Year-end activities for French


End of the year activities for French class that work with any group.



It's the end of the school year! But, wait! You still have two weeks left to teach! Sometimes you have finals at the end of the year, so you're reviewing for a test. Sometimes you have field trips and other fun days planned. However, there are those times when you just have a few days, a week, or even two weeks where you have students but you don't have much to do!

When I taught AP French, the students actually took the test two weeks before the end of the year! We kind of considered that the end of their course, since really, that test was the culmination of many years of French. That doesn't mean my administrator was okay with us doing nothing.  So, what did we do? We made crêpes, watched a tv series that one of my students bought me on DVD (yes, in French), and made a survival guide for the younger kids. It was my only class of seniors, and it was bittersweet to say goodbye after years together, so I relished in every moment we had. I'm sure they appreciated the time, too, since they were busy taking AP tests for other classes during those two weeks!

Regardless of your situation, you're sure to find yourself with extra time at some point, and it can be hard to find meaningful ways to use that time while being respectful of what your students need at the time. Here are some ways that I've used that time to do something fun yet worthwhile.

Do a community service project.


Students can help others while learning about associations in the area that provide relief to those in need. If you can tie it into your curriculum, that's great! If not, maybe there is a French or Spanish non-profit in your area that would appreciate some help. Whether it's running a food drive, volunteering somewhere, or cleaning up a local park, there are many ways for students to help others.

The last community service project I did with my class was collecting toiletries for a local organization that provided them not only to homeless shelters but also to food banks where families pick up necessary supplies. They are always at a shortage of things like soap, toothpaste, and diapers, because many of these items are not covered by any government subsidies and many families just cannot afford them.

How did it tie into our curriculum? We had just read L'Assassin de papa* by Malika Ferdjoukh, a book in which the main character was a homeless teenager who did not have access to regular showers and toiletries. As we discussed the boy's living conditions, we decided we'd like to find a way to help others. With a little help from the internet, you can find organizations that help others and find the tie between the service and the learning objectives.

*If you're looking for a good book to read with teens who are pretty fluent (older immersion kids or FSL students who have good reading fluency), I highly recommend this book. I taught it several times and the kids loved it!

Take a field trip.


Okay, I know not all schools will let you do that at the end of the year, but it doesn't hurt to try! If you need to tie it to a curriculum, find a French restaurant where you can go have lunch and teach the students some conversation phrases that they need to use during the meal. Other great field trip ideas: visit a museum, a local university, or a historical neighborhood that might have some cultural sites to visit. You can have students write or present about it after the trip.


Taking field trips is a perfect year-end activity for foreign language classes.


Put them to work.


Seriously! Have your students make a review game for next year's incoming students. You can have them make board games, computer games, or anything else that will help your class review. I used to have my French 2 classes make review games for my advancing French 1 students. It helps them retain what they've learned from way back when, it's collaborative and low-stress, and they loved creating games with their classmates.


Have them use their knowledge to guide younger students.


If you teach middle or high school, have your older students work together to make information packets for next incoming class. I used to have my graduating seniors make lists of survival skills for high school and I'd pass it out to my advisory class of freshmen at the beginning of the next year. If you teach middle school, you can still have your oldest group do this for the incoming class of 6th or 7th graders (or whatever grade middle school starts in your area).

An easy way to set this up is to group by category so that the task isn't too overwhelming. Some categories we focused on were extra-curricular activities, people to turn to, what I wish I'd known, resources to use, and cool technology/apps for studying. Brainstorm with students and let them have some control. After all, they are the experts on what worked and didn't work for them.

Cook!


I know I talk about food a lot. What can I say? I love to eat! But seriously, if you have access to a kitchen, make some French food. Maybe you can swap classrooms with the cooking classroom for a day. If you don't, have students find recipes online and bring in dishes from home. You can even have them each do a short presentation (graded, if you want) on the dish or the country of origin.

Cooking is a great way to bring culture into the foreign language classroom.


Want to make it even more fun and win some big points with parents and administration? Make a French restaurant in your classroom and invite families to come. Or you can do what Christèle M., one of my favorite French teachers, did and invite teachers and principals to the restaurant while students present the foods and serve them. How amazing is that? Kids will never forget that one, and your principal will LOVE it!

Visit a grade school.


Have a group of students visit a grade school and teach a short lesson in French. They could teach a song, read a book, perform a skit, present a French culture topic, or show off their conversation skills by teaching the little ones how to greet one another.

Find some new music.


If you're familiar with how I teach, you know that I just love music for language acquisition. Not only is music an amazing way to teach culture, vocabulary, and verbs, but students love it! Want some new songs?

Read this blog post for French songs I love to play in class! 

Make a commercial.


As a former immersion teacher, one of my favorite activities was during our persuasive writing unit. Students learned all about the different persuasion tactics, and we watched funny commercials I found online. Thank you Internet! Then, I brought in the most ridiculous items I had at home (which I will not list here so as to not poke fun at the manufacturers of said items). The students got into groups of 3 or 4 and had to create commercials persuading the audience to buy these items. If you can film the commercials, you can then have a watch party, which is just way too much fun! Bear in mind, the sillier the items, the more fun they will have!

Have any fun ideas for filling that spare time at the end of the year? Leave them here!

French end of the year awards


These end of the year certificates for French are the perfect way to celebrate student success with foreign language classes.

Celebrating student success is such a fun part of being a teacher! Yes, I love the AHA! moments, the field trips (really), and of course I love my subject, but my favorite part of being a teacher has always been forming relationships with my students.

I think it's very important to help students recognize their efforts, and it is always so great to be able to show them that you recognize them, too. Because student strengths are so varied, it's really important to be able to celebrate all types of success. Not every student may be the best at French, but I bet each class has an artist, a singer, a joker, or a good citizen.

These end of the year certificates for French are the perfect way to celebrate student success with foreign language classes.


My end of the year awards for French have a variety of awards so that all students can be recognized. If there is a special award you'd like to make, there are also four FULLY EDITABLE awards, so all you have to do is type your own award into the spaces provided, and you'll be able to keep the template already provided.

These end of the year certificates for French are the perfect way to celebrate student success with foreign language classes.

You can print and go or you can type students' names into the editable form fields for a more customized look.

Click here to see these awards.



These end of the year certificates for French are the perfect way to celebrate student success with foreign language classes.


10 tips for teaching native speakers


Tips for teaching native speakers in foreign language class


Teaching native speakers in foreign language class is not easy. They have the oral fluency that your other students lack. Their use of idiomatic expressions is superior. They don't need vocabulary lists to work with, and they don't want to learn from a textbook. But ... they might not know how to read or write at all, and what do you do when it comes to verb conjugation?

I've been there! I've had classes with native speakers, plus students who have gone through 9 years of immersion sitting right beside students who are in their third or fourth year of French. I've taught middle school where all students were required to take a foreign language but the only level offered was French 1, so any native speakers ended up in a class where I was teaching colors, numbers, and family vocabulary!

It can be really difficult to keep the learning experience meaningful and respectful for all students. Here are some tips for teaching your classes with native speakers.

1. Be clear in your expectations.

A lot of native speakers will try to slide by when they realize they know the vocabulary you are teaching. They need to understand that correctly using the grammar (in writing, too!) is a part of foreign language acquisition. Do they need to do every vocabulary activity? Probably not. Could they find a more meaningful way to practice the spelling of the words they know? Definitely.

Rather than have the students complete every assignment, quiz, or test, you could choose certain activities together that the students will skip. In exchange, the students can complete an alternative assignment, such as a presentation, a reading assignment, or a project instead. You'll need to be clear from the start what assignments he/she can opt out of, and you'll want to have alternatives ready to offer.

2. Provide opportunities to read in the native language. 

For students who have some literacy skills, reading is always an acceptable swap. If you don't have texts in your room, a quick online search will help you find some short articles about a variety of topics. I kept a binder in my room divided into subjects such as sports, fashion, food, movies, music, and other topics of interest to teenagers. From that binder, students could pick an article that interested them. Sometimes I had the time to create questions about the article. If not, I had a general question form that had questions like these below. I would have students pick five questions to complete. Questions are in English for the Spanish teachers reading this. ;)

1. Why did you choose to read about this topic?
2. What is one thing that surprised you?
3. If you learned anything interesting from this article, tell me a bit about it.
4. Is there anything from the text that you disagree with? Explain.
5. Would you recommend this article to someone? Why/why not?
6. What could be another title for this article?
7. Why do you think the author wrote this article?
8. What is the main idea of this article?
9. If you could ask the author any question about this subject, what would it be?
10. What questions do you still have about this subject? 


You don't have to have a large classroom library to offer reading activities to native speakers.

3. Let them choose what they'll learn.

Native speakers get so bored in classes when all that is presented is what they already know. For each unit, allow students to opt out of a few assignments in exchange for something that is interesting to them. Maybe they can go to the library to do some research for a day where you are doing an activity they find really easy. Then, they can come back and present their findings to the class.

For example, if you are doing a unit on food, does your native speaker need to memorize a categorized list of fruits and vegetables? Doubtful. Could they go to the library and research a famous restaurant and do a quick presentation (or a big one, if you prefer)?

Choosing what they learn doesn't mean they don't have to acquire the necessary skills. It doesn't mean they don't have to learn to spell. It does mean that instead of a translation quiz, they might benefit more from writing a paragraph. It means that instead of memorizing vocabulary they already know, they can learn even more terms by focusing on what they don't know yet. In the end, it means that they aren't bored with activities that are too easy for them.

4. Keep them engaged.

When you hand out a new vocabulary list, you might get the eye roll or the bored look when students are asked to memorize words they already know. Some of the words might sound outdated to them, or maybe those words simply aren't relevant. You might even find that they disagree with the terms, because they say it a different way. Keep them engaged with your vocabulary by mixing up their lists a bit.
  • When you pass out a new list, have them mark the words they may not know. They will be responsible for knowing all these words, just as the rest of the class is. Take it a step further, and for words they are familiar with, have them list words they might use instead (or even antonyms for the words). For example if the word is heureux, they might write joyeux. This shares more vocabulary with the class and helps the native speaker think about his/her language.
  • If you have native speakers in a beginning course, they will likely know all the vocabulary on your lists. Another way to keep them engaged with vocabulary is to allow them to make their own lists (again, choosing what they'll learn). For each vocabulary unit, have them add a set number of terms that they will focus on.  You and the student can decide on some words that correlate to the unit that the student would focus on. The student will not need as much time to memorize the list, but he/she will still need to work on spelling those word. Don't have time to create a list for the student? Let him/her look up a few words using a bilingual dictionary.
Native speakers have different vocabulary needs than other students.

5. Help them balance their skills.

Native speakers need meaningful practice to learn verb conjugation. Honestly, a lot of them will use every tense correctly without knowing what it means to conjugate a verb. That's okay! Your job isn't to make them learn only the present tense simply because that's what you are doing. You need to help them where they are. They will benefit from your presentation of the concepts, and they will still complete tasks to practice, but you don't have to give them ALL the same tasks as their classmates.

For me, grammar worksheets have never been effective with native speakers. They don't always understand the terms we are using (what is the passé composé?) but they can use the concept orally with no issues. They find the worksheets irrelevant and boring. They confuse the students, because the grammar worksheets we often use in foreign language class are geared towards students learning a second language. Native speakers need a different type of practice to review and perfect what they already inherently know.

When working on a grammar concept, here's what I like to do:
  • If they can write, even if it isn't perfect, I have them write. While the rest of my class might complete a verb practice sheet, I would ask the native speaker to write a paragraph using that concept.  When studying the passé composé, the student can write a paragraph about what he/she did last night. Then, you can focus on helping that student correct the grammar you are focusing on. I also love to find fun pictures and have them describe what's happening. You can ask them to focus on a specific time, so they will be using the tenses you want without you having to give them a list of verbs on a worksheet.
  • Do a lot of speaking activities. Yes, this is so important for all students, but it is really helpful for native speakers. They might speak well, but they are still kids, and they all are bound to make grammar mistakes that you can help them correct. 
  • If they are able to read, even at a beginner level, find interesting topics they can read about rather than having them do a conjugation worksheet. Because they will understand the verb tenses a bit more than others without direct instruction, you could have them highlight or circle verbs of certain tenses. If they are able, you could then have them write those sentences in a different tense. For example, if the text is in the present tense, you could have them choose 5 sentences to write as if it happened yesterday (so using the passé composé and imparfait) or writing those sentences with the future tense. 
  • If completing grammar sheets is something you absolutely want them to do, try to find a few activities that will encourage them to work at their level. You can swap out a page, or even add an extra page and ask them to complete the same number of activities as the others, allowing them to choose what they would like to work on.

6. Encourage them to share their culture with the class.

Too often we forget that our native speakers are experts on culture. They have so much to offer in terms of cultural relevancy, and I've never had a native speaker who wasn't proud to talk about his/her country. If you are doing cultural projects, allow them to choose their own country, but don't MAKE them pick this country if they want to do another one. If you allow the others to pick, then it's only fair to allow them to pick!

It's also very important to allow students to speak their language with their vocabulary, rather than asking them to restrict their language to what is being taught in class. Too often, we teach one term as the only correct way to say something, and this can cause the student to be frustrated when he/she perceives his language as less valid than the form you are teaching. Encourage your students to use all the terms they know, and they'll have pride in their language.

Vocabulary can vary greatly from one country to the next, but this doesn't mean all the terms aren't correct. You only need to observe a conversation between someone from France, Canada, and Senegal to see the richness of the language you are teaching! As a teacher, it can be intimidating to realize that we don't know all the words, and that's okay. The students might know things you don't know. Allow them to teach you.

Encourage a native speaker to share a bit about his or her culture.

7. Vary your questions and your student groups.

You can ask basic yes/no questions to the rest of the class while you are using more advanced vocabulary with your native speakers. If they use a word you aren't familiar with (which happens if you don't speak the exact same French or Spanish as they do!) then ask them to explain it, write it on the board, and add it to your word wall or working vocabulary list.

If you have several native speakers in one class, don't assume they always want to work together. Yes, they might speak with more ease than the others, but kids can see this singling out (even when we think it is for a positive reason) as punitive. Even if they speak more fluently than others, they might not always speak as correctly! I've taught mixed classes with native speakers, immersion students, and FSL only students, and at times, the FSL students outscored the immersion and native students because they used structures correctly instead of relying on what felt right. How many times do you hear your English speakers say things incorrectly in English even though they've been speaking and hearing English at home and at school for many years? It's hard to break those bad habits, and native speakers and immersion kids acquire plenty of them!

8. Learn from them.

Native speakers are bound to understand things that non-native speakers just won't know or understand. If you aren't a native speaker yourself, as many foreign language teachers are not, then you will run into a time when a native speaker knows something you don't know. It's okay. It's best to have a conversation with the students early on and let them know that even though you aren't a native speaker, you've studied a lot and you can teach them a lot.  In return, let them know that you understand that there are things they can teach you. Build the relationship on mutual respect and the students are likely to respect you and want to learn from you.

Let your students know that you will be working together and that their viewpoints are valued.


9. Give them the role of class expert in a subject.

I once was lucky enough to have a class with a student from Haiti and a student from Cameroon. I learned so much about their cultures that I didn't know, and it was the most amazing experience for me and all the other students. They shared their favorite musicians, pictures from home, and talked about their own countries, allowing us to learn so much from them. They were the experts in our classroom, and we learned so much, but as they had grown up in other countries, too, they learned some things about where they were living that they didn't already know. It really brought together all of the students as they learned more about one another.

10. Connect with their families.

This is so important with all students, but I think it is especially important with the families of native speakers. After all, you are teaching their child the language they speak at home. There is already a bond there, and with some nurturing, you can form a great connection that will only benefit the student. If the parent doesn't speak English well, you could be a contact at the school that would encourage the family to get more involved. And who knows? Maybe speaking with that parent would spark some ideas for how you could help the students.

What do you do to help your native speakers? I'd love to hear your ideas below. :)

How to teach native speakers in your foreign language class

Unit bundles for French

Unit bundles for French - grammar and vocabulary packets, speaking activities, and games


Teaching French is a lot easier when you have a cohesive unit that flows well from start to finish. Foreign language students need grammar practice, but they also need speaking activities, visuals, games, writing practice, cooperative learning, and so much more. When your students are struggling to grasp the grammar, do you have something comprehensive to help them?

A good unit bundle can provide tons of fun while helping kids learn through meaningful activities. 
My unit bundles are really popular for a few reasons.
1. They work.
2. They are fun.
3. They provide a lot of differentiation.
4. They have what you really need to teach the tough concepts.


Why do they work?

After over a decade of teaching French, I spent a lot of time putting together my best ideas that really worked for my students. I've created curriculum for middle and high school, and I've taught beginners, intermediate and advanced students, and immersion. Each group comes with their own set of skills, and each group has areas they need to improve. However, every student needs to get ample practice with speaking and listening, and they all need to practice reading and writing. By developing activities that my students needed, I was able to find just what works for students everywhere.

What makes them fun?

Each unit has games that have been the favorites in my class for years. Students are not taking a foreign language to conjugate verbs and do worksheets. Will they do some of that so that they can learn? Yes! But that doesn't mean it's all they'll do, and it doesn't mean it can't be fun! My bundles are built upon the activities that my students have loved. One of our favorite games is Scoot! See some passé composé task cards for the Scoot! game here:

What kind of differentiation do they have?

There are puzzles, games, speaking activities, creative writing, step-by-step notes, writing activities of all levels, and more. A number of the units even have an English version AND a full-French version so that you can more easily adapt to the more-advanced classes or even use some of the same resources for two levels. If you don't need all the activities, you can use them as remediation, make-up work, or quiz review. If you want to make it harder, I've got some challenging activities in them, too, so even those fast learners can continue to grow.

How do you know what I need to teach these concepts?

Well, I don't. However, I've had my share of times where my students did not learn what I taught them. Either I didn't do it very well, the resources I used were not so clear, or they just needed more practice than I offered, but whatever the reason, I had to go back and do it again. It is because of these mistakes, because of the reflection I've done, that I found out what my students needed. After teaching at three distinctly different schools, with three age groups and three learning models, I came to realize all of my students were benefiting from the activities we were doing. Because I have continued to add more support when my students struggled, I've come up with activities that worked for the students who were really behind, those who were just where they should have been, and those who were ready to move light years ahead.

All students need ample practice speaking, and for many students, this is the learning style they most need if they are to master the concepts. Speaking cards like these are so practical, and each pack has fun activity ideas so you can always keep it fresh!

French speaking questions for passé composé verbs

Passé composé speaking cards



How did it all start?

I began teaching in a school with few resources. There was no Internet (not really, compared to what we have today). I had no idea what I was doing, and I was the only French teacher in the district. Who could I even ask? So here I was, a brand-new teacher, teaching -er verbs for the first time. I just figured that my students would know what verbs were. I though conjugating would be easy. Boy, was I wrong! They didn't know what verbs were. They had no idea what subjects were. Conjugating? That was about as foreign of a word as all the French words I'd been teaching.

I taught how to conjugate. I taught the verb endings. I made them repeat words with me. They wrote them down. They did their worksheets. Then ... they did their quiz. Wow! Some students did okay, but it was so clear that I had not really reached a lot of them. I tried to teach them where I thought they were, but I had no idea where they really was.

So, over the weekend I sat down and made a packet of everything that I had failed to teach. (It was a little too big, because I'd failed a little bit much.) It was the first of hundreds of packets I've made. It broke down everything that was not so clear. It walked them through it all step by step. It had pictures that held their interest plus images that helped explain some of the concepts. It was direct, easy to follow, and appropriately paced. We used that to guide us through the review.

The units I create today all come with a grammar and vocabulary packet full of easy-to-understand notes, writing activities, and extra activities in case students need a bit more practice. See a few pages of the passé composé packet here:

French speaking and writing activities for the passé composé

Passé composé notes and writing exercises packet


Once I got that packet done, I made a Find Someone Who... activity.  I thought they would groan and refuse to do it, but they loved it! In fact, they loved speaking so much that I made a set of speaking cards. It was my first, but it was so helpful that I made them for any unit I could!

In addition, I made a board game. I won't lie. It was ugly. It was made with magic marker and copied in black and white. But ... it worked! Again, they loved it, they learned from it, and they did so much better on that next quiz! 

Now, all of this was over 10 years ago, so I'd like to think I've come up with some new things since then, but the bottom line is this : the resources work because they were all designed with my students' struggles in mind. There are now so many new things I include, but each unit still has the same core standards : 

1. Students should be speaking.

2. Students should have fun.

3. Students should understand what they are doing before moving to the next unit.

4. Students should start learning where they are at, not where the resource expects them to be. It's okay to have review information that they don't need. Skipping past it is easier than trying to cram it back in!

5. The pace should not be so fast that students don't master the concepts, but there should be opportunities to make it more difficult for those who are ready.

6. Teacher grading should not be so time-consuming. (Seriously!)

Want to know what other teachers say about them?


"I can't say enough about this resource. It was very thorough and easy to flow - the activities were perfect for my students and helped solidify their understanding on the the past tense."

"I love how well-thought out this bundle is. Not just merely worksheets but also oral practice and games. It really fits the neurolinguistic approach to language acquisition. Thank you et merci."

"This is a great resource! I really feel that this resource helped me teach adjectives better this year. My kids scored higher on their assessments than last year!"

"This is an amazing resource! The quality and clarity of all of the items included in the bundle is excellent, it was super easy to print and use right away, and saved me tons of time planning! There are all the resources you could need and more for ER verbs. Definitely recommend this resource."

"Another great bundle! Your resources are always excellent, making you my first stop for French resources. I can always count on quality and thoroughness with your bundles. They include a great mix of speaking, writing, practice pages, etc."

Unit bundles for French - grammar and vocabulary packets, speaking activities, and games

French spring teaching resources

Free and paid teaching resources for French class. Great for FSL, Core French, and French immersion.


Spring is here! Spring fever hits students so hard every year, so it's a great idea to have some spring-themed French teaching resources ready to go for when the time is right.

To teach spring-themed vocabulary, or just to enrich students' existing vocab through exposure, word walls are a great tool to have on hand.

French spring vocabulary word wall - great for French immersion, FSL, and core French

Click here to find these French spring-themed vocabulary words.


To take vocabulary beyond exposure, students need practice. Bingo is a really fun way to help students review words while encouraging good listening skills. This Easter-themed game is full of spring vocabulary and coordinates really well with the word wall.

French Easter Bingo game - great for French immersion, core French, and FSL

Click here to find this Bingo game at my TpT store.



If you just need a quick and fun activity, this FREE spring word scramble is a great way to review spring-themed vocabulary. Puzzles like these are great to use as quiet activities after quizzes or tests!
French spring themed word scramble. Great for FSL, immersion, and core French.

Grab the spring freebie here.


Find more spring resources, including another FREE resource at my TpT store here.


Want some ideas for songs, crafts, and more spring-themed resources?


Check out my Pinterest page for French spring teaching ideas.

Have a great spring! 

Save yourself from grading stress

How to save time and stop grading so many papers!


Spending too much time grading? With constant meetings, conferences, growth charts, progress reports, collaborative planning, curriculum writing, and everything else on their plates, it's amazing that teachers find any time to grade. Before moving to a lower grade, I taught high school for 8 years, and that often meant 150+ students, 5 classes to prep, and no time to do anything. Here's what I figured out to streamline the grading process in my classroom.


1. Don't grade everything!


It took me so many years to be okay with this, because I just felt like if I didn't give a grade for it, they wouldn't do it. Sound familiar?

Picture this: I was teaching 150 students, giving weekly quizzes, grading bellwork, grading homework, and then trying to plan engaging lessons. On top of that, we were discouraged from giving zeros, so I was following up with students who were not doing their homework, almost chasing them to get them to do it.

There was just no way to get it all done, and I was at the end of my rope. Then, a colleague suggested I stop grading homework. My reaction : WHAT !?! If I don't grade it, they won't do it. Well, guess what? They didn't stop doing it, because after I stopped grading homework, their grade was more dependent upon their understanding of the material. If they didn't take responsibility for their practice outside of class, they wouldn't do as well on the assessments, and their grades would reflect that.

Here's what I did instead:


Everyday during bellwork, students would put their homework on the corner of their desks. I like to make homework packets, so they would just open to the page they had completed. I would take attendance and then pass through the room stamping their completed homework. We would take a few minutes to correct it together, and then I would pick up the packet at the end of the unit. They would get a few points for completing it outside of class, I would get more free time, and on top of it all, I could offer immediate feedback and answer questions on the homework daily. Guess what else happened? Their quiz scores got better!

2. Look at the big picture.


When you correct papers, do you grade each and every mistake? Do you correct a verb conjugation even though your students are not writing at that level yet? Do you feel the need to edit every sentence on the paper? Stop! Not only is it time-consuming, but you are making corrections they won't even understand. I get it, because I do the same thing. Sometimes I would correct so much that I felt like a copy editor, and guess what... they made the same mistakes the next time, because they weren't ready to learn that skill. Take a breath, put down the red (or pink or purple or aqua) pen, and only make the corrections for the skills your students are practicing on the assignment. If you haven't taught a concept, is it going to benefit the student if you correct the mistake? If not, let it go.

How to save time grading papers. You don't have to grade everything!


3. Have students peer edit first.


If you have essays (or even paragraphs) to grade, it will save you a lot of time if you let students do peer edits before you pick up the final copy. You will still find some mistakes that are natural for the level of your students, but students should be able to avoid careless mistakes such as incorrect plurals, wrong verb endings, or (for French teachers) those random English words that they have Frenchified. :)

4. Schedule assignments that fit with your schedule.


If you teach multiple levels, look at your schedule as a whole when assigning projects, big assignments, or a long test. You should plan to collect only the work you can grade before losing your sanity. It is okay to collect essays from your French 4 one week and to do some review with French 1 so that their test doesn't fall on the same day as that essay is due.

5. Use apps that are self-grading.


Students love their phones and tablets, so have them practice with apps that check their work. You'll have less to grade, they'll have more fun with technology, and it might even touch a learning style that you would not have reached with a paper-pencil homework assignment.

My favorite apps?

Boom Learning

These digital task cards are self-checking, fun, and provide immediate feedback. Students can practice over and over, then you can see their progress. Plus, they can be played on computers, phones, and tablets with modern browsers, so students can use them just about anywhere. 

Digital French task cards from Boom Learning for passé composé with avoir and être


Quizlet

This app is great, because you don't even have to create the study sets if you don't want to. You can set up a class and monitor students from there.  You can give students the vocabulary words and have them create their flashcards. They can even share sets with friends. To make it more fun, create a "Quizlet Stars" bulletin board and post the top scorers from time to time. Don't worry about student privacy. They don't use their real names. Just make sure you create a list of their usernames. ;)

Before a quiz, you can suggest they use this to study from rather than printing out another set of words for them. Afterall, you already gave them the words, so why make twice the work on your part?

6. Use rubrics.


This makes grading so much easier. Whether it is a project, an essay, a presentation, or a speaking task, using a rubric allows you to quickly grade the key components of the assignment without getting too caught up in the little mistakes. Remember, you should be grading for the skill you are assessing, so don't focus on every little error. A rubric will help you stick to the concepts you are working with.

7.  Pick a designated grading time and stick to it.


For me, if I don't have a set time to do it, it just piles up. So every year, I decided on a time that I would stay late and grade, and I just blocked that afternoon off. I would shut the door to minimize interruptions so I could really focus for one hour. Once I began using some of the methods above, I was able to finish the majority of my grading for the week in that one hour. Yes, I sometimes had long tests and projects to grade, but since that didn't happen every week, I wasn't burned out. It was manageable, and that is the goal, right?

What about you? Do you have any great ideas for saving time? Leave them in the comments below!

5 ways to increase enrollment in your foreign language class

How to increase student enrollment in French class


Enrollment time will be coming up soon, and when I taught high school French, that was always a really stressful time for me. Not having enough students enrolled sometimes meant teaching a class I really didn't want to teach so I'd have a full schedule. Sometimes it meant that my class became a dumping ground for the students who enrolled late and didn't get into the other elective classes. Sometimes students who really wanted my class couldn't take it because it conflicted with other classes they really needed.

No matter what the cause, enrollment time can really stress out a language teacher. Here are some ways I increased enrollment in my French classes.

1.  Offer information to students and families on the importance of French.


Where I live, there are quite a lot of Spanish speakers, so naturally parents encourage their children to take Spanish. I get it. Hey, I took Spanish, too! A lot of parents and students don't understand how important French is. After all, it's an official language in Canada, and as Canada and the U.S. are important trading partners, that makes it a very important language in the U.S. as well. If you are in Canada, it's likely that French is not as hard to sell as it is in the U.S., but you still want to make sure that students continue to take French for as many years as they can.

Because families might not always see how French can be helpful, I would prepare information to send home to families of incoming high schoolers. Then, thanks to my principal who encouraged me to grow my program, I visited the middle school, talked to the incoming students, and sent that information home to their parents. From my first year to my second at that school, my enrollment doubled! I started that job with only 3 sections of French. By the time I left, I had a full schedule and they hired a second French teacher!


2.  Entice them with decorative projects.

Click here to read how projects help increase enrollment in French class.

Mardi Gras mask we made in class a few years ago


One of my favorite parts of teaching French has always been the projects. While they have clear learning goals and can be very effective teaching tools, they are fun to do! Students want to have fun, and since kids are walking past your room everyday, why not give them a view of what they could do if they were in your class? You can display formal assessment projects or make artwork such as Mardi Gras masks or Eiffel Tower models.

Find 5 beginner French vocabulary and grammar projects here.


3.  Work with your Spanish teacher colleagues.


I frequently hear from teacher friends that the students choose Spanish because it's easier, more fun, or the Spanish teacher doesn't give homework. Luckily, I always had amazing Spanish-teacher colleagues and we worked in collaboration rather than competing with one another. If you can work together to try to align your course expectations and homework expectations, that's great! Sometimes that isn't a realistic expectation, so all you can do is make your class the best that you can. Remember, even if more students enroll in Spanish, it does not mean that you aren't an amazing teacher!

4.  Take your time to teach the basics.


I don't know if French is harder than Spanish, because I learned Spanish as a French speaker, so it was already really easy for me! However, I do hear this from people everywhere. It is true that French spelling takes a while to master, and all those silent letters don't make it easy on our students. Don't feel rushed to get through a curriculum, teach all your units, or follow an unrealistic pacing guide in your textbook. Take time to teach classroom phrases, practice a lot of basic speaking, and help your students acquire listening proficiency before jumping into verb conjugations.

If they can't speak or understand basic phrases, they just are not ready to start filling out a ton of verb charts. Not only will they not excel, they will be bored. For a lot of us, enrollment isn't just getting the students that first year. We need them to come back for French 2, 3, 4 and beyond. They won't do it if all they do is conjugate verbs.

5.  Have fun in class, and speak a lot of French!


It is okay to relax and have fun. French is great, because part of your job is to teach them to talk, so spend a lot of time talking. I remember once when a French 2 student came to me at the end of the hour to tell me how much fun class was that day since we didn't do anything. Typical student comment, right? I just smiled, because actually, we had done a lot, she just didn't see it.

I had told them a story about something that had happened to me over the weekend. By that point, I didn't speak any English in class, so that five minute story turned into a ten minute story with their questions. After that, I sat on my stool and just asked them random questions about their weekends. That probably took another ten minutes. When they were done, they did the around the world activity from my passé composé speaking cards. By the time we finished all of this, they only had ten minutes left of class, so we did a quick-write where I had them write as much about their weekends as they could in five minutes. We shared a few and it was time to go.

French passé composé speaking task cards


Passé composé speaking cards


See, students love to learn, they just don't always want to it to feel like learning. The more we can do to make the learning feel natural, the better. Learning a language happens first orally. Perfecting the language can involve worksheets, verb charts, and textbooks. If we strive to make the learning more natural, it will be more fun. If it's more fun, more students will want to take our classes. An added bonus? Teaching is just a much better job when you're having fun with what you're doing, right?