18 Mix and Match Activities to Talk about the Weekend

A couple of weeks ago I had a short exchange on Twitter about what to do the first day after vacation. I was thought “Ooh, I know this one!” For me there’s only one activity to do after a vacation or weekend and that’s to talk about what you did.  Think about it- what do you say to your colleagues and friends before the weekend?  You ask them what they’re gonna do.  In any one Friday how many times do you have that same conversation? And Monday?  You ask your colleagues “What did you do?” “How was your weekend?”  This is when we find out all of the juicy information about our friends.  To me this is a high frequency, completely legitimate conversation that allowed me to build relationships with students. And we practiced the Friday conversation as soon as students learned the futur proche and it was a glorious day when we finally did the passé composé, so we could have a Monday conversation as well.  So when @mmefarab asked me if I had some suggestions for talking about vacation, I thought, “Boy do I,” but none of them would fit in a Tweet.

So first off my students did a daily bell ringer and that was the start for all of these activities.  They would write five sentences about what they were going to do or what they did.  Each of the ideas below is a variation on that theme.  I’m using the past tense as the example here, but you could do the same thing with the future.  These activities are almost all no prep.

Switching up how students talk to each other.

  1. Super simple.  Students write.  Then they ask their partners what they did. You ask for volunteers.  It’s ok if it’s not perfect.  When they say je regardé, take a deep breath and remember the experts assure us that with enough comprehensible input eventually this will get better.  Eventually.
  2. When one student says what they did another student volunteers to ask them a question.  Student 1 says: I went to the movies.  Student 2:  What did you see? You have to model the questions first if they’re not used to asking questions.  This is a great activity for finding out information because students ask the best questions.
  3. Students ask their partners about their weekend, then you give the students a number and they find a new partner and switch partners and ask again.  Switch as many times as you have time for.
  4. Give partners a time limit 30 seconds, 1 minute, etc.  Say “Partner A will have X minutes.  If you finish talking before I say stop then read the posters off of the wall until I say stop.  Do not stop talking until I say stop.  Give as much detail as you can.”  This techniques reduces the temptation to just say one thing.  After x minutes switch so the other partner talks.
  5. Students do a survey and find out who did the same thing as they did.  They can walk around or do it digitally.  “Did you go to the movies this weekend?”  Then they can talk about who did the same thing.  “We saw x movie.” Or switch it around and find someone who…and give them crazy stuff with the normal stuff.  Someone who say (you) at the store. Someone who sent (you) an email.
  6. After students know their partner a bit, switch it up and have them write what they think their partner did or even what you did.
  7. Students fill out an interview sheet.  Here’s an example and I filled it in to give an example.  By forcing students to fill in as much information as they can, they are prepared for all of the possible questions.  Have them walk around and talk to 5, 7, 10 people.  Then ask what student 1 did and someone else can answer.  Be sure to participate in this yourself.  A benefit of doing it this way is that while students may be tempted to just write a short sentence “I went to the movies” they’re forced to write what turns out to be a pretty long sentence.  And they can ask pointed questions to their partner.
  8. If you know enough about your students create a bingo card.  I created one here using the French infinitives so you could use it for the future or past.  Or do it on paper. StWeekend Bingoudents find someone who did this and then you play bingo.  Students write the name of the person they found in the Bingo box. So for example if you use “went to the movies” one student might write Cindy and another one Sally.

Switching up the task so it’s slightly different.

  1. Two truths and a lie.  To switch it up have students do it with you in mind or their partner.
  2. You write down a list of 5-10 activities that you did.  With a partner, students come up with a list of 5ish activities that they think you did.  Then students can ask you, “Did you go to the movies?”  If you did they earn 100,000 bonus points or whatever your reward system is.  They only earn these points if they wrote down the same thing that you wrote down.
  3. Have students talk only about the things they didn’t want to do.  Or that they didn’t do.  Or that they wanted to do, but didn’t get to do.
  4. Have students focus on a certain aspect per sentence.  For example: in sentence 1- who; sentence 2- where.  When you get to the imperfect switch that up as well.  Sentence 1- the weather; sentence 2- what you were wearing, etc.
  5. Use language ladders to focus on a certain chunk of language.  “Wow, amazing.” “You don’t say!” “Tell me more.”

Switching up the task so it’s slightly more involved.

  1. Flat Stanley (Pierre Plat)- This will require some advanced planning, but it can be worth it.  Students make a Flat Stanley and then take it with them on vacation, take pictures of him and then talk/write about him later.  The Flat Stanley official website has templates you can use or students can create their own.  Before the students go on vacation, tell them to to take Stanley wherever they go and take X number of pictures.  Use those when you get back as a prompt.  You can go fancy on this and use VoiceThread or Screencasting or Adobe Spark or you can go not fancy and just have students share their photos.  I’ve done it both ways and frankly, I like the “just share your photos option.”  Either way, it’s a good idea to give them time to think about what they are going to say by having them write out their Flat Stanley narrative.
  2. #vacation- Use social media to have students curate their vacation photos with a description in the TL of course! If you haven’t used social media with your students be sure to go over norms: only school appropriate photos, only post other people with their permission.
  3. If your students travel a lot or even if they don’t, they can use Google My Maps to plot out their vacation and and write about it.  If I knew I had some students who didn’t travel at all, and some who traveled a lot I would change the assignment so that it was an imaginary vacation.  Or use it for the future.  (Blog post on using My Maps is on the way.)

How to talk about vacation even if your students don’t know the past tense yet.

Just because students don’t know the past tense doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about what they did during vacation- it just means that you have to be more strategic about it.  No matter which of these variations I would start by saying in English “We’re going to talk about our vacation!”  Even if students haven’t learned the past tense they’ll still be able to understand that you’re talking about the

  1. Make a slide show images of your vacation and ask students if they did these things.  (I’m not saying that I’ve done this and photoshopped my photo vacationing with Beyoncé and Jay-Z or at the movies with Ryan Gosling, but…) You can go fancy and have students fill out an online poll saying yes or no.  This has the benefit of quantifying the options.  You can go non-fancy and have students stand up and walk to the yes side of the room or no side of the room.  Or you can have them put up stickies.  Lots of non-fancy options here.  Then you can talk about how many people went to the movies?  The don’t have to be able to say “12 people went to the movies.”  They can answer 12.
  2. Using Google Forms and have students fill out the form.  Use the picture option to add a picture for each sentence.  I’ve made an example of a form here.  I’m actually going to use this form as a hook for the passé composé at the beginning of the semester.  Once the students answer you can go back to the form and look at the answers and say, “Oh look, 15 people went to the movies.  Raise your hands if you went to the movies.  What movies did you see?”  The students don’t need to know the past tense in order to answer or understand those questions.

I bet now you can’t wait for the weekend!

Collaborative Magnetic Poetry (French) – Interactive Slide

Collaborative Magnetic PoetryI made a collaborative slide activity for creating sentences.  Students drag the cards onto the slide to create different sentences.  It’s a round about way to talk about grammar.  Once the students get all done- the different colored cards can help facilitate a discussion about grammar.  What do you notice about all of the red cards?  The green?  The yellow?  I didn’t have a chance to test this out with my students – though I’ve done this many times with actual cards.  The benefit of the technology is more for the teacher in that you can change the cards easily and not have to spend all day at the copier and paper cutter.

Students all edit the same Slide deck so at the end you can cycle through all of their creations easily.

The subjects are all rather crazy- based on a story I tell at the beginning of the year.  Plus, the more “interesting” the cards are the more creative students get with their sentences.  They can tell a story or just write sentences.  This version doesn’t have any connecting words; just subjects, verbs and some prepositional phrases for the most part and so it’s meant for some pretty early Novices.  The “cards” are mostly off the slide so that there’s plenty of room to make sentences.

Collaborative Magnetic Poetry Interactive Slide


Verb Battleship

I’ve played verb battleship for years and it was always a bit of a frustrating experience because it always took at least 20 minutes to set up the boards and explain how it worked.  I can’t even say why I kept doing it, except I guess I liked all the practice it gave using the négatif and I was willing to sacrifice the time I spent explaining it in English.

This is an interactive slide version (based on a math version from Alice Keeler) that works way better than paper.  Like waaay better.  Click on the link to view.  There are directions on the first slide and be sure to share as “make a copy” in Google Classroom.

You’ll be asked to make a copy and then you can change the verbs to whatever you want!

Verb battleship

Verb battleship

Verb Battleship – Click to make a copy.

Homework Choices

I was out wandering the Internet a few weeks ago, when I came upon musicuentos.com’s Homework Choices and I said, “OMG, I need that.”

I was looking for something in my college class to get them to have some other cultural experiences.  I’ve tried different tactics in the past and most were not as successful as I would have wanted.   (Read: Good intention, bad idea.) I was all over this homework choices.  I particularly loved that some of the choices said listen or watch more than once.

First, I made my own French version which you can here here.  I added a category for students who had had French before because they needed their own category.  Then because I was no kinds of interested in actually counting up points, I created a Google Sheet that automatically adds up all their points.  I used data validation to create a drop-down menu of the choices in that category.  I shared the spreadsheet with students as “make a copy” so they could edit it.  My goal was that the total number of points would be visible in the thumbnail in Google Classroom, but alas, this was not to be.    (Maybe if I take out some of the rows at the bottom? I’ll try again next unit.)  The students are required to do ten points for one unit or roughly every three weeks.  I didn’t want them to have to do something every day, but a couple of times of week.  This is more about pleasure and exploring the language.

Homework Choices

Spreadsheet Template (You’ll be asked to make a copy)

Add up points automatically

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)

Prepositions Slide deck

I love Google Slides because you can use it as a whiteboard and the whole class can participate.  (Read: never again spend hours copying, cutting and sorting only to have someone lose one card and not be able to fully participate.  Oh wait, students can’t lose these because they’ll be saved in the Google!)

I use this Slide deck to practice prepositions.  If I’d had time, I would have had students write about their rooms and their partner’s room.  They can write directly in their Slide decks.

For the Win


Click on the link and the slide deck will force you to make a copy.  Share in Google Classroom as “make a copy for each student.”  And talk, read and write.

Room Preposition Slide deck


Bingo Google Slides

My favorite feature of Google Slides is that you can use them for everything else besides delivering content.  I’ve made a Google Slide deck for Bingo.  Share it with students as “make a copy for each student” in Google Classroom and play away.  Directions are on the first slide.  Click on the link and it will prompt you to make a copy.

Bingo Google Slides



Five Activities to Challenge Students Beyond Yes and No




A few weeks ago I was  about to do an activity where I knew I was going to push students to expand their answers  (Angelina Jolie is a better actress because …..) that it got me thinking about ways we can challenge students to do than just respond with yes or no; because in addition to comprehensible activities and stories our job is to challenge students to say more than they think they can because they may not do it themselves.

These are activities that you would use selectively; not every day.  Not for input.  Not for comprehension checks.  But to challenge them to expand their language.

  1.  5 Finger Sentences – Students respond to a prompt by using five sentences and count them off by their fingers. Example:  Tell me about your family.  Answer: My mom is Sally.  She is 40.  She likes apples.  My dad is 42.  He likes football.
  2. Combining Sentences- If you’re like me, after listening to the above sentences 30 times in class period you’ll want to reach for the nearest dull spoon to stab in your foot, so teach students to put those together.  Take ones student’s example (or use your own) and show students on the board how those sentences can combine.  Then ask them to do themselves. Then exclaim wildly and repeatedly in the TL, “Wow, what an amazing, beautiful sentence!”
  3. Sentence Challenge- I love this next activity and it works best for review.  I’ve usually used it after some kind of reading.  Pull out 20-30 words from the reading.  Any words will work, but make sure to have a good mix of words; that is words that are easy for students and some that are more difficult.  Put the words randomly on the board.  (Maybe using a slide in Google Slides) Next, in pairs tell the students they will have 1 minute to try to make as many different sentences as they can.  You can require the sentences to be in some kind of order, but I usually don’t.  While partner A is talking, Partner B is counting the number of sentences.  Once you’ve done it as partners, ask for volunteers and see who in the class can do the most.  At the end, ask a student to time you as you do it.  I have never beaten a student at Sentence Challenge.  Working on a specific structure?  Tell students to use that structure.
  4. Sticky Sentence Challenge- You can use stickies or Jenga pieces or Legos or paper or a digital tool or whatever is easiest for you.  Write a one word on each one of the stickies.  (Which words? Oh I don’t know, maybe the same ones you were working on in the previous activity.  If you did it in Google Slides, print out that page and presto done!)  You’ll need one set per group.  Have students lay out the stickies on a desk or wall to see who make the longest sentence.  They will have to add in their own words to make sentences.  Usually I give parameters like, “10 points extra credit if your sentence is so funny it makes me cry.”  Non-digital might be better for this activity because they can see around the room to see who is making longer sentences.  As you’re walking around you can exclaim wildly, “Wow, what a beautiful sentence! What else can you say?”
  5. Sentence Expansion- Taking the example from #1, show students how to expand those sentences using the words they already know.  So instead of “There is a dog.” Show them how to expand that sentence.  “There is a big, brown dog who is eating in the classroom.”  Wait class, can we add more?  “…in the small classroom at XYZ high school in California in the USA.”  Ask them to rewrite a short sentence in the same way.  As you move into higher levels, you’ll be teaching students how to combine sentences and write in a rich varied language.

As we move students from Novice to Intermediate proficiency levels, short intentional activities like this will help students practice using varied language and keep your feet free from dull spoon marks.