Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Les liens

Making connections, or les liens, is a reading strategy that I taught my class this week. It is important that students are able to relate to the text that they are reading. Making connections will help with reading comprehension, especially when students are reading in the target language because it will help them to understand new words without having to seek out the help of their French-English dictionary. I focused on three types of connections: text to text, text to self and text to world. For text to text connections, students have to take a passage of the text they are reading and relate it to another book, story or article they have read before. Text to self connections are when the student relates the text to their own personal experiences. Text to world connections ask the student to dig deeper into their schema and relate what they are reading to world events, places and different cultures. Together as a class, we read an article about endangered sea turtles. I had the class make a chart that has two columns. The first column was "le texte dit..." and the other column was "Cela me rappelle....". The students had to fill the first column with passages, ideas and main points from the text, and in the second column they had to make their own connections. As I was teaching the lesson, I focused less on differentiating between the three types of connections and more on the quality of the students' responses and how they can improve their answers by providing more detail and using descriptive language. The Rainbow District School Board in Sudbury, Ontario has a website that helps parents learn about reading strategies. This website is useful for parents who are looking to help their child with their FSL reading homework and includes a reference sheet on making connections.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Les jeux coopératifs

Les jeux coopératifs, or cooperative games, are a great way to engage students in the FSL classroom. Brain research has shown that when students are engaged in cooperative games they are using more parts of their brain than during other types of learning activities (eg. giving presentations, listening, reading, or writing). This is because cooperative learning lets students interact with each other and generate their own words and sentences instead of using scripts or memorized lines to practice speaking a new language. To see a teacher using cooperative learning strategies in action, watch these videos. Here is a table with four cooperative games and activities to try with your class: 

Les jeux coopératifs
Rally Robin

1.Assign partners A and B
2.Decide on a question to use
3.Pass a sheet of paper back and forth, with each partner sharing one idea
4. Share the sheet with the class

Eg. Name all the colours you can think of
Determining key ideas

1.Assign an amount of reading
2.On a post-it note, have students write one or two main ideas found in the reading
3.Put all the post-its on the board to discuss after two minutes
Identifying the main idea


1.Make groups of six
2. Each member of the group of six becomes an expert on one aspect of a task
3. Each member then divides off into their expert groups to read or discuss a certain topic
4. Each member then reports back to their original group to inform them about what they now know
Reading (dividing 6 difficult readings up)
Inside/outside circle

1.Divide into two groups
2.One group is on the inside and the other is on the outside of a circle
3.The inside circle faces out and the outside circle faces in
4.Start with a partner
5.After two minutes, step two steps to the right to discuss a topic with a new partner.
Review for a summative task

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Le hockey pour toujours!

My class has been completing a unit on hockey. We started reading Le hockey pour toujours! by John Morrison. It is part of the Trésor Junior reading program by RK Publishing. The book is great to use because it has a good storyline as well as information relating to the history of hockey, current hockey teams and famous players. Each week the class learns new vocabulary from the chapter, answers questions, makes connections and tells about their reaction to the story. I also give the students quotations from the book and they have to put them in the context of the story and draw a picture representing that part in the plot. Other books we will read while completing this unit include: Encore un but! by Robert Munsch and Le chandail by Roch Carrier. We will also watch the short film for Le chandail found on the National Film Board of Canada site. Throughout this unit we will focus on action verbs, expressions with the verb faire and using the imperative tense in French. Students can put the new vocabulary and verbs they are learning straight to work through a gym unit on floor hockey and intramural floor hockey teams. Il lance, il marque un but!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Un festival oratoire

Les discours!  It is speech time at my school and my students are engaged in a flurry of activity over their speeches. Writing speeches in French can be a challenging endeavor for new French immersion or extended French students who may be writing a speech in French for the first time. The speech writing process took almost a full month to complete, from brainstorming topics, to rough copies, editing, good copies and practicing. My students wrote five paragraph speeches, with three main ideas that there supported by researched details as well as an introduction and conclusion. I came across this interesting site about speaking and presentation skills and it mentions "The rule of three". Powerful messages came be said using tios, triads or triplets. Take for example Julius Caesar's message "Veni, Vidi, Vichi" (I came, I saw, I conquered) or the French motto: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. The next time I write speeches with my French students, I will spend more class time teaching about good oral presentation techniques. It doesn't matter how well written a student's speech may be, if they rely too much on cue cards and do not connect with the audience their speech can become ineffective. It is important to have students practice their speeches in French using expression and focusing on their pronunciation and enunciation of new vocabulary words. Also, having a well-constructed rubric for marking speeches is key, since you do not want to be jotting down marks and comments while students are speaking. A rubric made marking my speeches easier because I circled the level the students are at and later went back to figure out their final mark.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Les cercles littéraires

Last week at school I introduced les cercles littéraires, or Literature Circles. This is a cooperative learning activity where each student in a group has a different role to play. The roles include different reading strategies, such as asking questions, summarizing, making connections, illustrating and finding new vocabulary words. In my classes, we are all reading the same book for literature circles, but it can be done where students choose a book on their own in groups. Before I was able to start literature circles in French, I spent two lessons on explaining the different roles and then assigning the roles. I also gave time in class to read the first chapter of the book Valentine Picotée by Dominique Demers (A short novel which works well for junior level readers, and fits perfectly for a February Valentines Day themed read). I had to really emphasize that when students meet in their groups they must speak in French, and each person must do their part in order for the literature circles to work. On the day of our first literature circle meetings, there were some students who did not complete their role and they let their group down. It is important to give time in class to start working on the roles, and not leave all of it for homework. Another name for les cercles littéraires is les cercles de lecture. If you are interested in starting up les cercles littéraires, here is a blog dedicated to literature circles. Happy reading!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Bienvenue! Welcome to Madame Giraffe, my blog about teaching French as a Second Language. I am a French teacher who is passionate about teaching the language in a way that is fun and engaging to students. Through my travels and studies I have gained an appreciation of how important it is to learn new languages and hope to pass on some of my resources, tools and knowledge to you. To start off, I will share a resource that I used on the first day of class in September to help students answer the question why do we need to learn French? The poster Why Learn French? contains many reasons to learn a second language that students will find amusing, such as "French is the only other language other than English that is taught in every single country in the world" or "There are well over 20 million native French speakers in the Americas". The poster can be found on the French for the Future site, which promotes bilingualism in Canada and has many useful resources for French teachers. Enjoy my blog, and feel free to leave comments or stories telling your experiences in teaching or learning the French language. I would love to hear from you! À bientôt!