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!  

Fun French speaking activity for beginners!


I know how hard it is to get beginners speaking, and I'm always looking for meaningful new ways for students to practice.  Just as each class is different, every year brings new students with new strengths and also new challenges.  Over my years as a teacher, I have had to vary my activities to meet the needs of my students, but this doesn't always mean creating a brand-new activity.  I'm busy, and you are, too, so let's not make more work for ourselves than we need to!

A lot of teachers out there are already using my speaking cards, and I'd love to share a handy way that I like to use them with my more adventurous groups.  For those quieter classes, I'll have an idea for them, too!  

For your classes who love to speak:

1.  Make a box with questions or prompts.  In my class, we call this "Sur la sellette" which means "In the hot seat."  Above, you'll see my box.  For this particular box, I used one of my son's shoe boxes and just decorated it.  In the past, I've used whatever box I had handy (usually an empty tissue box).  Make it as fancy or simple as you like.  Don't want to decorate it?  It will still work just as well!  :)

2.  Cut apart question cards or speaking prompts and place them in the box.  Need some?  You can find many options here:


3. Call students to the front to sit "sur la sellette."  I put a stool or chair in the front of the room, but you can have the student stand if you prefer.  The student "sur la sellette" will draw a prompt from the box and answer the prompt.  You can set the expectations for your class.  For true beginners, I have them answer in a complete sentence.  For more advanced classes, I give the student a time limit and ask him/her to speak for the entire time (usually between 20-30 seconds).  

For your classes who are less-excited to speak in front of others:

Use the same speaking prompts, but pass out enough cards for students to work in groups of 2, 3, or 4.  Have them answer the questions with the same expectations of either a complete sentence or a time-limit, but rather than speak in front of the class, they answer to their partners.  You can circulate the room and work with groups individually, and all students will be speaking, just in a less-intimidating way.  

Here's a peek at some of the prompts in my beginner speaking prompt pack available HERE at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  

These aren't questions, but rather subjects, so you will guide students to answer as you like, but the expectations should be the same.   Students should discuss the prompt in a complete sentence or for a time frame.  For example, for the prompt "Dans mon sac à dos," students would tell what they have in their bag.  For "mon plat préféré," they would identify or describe their favorite dish. 

This resource includes 45 beginner topics and 9 editable cards if you wish to add your own topics.  Also included are 3 templates that you can use if you want to decorate your box as I have done.  

These prompts can be used for so many activities in class, too.  They make great bellwork or exit ticket subjects, writing prompts, or you can even make speaking stations and have students rotate around your classroom with a partner.  

I hope these prompts make speaking French FUN!  

Hands-on practice for French si clauses!


French si clauses are so tricky!  If you want your students to really master them, you'll need to find some fun and effective ways for students to practice.  Here is my students' favorite way to practice si clauses with le conditionnel and le futur simple.

Related: French si clause writing activity

Each page has a si clause and another clause either in the conditional or the future.  Simply cut out each sentence clause, have students place them face up on their desks, then match the correct si clause with its corresponding clause.  You can easily walk the room and check their progress by using the original copy as your teacher key.

To help students understand that the si clause can come at the beginning or end of the sentence, some sentences will start with the si clause and others will end with it.  The result clause is always underlined, so students will know to match two different types of clauses.

Your students will love it, and it will really help them understand the structures:
si + imparfait -->  conditionnel  and si + présent --> futur simple.

Want to add even more challenge?  Have them write their own si clauses as a follow-up homework assignment.  You can then use those sentences as bellwork, quiz questions, or another homework for those who need more practice!


I hope this makes si clauses fun for your students!  

Want even more practice for le conditionnel?  

Grab the bundle HERE!

French si clause practice your students will love!


Teaching si clauses can be really difficult, because we often are teaching it after years of heavy grammar.  Students memorize conjugations, do some written quizzes, maybe do a project, and then move on to the next chapter, the next set of conjugations.

After several years of French, some of the students probably feel a little ... bored.   Are they able to memorize things? Without a doubt, some of the students can memorize any conjugation and recite to us out loud an entire verb chart (or 10).  Does that mean that they are understanding when and how to use those verbs?  Does it mean they can use them correctly in conversation?  Maybe, but chances are, some of our students mix up their tenses.  They can recall the conjugations, but after the futur simple, the imparfait, and maybe even the subjonctif, will they be able to flow through a normal conversation using the correct tense?  Most of the time, they need a lot more practice.

Of all the verb tenses, the conditional is by far my favorite!  We love si clauses, and we often plays games of "What if..."  To get you started, you'll need to get students used to speaking in hypothetical terms.  This writing and speaking activity is a great way to get students used the conditional by speaking and writing in the 1st person.


I start the activity with writing prompts that I put on the wall on poster paper.  I use about 10-12 different prompts and posters for a class of 20-25.  I often have 2 or more classes doing this activity, so when I do, I might put 2 posters (or a larger poster) for each question to accommodate all of their answers.

Need some ideas for teaching French si clauses?  This blog post is full of fun ideas for intermediate French students and includes links to great resources for your class.  Click here to read more!

Students do a tour of the room in pairs and complete the si clauses.  They aren't necessarily working together, but I do pairs because my room won't hold 25 posters.  This allows two students to work on the same question at a time.  They will work with that partner later, though, so be sure to pair them up well.

Related:  Grouping students has never been so easy!

The writing part of this activity will take about 1 minute per question.  You can give the students 30-45 seconds that you time, or you can have them do a self-paced tour.  If you have 10-12 questions, you should plan for 10-15 minutes to do the writing portion.

Because they only get about 30 seconds per question, you will notice that not every answer is 100% correct.  That's okay.  We do this as sort of a brainstorming activity.  Once students have done the tour of the room, then they sit back down with their partners and go over  their answers orally.   Each student should answer the questions with his/her partner and explain why he/she answered that way.  I usually give my classes about 7-10 minutes to do this part so that they can use references to find any vocabulary they were lacking during the first activity.  After students have had ample time to work with a partner, I randomly question students.

As a follow-up, you can use one last question as an exit ticket.  I usually ask students to answer and then explain why they answered that way.  I give them about 3-4 minutes to write a quality answer and turn it in.

Need FREE exit tickets?  Get them here!


In total, this activity usually takes about 35 minutes with teacher directions, movement time, follow-up questions, and the exit ticket.  I usually do it after students have learned the irregular stems of the conditional and are beginning to work on si clauses.  It is a good idea to make sure they understand the structure Si + imparfait --> conditionnel before doing it though, or you will find many sentences ending in the imparfait.

Related: Hand-on practice for French si clauses


Want more progress? Use quality assessments!

I almost didn't get in to kindergarten.  I say almost, because obviously I would not be writing this if I hadn't made my way through school. I went to school for many years, but that first fateful kindergarten round-up could have gone quite differently and put me on a different path with different teachers and different friends.  Who knows?  If I was held back that year, would I have made the same choices and become the same person?  No one can say, but luckily, they let me in.

You see, at kindergarten round-up, you had to be able to complete certain tasks before they would say you were ready.  Now, this doesn't mean they wouldn't ever let you in, but they did recommend that you waited if they thought you weren't not ready.  I know they still do this, because over many years as a middle school teacher, I've had many parents admit they wish they'd listened when the school told them their child might not be ready.  (What do schools know about stuff like that anyways, parents?)

Maybe, just maybe, in my time, parents listened to teachers more.  I know my mother certainly thought what the teachers said was GOLD.  But... there were those moments when my mother challenged teachers, and that was huge, because she was the ultimate PTA mom, room helper, cookie baker, and best friend to all teachers.  When my mama challenged you, it was about to get ugly.

Well, the day of kindergarten round-up, I went to school with my mom.  I'm the last of 4 kids, so everyone knew my family.  My brother and sisters were all high-achievers, and the expectation for me to be as well was surely very high.  However, as able as I probably was, I was TERRIFIED of strangers.  I'm still very shy, but I wouldn't say terrified.  An extended conversation face-to-face with someone I don't know still freaks me out, but I put on my big girl pants and get on with it.

We go to the round-up and they give me whatever the assessments were that they used to test readiness. I remember thinking I did well and that it was easy, so you can imagine my confusion and embarrassment when they told my mom I was probably not ready because I had trouble with my colors.  My mom immediately questioned the woman, because she knew this wasn't true.  You see, they had asked us to identify the colors by pointing at them, and I wouldn't point out red.  When my mom, point blank, asked me why not, I replied, "It wasn't red, it was magenta."  (If you are wondering, I actually do  remember this day pretty well, but I'm sure that my memory of it was aided by my mom who told the story.  A lot.)

This brings me to my point.  Are we SURE that kids don't know something or is it POSSIBLE that our assessments aren't so great?  If the person assessing me had asked me to tell her the colors instead of pointing them out, this wouldn't have even been a problem.  I say maybe we need to look at the questions we ask and decide:
1.  Are they age appropriate?
2.  Are we using follow-up questions to make sure kids don't understand?
3.  Could they be confusing to kids?
4.  Is there another way to find out if kids can do the skill?
5.  Is a child's inability to do another task impeding his ability to show mastery of a certain skill?

Now, for question 5, this one has been on my mind a lot lately.  My son, who started reading Magic Tree House books in kindergarten, has always been a strong reader in English.  As a bilingual, he might read a little better in French right now, but as the skills are transferable, we work on reading skills often in both languages.  We read every night and when he reads without me, he tells me all about Jack and Annie, the places they go, and the adventures they have.  He can describe them in detail.  So, as a certified English teacher who taught Communication Arts for 5 years, I was confused when his teacher reported that he does not understand setting.  This guy can tell me, in detail, every aspect of setting from the story he just read.  I know he gets it.  Why doesn't she?

So, he came home last night with his assessment over setting.  There was one question where students were asked to draw the setting.  One.  There were no more questions.  Just that.  Draw the setting.  Well, I have a child who HATES to draw, so he halfway attempted a few stick figures standing in a few stick-like trees.  He didn't score so well.  Another assessment, draw the character.  Again, stick figure (this time of a teddy bear) and he got marked off because it didn't LOOK like a teddy bear.  Again, low score, because no effort is going to be put into drawing by him.  We've talked about it, and I've explained that his teacher thinks he doesn't understand, because he's not showing it.  He shrugs, says he can't draw well and that this is a stupid way for her to see if he gets it.

Wow!  Straight from the mouth of a seven year-old.  After looking at my son's reaction, it's clear to me that this isn't really testing his knowledge of setting, but more his ability, or more accurately, his effort, to draw the setting.  Is it possible that this isn't a great way to assess all children?  As a teacher, I would never assume to know what a teacher is doing in class, nor would I overstep my boundaries in the parent-teacher world and say a teacher is not doing a quality job, because that is just not fair.  Should my son work harder to complete the expected task?  Yes, he should, but I do think assessments should be geared towards assessing the actual skills we want to see rather than penalizing students for not being proficient at another task, such as drawing.  I am fortunate enough to be an educator, so when I see things on my son's report card that don't seem right, I can further assess to see if he is proficient.  If he needs improvement, we work on those skills.  If he can show understanding and mastery in another way, I'm good with that.  Sadly, grade cards and standardized tests reflect the understanding demonstrated by assessments that might not accurately reflect student understanding.

As a teacher, I have asked kids to draw before.  I don't grade them on the drawing, of course, but I do ask them to show that they understand.  It isn't THE assessment, but it might be part of my toolkit to see if students get it.   Now, as I've never taught first grade, I don't presume to know what they can do to show understanding of setting, but I do know it is much less than the middle schoolers and high schoolers I taught.  So, what would be a good way to assess here?  I don't claim to know much about our littlest learners, but I do know that we need to try different ways to figure out if kids get it.

As I have spent the majority of my years teaching French, either as second language or as a dual language, I'd like to look at this from a foreign language point of view.

Here are some questions that come to mind when I look at my own methods of assessing:

Do I assess speaking and listening as much as reading and writing?

Teachers who do this will often see that kids who aren't the best spellers might actually learn aurally, so wouldn't this be a great way to quiz vocabulary?  How about following up a fun speaking activity with a speaking quiz?  I have designed all of my Find Someone Who activities to be used as in-class activities, but each resource includes a follow-up homework and speaking rubrics so they can be used as interview-style speaking quizzes.


Related:  Get your students speaking French!  

Do I provide choice with projects?

If a student hates to draw, can they write about the topic?  Or conversely, if a student hates to write, could we allow them to draw, or present, or make a movie about the topic?  Here's a glimpse at a project from a French 2 class that I love.  Students write about themselves in the present tense, then write about their life as a child, then predict what their life will be like in the future.  The writing is not perfect, but it is pretty good for a second-year student!

In this project, students have a choice of the questions they will answer, which makes the project a lot more fun and interesting for them.  When time allows, I have students read them to a small group or present them in class.

Click here to see the project in my Teachers Pay Teachers store:


Related: 10 tips for using projects in French

Do I vary my own teaching?

I'm guilty!   I love to read and write, and I hate to draw and speak in front of people.  As a new teacher, I relied very heavily on written activities because they fit in my own comfort zone, but I was doing a disservice to my kids.  Now, my classes are a mix of speaking, writing, moving, listening, acting, and so much more.  I was hesitant to try new things, thinking the kids would hate them, but enrollment in my classes increased greatly when I did this, because kids spread the word : French class is FUN!

Related : Learning a Foreign Language Should be Fun!

Do I assess the same skill in a variety of ways?

If you gave a written quiz, would you also follow it up with a speaking quiz or a presentation?  If you asked kids to draw, would you also ask them to write about it?
In order to really evaluate how well our students understand, we need to use a variety of ways to assess students, rather than relying solely on pencil and paper tasks that may not truly reflect their understanding.
My grammar bundles include games, speaking activities and quizzes, guided notes, writing exercises, projects and/or oral presentations.  There are so many ways to see if students are understanding, and the variety keeps students happy.
Here is a peek inside my passé composé bundle at few easy ways to assess students.

1.  Speaking cards 

2.  Exit ticket tickets

3.  PowerPoint presentation - Mon Voyage à Paris

And of course, there is a standard grammar packet with pages of worksheets that will help your students practice and review the passé composé.

Here's what's included in this bundle: 

3 Find someone who activities with follow-up written component and rubrics for an interview-style quiz

Do I ask kids what they like?

The best way to find out what works for a student is to ask.  Even my first-grader will tell you his favorite way to practice something.  This may not mean we can always do what the students want, but it will give us some insight into what their strengths are, and it will help us understand when our assessment tells us that they can't do it, but they say, "Yes we can!"

I know we have a lot on our plates.  With constant paperwork, benchmarking, ever-changing standards, new students, new expectations, new....everything, a lot of us are just trying to get by.  We can't do it all, and we will burn out if we try.  But, what if we tried, once per unit, to do a different type of assessment than the textbook-provided quiz?  What if we asked students what they wanted to do and found a new, fun project instead of a test?  What if we looked at how we balance assessments to see if we are relying too much on one set of skills?

As teachers, we grow each year, and even as a veteran, my eyes were opened by my son's assessment.  I know I do a good job, but I know there is still so much more I could do, so I'm going to keep trying, and I'm going to keep getting better every year.

What do you think?  When are assessments just not good enough, and what can we do to really see if kids understand?

Mastering French adjectives doesn't have to be boring!

Teaching grammar is probably the least-fun part of being a foreign language teacher.  It is necessary so that our students speak and write correctly, but it is sometimes frustrating when we have to teach something that even WE aren't excited about.   We teach the lessons, we quiz the students, we move on to something else, and we realize that they haven't fully mastered the concepts.  But... we have to keep moving or we will NEVER teach everything that we need to teach!

This is exactly why I have developed my grammar bundles.  I have found that while I don't have trouble teaching grammar, it takes so much practice to really make it stick.  That means we need to have a lot of fun ways to teach, reinforce, and assess so that no one gets bored, all learning styles are practiced, and students actually MASTER the skills!

Here's a look at some of the resources in my GROWING adjective bundle.  It's growing, because I keep adding to it anytime I create a new adjective activity.  


First, there is a grammar packet, because students need to have thorough explanations.   I have made my packet in full-French and English versions, so it is great for learning the first time or as a review for more advanced learners.  Students get notes and vocabulary pages they can write on and ample practice for the concepts presented.  


The first half of the packet is in French, and the second half uses English to explain the grammar concepts.  With first year classes, I use the English version, but I love to review at the beginning of the year, and I'll use the French version with a French 2 or 3 class who needs a refresher.  After each explanation, students get to practice the skills explained.


But, since writing is not the only way students will learn adjective vocabulary and the rules of agreement, the bundle also includes many types of visual support.

First, there are posters with masculine and feminine adjectives:


Only available in this bundle as a supplement to the speaking and writing activities, there are 2 word wall packages with almost 50 common adjectives in all.  Students will get examples in their masculine and feminine forms + images to help visual learners.  The word walls include many of the adjectives in the packet making them a perfect supplement to the packet and presentations.


Also included is a PowerPoint show to help teach alongside the packet.  There are 28 pages of notes and exercises that you can use as exit tickets, bellwork, speaking practice, or with individual whiteboards.  Students love the visuals, and because it coordinates with the packet, it simplifies the teaching process A LOT!  As with all other resources, there is a French and and English version.


So, after you've met the needs of your visual learners and provided great guided notes and writing practice, you'll want some practical ways for students to SPEAK using their newly acquired vocabulary and grammar concepts.  For many students, this is where there is a disconnect, because often they do not get enough speaking practice, and for many, many students, this is the key to LANGUAGE AQUISITION.  We don't want to teach it and have them just forget, do we?

So, here are some ways to get them speaking, and they will be having so much fun that they won't even feel like they are working!

First, get them up and speaking.  These speaking cards are one of my students' favorite activities, because they love to move around, and it breaks up the classtime so well that class seems to fly by!  I love it because they really use their vocabulary in a practical way, and I know that this means they will retain that information!  It's great for movement which has been proven to help the learning process and retention of skills.  There are many fun ways to use them, and detailed instructions for 5 fun activities are with the question cards.


Next, get them in groups and have them play a board game.  This is a perfect activity for groups of 3, 4, or 5.  Directions come in French and English.  The goal of the game is for students to correctly use the vocabulary shown on the board in complete sentences to reach the end of the before their opponents.  There is a mix of masculine and feminine adjectives that correspond directly to the word wall adjectives.


Now, more speaking practice and a speaking assessment!  First, students complete the Find Someone Who activity to focus on their adjectives.


Next, they take home the practice sheet with the same questions.  They practice the questions to prepare for a speaking quiz.  On the day of the quiz, you can assign all the questions or you can have them draw numbers from a hat and randomly assign their questions.  The Find Someone who activity includes French and English speaking rubrics to make your job so easy!

Now, for a review:  

We LOVE Scoot!  You can practice the skills you want as an entire class, make really good use of your time, and the students love to move.  They NEED it, and for your kinesthetic learners, this is a great way to make that information stick!  As with all other resources, there is a French and English version.

To play Scoot, simply tape numbers on the corners of your desks and have students work their way through all of the questions.  I have them start at their own desk, complete the questions in order, and make their way back to their own desk.  There are numbered and non-numbered cards in the pack, so questions can easily be skipped if they don't match the curriculum exactly.  With 44 questions to choose from, it's sure that everyone can find the practice that works best.


Here's what the answer sheet looks like.  Notice that this student didn't start at desk one, because she was not seated at desk one when we started the game.


As an incentive for the winner, I always give a small prize - either a toy from my bin, a pencil, or something small like that.  I sometimes give free homework passes away, so I put them in this pack in case that might be handy.  :)

It is a growing bundle, which means that I add to it anytime I have a new adjective resource.  What's great about a growing bundle is that you can grab it at a great price now and get all the new resources anytime I update without paying anything else.  So, what exactly is included right now?

French colors - notes and activities (directions in French and English)

6 Posters with examples of masculine and feminine use of adjectives

French and English notes and exercises   - includes sentence scramble puzzles and exit tickets (in French and English)

Personal adjective dictionary with over 150 common adjectives + nationalities

Adjective PowerPoint presentation (in French and English)

Adjective word wall

Adjective board game (directions in French and English)

Scoot game with 44 cards, answer sheets, and homework pass (in French and English)

36 speaking cards + 5 ideas for using them in class

Find Someone who activity + follow-up homework activity and French/English rubrics to use for speaking assessment

This bundle is created to help you teach and reinforce French adjectives in a fun and effective way.  I'll keep adding to it as I have new resources!