feel free to share your ideas below!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

10 Fab Free Fonts for Foreign Language

Well, I know that there are a million and a half pins on Pinterest with great "free" fonts. Just two problems... many of those lovely fonts come WITHOUT accented characters mapped, which is a royal pain to me. In those cases, a so-called standard font will be substituted when you type an accented letter.  AND you end up with something pretty gosh darn ugly... like this:

Image at Teaching FSL of what happens if a font doesn't include French accented characters

Second problem... free fonts are readily available BUT very often they are only free for personal use.  Which means that, if like me, you want to charge a whole $1.50 for an item you make with that font (even just to jazz up the title) then that is a big no-no.  What you need in this case is "free for commercial use" or "public domain" fonts.  Free for commercial use is also sometimes called commercial use OK, and then abbreviated to CU-OK or sometimes without the hyphen.

image of Sign up as a TeachersPayTeachers seller for freeAnd yes, that link above WILL take you to TeachersPayTeachers where you can sign up for free OR for an annual $59 USD fee where you get to keep a higher percentage of each sale you make.

So today, I have for you ten ELEVEN great fonts which are either in the public domain or CUOK, and that have all the necessary accented characters included in their font maps!

Insula is a pretty cool gothic/calligraphic font.

German Beauty has a description that says it USED to be donationware, so if you are making a profit from something you do with this font, please consider paying for what you think it's worth. Donationware is different than "Free", by the way - kind of like the honour system photocopy service at my public library ... you pay for what you use, and we hope that common decency will lead to honesty.

Love Almonte Snow, but it's an all-caps font, which means I would restrict its use to titles or very simple instructions on a student handout, perhaps for junior level where they know letters well enough to easily read funky variations.

I'm a little unsure if Twilight New Moon is for real and legit... but it IS funky yet still very legible. And it includes all the accented characters we need. It's listed as a free use font, but there's always a chance that Stephanie Meyer might NOT have approved this one, and may require it to be removed at some point. I thought it was interesting enough to include with that little caveat!

If you like the all one height look, Delius Unicase is for you!

I love Home & Hearth!! I've used it in a few products and several "for my class only" creations.

Another all caps font that would be great for something is GlazKrak. It's a bit less legible due to the higher degree of stylization though.

I don't really offer anything with a sports theme, but if I do, I'll use Station 232. A sporty font with a crisp, traditional "letter jacket" look.

I'm going to use Patterns & Dots in something soon, for sure!! Very cute!!

Dana Tammark Print is kind of an EXCLUSIVE font. (Dare I confess that a teacher-blogger-fontmaker acquaintance asked me to double check that the accents were all OK in this font set, and in exchange I convinced her to incorporate my name into what she called it?  Oh yes, I did!) Thanks to Dana Lester of Fun in 1st Grade for indulging me on that little ego-trip.  (It also shows you just how open to feedback she is, so if you teach primary, check out her materials for sure!)

Michelle at Teach123 within my online PLN also responded when I mentioned that I was working on this post. She gave me permission to to share one of her fonts with you.  It's called Tangy Top.

Image of free fonts with accented characters for commerical or personal use compiled by Teaching FSL

If you are interested, I can feature some paid fonts that work for FSL materials at a future date. To be honest, I don't make enough to justify buying many fonts... I've only ever purchased two for commercial use, and if I'm going to buy things to beautify my teaching materials, I'd rather spend the money on clip art. But I do know that there are some HUGE font fanatics out there, so give me a shout-out if that's you!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chanson de dimanche... volume #2

Welcome back!  This week, I wanted to take a look at the French version of an old song that the kids still recognize.
Image of Teaching FSL - weekly feature - Chanson de dimanche songs French class

If you have any Gossip Girl fans in your class, they may have even heard this version before...These boots are made for walkin'... or in French, Ces Bottes sont faites pour marcher.

Image of boots - bottes
This is the French version released the same year as Nancy Sinatra originally sang it in English in 1966.

Here is a fun video lip dub that your students might enjoy watching instead of just looking at the album cover.

Here's what is included in my free download today...

  1. The whole set of lyrics (to use as an answer key)
  2. A cloze passage with 11 present tense verbs removed and provided in a word bank (includes aller, être, dire, savoir, and a couple of common regular verbs)
  3. A challenging cloze passage for immersion with the future tense verbs removed, and a reminder to be listening both for futur proche and futur simple
  4. A page with the lyrics broken into sections to be cut into cards & placed in order as a simple listening comprehension practice activity.
  5. A page with vocabulary words removed that might be linked to telling the truth or lying, which might be tied into character education in French, or a thematic unit about honesty.

Even more ideas.... when learning about direct objects, you could provide English versions of certain phrases, have the students locate them in the song lyrics  and then compare them to identify the structure.  This song could also be used to practice certain adverbs (souvent, jamais, rien). Other thematic links could be to a clothing unit, or in the upper grades, when talking about relationships.

If you have other ideas for how you'd like to use this song with your class, please tell my readers below!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Great Film Resources (Subscription Giveaway!)

I was very excited to learn about a new, up and coming film resource available online. I love movies, both in my personal life, and to use in the classroom. And I'm all about "leveling the playing field" since allowing more people to get their ideas out into the world and have some recognition for them benefits everyone, in my opinion.

All images in this post used courtesy of
IndieFlix is an on-demand service and has thousands of films. They've given me a free trial subscription and stay tuned for how you can try them out for free as well! IndieFlix wants to spread the word out about a new release documentary called Finding Kind, that's specific to female bullying.

I'd like to tell you about a few other resources there though as well, including one that's a great tie in for social justice and global awareness in the classroom and what you might be able to use in your FSL classroom.

What started as a road-trip documentary across the U.S. to talk about how girls - and women - treat one another ultimately morphed into "Kind Campaign", an internationally recognized movement, documentary, and school assembly program. Finding Kind is written and directed by Lauren Parsekian from Orange County, California. The way girls treat each other is significant to her and finding a way to stop girl bullying in schools has been an important issue for as long as she can remember. Lauren was one of the "popular girls" in middle school. But after her clique turned against her, school became a source of stress, depression, and even frequent thoughts of suicide. Through high school and college, Lauren witnessed the same kind of "mean girl" behaviour around her. As a film student, Lauren realized the enormous good documentaries can do and decided to apply her passion for film to this issue and make a documentary about the way girls treat each other and the way it affects us.  For those of you who want the Hollywood connection, Lauren is marrying Aaron Paul (star of “Breaking Bad”) some time this month.

The other great new film that's available is called Living on One and it's another documentary about what it's like to live on just a dollar a day in Guatemala. You can check out the trailer here. Not all of indieflix's films are documentaries though.

And guess what?  YES, there are French movies included!  Currently, there are 20 movies of varying length from France (with 7 still included once you select the "all ages" criteria). The shortest of these is a cute 4-minute animation called Trevor about a little boy who can't sleep.  It's narrated by a single voice, making it relatively easy to get accustomed to for second language learners and it is subtitled in English if you choose. Although you cannot search by language, you can search by country of origin, as well as explore by themes. There is also some age-filtering options, although standards may vary from country to country, school board to school board, or ever teacher to teacher, so you are always the best judge of what is appropriate for your own students!

There are also Canadian independent films, which I think is tons of fun!  I watched an interesting thing called System of Units that would take less than a period to view and could be used with any kind of futuristic literature, as well as when talking about reliance on social networking or even just human relationships overall.

So how can you check out IndieFlix for yourself? Here's the link to their subscription information. I'm SO stoked because IndieFlix is also allowing me to give away 10 2-month subscriptions. You don't have to be an educator to win, so feel free to pass on a link to this blog to your film aficionado cousin, neighbour or nephew. Please note that the subscriptions must be activated by July 1, so they are perfect for winding up your last few weeks of school or just for your perusal over the summer months.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chanson de Dimanche... volume #1

Happy Mother's Day!

I've recently been inspired to make French music a more regular routine in my classroom. La Chanson de Dimanche has been born!

image from Teaching FSL's weekly feature "Chanson de dimanche" for using songs in French class

Students have always enjoyed most activities I've tried that incorporated music, yet I still hear from my students that they wouldn't DARE to audition with a French song for our talent contest, or related high-profile school activities that certain teachers at my middle school arrange.

I think this is where I say "The opinions expressed...."

This year, I used an activity I found on the TES Connect website that went over REALLY well with my students. What on earth is that acronym, you ask? Think of it like the Ontario Educational Resource Bank is to teachers in Ontario bur for the UK. Except, here in Ontario we restrict people who are not employed by a publicly-funded school board from accessing the OERB, and TES is available for ANYONE to join (yes, for free!) There are lots of great FFL resources to be found there, including some submitted by Canadian teachers, and teachers of other subjects (English, Math, Science... why not?) should definitely check it out too!

So what did I use? You're dying to know!  I can tell!  I taught my students how "si clauses" in French use the imparfait rather than the conditional when talking about hypothetical situations. We used this resource (I'll try to link directly to it, but if that doesn't work, search for "conditionnel chanson" once you've logged in to TES, and be sure you're searching in the Resources, not the Jobs section. It was shared by SkierMeetsBoarder)
Screen capture of video "Si tu n'existans pas" originally by Joe Dassin, sung by Willy Denzey
Still image taken from "Si tu n'existais pas" video by Willy Denzey
The original video link provided did not work, but I found an alternative one pretty easily. Maybe it's because I found a different version of the video, but I found that we didn't have the last verse SkierMeetsBoarder had provided in his (or her?) handout.  Here's the version I edited to make it work for me. The "Learning Goal" stuck with most students right away, and almost all of them with a tiny bit of classroom reinforcement of the concept. One student shared the video we watched on his facebook page (LOVE that!) and some of them are still singing or humming the song regularly. My students actually just included "Si tu n'existais pas" by Willy Denzey on their DANCE REQUEST LIST... not even joking!  Both classes that I played it for, and they decided this independently and separately!

Since I'd mentioned that it was a remake, some students inquired about the original, so I shared that video too. They weren't nearly as impressed, to say the least. LOL

So, about this feature... I hope to make it a weekly thing to be released each weekend, hence the name La Chanson de Dimanche. It will build up my bank of activities to use in class. That's my ulterior motive,but feel free to benefit from what I share as well!. At some point, it would be great to make this a weekly linky party, but alas, my French-teacher-blogger network still isn't all that strong, and I'd hate to host a linky party where I was the only participant!

Also, I wish to mention that I came up with the name by myself.  Then I did a little searching, and it doesn't seem there are any other bloggers out there on the "interweb" already using that term.  I did find however, the Chanson du dimanche project, which is two musicians who have challenged themselves to put out a new song every Sunday.  Kind of cool... so check that out too!  I'm hoping that the world of francophone musical appreciation is big enough for the both of us! I'm also not sure if they are still actively doing this, but I certainly won't be writing (or playing and singing!) my own songs any time soon!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Edmodo ... Should I Stay or Should I Go-Go?

This year, I launched into a new technology experience, which I planned to share with you a little earlier, but we teachers know how these things go! My classes each have a group set up on Edmodo. Overall, I think it has been a good thing, but as my board's position on technology and 21st century education changes, I'm not totally certain I'll use it again next year.
Screen Capture of Edmodo login screen

I owe a shout-out to my friend and fellow French teacher Dominique, who told me about this tool after attending a workshop at the Spring OMLTA conference last year presented by Nadine Pharand, a French teacher in the Kingston area, whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet.

Some positives from this experience:

I am a teacher ALL THE TIME, and I don't generally mind getting a message from a student at 9 p.m. asking for clarification on something they are struggling with at that moment.  I may not always answer right then, but at least he or she has gotten it off his or her chest, and I've got a heads up that someone needs a little extra support with a concept.

There is a paperless aspect, in that students can submit assignments right through the platform, and can receive a mark and comments back the same way.  I learned a lot about how this can work this year, although I definitely did not leverage it in the way I had hoped.

The student collaboration that I saw happen at times was astounding. One student found and shared plays performed by other students to bring to life the French novel we were reading together.
image of gears showing components of digital citizenship
Students shared pictures of the textbook (and so did I, once I caught on to this trick!) in cases where we did not have enough copies of a resource for everyone to bring home... and they didn't have to lug a textbook to refer to just one diagram or paragraph of information! For a recent quiz, one student made a pretty comprehensive study sheet of her own accord, and after I'd looked it over, I suggested she consider sharing it with her classmates.  They were VERY thankful and some even got a perfect score on the quiz!

Students can also submit attachments, so voice recordings can be passed along to the teacher this way too.  I used that feature only a couple of times this year, but it certainly has promise!!

Also, to put some fears to rest, student to student private interaction in NOT possible, so there's little threat of cyber-intimidation or other nasty stuff going on... the students KNOW everything is in the public view of the teacher.

I also use it for professional development & connecting with other teachers, but not as much as I use other platforms (facebook, blogs and Twitter, in that order).

One surprising challenge has been, as I learn to be a French Immersion teacher, how I feel about parents reading what I've written. My fear at the beginning of the year was "What if I make a mistake... or even TWO in one sentence?" but I've let go of this. I label myself a life-long-learner, and fear hampers learning so I just took a couple of deep breaths and dove in!

I have of course paid attention to what the students are posting, and maybe three times deleted silly stuff that didn't add to the conversation there, especially when my rule was that all posts had to be in French.  (I did PM students in English a couple of times when we were dialoguing back & forth and eventually one or the other of us felt that using the second language was hindering the subtleties we wanted to convey.)  I have had parents question whether the use of this tool was worth it. In my opinion, it certainly was. I AM glad that I tried it out this year, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to try out adding a technological interaction component to his or her classroom.

One feature I wish Edmodo had that it does not... the opportunity to give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to individual comments.  Over the course of the year, it DID add a few possible reactions, but they are rather limited, and not possible to use for individual replies but only on the main message which kicked off a topic. (Basically, yes, I'm saying I want the facebook "Like" and "Share" features added!)

Give ME a thumbs up if you've tried Edmodo, or use another tool you like better, and tell me what it is!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Four Prizes Unclaimed

Although the sale went fairly well for me, no one decided to leave feedback yet, and the three people I chose to win products from my store didn't come across this blog entry, it seems.  Too bad... or maybe I should say Tant pis!

I can't say that I blame anyone who didn't make an effort to leave feedback right now... I think this is becoming a "draggy" part of the year for many of us (even if I still have too many weeks left to slow down too much!) And I didn't yet leave feedback on anything that I purchased, as I haven't had the time to take a closer look, let alone to actually use it yet!

Oh well... I really did love the idea of this giveaway.  Maybe I'll revisit it again in the future, and reselect feedback then to win a prize.  Be sure to follow my blog if you don't want to miss out next time!

Have a great day!

Monday, May 06, 2013

Feedback on Teaching Material downloads - Is it YOU?

I know, I know... you come to TeachersPayTeachers because you're too BUSY to do everything yourself, and it's a short cut you can take which will only improve your teaching practice rather than harm it. So who has time to leave feedback, right?
Well, you should!  Find you what YOU get out of it at the end of my post, but also, it's only courteous to acknowledge the help you get from others. (Finger-wagging chastisement over, I swear.)

Many thanks to Christina who had this cool idea for a link up party.  She asked what feedback made us smile on TPT.  Most feedback does... even just those simple ones that just say "Thanks!" are better than people downloading (freebies in particular!) and never hearing anything from the hundreds who now have a copy. It does leave me wondering though when people buy something from me and no one takes the time to comment... does it stink?  Did I leave something important out of the file? Did they find it too tough?  (Admittedly, I *am* a teacher with high expectations!) Honestly, I'd rather hear a little something, even if it's not 100% positive and gushy!
This one made me smile ear-to-ear because Jos76 is a very prolific teacher-author on TPT, with over 1000 items posted for other modern language teachers on that site. I've bought several good things from him over the past few years. If you want to check out how  he uses his proceeds from the website to do good, check out his blog. For the record, I don't know him personally or even in the virtual world (as far as I know!)

This feedback on my set of animé style legal-sized write-on, wipe-off posters made me smile because it's exactly the kind of impact many TPT sellers hope to have for their customers.  A daily impact!  I spent a good deal of time trying to get the appearance of this product just right. In fact, it was the FIRST product for which I bought clip art! I chose something from Dilly Dabbles' store, by the way.

Although there were many other positive comments that I've really enjoyed receiving, I chose to highlight this one as my third:

A little humbling, perhaps... I'm not perfect?!? (JUST kidding!) I like that the comment was clear and specific in how he thought my product was a bit of a let down. I enhanced the material right away to address his very valid concerns. I have no way of knowing if he downloaded the updated version or not, but I sure hope so! (You all should be aware that when you purchase something on TPT, you get free downloads... it's kind of like your own cloud storage... with the added bonus that you'll see a little visual reminder if a teacher-author has edited the file & decided to identify what changes were made.)

So how does this linky party work? If any of the three people whose feedback I selected SEE this post, and contact me through the comments below (need your email address!), by email, or through my contact form on this blog, then I'd be delighted to give each or all three of them a free product of their choice.  Easy peasy, right? And of course you already KNEW there was a Teacher Appreciation sale going on at TPT, right? The chance for these three people to win one of my products ends when the TPT sale ends!

(Many thanks to Beth at Zip-a-dee-doo-dah Designs for the awesome graphic!)

In addition... I'd like to keep the feedback coming, so I will additionally select ONE other person to win any product from my store of his or her choice.

Here's what you need to do:
  1. By 12:00 am on May 9, leave feedback on a PURCHASED item (which does not have to be something you purchased during the sale... it could be a prior purchase) that is constructive and/or positive.
  2. Also leave me a comment below telling me which username & comment is yours.
  3. Check back AFTER the 9th to find out if you were the winner, or leave your email address in the comment if you'd like me to contact you directly to let you know.
(If you prefer to buy from Teachers Notebook, the same offer and other rules apply.)

Happy shopping and don't forget to leave feedback for the stores you visit!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Calming the Chaos

Welcome to the Calming the Chaos Blog Hop hosted by 2peasandadog, an awesome middle school Canadian blogger (here in Ontario, even). A group of bloggers have come together to share our top tips for making the last month (or two) of school run smoothly. Visit each of our blogs to learn something new and pick up a freebie or two!
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Enjoy hopping through the blogs listed below, and be sure to scroll down to read about my freebie and some tips.
Upper Elementary + High School Grades
Check out this Great Giveaway!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway
While teaching Core French, I've tried a few different options to keep students focused as we near the end of the year. One of my favorites is to have students create a review game. There's not much point in continuing to cover new material when students know that assessment of that new content isn't likely to make it on the report card, AND many of them would benefit from revisiting concepts already taught earlier in the year.... help avoid the "summer slide" before the summer even arrives!

Here's a rubric that I've used to assess students' products at the end of this project. It's a Word document so that you can adapt it to meet your students' needs. (And also because I used this before Growing Success was released in Ontario, so you may need to adjust the qualifiers a little bit.)

Another option that has worked out well for French, depending on what else you've taught and used as projects through the year, is a media-based unit.  I've used some current year articles from the series of Scholastic FSL magazines to create such a mini-unit, along with resources from a variety of other sounrces.  Didn't know Scholastic had such a resource?  Check out Allons-Y, Bonjour, ça va?, and Chez Nous through these links. Each has some articles available online for free as a sample, and here's a little money saving tip if you don't have much classroom budget left...

Thanks to The 3AM Teacher and Alicia Mac for their graphics!

Of course, rewards... something to look forward to... can certainly have a place in the classroom as well. This is why I'm bringing back the classroom auction in my own classroom.  I thought about sharing the classroom currency that I'm using here with you, but it's not really all that special. So, why reinvent the wheel?  Here's a free printable that you can use from another seller on TPT

Of course, if you're not into "paying" for positive reinforcement, I totally get that!  How about just letting Mother Nature provide your incentive? Friday afternoon, I took my class outside and we sat in a circle to read aloud an article for which they'll need to answer some questions. We actually intended to head to the outdoor classroom, which is a circular set up of large, flat rocks that serve as seating, with a few small trees set around them. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only teacher to have had that brilliant idea (ha!) so we made do and just enjoyed sitting on the lawn instead!

One last thing - if you're just not into being outside in the scorching sun during a particularly stubborn heat wave (and yes, we DO get those up here in Canada!) why not consider a movie study at this point in the year?

If you follow me regularly, you've already heard about my Ant Bully unit, so I won't plug it to death here, but my grade 7s really did enjoy the opportunity to sit back and relax... yes, while reading subtitles... while watching this and other animated feature films!  I've got a set of true-false questions as a freebie if you just want SOMETHING to keep them focused, and a full package of differentiated activities (at a reduced price right now!) if you're looking for a little more rigour, or to stretch the film viewing from 2-3 periods to a full week or two.

Keep an eye out for something new & exciting to be posted in my store as well! At TeachersPayTeachers, click on the red star with Follow Me beside it to get an email notification about new products the day after they are posted.

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