A “Message in a Bottle” Podcast

Podcasts are great!! I recently explored a few and found them to be GREAT listening comprehension tools for the classroom.  You can find podcasts to meet almost every level as well although I think they may be better suited for high school levels since most of the conversations in the podcasts are fluid and continuous which could be more stressful to 7th and 8th grade levels, (or lower!)

Daily French Pod is a great site which offers an array of podcasts with REAL native French speakers in them.  The few that I listened to all contained the same main French man, Louis as the main narrator.  You can tell he is truly French and he spoke very slow in review sections and reiterated vocabulary and used different terms to explain the given vocabulary. This is an excellent podcast site!

French ETC  is another site you can use to find interesting French podcasts, many of which are in the form of video so that provides a more alluring visual for the students.  I listened/ watch the Au Cafe  video and it was excellent!  The French was much faster however so this video may be better suited for an upper level French class but could still be used for lower levels if you greatly modified the lesson and instruction.  Edith Piaf, a very famous French singer sang in the background which could also be pointed out to the students during learning.

The podcast I chose to use to show an example lesson with is the Daily French J’ecris podcast. This podcast was only about 5 minutes long and contained some great vocabulary with one of the key phrases for teaching being “EN TRAIN DE”.  (In the process of…) This would be of course a listening comprehension exercise aimed at a high-school level French.  The questions could be modified depending on the level.  For my purposes, I am going to pretend this was a 10th grade class. For this activity, I would first explain in French what they would be listening to, a French man who narrates the situation and then a very short conversation between he and a woman discussing what she is doing.  I would provide follow along questions and fill-in the blank type questions for the students to complete while listening.  I would plan to play the recording at least twice.  The first time, students would be told to focus on listening and taking notes on the back of their sheet on what they heard.  The second time, students would attempt to answer questions, and fill in exercises.  The third and final time, if needed, would be played for students to finalize any missing information.  Some of the questions could be answered after listening, using knowledge they gained from hearing it three times and from their overall comprehension.  The follow-along questions would look something like the following:

1. Qu’est-ce que Marie fait au bureau?


2. A QUI est-ce que Marie veut envoyer (ce qu’elle fait) ?


3. Est-ce qu’elle va bien?

MARIE: Mais non…, j’ai  “____________  ______  ___________”

4. Où est-qu’elle va envoyer (ce qu’elle fait)?


5. Pourquoi est-ce que Marie fait ce qu’elle fait? Pour quelle raison?


Les expressions: Ecrivez les expressions semblables où nécessaire.

Définition: EN TRAIN DE-___(In the process of)__________

Que fais-tu? =____(Qu’est-ce que tu fais?)______________

Tu es sur(e)? =_____(tu es certain(e)?)________________

Je vais très bien. = ___(Ça va très bien)____, ____’J’ai toute ma tête.”__

Mettre= ___(Déposer)__________

La mer = _____(L’Océane)______

Comme ca. = _____(Sans aucun but)___, ___(Pour le plaisir)___

For the second section, I would explain to the students that they were to write in similar expressions that mean the same thing IN FRENCH.  The definition for “En train de” would be discussed as a class.

My main goals for this activity would be for students to be able to:

1. use their knowledge of French to comprehend what is being spoken in the recording in order to successfully answer the 5 questions.

2. use their listening comprehension skills in French to find like expressions of phrases or words. If they are unable to do so, I would hope they can use their knowledge of French to find similar expressions from their PRIOR knowledge in French, not necessarily the phrases mentioned in the recording.

3. use the expression EN TRAIN DE accurately in at least 3 sentences.

As homework, students would write THREE sentences using the expression EN TRAIN DE.

Depending on the level of the class, I may save the following follow-up activity for 11th grade classes but I do personally think it could still for for 10th graders:

Students would write a letter meant to be sent to an unknown person, just as Marie did, with the intention to put it in a bottle and send it off to the ocean.  Instead, this letter would randomly be given to another student in the class.  (I would put all the letters in a box and students would randomly pick one.  Students would be told to glance at it first to make sure they did not pick their own.)  I would also count to make sure that every student would get a letter.  If say two students did not hand in their letters, they would still be required to pick a letter but I would write letters myself to make sure there were enough letters for every student.

Later on, the class would read their letters from the unknown student aloud to the class.  Therefore, students would be well informed that these letters they were to write would be read aloud so they should be sure to do a good job on them.  As a class, we could openly guess who we thought wrote each letter.  It could be difficult, and the student who’s letter was being read aloud would NOT be required to admit it was their letter being read.  The directions for these letters would be pretty open ended.  They would have the leisure to write about any topic, (as long as it was appropriate) and pretend they were whoever they wanted to be, (They could pretend they were Leonardo DiCaprio writing this letter, as long as they did not put down their real name.) The letters would need to contain:

-The expression EN TRAIN DE
-At LEAST 8 FULL sentences. (For example: “Oui”, “merci”, “Bonjour.” “C’est bon” do not count as FULL sentences)
-Le Passe compose, (at least twice)
-Correct Grammar!!
-A signing off of sorts: They would not need to leave a name, but at bare minimum, they would need to leave “un inconnu” or “Une personne (ADJ.-amoureuse, contente, mechante, rigolo…etc…)”

They would need to print the letter and make TWO copies of it, one to be sent out anonymously to another student and another with their REAL name written on the back, for the teacher’s copy, (so the teacher could grade it).

I think it would be a really fun activity and a good way for students to practice their speaking skills when reading their letters aloud. I hope to do this activity one day and I will certainly be using podcasts in class for listening comprehension practices!!


Comic Creations in Class

Dvolver  is a free online tool in which you can create short “comics” of dialogue between 1-2 characters.  You can have a song in the background, pick from a small selection of backgrounds and characters and have them talk to eachother.  The words are visible but they do not actually speak the lines.

Here is the short video I made about a brother a sister discussing a present for their mother for Christmas:

A Present for Christmas or Here if the first doesn’t work.

Strip Generator is another site you may use to create comics and this site gives you a much more options when creating your comic but it is also more time-consuming and less animated than the prior. You have to manually insert your characters and dialogue into the boxes.  This site offers more characters and varieties of frames.  You can also insert items into the frames, such as a baseball bat, a camera, an umbrella, and many more. In order to get even more options or features, you can pay a membership fee.  The prior comic creating site also allows you to create your strips without even “signing up” or creating an account.

Here is the comic I made with Strip Generator   :   Cadeau pour Noel

One of the problems with both of the generation sites is that they do not correct your grammar and do not recognize French accents.  I would have to print the comic and write in the accents for the comics before making copies of it for the class.

For both comics, students would answer questions that I would supply them about the events in the comic.  For example, one question could be “What gifts does Margaux end up buying her grandmother and sister?” (Cadeau pour Noel )  I would ask questions in English for lower level French classes and in French for upper levels, (French 2-5). Students would be expected to respond in French for all levels.  For lower levels, I may supply the answers in the form of multiple choice.

A follow-up activity would include the students making their own comics.  Depending on the technology in the school, this may need to be done by hand.  Let’s pretend the school is equipped with computer labs and/or tablets for all students.  I’d provide a day of class time for students to complete their comics on one of these sites.  They would be required to have at least two characters and to use vocabulary relating to the current unit/chapter, such as holidays, gifts, and shopping expressions. After they have completed their comic they would get into pairs and read their comic to their partner.  After, the reader would ask their partner at least 3 simple questions about their comic, using the TL. My goals of this assignment would be for students to:
1-enjoy the fact that they are free to use their own personal ideas and creativity to create their comic.
2- use the target vocabulary in a meaningful and appropriate way through the dialogue between characters.
3- successfully answer the follow along questions to the comics I created, using their knowledge of French and their target vocabulary.
4- communicate in French with a partner about each other’s finished comics and be able to successfully answer the questions their partner asks them.

I could certainly have students create their own comics using either of these sites.  After trying out both, I might prefer the second site because of the more options you have. However, both have their own pluses and minuses.  I do really like the animation component of Dvolver.  I would probably test out using both in the classroom and survey the students on their preference.

Teaching with photos using ANIMOTO

Animoto is a tool in which you can create videos which contain only pictures, a few words and very short video clips. It’s pretty neat, handy, easy to use and I would definitely use it in the classroom.  The one major downside, (for me) is that the video contains this annoying “ANIMOTO” lingo in the background of all of your photos, text and videos.  This is particularly annoying because it makes it hard to read what you may write in a “text slide”.  I also did not like how the pictures seemed warped and didn’t display the entire image.  Here is the video I made, meant for any French level, it contains photos of many of the cities I visited in France, (all photos and the one video were taken by me.)

Voyageons en train

For this activity, I would show this video to the class and tell them to have out a sheet of paper for taking notes on the cities that stand out to them.  Then I would show the video a second time and have them take notes on certain images they saw that caused these cities to be appealing for them personally. They would also be required to note one city that looks least appealing to them, or perhaps totally unappealing.  If you watched the video I made, you will notice that I did NOT include Paris as one of the cities so that the students can get exposure to the other parts of France. One of my major ideas for using this video would be as an opener to a bigger project for the students.  After watching the video and jotting down their top 2 or 3 favorite cities, students would:

–> discuss with a partner their favorite city and why ( J’aime _(insert city)_ parce que (j’aime la mer/ les batiments sont beaux…etc)
–> present the city that their partner liked and disliked the most.  ( Mon partenaire, Emily aime Marseille parce qu’elle pense que cette ville est la plus belle. Emile n’aime pas Bordeaux parce qu’il pleut trop la bas.  )
**Students would be encouraged to make something up about the city simply by their impressions of the pictures shown of the city.  I would tell the students that it was OK to be “wrong” and in a way they can’t be wrong because everyone is entitled to their own impressions.  One person may love the ocean and another may hate it, for example.

After students talked about the cities that their partner liked/ disliked, I would take a tally on the board of what cities were in each student’s top 2.  This would be interesting to see how the results varied between classes and what cities seemed most appealing simply by the few photos shown.  Marseille looks beautiful to me through photos but it was not one of my favorite cities.  It’s interesting because Avignon did not photograph super well in my opinion but it WAS one of my favorite cities.  I could possibly discuss this with the class as well…the qualities of some of the cities that can’t be captured via photo.


The project to follow this activity would be for students to select one of the cities mentioned in the video, (not Paris) and create a presentation on the city with the following formats being possible:

-tourist brochure/ pamphlet
-PowerPoint presentation
-another idea that the individual student may have, to be discussed with teacher

The students would have 2 weeks to complete this project and would present their city to the class.  In levels French 1-3, students would be permitted to use a combination of French and English.  For upper levels, 4 and 5, students would be expected to present the project in French only.  Students would be required to mention at least 3 interesting facts about the city, at least 3 key tourist attractions, where it is located in France and other information pertaining to touristic elements.  Some of my goals would be for students to discover one of the cities in France other than Paris and as a result, be able to talk about this city to their peers, playing the role of the instructor.  The students would also be able to learn from their peers through their presentations of cities that they didn’t do.  The students who would be watching their classmate’s presentation would be required to write down at least one question about the presentation or city.

I really liked this site and would definitely use it in class however the two major negatives that I mentioned before would definitely be a factor.  I enjoyed creating this video though since I am quite passionate about France and I love to share the beauty of the country that is beyond Paris.  I will use this video in class one day.

A French lesson using TED

TED is an awesome internet tool similar to YouTube except that its goal is to provide only educational resources and videos.  I created a lesson using the tool and I must say it is pretty fantastic and definitely worth a try!  You can create lessons with this tool using a video as your base and posting questions for viewers to respond to after watching the video.  There are also discussion components and space for students to react.  The lesson I created would be used for an upper level French class-French 5, maybe French 4.

Le port du voile or the wearing of the Islamic veil is one of the major political issues in France and was the topic I chose to create my lesson on. I used a video from a French TV channel, 24 and asked 4 follow along questions to be answered by students when and after viewing the video. These questions would ensure students are paying attention and grasping the big ideas of the clip.  It is also advantageous for the students to be able to pause and restart the video at their leisure while answering the questions.

For the “Dig Deeper” section, I displayed 3 different links to newspaper articles discussing this topic.  These are available to interested students and could also be used as a follow-up assignment later in the week.  The “Discuss” section allows students to ask questions to the teacher as well as give their over all opinion of the topic and discuss it with their classmates in a chat-type environment.  Finally the last section summarizes the lesson and topic, concluding the lesson.

Some learning goals for this lesson would be:

-Students will be able to identify important terms such as “le port du voile” and “la laicite” as it pertains to the given topic of the Islamic veil.  They will use this knowledge to discuss the topic with a partner in class as well.
-Students will be able to express their opinions in French on the Islamic veil, as a part of the discussion and as a part of their final question to the “Think” section of the lesson.  Students will also use their knowledge of French to discuss this opinion in class or with a partner.
(If using alternate links as a follow-up activity)-Students will read one of the 3 articles and identify, in French, at least 3 things that they learned from it and 2 things that directly related to the video displayed in this lesson.
-General goal: At least 80% of the students will be able to interpret what they saw/hear in the video in order to successfully answer the first three multiple choice questions.

I absolutely adored the idea of making a lesson using this site.  I can not wait to try it in class one day.  I may even use this exact lesson if I am to teach an upper level French class.  This is definitely a unique lesson that would stand out among other lessons.  Overall, I am feeling quite excited about all of the different internet tools I have discovered these past three months.  There are so many possibilities!

Flipping your Classroom and Rethinking Homework

I recently read an article about the Flipped Classroom and one on why we should rethink and question homework.  As discussed in an earlier post of mine, the flipped classroom is essentially reversing the typical lecture and homework elements in a classroom.  The “video lecture is often seen as the key ingredient in the flipped approach.”  Students would view a video or podcast created by the teacher at home before coming to class and the class time would be spent discussing the video/podcast and doing other hands-on activities.  The teacher plays more of the role of a coach or facilitator.  The class becomes a workshop of sorts where students can inquire about the video lecture.  There are various approaches to this type of classroom.  Some teachers may implement certain aspects such as having quizzes and homework online or the occasional video lecture where others could do a full immersion flipped classroom.


One advantage students have with a flipped classroom is the ability for them to replay the video lectures if they misunderstood something.  Students can pause, rewind, and fast-forward as needed.  Being able to pause and reflect on what the teacher said is something that may not occur in a classroom lecture.  Captions can be provided for those with a hearing impairment and the ability to control the pace of the video is of particular advantage to ESL students.  The teacher could also post online quizzes in which students could receive instant score reports after completing.   As there are advantages, there are also downsides.  One of the major disadvantages is the fact that flipping a classroom requires a great deal of preparation and extra work for the teacher.  The students may also be reluctant to spend so much time on schoolwork outside of the classroom.  This could also be tricky if the entire school has a normal classroom except your flipped one.  I personally think the entire school should be on board if the goal was to have a fully flipped room.  It was also mentioned in the Flipped Classroom article that students tend to complain about the “loss of face-to-face lectures, particularly if they feel the assigned video lectures are available to anyone online.”  The processing and delivering of the video could also vary depending on home, some having slower internet speed than others, which could be frustrating to some.   If certain students do not have access to the internet, an even greater challenge is at hand.   Overall the student-led feel and the change of role of instructors in a flipped classroom can be interesting to experience for any instructor.  I hope to test out a semi-flipped classroom for a given amount of time, perhaps for one or two chapters and see how the class responds, (as I stated in my earlier post on the (INSERT LINK TO PRIOR FLIPPED CLASSROOM POST)

The article about rethinking homework was an excellent and quick read that I recommend to all teachers to give a glance at.  The French teacher who wrote it made some excellent points.  She proposed the idea of making homework more tailored to a variety of student’s needs by giving options of homework assignments.  I think this is an intriguing idea and it really made me rethink the concept of homework.  It is true that this would probably mean a bit more work for the teacher, but what would be the result?  If students were to take homework more seriously if they had the choice between three options, I would say it was worth the extra work.  I believe in general giving students a CHOICE in the classroom is very important.  When students feel they can choose the “better” of the 3, personally for them, they may complete that assignment better than if they were to do another one that they had no interest in.  Some students may prefer multiple choice or fill-in type work where others could prefer written work, (personal writings, short paragraphs or of the like.)  Either way, the next day when going over the “homework”, the teacher could choose to go over 2 of the 3 and those who did not complete choice A for example, would just follow along and act as if this was an assignment being done in class, therefore they would still be expected to participate.  It could keep students on their toes wondering which homework assignments would be gone over the next day.  Depending on the day and what was accomplished, and if the material was new or a review, all of this would make a difference in the type of homework assignment/task it was.  If the material was being reviewed, the homework would expand their knowledge whereas a new topic would be reviewed in the homework.  It is too difficult for me to say how I would structure my homework as I have not yet had my own classroom, but one thing that is sure is that I would try my absolute best to keep it engaging, informative, and fun if possible.

The Magic of Tube-Chop

TubeChop  is a handy little tool in which you can “chop” or shorten a youtube or TED educational videos to later be used in the classroom. For my first test using this tool, I decided to use a video that I’ve already used in the classroom and that I plan to use over and over again because I find it absolutely adorable and such a perfect short video to use when learning animal vocabulary.

Une petite fille raconte une histoire is the name of the video and here it is in it’s full length.

Here is my Chopped video

The vocabulary students would be learning/reviewing in this video are:

un singe- monkey

un hippopotame- hippo

une crocodile- crocodile

un chauve-souris- bat

une girafe- giraff

une grenouille – frog

un lion – lion

Verbs and expressions:

se réveiller- to wake up

manger- to eat

payer- to pay for

se perdre – to get lost

Qu’est-ce qui s’est passé? -What happend?

sauter – to jump

se bagarrer- to fight/ struggle

Other vocabulary terms:

une boite- box

pauvre -poor

les arbres- trees

les montres – monsters

les phantomes -ghosts

haut- high

les fraises – strawberries

un casque- helmet

une epee- sword

un bouclier- shield

les pouvoirs magiques- magical powers

The goal of the activity I would do in class with this video is to have students practice their listening and writing skills in FRENCH.  (They would notice the english translation accompanies the video.)

The first time watching the video, students will write down in French at least 8 vocabulary terms they already know and any other terms they hear.

After watching the clip twice, we will then go over the vocabulary terms that the students wrote down.  I will provide them with other terms mentioned in the clip, (above).

To test the student’s understanding, they will then watch the clip for a third time and will use their knowledge of French vocabulary and the use of context clues to be able to answer the following questions in French: (The questions would also be asked in French.) Students will watch the clip 2 more times in order to answer the questions.

1. The story the girl is telling is from a child’s book and TV show you way know, what is it? What is this show called in French?

-Winnie the Pooh, “Winnie l’oursin”

2.  In the beginning, she mentions baby monkeys.  What happend to them and where were they?

-They were lost in the trees.

3. Why could the animals in the box not eat?

-They were poor and couldn’t pay.

4. Why did winnie l’oursin and Tigre go into the woods?

-To find strawberries.

5. Who did Winne and Tigre meet in the woods and why was she mad about what they took? (answer to number 4)

-Winnie and Tigre met a witch and the strawberries were hers that Winnie and Tigre took.

6. Who won the battle and name three things he was wearing.

-The lion won the battle and he was wearing a helmet, a sword and a shield.


Therefore as a result of this activity, students will have thouroughly reviewed animal among other vocabulary terms in order to answer correctly at least 5/6 of the questions.  To practice their speaking, I could have students speak with a partner the answers they came up with and then express their opinions of the video.  As another follow-up activity, students could be asked to create an alternate ending. Instead of the ending with the lion, students would need to insert another animal into the final scene and explain what this animal did to either save the day or either be defeated by the witch.  The anternate ending would be a good activity for an upper level class, maybe French 2 or 3.  This video could easily be used with even a 7th or 8th grade French class since the vocabulary terms are quite simple and because of the English subtitles.

Les Maitres D’Eau!

I discovered a VERY cool serious French game to implement into the classroom. So all you French educators out there, check this out!  It’s called Maitres d’Eau and it’s quite relevant and educational as it discusses the water network system of Paris.  It is very descriptive, the little “helpers” on the site who “talk to you” and guide you from step to step like to inform you of different facts about how plumbing works, what is needed, what you should pay attention to, etc… As a “serious” game, its goal is to inform and educate as well as entertain.  This game had some easier sections than others.  Building the aqueduct system of pipes was sooo difficult for me.  Two in particular were very hard for me and I played them each over 10 times with STILL no success.  Goes to show my gaming experience, huh? I had to eventually take a break and go back to it to try again.  I am still not able to successfully connect all of the pipes from the beginning to the end so I decided this part of the game was probably too difficult for my students.  I would most likely tell them to attempt it a few times then skip to the next section.

Les Maîtres de l’Eau - screenshot

This is the map of sections.  You must complete section 1 before you can unlock section 2, 3, 4, and so on. They seem to get a little bit harder as it goes on.

After each active game, there is a learning section where you read about certain facts and definitions, the “encyclopedie” section. The definition of an aqueduct or chloration for example could be terms.  Then you are quizzed on what you read and only have a short amount of time to connect the right response to the question.  I usually get 2/3 stars at the end.  It’s not easy when you are unfamiliar with the terms.  I would probably provide the students a list of certain terms.

I can see this game being difficult for even upper level French but I think it is certainly possible if I go over certain terms such as “appuyer”(press), or “faire glisser” (slide) as these terms are often found in the mini-games.   I may also explain to them ahead of time how to accomplish each game.  I imagined playing this game WITH the class, as in we would go through each section together and once one is finished they would do the same section again before moving on to the next.  On the second day of gaming, I would review briefly with the students what to expect but they would ultimately complete the games at their own pace on this day.

Les Maîtres de l’Eau - screenshot

This is the learning break.  The figures act as teachers in a way and tell you about different parts of the water system, whether the types of water itself, or how the water is transported…etc. The figure to the right changes according to the topic.

I saw that you can download this game on your android as well.  The image above was the easiest game for me.  I was confused at first but then I realized the colors of the needed “icon” were listed under each image.  Whereas, the first 2 times around I was trying to memorize which icons went with each image.

My learning objectives of this game would be for students to gain a better understanding of the water system in Paris and obtain key terms while playing that they would later use in class when discussing the water system.  I would probably quiz the students on what they learned and certain vocabulary terms found within the game.  For example, I would tell students that they would need to record the three types of water mentioned under the “Prelevement d’eau” encyclopedia section, (eaux souterraines, eau source, eau de riviere)  Each day may focus on a different gaming section, not necessarily all of them.  I would obviously need to test this out in the classroom to better understand how I would instruct with this game.  One learning objective for day 4 or 5, for example could be for the students to state the five principle reservoirs for storing treated water, (section 5 of the game).  Students would also list and describe aspects of each unit of distribution and to which resevoir it belongs.  After each mini-lesson, students would express in French their feelings, likes and dislikes of each game and 3 things that they learned from each. Students would then discuss their reactions to the game with a partner, comparing and contrasting their comments as well as what they learned. This would fulfill the communication objective in the NYS LOTE standards.  I would then ask the class as a whole to volunteer their thoughts on the game, asking which students enjoyed it and why and who did not and why not.  This game would definitely be for a French 4 or 5 level class.

Ultimately my primary objectives of this game would be: 1) for students to practice their overall comprehension on the given topic of the Parisian underground sewer system.
2) for students to record at least 10 vocabulary terms they didn’t understand and to look them up in a dictionary.  (This makes students responsible and accountable for their work and their own learning.)

I would collect their reaction responses and what they learned and depending on how detailed or how vague their responses were, I would be able to conclude whether the game was a success or not.  We would also discuss the new vocabulary terms in class.  It’s important for the students to see what other classmates of theirs found the same terms and what terms other classmates found that they didn’t.

I believe this game has a lot of potential in the classroom and I must say I am quite excited to try it out one day.  I would use this game to relate to a cultural lesson, (fulfilling the cultural NY state LOTE learning standard) on the Parisian sewer system.  I could give a brief history on Napoleon III’s reign and his construction of new boulevards, aqueducts and sewers with the help of Haussman and Belgrand.  It really was a phenomenal time of advancement, sanitarily speaking, in Paris’s history.

There is a museum of the Sewer system in Paris.

Escape the room!

Escape the Room is a genre of online gaming in which you must gather certain objects within a room in order to later use them to help you escape said room.  I played the kitchen escape and the bathroom escape and both were very hard if you do not know what to do! I luckily saw someone commented a step by step guide to follow in order to “escape”.  This game, if using the French language would probably need to be used at a high school level since lower levels would probably lack the needed vocabulary.  I would provide the students with a list of vocabulary terms that they would need, terms that they most likely did not already know.  Vocabulary terms used during that unit would most likely be found already in their notes.  For instance, if I was to use the kitchen escape, the students would be learning kitchen vocabulary in prior days, before playing the game.  The task at hand would be problem solving and following directions. First the students would watch the Escape Walkthroughs video(s) and they would be required to take notes on all of the directions shown.  Students would be required to use their French vocabulary hand-out while watching the walkthrough to make a “grocery list” in French of all of the items that need to be found.  Next, after gathering all needed objects, students would make a list of “etapes” (steps) in order, noting the direction in French, that they were required to go according to the task.  Depending on the level, students may or may not be required to describe the action in French that they needed to perform in order to continue on.  Again, I would have the essential vocabulary provided such as renverser, (to pour), allumer, (to turn on), brancher, (to plug in), etc…At the end of the escape, students would write in French a reaction to the game.  They would express their opinions, feelings of frustration or accomplishment, and general comments about the game, utilizing upper-level French vocabulary. After reflecting on a sheet of paper, the students would then discuss in French their reactions, likes and dislikes of the game with a partner, (satisfying the communications NY state standard for LOTE.)  The task at hand would vary according to the environment they were escaping.  The kitchen escape, for example would be a good game to play during a food and/or parts of the house chapter.  Students could be required to use their French food vocabulary to discuss what they could cook in the kitchen, using the food items already available in the kitchen, within the game.  You’d notice that a turkey, bananas, oranges, and eggs were in the refrigerator. Should students find the game a good way to practice their French vocabulary, I would certainly use it again during other lessons.

Another possible reaction activity to this game could be students creating their own “escape the room” or creating “alternate endings” in which they explained different means of freedom.  They would have to create 3 or 4 steps that would replace the steps in the game.  For instance, perhaps they would use the water to pour on the rug near the dog which would wake him up and cause him to grab his bone that he had hidden and this bone would be used to construct the escape apparatus.  Coming back to reviewing food vocabulary, students could be asked to replace the frozen fish and another item with different food items that they choose from their vocabulary lists.

As a result of this game, I would hope students would be able to utilize the target vocabulary in a meaningful way, such as being able to use it in class when discussing the game.  This game would act as an alternative way to practice the key vocabulary, rather than flash cards for example.  Students could also use what they learned for the game to tell a story.  Students would pretend they were stuck in a room, and write a story describing how they escaped and what objects they used to do so.  The goal of this game would be to encourage student accountability for their vocabulary terms and as such, apply their knowledge of these vocabulary terms in order to complete a task.  Above are plenty of different ideas to use when teaching a lesson using this game.  When it comes down to constructing the lessons for the week, I would pick and choose different ones in a  way that made sense.

Let’s Get Gaming!

I recently discovered a new term as it relates to education and lesson planning; “Gamification”.  According to Educause gaming, the result of this is “a diverse matrix of approaches that use gaming principles, fully developed games, or other aspects of “gameful learning” to increase engagement, enhance learning and explore new models of education.”   According to the article Archive wizards, “games are primarily valuable due to the emotional responses they evoke and the experiences they engender in their players.”  If the students can become emotionally attached to the situations and the players they are controling, they will be more likely to me intrinsically motivated to progress in the game.  It’s important to use a game that contains “meaningful challenges, battles, and conquests”.  Games with meaningful epic journeys that address “real human needs and emotions” may not be super easy to find for your classroom but I’ll be exploring different educational games in the next few days and I’ll have some feedback on that soon.

I feel the image below does a nice job of putting this new phenomenon into words:

One of the major keys to using gamification in the classroom is the idea of engaging and inspiring your students to develop competencies and skills useful to your subject matter without them realizing that they are learning such.  They would be figuring out how to succeed or break new grounds in the game at hand while simultaneously learning essential elements to your TL (target language) or to whatever subject it is you are teaching.  Students would be motivated to race against their peers or obtain higher scores than their friends.  One of my favorite quotes from the Educause gaming article is ” Game mechanics reinforce the fact that failure is neither a setback nor an outcome but rather an indication that more work is needed to master the skill or knowledge at hand.”  I love this statement because one of the problems LOTE educators face is students giving up because they feel they “can’t” pronounce the TL words nor can they properly form sentences.  One of their biggest fears is making mistakes or “sounding stupid” so as a result they choose to not participate or rarely speak in class.  This is absolutely one of my number one goals as a French teacher; to provide an environment where they do not fear error but are comfortable speaking and making mistakes and accepting correction.  I will be the first to admit that even I may not know every word in French and I could easily make a pronunciation or spelling mistake too.  The only way to learn and to improve is to try and make mistakes.

Some of the 10 Gaming genres to adopt in class discussed on this site include “Escape the room”, puzzle games, arcade, strategy, adventure, alternative reality, multiplayer…etc…I was particularly interested by the Escape the Room genre which I’ll be discussing in more detail in my next post.  In a few words, this game includes you gathering objects in order to escape the room at hand, a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, etc…  The arcade game is very repetitive and so it is good for drilling in vocabulary for directions and colors.  As far as I can tell, most of the medieval, fantasy, quest or strategy games would be better off for upper level language learners.  Well, as you can see there are plenty of different genres of games out there that can be used in the classroom leaving you plenty of options depending on the topic you are covering.

It is true that some students may not be as successful as others with gamification in the classroom. Students who learn better by written, repetitive “normal” schoolwork may not thrive as much.  That being said, what really is “normal” schoolwork now a days?  With technology sweeping across our society like an electric tidalwave, the “norm” of teaching methods that we grew up with may soon cease to exist.  With gaming in the classroom, some teachers may find it difficult to meet the required learning objectives at hand.  The environment of gaming could lead to a loss in order and construct in the classroom, giving students too much freedom. It would be important to maintain an efficient learning environment while gaming.  All in all, a change in pace and varying repertoire of teaching methods is something I believe to be important for an effective teacher to keep her students on their toes and engaged. Perhaps students who normally aren’t very enthusiastic about your subject, but are however competitive in their sports outside of school, would be among those to excel greatly through the use of gamification.  It only takes a few weeks of testing it out to see how effective it can be with your students.

A Twitterful Classroom

Twitter, like blogging is a great tool for teachers outside of the classroom.  If this idea seems intimidating to you, check the Edudemic guide to twitter and the Educator’s Must-Have guide  to using Twitter for educational purposes.  On these two sites you will find an array of ideas for using this link to help improve communication with and between your students as well as all the many different outlets and things twitter has to offer.  You can communicate with parents through Twitter, post summaries of the day’s lesson, have students react to the lesson or day’s activity, they could ask questions to you through your class Twitter page, using hashtags, you can organize ideas and categories readings, you can create pop quizzes on twitter and do much much more…

One of the reasons I like the idea of using Twitter in the classroom is for the same reason I like blogging.  Students can ask you or the class as a whole a question that they may have been too shy to ask in class.  Students can also use it for homework if told to respond to my twitter post.  For example, I could post the following in French:

On a parlé de Renoir, un artiste français, en classe aujourd’hui.

  1. Qu’est-ce que vous pensez à lui et est-ce que vous aimez les œuvres qu’on a vues en classe?
  2. Interprétez cette œuvre. Qu’est-ce qui se passe, selon vous? (Make at least 3 observations.)

(We talked about Renoir, a French artist today in class. 1.What do you think of him and do you like his that art we saw in class? 2. Interpret the following piece.  What is taking place, according to you?)

Renoir – Le Déjeuner des canotiers.

I also like the idea of having students follow certain historical people.  My class could be required to follow Auguste Renoir for example and bring into class some interesting posts they read. Another simple assignment could also be for students to make a post in French using a tense we have been studying, the passé composé, (past tense), or the conditionnel for example.

If you wish to explore all the different Twitter lingo, Educator’s Must-Have guide is truly an incredible source.  “Twellow” for example, is finding twitter users based on a category.  “Twitterholic” is a way to find the most popular twitter users. To find twitter users within your community you can use “localtweeps”.  This “must-have” guide also gives tips for those who wish to present themselves as an authority in their domaine.  Being honest and sincere, opinionated but constructive, replying to other’s tweets and comments, using your real name and sharing your credentials are among some of the advice given.   If you’re an educator, don’t be afraid to use twitter to connect with your students outside of the classroom or for homework assignments.  It’s certainly different and at least something more refreshing and engaging than worksheets or book work!