Sunday, April 19, 2015

L'homme qui plantait des arbres - 7 Sources

For Earth Week, I thought I'd share some links I've compiled for activities and material to accompany the story and film l'Homme qui plantait des arbres. The text which is about loss, selflessness and reforestation was freely shared by its author & is in the public domain.

You can also purchase print copies if you desire. Click on the image of the story to go straight to

  1. Here's one of many sources for the text online. If you search, you'll find other ones I am certain.
  2. This is a website prepared by Sarah Jourdain with some good pre-reading and post-reading activities and suggestions, as well as discussion and comprehension questions for each section. It's all online... which might be good if you planned to just project it & discuss. I'd probably want to copy and paste the material into a PowerPoint or a PDF type document to present to my class a bit at a time, but that's easy enough to do.
  3. Here's an English activity kit, which could be great if you need to co-teach or co-plan with non-FSL colleagues. Or, you could always start translating away, even if that seems a little bit silly. (The text was written in French after all!)
  4. This booklet has some rather fuzzy classification worksheets near the end, but there are still some good ideas contained within.
  5. This French teacher blog (from France) has some more visually appealing material to share. Test print first... A4 paper isn't common here and is a little longer than letter sized, so you may need to make some minor formatting adjustments.
  6. And lastly, for some additional visual material, this artist (Keren Taggar) has some wonderful illustrations that could be incorporated in your classroom activities along with the story... before or after reading or viewing, along with oral and written expression.
  7. Here's the video in French, with French subtitles, on YouTube.

Hope you enjoy a lovely Earth Day! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Teaching What Matters Most in French Immersion

Thanks to Jackie at Room 213 who invited me to be part of her link up on what matters in teaching!

She asked...

What do you know to be true about learning and what do you try to focus on, regardless of how many days you have with your students and what external pressures there may be? 
For me, two priorities are:
  • Critical & creative thinking
  • Ability to express oneself fluidly in French

I try to incorporate a variety of interesting mater
ials, not necessarily a textbook, to launch discussion and to reach students who learn in different ways. That includes viewing movies to engage students and use as a springboard for other activities.

After a serious review of what resources were available to me when I took over my current teaching assignment, I read a variety of French modern fiction to find something that I thought would resonate with the kids I teach. Once I found something, I worked hard on a pitch for a set of novels other than what we already had in the storage cupboard. I used what materials the school owned already, sure, but assessed some weaknesses and carefully selected something that I thought would be more appealing. When new investments aren't available, find a way to swap materials with a nearby school or use authentic materials to add variety to your program. 

I also like to use picture books, current events, articles and short video clips ... as I teach French as a second language, I need to say: in the target language to spark discussions inviting students to express their personal opinions but also to think critically about them as well as others' points of view.

In terms of writing fluency, I have students write in a journal once a week. I don't assess this work directly, but use it as a way to get students expressing their thoughts without stopping for a short period of time. I also will make "Next steps" comments within the journal for individual students, to give them feedback on their progress and what to focus on still. I also use the students' writing to let me know what we might need to work on as a class - when they're ready for an explanation of some language convention, for example, as a mini-lesson - and to provide additional support materials and practice to individual students to further their own learning.

How do you make sure you focus on what is most important in your classroom, given the many time constraints and competing priorities?

Friday, April 03, 2015

Meeting Mme Duckworth

Back in February (where does the time go?!?) I finally had the pleasure of meeting face to face the legendary Sylvia Duckworth, a recent recipient of the Prime Minister's award for Teaching Excellence, Google-certified teacher, and FSL edu-collaboratrice extraordinaire. I attended her premiere hands on GAFE in the Classroom day long workshop.

This is me, heading out at an awfully early hour, especially for a weekend. I thought I'd tweeted my "selfie" out before I left home, announcing my excitement about the coming day, but apparently, in my not-yet-caffeinated state, it didn't actually send and I didn't realize until much later. Sylvia hosts PD sessions for French as a Second Language teachers (and other educators) on a regular basis through the year in her own classroom on the weekend, and freely shares so much of her sample projects, tutorials and teaching suggestions through her network of websites and social media interactions.

I won't was a little hairy getting there! This February was one of the most consistently cold months we've had here in Ontario in a long time, and there was a terrible, slushy snowstorm that Saturday. 

I had warm fuzzies as I arrived though, since her location is near Glendon College. My wedding photos were taken there, and I just love the location, for a variety of other personal reasons.

As for the workshop itself, it was time very well invested. The pace was fast, and a lot of that day was a bit of a blur BUT... here's the great part... Sylvia has extensive documentation, links to resources, samples and presentations, so that you can always go back and go over some great idea for which you've forgotten some of the finer points. Here's her main GAFE presentation, as just one example.  We used the hashtag #gafefsl that day, so feel free to check that out on Twitter or Instagram to see what wonderful little tidbits you discover.

I think the biggest "aha" moment in the room that day was when Sylvia showed us how, within a Google document, if students use the Research Tool, then Google will automatically make footnotes and citations for students. There was an audible "Ohhhhhhhh!" in the room at that point, thinking about how tricky it is to get students to cite properly, and what a wonderful time saver this would be.
Photo credit to Richard Smith

The professional dialogue within the room that day was amazing - both the actual, out-loud conversations as well as the chat using a variety of tech tools and tricks - and I was really happy to get a chance to converse with some teachers I've chatted with online and in person in the past, to meet with some new teachers, and to refresh some relationships with teachers from even within my own school board. There's just not enough time to catch up sometimes, especially in a school district as large as mine.  I left feeling so excited and energized, with so many new ideas.

For example, check out these < super cute posters from Teacher's Discovery that Sylvia had displayed in her room. To support her students in using only the target language, her (rather small, but well equipped) classroom was filled with anchor charts and reference materials for her kiddos. It was a great reminder, for me, that even with AIM-based instruction, and lots of engagement through technology and authentic interaction experiences (like the Mystery Google Hangout we tried out just before lunch) that it's good practice to continually provide second language learners with a rich, supportive learning space.

She's got two upcoming workshops scheduled for next month (although I'm not sure if there is any space left - check the registration link to find out!) Don't forget to ask your school or other teacher support systems to provide the funding for you, if you are interested in attending such a PD opportunity. I'm really sorry to have missed her at last weekend's OMLTA/World Congress in Niagara Falls... and will definitely catch up with her again the next time around!

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