Find a Partner

Two weeks ago at my Instructional Coach training, the trainer had us do an amazingly simple partner activity.  We divided a sticky into four quadrants and in each one wrote a word: Winter, Summer, Fall, Spring then we had to stand up and find a partner for each square.  We wrote the name of that person in that square and they wrote ours.

C’était un coup de foudre.

Immediately my mind turned to how I could adapt this for my students.  One of my goals for this semester is to get my college students up and moving more because that class is two and half hours long and I need all the help I can get.  I’ve got some lessons where I’ve done this well and others…well, let’s just say there’s room for improvement.

I decided to use a language ladder to structure this.  We were only in our fourth actual hour of French class when I introduced this to students.  I gave them a copy of the ladder.  I had the same image on the board, but I had covered up everything but the first box in each category.  I told the students “We’re going to do this every week and by the end of the semester you’ll be able to use all of these, but to today we’re going to start simple. Nobody needs to be a hero.”  Additionally, I told them there’s actually a level before this where you just point to the square and say “Partenaire?”  I didn’t want anyone to feel like the words in this activity was too hard after four hours of French.  ask-for-partenaire-1

This is what it looked like in my Slide deck:2016-09-18_18-46-53

And on their sticky I had them do this:2016-09-18_18-47-20

Then the students got up and spent ten minutes having authentic conversations, with a real purpose with their classmates.  In the lesson, when I wanted them to move, I put the image of that square on the activity in my Slide deck.  The students switched seats and found their partner and then did a quick activity and went back.

It’s not often that I think, wow, great idea and well executed, but that’s what happened.

Here’s what the future looks like with this.  Every lesson (week) I will change the squares for something for that lesson and every week or so I will add another choice from the language ladder.  At the high school level, I’d do exactly the same thing.

A simple, easy method for authentic conversation.








Voice Typing to Practice Numbers

I am always up for some good number practice.  In my perfect lesson plan there would be some attention to numbers every day- I just feel like students always need more practice.  Of course, there’s a ton of ways for students to practice listening to numbers, but not so many for them to practice speaking on their own.

Google Voice Typing to the Rescue!


I created this document and video to explain what to do for students to practice their numbers.  Basically, students say the number in the TL and Google recognizes their voice and fills in the number.  Though not perfect; it’s pretty darn good.  Of course, I chose the numbers that give early learners the most difficulty and the ones which they mix up the most.

Voice Type Numbers Document

Video Explaining How it Works (for students)

Back to School-First Day

Last week was the first day of my college class.  I used my basic: hour of boring syllabus + hour and half of French sequence, but this semester I made some big changes.  First, for the syllabus I ditched reading the syllabus (yes, I was guilty of doing that type of beginning of class), for having a “syllabus slide deck.”  I used the slides to touch on all of the important aspects that I wanted to talk about.  This allowed me to breeze through the talk of the syllabus quickly and leaving me plenty of time to talk about the proficiency scale.

I decided to do 50% proficiency grading this semester- each semester the percentage has gone up and I’ve always had a rubric to go with it.  This time however, I’m using the ACTFL Proficiency Scale for grading.  I arbitrarily decided at the end of 16 weeks the students should be at Novice High.  Low Novice High.  Like just barely crossed over.  I feel like this is a reasonable target.

Because this is all rather new for students, I also wanted to discuss what all this meant with students.  Luckily, I didn’t have to think hard about how to do this.  When the ladies from Creative Language Class presented to the Inland Empire Foreign Language Association in April, they did an activity that I thought was so great I took it.  Literally, I asked if I could have the examples in English that we used to talk about the different levels.  And I took them.

So for the first day in French 101, I gave the students the rubric and put the posters up on the wall.  I asked the students to decided which example was which level and they did.  And they discussed.  And it was definitely not boring.

For the second half of class I did the same sequence I’ve done for 17 years: Numbers, letters, Bonjour, je m’appelle and some fun verbs.  During the Creative Language Class workshop, they mentioned not doing numbers and letters to start because it’s not as exciting.  Probably true, but I like my sequence because it’s so concrete and easy to grasp and gets everyone talking immediately.  Most important to me is that at the end of the hour, the students feel confident that I can talk entirely in French with them and they can learn.

Oh, did I mention that the projector stopped working in both classes? I had to think on my toes and in the second class, I ended up drawing on the board and we made class rules in French.  Despite the technology woes it was the best start of class I’ve ever had and I can say that I don’t think I would change anything.