How to have successful parent-teacher conferences

Conference time is almost here! While meeting with parents is an effective way to work together in the best interest of the student, let's face it : Conferences are stressful! You are working more, you have a lot of grades to get done first, some parents might not agree with everything you're doing, and you will be having a lot of face-to-face conversations with parents that you might only see once or twice a year.

You'll have some easy conferences, but it's quite possible that you'll have some tough ones, too. In order to be successful, you want to convey to parents that you are a team. Here are some ways to make a great impression on parents and build a relationship that will help you work as a team.

If you can schedule conferences, do it! It simplifies life so much. If your school does walk-in conferences, place a few chairs outside your room with a sign-in form. Ask parents to leave a phone number or email if they don't get in to meet with you, and then make sure to follow up. 

Whether you have walk-in conferences or you have scheduled them in advance, don't get caught too long with one parent. If you anticipate the conference taking longer than you feel you can offer on that day, ask to schedule a longer conference so that you have adequate time for that family while still respecting your other parents who are waiting. 

Have examples of student work that highlight what you are working on and that demonstrate the student's progress in class. Ask students to fill out a self-evaluation before conferences that can be shared with parents. A self-evaluation will give you discussion points with the parents, will share the responsibility of learning with the student, and will help ensure that students connect their grades with the work they've put in.

It's a lot easier for parents to believe their child who says you lost that homework assignment when your classroom has papers everywhere and there is no clear organizational system.  This might be the parents' only opportunity to be in your classroom, so take some time to clean and organize before they come in. Appearances do matter in this case!

Seriously! If you have THAT PARENT coming to see you, don't feel backed into a corner. If you are not comfortable speaking to this person alone, don't!  If you know this person will be in at a specific time, ask in advance for an administrator to be present. If the conferences are walk-in style and you are unexpectedly facing a hostile parent, it is okay to schedule a conference at a later date. If a parent is already angry and you are facing him/her alone, it can turn into a situation where it's your word against the parent's. It's best to have someone at your side.

Print out grades ahead of time so that the parent can discuss the grade with the student after the conference. If your students do any sort of achievement testing, try to have printouts of the areas they can improve upon. In addition, it is helpful to have a checklist of student strengths and areas to improve. You can do these ahead of time or during the conference.

If you have a student that is struggling, be ready with some ideas BEFORE the conference. Do you have a tutoring day? Are you willing to offer retakes or extra credit? Can you set up a communication  system with the parent such as a weekly e-mail or a daily note in the student's agenda?  Do you post assignments on a classroom website? 

In addition, if you have already taken extra steps for the student, be prepared to show the parent what you have done. Document everything and make copies! 

If you are easily flustered and forget what you want to say when the moment presents itself, practice ahead of time. Make a list of questions you anticipate and think about how you will answer them. Don't feel bad if you want to keep notes on specific students so you can refer to them when parents come in.

I have to admit that the invention of the Bluetooth has saved me from looking a little unstable, because I practice what I want to say to people while I'm driving in the car. Before the Bluetooth, it looked like I was talking to myself (which I was). Now, it just looks like I'm having a phone conversation. :)

Yes, just listen. Parent-teacher conferences are not just a time for you to talk about the student's progress in class. You can learn a great deal from the parents as well. The parents will often have good ideas about how the child learns, what struggles he/she is facing, and possibly information about the homelife that the child might not have shared with you.

Let the parent speak before jumping in to explain yourself. This can be hard when you feel attacked, but sometimes the parent is just as frustrated as you are. I've found that a lot of parents want to help and just don't know how. If you can listen patiently and calmly, you're more likely to come to a resolution that works for both of you. Being defensive and not listening to the parent is only going to worsen the situation, so take a deep breath and LISTEN. Oh, and then make sure to take notes so you remember the important points!

Remember that parents might have multiple conferences. Some parents might not hear a lot of good comments during these conferences, and the constant negative comments will start to wear on the parent. Whether justified or not, no one wants to hear only the bad side.

Parents love their children and need to hear about their strengths and challenges. If all we ever share are the negative aspects of what we see, we are missing the opportunity to connect with a family. In addition, if there is a negative tone to the entire conference, the parent is more likely to be very defensive if he/she is contacted in the future. You want to form a partnership, so treat the parent respectfully and try to focus as much on the positive as you do on the areas where you want to see improvement.

If you have discussed specific behavior issues, learning goals, or parent questions, be sure to follow up with the parent. If you have extra learning materials the student can work with, be sure to send those home. If time allows, send a thank you note or email to parents who attended. One e-mail sent to yourself with a blind copy sent to any parents who attended is a quick way to do this!

A little extra work before and after conferences can really help you connect with your families, and making that connection helps everything you'll do for the rest of the year. Best of luck!

Games and activities for teaching French vocabulary


Teaching vocabulary in a new French unit can be really exciting or pretty boring.  My students love learning new words and starting new units, but let's face it : repeating vocabulary words from a sheet is not so fun for them.   As the new year starts, we are either reviewing with our students who have taken French, or we are teaching French to students who have no vocabulary at all.  Are we using the best methods to teach and review those new words?

Here are some of my favorite ways to review vocabulary.  Brand new beginners?  Read below for teaching tips!

1.  Play categories.

This is one of our favorites, and it takes almost no-prep.  Once students have learned a few vocabulary themes, you can play it anytime, with any vocabulary.  Here's how you play:
Write 5 themes on the board.  Let's say la nourriture, les vĂȘtements, les sports, les adjectifs, and les animaux.
Have students copy the 5 words down, making a column for each word.  Then, go through the alphabet (I sing to make it even more fun, because they laugh at me...) On a chosen letter, you'll stop, and students try to write a word for each category starting with that letter.  I usually give students about 15-20 seconds to write, then I proceed through the alphabet.  They'll do the same thing for each letter until they complete all categories.   The student who finishes first wins.


2.  Teach them through context.

This is much easier to do once students have a few words to make that context.  If you have a French 1 class, students can read together to work on pronunciation and comprehension, and they'll pick up new vocabulary throught context.  For French 2 students, reading activities are the perfect way to reinforce that French 1 vocabulary and learn some new words using context clues.  And as FL teachers, that is a key learning standard everywhere that I know of!  These reading activities are a perfect way for first and second year students to review, reinforce, and learn even more words.  They each have three levels of questions, with English short answer questions and French multiple choice and short answer questions, so differentiating is so much simpler!

Click HERE to check them out.

3.  Have a snowball fight.  

Okay, not really, but it seems like it.  We do this a lot with writing prompts, round robin stories, and discussion questions, but it works great with vocab.  Simply give students a topic, give them 1 minute, and have them write every vocabulary word they can that relates to that topic.  Then they ball up their papers (like snowballs) and toss them.  Everyone grabs a new piece of paper, reads the words, and adds any words they can.  After a few rounds, you can go through the words together.  It's really fun, it takes just a few minutes, and it gets them moving, which is so important!

4.  Immerse them in French.

If you aren't an immersion teacher, you probably find that this is easier said than done.  It's super-easy to use English to communicate, but it only hurts your students in the long run.  So, use as much French as you can, and they will pick up so many words along the way without having a formal list.  Want to get ideas for how to use more immersion?  Read THIS BLOG POST.  

5.  Use songs.

If you've been following me for a while, you know how much I love music in class.  As a teacher, it is more fun for me.  As a mom, I see how effective it is for my son when he is in a music-based classroom.  (And he loves it!)  Want some song ideas for secondary classes?  Read THIS BLOG POST.  

Have littler ones?  Check out Mme Angel's song list for primary French immersion.  My son listened to a lot of these in kindergarten.

So, for those of you with brand new beginners, how do you introduce those new words? 

1.  Use a lot of cognates, synonyms, and antonyms.

This will help you stay in the target language as much as possible.  Students won't struggle with cognates, and once they have a few words in their vocabularies, you can introduce synonyms and antonyms to easily increase their vocabulary quickly.

2.  Use TPR.

It feels silly to be so expressive, but it works!  Instead of translating everything, show them, or have them show you.  Want to introduce a new verb? Act it out!  TPR is especially helpful when you are teaching commands, body parts, or introducing verbs.

3.  Use objects.

As much as you can, have real-life objects on hand.  It is so much more engaging, and real-life experience is what is going to help students remember words.  Words on a vocab list?  Helpful, necessary, but not effective.  Collect any items you can from your units and look for somewhere good to store them!

4.  Use visuals.

Hang word walls and posters in your room and use those to present new vocabulary.  They make great reinforcements, but you can use them to introduce and reinforce the words.


 Find French word walls HERE.

5.   Have students read the words with partners.

When you do want to pass out the vocabulary list, give students five minutes to work with a partner and read the words.  This is really helpful when teaching sounds, and it's a great way to help students read unknown words.  Want to make it a whole-class activity?  Type them out on a PowerPoint and read them together.  Get fancy and add images to drop in later so you get that visual effect.  :)

Hope some of these ideas will help you as you review and introduce new vocabulary this year!

French number practice that works

Beginning French students need a lot of practice when learning the numbers.  Let's face it, French numbers are tricky.  We teach them in the first few weeks of French 1 and we move on.  Students never totally get them if we don't practice them A LOT.  And keep practicing them throughout the year!

Here are some handy tips on teaching numbers in your classroom.

1.  Provide visuals.  

A lot of students are visual, and being able to see the numbers is so important for these types of learners.  Plus, when students need a reminder, the words are there to reinforce what you've taught.  Place NUMBER POSTERS where students can easily see them.

                Visualsaresoimportantwhenlearningaforeignlanguage.Numberpostershelpreinforcenewvocabulary.           Visualsaresoimportantwhenlearningaforeignlanguage.Numberpostershelpreinforcenewvocabulary.

2.  Provide speaking opportunities.  

Teachers everywhere tell me they wish their students spoke more.  All students need to speak as early and as often as you can.  Provide fun games and interactive activities so that students get comfortable with the vocabulary.


Want a FREE numbers speaking activity + more ways to teach numbers?  Click HERE.

3.  Practice listening comprehension.

Getting your students to speak is only half of the equation!  They have to be able to understand what is being said, too.  Fun games like BINGO and LA CLAQUE ! (our name for vocabulary slap) are great at practicing listening comprehension.  La Claque activity also includes printable flashcards for 0-100 + bonus words mille, million, and milliard.  Send them home with students who need extra help.


                ClickheretoreadsomehandytipsonteachingnumbersinyourbeginningFrenchclass.          Bingoisanall-timefavoriteinFrenchclass!It'saperfectactivityforpracticinglisteningcomprehension.ClickheretoreadhowIteachnumbersinmyclass.

4. Reinforce all that great practice with follow-up writing activities.

Some students just have to write it to retain it.  Speaking, listening, and seeing the numbers are all crucial to long-term retention, but the last step is independent, written practice.  You'll find it all in this EASY PRINTABLE PACKET for students.  There are writing activities, speaking activities and games, exit tickets, and a short assessment.


If you want to include all these elements, they are a conveniently bundled together with a discount of 20%.  Find it HERE

Happy teaching!

Have the best first day of French class ever!


Its almost back-to-school time, and that means it's time to look at some fun ways to start the year. I've had some less-than-stellar first days, like the time I had morning bus duty and was late to class (my first teaching day ever), or the time I knocked my coffee off my table and, in trying to save it, broke my cute Eiffel Tower pencil holder (year 2).  I'm known to drop stuff, fall, or generally be clumsy, so when I dress up for the first day of school, something funny is bound to happen.  Luckily, I've got a good sense of humor about it, because I've had my share of embarrassing moments.  I've had plenty of mess-ups, but thankfully, the first day went great most of the time.  Here are a few ways I like to ease back into the school year.

After a long summer of not speaking French, students need to get warmed up before they are ready to speak French everyday.  You can do a written review, and I usually do have a handy notes packet of the most important concepts from the year before complete with some exercises, but what they really need is to use the language as much as possible in your class from day 1.  If these students are new to you, you'll definitely need to do some ice-breakers, but even if they are students returning to you, they might not know one another.  I think they are a great tool to use for any class.  Building a good class environment means encouraging the students to speak to one another and be comfortable using the language, so you'll want to offer a lot of non-threatening activities for the first week.

Here's how I've started my first class for years :

I meet my students in the hallway and give them a card that corresponds to their seat.  

They go in and find the matching card taped on the corner of a desk.  Here's an example of the cards I use.  They are also great for grouping in pairs, threes, fours, or more! I use terms like French monuments, cities, and French-speaking countries to effortlessly bring in some culture.


Get the grouping cards HERE!

I call roll.  

(Boring, but you have to, right?)

I introduce myself with a short PowerPoint show.

It's usually about what I like to do, my family, my cats, and something silly about myself so I seem less scary.  I am not one of those teachers who doesn't smile until Christmas!  I am really strict and really nice at the same time.  Yes, it can happen.  I think humor and having fun with kids makes them want to behave for you IF your rules and expectations are clear and consistent from the first day.

I tell kids what supplies they need.  

Again, boring, but...necessary.  Besides, it takes 5 minutes.


I briefly present my rules and point them out on my bulletin board.  

I say briefly, because kids hear the rules all day in every class.  Even if they are on their best behavior, it's really hard to listen to the same message all day long.  If you present the same thing as every other teacher, they'll have a hard time staying engaged.  Rather than waste time and get ignored, I mention them quickly and do a longer classroom expectations activity on day 2 where I have groups in each class act out the correct and incorrect behaviors for each rule.  The skits are usually really funny and the kids are  engaged and having fun.  Advanced classes can even do them in French!

Find printable classroom rules in French HERE.

I do a quick assessment of what they know about French culture.  

I give them 2-3 minutes and ask them to write everything they know about France, French culture, and any French-speaking countries they know of.  For French 2 and above, I have them list every French-speaking country they can remember, every monument in Paris they can recall, or every French food they know.  Then, I have them volunteer answers and we write them on the board.  You'll quickly see who is brave and who is shy!  Before taking volunteers, this is a great time to discuss classroom respect, because you will see that some students know nothing about French culture or world geography, and their classmates won't be shy with their judgements if you haven't started the activity with a clear expectation to treat one another with respect.  One year, when I asked them to name three French-speaking countries, I was pretty shocked to see that Quebec, London, and Africa all made the list.  So.. I learned that I needed to teach what a country was before asking that on a test!


Now it's time for group work.  

I love group work for a lot of reasons.  It reduces teacher-talk time.  I'm a talker, so if I don't watch out, my teacher-student talking ratio is really bad!  I have to plan a lot of activities to get them talking, because if not, I tend to talk way too much.  Also, for a foreign language class, talking is a must! Plus, it is just more fun for everyone.  :)

Depending on the class dynamic, I may give each student one question and have them read their questions aloud in numerical order, or I might group them in groups of three, four, or five and give each group a complete set of questions to go through together.

I use the English version for beginners and the French version for intermediate and advanced classes.  Each set has 32 cards, and I select the correct difficulty based on the student level.


As a follow-up homework assignment, I pass out a questionnaire with the same questions for students to answer at home.  It is a great way to get to know students, and it puts a fun spin on the normal information sheet we love to use.

Grab these conversation cards and information sheet HERE!

What's your favorite back-to-school story?  Comment below!   

New French e-book filled with tips and freebies!

Tips, inspiration, plus FREE and paid resources from 17 French teacher-authors!

Click the image above to grab the FREE French e-book from 17 French teacher-authors for freebies, tips, and links to great paid resources!  And what's best of all is that there are resources for pre-k to high school, so no matter what you teach, you're sure to find something great!  

How to control screen time during the summer


Summer is here!  I am so excited to get time to hang out with my family, and I know we will have a lot of fun.  However... I also know that it means my son will ask me countless times if he can watch tv.  Don't get me wrong.  I like tv a lot.  Maybe too much.  But, I am also a grown-up with a lot of responsibilities, and tv helps me to relax and unwind when I've been busy all day.  For my son, it is his go-to activity to beat boredom, and I'm not okay with that.

Rather than repeat myself every single day, I have devised a system that works really well at our house.  I actually started it on the weekends, and it was so easy to do that I'm doing it for our entire summer break!  Here's my chart :


Here's what's great about it:  I'm not limiting screen time like I was in the past.  Yes, it is still really limited, because often we are out all day at the pool, or on playdates, or at the park, or on vacation, or whatever else we are doing.  This system is for those days when you are at home with no plans to do much of anything, yet your children ONLY want to watch tv.  So, screentime is drastically reduced, I'm not repeating myself, and I don't get the ensuing arguments after constant nagging to watch tv.  Plus, my house just runs better when we all do our part.  :)

I know a ton of you out there are also parents, so I've made a handy document you can download for FREE at Teachers Pay Teachers HERE. 

If you are a homeroom teacher, this would be a great document to send home with your students over summer break, too!  It has been a real game-changer in our house!

Because you might just have different tasks, it's editable so that you can add your own tasks or even use mine and modify the number of tasks!  And... because I needed mine to match my kitchen and my son's bedroom, I made another one in green. :)

What do you think about earning screentime?  Comment below!

10 ways to recharge during summer break

Ah...summer is almost here!  As teachers, we know that the job isn't really 8:00-3:00 with summers off, but if you are like me, summer is the time when SO MUCH of your life happens.  I'm not too tired to see friends.  There are no papers to grade.  I WANT to do something.  Summer is when I do the most, but it's also when I recharge.  Here are my top 10 ways I plan to recharge this summer.

1.  Read for pleasure.
While a lot of teachers read all year long, we are often reading instructional guides, professional development materials, or reading (again) a novel meant for a younger audience.  I have read Le Petit Prince at least 15 times.  I do love it, but...I also really enjoy a story I haven't heard before.  I plan to read in my hammock every day.  And maybe even take a nap for a bit, too, if I'm lucky.  :)

2.  Learn something new.
Go to a conference and learn something new about teaching - maybe even pick up a salary shift in the process.  Try a sport you haven't ever done.  Take a music or dance class.  Teach yourself how to make a new dish you've been wanting to try.  Just keep it fresh!  I'm going to learn to paddleboard.  I've been wanting to for ages, and this summer is the time!

3.  Unplug.
I love my social media.  I can get lost in video games.  I can watch funny videos all day long while playing video games and checking out my friends on social media.  Next thing I know, hours have passed and I have done NOTHING.  Summer is precious, so don't waste it on the couch staring at your news feed.  If you have to, designate a time of the day where you are totally hands-off.  For me, that is mealtime, but during summer, it also becomes pool time, naptime, reading time, hiking with my family time, and any other time where I'm doing the living rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing.

4.  Go for a walk, a run, a hike, a bike ride, or whatever outdoor activity you love.
I love them all, but I'm a long-time runner.  I always pick a race in the fall to train for, and that gets me up and out the door when it's near 100° in the summer.  It doesn't have to be an organized activity.  Get some headphones and take a walk.  If you have hiking trails, ditch the headphones and listen to the birds.  It's a great way to unwind and reconnect with the rest of the world.

5.  Visit a museum, a garden, or a park.
I'm not a huge art-lover, but my husband went to art school, so he loves to check out museums.  I love parks, gardens, and the Shakespeare Festival.  It doesn't matter so much what you do, but I think it is so important to admire beauty in the world.  That might mean looking at modern art, visiting a botanical garden, or listening to the symphony.  There are so many options, often free, and summer is an amazing time to look around for new activities.

6.  Make a to-do list.  In fact, make two!
I make a to-do list everyday.  It must be the teacher in me, because I love lists.  I love to fill them up and cross them off.  When summer comes, I can easily go downstairs in my pjs, drink coffee, and watch reruns of Grey's Anatomy all day long.  I HAVE to have a to-do list or I do nothing.  At all.  So every Monday (also helps me keep track of the days!) I make a list of what I want to do that week.  Then I make a list of what I have to do.  Each day, I tick off a few of the have-to things, like doing laundry, grocery shopping, or calling the dentist.  Then, I make sure I do the want-to things.  I try really hard to research so that I come up with good want-to ideas. On the list already for this summer: paint basement floor (have to), have a seafood boil with family (want to), and move my irises (have to/want to).

7.  Put yourself first.
If you are a teacher, you are used to your wants and needs coming after at least 15-20 other people's.  If you are a mom, forget it!  You're lucky if you ever get to what you want.  It shouldn't be this way, and this will burn you out.  This is why when you are on a plane, they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before helping your child.  As a child, I thought this was the most awful thing ever, but as an adult, I get it.  You cannot give your best to anyone when you are not taking care of yourself. Some ideas:  get a pedicure, take a bath, exercise, lay in a hammock or on a blanket in the grass, get dinner with your best friend, go shopping, or eat at your favorite restaurant.

8.  Catch up with friends.
Okay, so I have to admit something that only my teacher friends really get.  I have some friends that are summer-only friends.  I love them, but with teaching, with kids, with LIFE, we plan and plan and we just cannot get together.  Then, summer comes along, and voilĂ ! We have time to breathe.  (A lot of my summer-only friends are coincidentally enough, yep... TEACHERS!). We chat on the phone, meet up for coffee or yoga, or just sit on my porch with snacks and drinks while our kids play in the yard.  I feel so refreshed after reconnecting with old friends, and I'm blessed to have friends who understand "the teacher life."

9.  Organize your classroom.
I know, you're thinking, "WHAT?!? Why am I working when I'm on break?" No, wait, actually, you're thinking, "Yes! I have a million things I need to do this summer!"  I'm not proposing any heavy work.  We all know how much we work in the summer, with planning, conferences, writing curriculum, teaching summer school, reading books for teaching, taking classes, etc.  I don't really like doing much of this.  (Except writing curriculum, which I happen to really like, and have done over many summer breaks).  However, I do LOVE a pretty classroom, and I find that I love to organize, decorate, make posters, and create lots of fun things that I know I will never have time to do during the school year.

If you want to get a jump-start on your decorating, check out my classroom decorations and calendar sets HERE.

10.  Binge watch your favorite t.v. shows.
I know a lot of you are planning this already.  My teacher friends all over Facebook are trading recommendations for new shows to watch.  I have a long list, but here's what I'm hooked on right now: Call the Midwife, The Crown, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Reign, and Versailles.   I have a ton of other shows I love, but I'm all caught up right now...maybe they'll have new episodes this summer.  :).

I hope you'll find some great ways to relax and recharge.  I'd love to hear what you're planning to do! Leave a comment below.