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.