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 voilà! 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.

Boom Learning digital task cards now available on TpT!

I'm super-excited to announce a new category of digital task cards available on Teachers Pay Teachers!

If you love task cards, you will LOVE these!  I've already added several sets to MY PRODUCTS at TpT, and I'll be adding more soon.  If you have my ADJECTIVE BUNDLE, I've added an adjective agreement set that you'll get as a new addition!

Boom cards are :

  • Self- checking - How amazingly helpful is that?
  • Paperless - Save yourself time and help the Earth.  :)
  • Super-fun - What student doesn't love to play on a tablet or computer?  The cards have an added element of fun, because students can earn badges and awards.
  • Good for individual and class practice - Use them on your interactive whiteboard or have students practice individually with any device.  Students can play at school or at home.

All that, and you can access a suite of teacher reporting tools that can really simplify your job!

Try them out and pick up a FREE set of cards for the passé composé HERE:

A bit more about Boom Learning:
It is a subscription site, but when you download a Boom Card resource from Teachers Pay Teachers, you get your first year for free!  You'll be prompted to set up your account and you'll get access to your downloads.  Take some time to browse the site and check out all of the great resources that are already available.

I will receive a free renewal of my Boom Learning subscription for writing this blog.

What's on your wishlist?

It's Teacher Appreciation week and Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sale!

Everything in my store will be 20% off, and with the promo code THANKYOU17, you can get 28% off everything in my store.  Yes,that even includes bundles!

So, start making your wishlist.  It's what I'm doing right now.  :)   I buy so much clip art and I love new fonts, so I'm filling up my cart already.  Other great ideas for this time of year?  Year-end awards and back-to-school stuff.  I know you're looking towards summer, but what a great time to get organized and pick up some new stuff for next year, right?

I thought I'd share the 3 most wish-listed items from my store.  Not surprisingly, they are three of my top-sellers, too.  If you don't have them, check them out!

Includes a Clothing Catalog, a Menu, a Weather Forecast, a Family Tree, and an All About Me project.  All are in English and full-French versions.

My speaking cards are a favorite of a lot of teachers, and this is my most popular set.  You'll find lots of fun ways to use these other than the 5 fun ideas I include, and the best part of the speaking cards is that students LOVE them!  That makes encouraging speaking so much easier!

Want to get your beginners speaking?  This bundle a year's worth of resources for French 1!  From Find Someone Who activities to speaking cards and partnered work, you'll find a large variety of activities to get your beginners speaking early and often!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  

5 ways to immerse your students in French

As a mom, I speak French at home.  During the day, my son goes to an immersion school, and he spends all day speaking French. He doesn't understand how to conjugate verbs yet, but he does know how to use them correctly in many tenses.  He's not even 100% sure what a verb is yet, but somehow he knows that je joue ends with e and not es or  ent.  How?  He sees it everywhere in the classroom.  He reads it, and he already knows what it sounds like, so ending some other way would just be weird to him.

It would also be really weird to him if his teacher began French class with a verb chart and made him sit and memorize endings.  Or even stranger still... if he opened up a book and started repeating vocabulary words after his teacher.  Yes, maybe sometimes these things will happen, but it should not happen for every verb or vocabulary word for every unit!

So, what can non-immersion teachers do the help students gain fluency as quickly as possible in a more natural way?  Here are some things I've learned from teaching FSL and immersion. Neither model is perfect, but in my experience, immersion is by-far a quicker path to fluency.

1.  Don't translate everything.

I know that this is easier.  I know students love to get a nice, comfortable vocabulary list with the words side by side.  This is easy, but it isn't really practical.  Maybe you can give them this list AFTER you have presented the vocabulary in context.

How to do this? 

 TPR!  I love to talk and tell stories.  I'm silly, and I tell a lot of stories about my husband.  (He HATES this, mainly because my classes go crazy with the TPR stories, and they never end!  He doesn't find the stories we tell as amusing as we do).

Vocabulary in context is not so easy for beginners, though, so how do you present it effectively?  Bring in the actual items when you can.  Print word walls with the image and the French word.  Find a short video with some of the words, or give them a short reading comprehension activity and have them guess the meaning of the words. You can also tell a short story, draw, or act out some of the words.

2.  Correct students when they are wrong.

This goes for FSL and immersion teachers.  While we think we are discouraging students when we correct them, what we are actually doing is helping prevent students from fossilizing these mistakes.  I can't tell you how many very-near fluent immersion students I've taught who say things like, "Quand j'étais cinq" or "J'ai tombé."  It is totally natural to make mistakes like this, but if we let it go on, it gets worse and worse.  If your child said, "I goed," you would correct them, so please don't let your students say "J'ai allé!" Even when students know it is wrong, they have a much harder time avoiding these errors after time.

3.  Music!  

Use music as much as you can.  Some students really learn best this way, and it is just more fun anyways.  Find some great links to songs on my Pinterest music page HERE.  

4.  Give them lots of visuals.  

If you want your students to ask for help in French, ask permission to get up, go to the restroom, or anything else, you have to encourage that by giving them handy visuals.  Even students who speak a lot of French still benefit from anchor charts and notes.  Once they are in place, you can simply motion towards the poster and the students will remember your expectation to use their French.  
These printable signs are perfect for beginners.  Find them HERE.  


5.  Maximize your time with students.

Your students only get a few hours a week with you.  This means that they need to hear as much from you as they can.  So, speak French as much as you can!  Related : Get your students speaking French!

This also means that what is in your textbook might not always be what is the most important.  (Yes, really!)  So what's important?  Well, all of it is, but here are the two areas I like to focus on the most with beginners.  


The first exposure to a verb should always be with je and tu.  They can get used to the idiomatic expressions and get speaking with only these two subjects.  A great way to do this is with a Find Someone Who activity.   After students are comfortable this, you can move on to speaking cards that you use daily, and when students are ready, you can add in the other subjects.

Don't limit your students to vocabulary lists from a textbook.  We usually add 5-10 new words each class period based on what comes up in the context of the class.  I write them on the board as they come up, then I make a point of coming back to those words over and over throughout the week.

If you have some extra time, add some fun with a Bingo game.  Your students might not remember every single term, and that's okay.  The goal is exposure.  You want to expose them to as much as you can, and while you will have the non-negotiable items that they must know for your course, every other term they learn just gets them one step closer to fluency.  

Beyond that, I'm not going to tell you that grammar doesn't matter, because it does.  There are even people out there that like grammar.  (Guilty!)  However, does it matter if your students don't know what direct objects and prepositions are?  Not really.  I bet they don't all know what they are in English, but they won't have trouble telling you that they are in school, on time, or that they gave it to you.  What matters is that they can USE them.

What do you do to bring more immersion into your classroom?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!