And This Is Why I Teach… (Plus Teach it Tuesday)

Well it was Canadian Thanksgiving on the weekend which means my brain hit holiday mode and I totally forgot to get my post up. So I’ve combined the Teach it Tuesday post this week with my regular post. If you enjoyed our Olympics unit for French last year than you are in luck! We just finished a new unit to start off French this year – L’École. With lots of games and activities along with French vocabulary practice, we would love your feedback on this product if you end up using it in your classroom. Grab a copy of our unit here on our Teachers Pay Teachers site.

This year I am teaching math, language arts, social studies, French, and PE. I absolutely love this teaching schedule and the balance it provides. I have taught language arts and French a lot so I find that I have lots of creative ideas and planning is very straightforward. Math is my focus this year so I have been putting a lot of energy into planning my lessons and assessing the students. PE is a subject that I am very comfortable with, especially after coaching multi-sport kids programs for four years during university and lots of summer camp work too. So then comes social studies… I absolutely LOVE social studies! I love travel and history and politics and social change! But I have never taught social studies and despite the help I’ve been given by friends and colleagues I was feeling uninspired (my best guess is that I was feeling uninspired because deep down I was feeling insecure about how to best teach Socials).

So on Friday I planned an “easy prep” lesson to get going with our short unit on Mesopotamia: a video from Discovery Education and an activity looking at the roles and jobs of citizens in ancient Sumer. It was not well planned or inspired. I wasn’t dreading it but I definitely wasn’t excited for it…

But then it happened. The simple discussion became something so much more. There was thoughtful responses, deep questions, and full class participation. I reminded myself not to lecture but to question students to draw out responses from students thoughts and knowledge. And they had so much to offer! Pure inspiration right from the source…


And this is why I teach.

As much as I often love to lose myself in the planning and prep work, that is not what it’s about.

As much as I want to challenge myself to become a master of the curriculum and different ways to teach it, that is not what it’s about.

As much as I love creative, inspired, well planned projects, that is not what it’s about.

It’s the moments of connection, learning, and growth. It’s the moments I can’t plan. The ones I can’t force. It’s the ones that catch me off guard when I’m feeling uninspired. Those are the moments when I come alive in this teaching job.

And this is why I teach.


Teach It Tuesday: French-English Dictionaries

If you have taught French (or another second language) I’m sure you have heard one of the following questions on a daily basis:

– Can’t we just use Google translate?

– What does ______ mean in French?

– What does ______ mean in English?

– How am I supposed to look that up?

– Is _____ masculine or feminine?

And the list goes on! Most of these answers can be found in a little invention called… The French-English Dictionary! french_pb

And as easy as these seem to be for us to use, most kids actually need to learn how to use them and they need some practice using them too. I created a little activity to help me teach how to use some of the important aspects of the dictionary.

Also, and honestly maybe most importantly, it helped me to answer the “Can’t we just use Google translate?” question in a way that the students actually seemed to understand! (My answer – Google translate can have its place but when we look in a dictionary we can see synonyms, masculine/feminine, verb/noun/adj/adv, etc. and sometimes we need that information just as much as we need the word itself. And based on the sheer amount of times I hear the questions above, I think the students really understood that we DO need to know these things!)

To teach proper use of the French-English Dictionaries, I had the students working in partners on a “Dictionary Hunt” (available from our Teachers Pay Teachers store here). The hunt took most students the whole block and some needed a little extra time. It also kept them engaged enough that I was actually able to walk around and help partners with mini-lessons on using the dictionaries.

The directions in the hunt had simple things like “Find the meaning of this French word” to more complicated ones, such as “What are two French words that can be used to show the meaning of _____?” I also had students look up whether or not words were masculine/feminine or nouns/verbs/adjectives.

If you are making your own hunt here are some suggestions for things to include (the more practice with the tricky steps the less questions later on!)

  1. Choose words near the split between English/French sides of the dictionary to make sure students understand it’s divided into two parts
  2. Ask for the feminine form of certain words because they are often listed in the form: avocat (m), -cate (f) and students need to learn that the dash means to leave the root of the word the same
  3. Flip your questions back and forth between using the French and English side of the dictionary to give more practice searching for the right word

After we did the Dictionary Hunt we moved on to searching for vocabulary for our first unit in French. I had the students look up the words for the topic, write the English word, the French word, the part of speech, and masculine or feminine. It worked out well as a way to put their new dictionary knowledge to the test!

As always, please let us know if you use the lesson ideas here! We love to know how things work or don’t work for our readers.


Go To Lessons: French

Since it’s almost that time of year for us… BACK TO SCHOOL! We thought we would do a couple of posts on our “Go To Lessons” for different subjects. Along with this, our Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) site is up and running so go check it out!

Whether you are a substitute teacher or a classroom teacher we are hoping our ideas will start some inspiration for sharing those NEVER FAIL (ha!) lessons that you use.

I’m going to start with my “go to” lessons for French. I find French is the one subject where it’s always good to have a back up lesson in mind when you are substituting – and I know I always love those one off lessons that are a little more fun for a core French class.

1. Guess Who

I got a Guess Who sheet from a prof in my education program but I feel like it is pretty easy to create your own (if I make my own ever I will let you all know!). The sheet I use has 9 different aliens with various amounts of eyes, mouths, legs, etc. Basically I go over the key terms for the different body parts, how to ask questions (“Est-ce qu’il a…”) and then review the numbers briefly. I usually do a couple of rounds where I choose the character and they have to come up with a question in a group to narrow down their options. After we do a couple of rounds as a full class I have them play within their groups. This lesson is usually good for a 45 minute class when you go over the question asking and key terms before you play.

2. “Ami! Ami?” by Chris Raschka

Like any good substitute, I carry around a good supply of go to books in the back of my car. This is one of my favourites! I have a sheet (available for free here) that I carry with me in case I need a quick lesson for a French class. With the students in small groups I have them cut up the phrases and try to put them in order. It’s usually pretty tricky to get it exactly right but I try to get them to look for clues (like punctuation) and I explain to them that it is just a simple conversation between the two boys from the cover. After they are done we read the book and they see how many they got in the right order. If there is still time at the end I get them to read the parts of the book in two teams (with points for expression or prizes if you carry them with you!)

3. Verb Corners

This game requires a bit more knowledge of French then the other two but it is pretty simple to play and can be done indoors or out! I use four different verbs that they know how to conjugate (usually avoir, être, faire, aller) and put each verb in a different corner. With everyone in the middle I yell out a conjugated form of one of the verbs and they have to run to the corner with that name (e.g. “Je suis” and they run to être). If we are outside, after a couple of rounds for practice I have it become a race and the last one to the corner has to shout out the next conjugated verb from the middle (with help if needed).

Hope these ideas are helpful for you!

What are your “Go To French Lessons”?