15 January 2016

GUEST POST: Find Cool Stuff for French Classes

Each week in January I'll be featuring insights on the blog from some ladies with great ideas from my PLN.

This week, Laura Parker helps answer the question, "
How do you find cool stuff for French classes?"


Laura is a National Board Certified English Teacher who writes and reads voraciously in her free time. One of Laura's most powerful experiences in recent years was her visit to Senegal through a Fulbright-Hayes exchange.

Laura is also my bilingual Appalachian State name sister--the original Mountaineer franglais teacher!

Let’s face the facts: French teachers usually work in isolation. Chances are, we are the only French teacher in our school. So, if we want cool authentic resources, activities, or lessons, we feel like we have to do it all on our own.

Sound overwhelming?

It could be, but I have some good news for you, a few tricks and pieces of advice that could help you find some cool stuff for your French class and fellow French teachers.

So, how can you find awesome authentic materials, activities, and lessons?

Travel!

We all love the French language and we want to be in the target language and culture. Unfortunately, that is expensive, but still possible. If you find yourself going to a French speaking country, take advantage of all free materials and pick up some extra materials for your French teacher friends!
So, where will you find all these free materials? It can be anywhere: banks, hotels, town halls, restaurants, rest stops, etc. If there are free copies, take two – one for you and one for a fellow teacher.

I worked with missionaries in the south of France last summer and I took copies of any materials offered. I got housing magazines from the bank when I used the ATM. The local mairie (town hall) was a treasure trove of materials. They had everything from tourist brochures, local publications, recycling information, to bus schedules, and more! The best thing about the mairie? They want you to take the information. Don’t forget about hotels and restaurants. Hotels often have maps and brochures and restaurants have culturally relevant food information.

Another tip that is crucial – don’t be afraid to ask for something. I have two restaurant menus from France that I got by just telling the waiter that I was a teacher and asking for one. A Spanish teacher whom I work with decorated her room with food advertisements posters from Columbia that she asked for at a grocery story. Just ask!

Once you have some great materials in hand, I recommend sorting them to pull out materials that match units you already teach. You can create classroom reading, speaking, and writing activities from these or use them to create an IPA. 

Next, look at what you have left. Do you have anything left that you would like to develop into a new unit? If so, start working on that new unit when you have time. I have a folder full of items from France to start putting in units next semester for my French 4 students. I found some great recycling information that doesn't fit in my other units for my lower levels, but it would be great as a new unit on the environment. 

Lastly, all those left over items? You've got some options. You can use them as decoration, give them to another teacher, or make a "library" for advanced students or curious learners. If a student finishes an assignment or test early, have them choose one of these items and practice their reading skills.

The Internet

If you can’t get to a target language country, you can still get wonderful resources through the joys of the Internet. Honestly, tap into your inner introvert or agoraphobia. How can you get information without asking anyone else or leaving your house? You’ll be amazed at what you can find.

My rule of thumb is to try searching phrases that you would want to see in the reading. Stick to simple phrases.

For example, when trying to search for a reading that describes family members, you might want to start by searching for something like "Ma mère est belle." 

 For my unit on travel with my French 2 students, I wanted to have them plan trips and figure out how to get around by airplane, train, and bus. 

I found a good airline search website with the keywords “billet d’avion pas cher” and then a website that showed train schedules with “horaires de train”. I also discovered that French towns (or at least all the ones that I checked) have a website dedicated to their bus routes. To find them, just search for “horaires de bus + the city.”

If your search isn't giving you quite what you want, or the level of the text is too difficult, try switching your search platform - just moving from a Google search to a Pinterest search can make a big difference. And don't forget YouTube! I recommend looking for cartoons or even soap operas (careful of content!) as well as interviews that match with your search subject. Also, if you are looking for novice level reading, searching for infographics make a great starting place (l'infographie in French). 

Best practice on searching:
  1. Start by searching your topic in the target language (ex: la famille). I have found that using definite/indefinite articles really can help.
  2. Add pdf to your search get more authentic results.
If your results are too difficult for your students:
  1. Add "pour enfants" to your search to lower the reading level of the results.
  2. Search for an infographic.
If you get stuck, take a break so that you don't get frustrated. 

If all else fails, ask for help!

Ask someone!

It sounds so easy, but the way I get a lot of cool ideas and activities is by talking to some pretty amazing people. Reach out and join a professional learning community with other teachers who are creating cool materials and share with them. We are better if we all work together.

If you are looking for already created activities or lessons, check out the blogs of other teachers, teachers' Pinterest boards, or TeachersPayTeachers. People love to share their ideas and materials. Just ask! Or start with my favorites:


My learning community of amazing educators is made up of two groups of people: friends from my Masters classes at Appalachian State University and #langchat on Twitter. I know that if I can’t find something, or I just need help getting started, that I can reach out and ask for help. 

I have some amazing activities and videos about the French language in Louisiana from Jeff Pageau who was in my courses at ASU. Wendy Farabaugh from #langchat just told me about this paper plate game that I can’t wait to try. There are some awesome people out there, go meet them (in real life or online) and share all the awesome that you can find.



If you would like more help with finding the best French resources, or if you have great ideas to share you can reach Laura at lauraparker1124 [at] gmail.com or on Twitter at @lauraerinparker.



Stay tuned for more guest posts this month from our online PLN!


1 comment:

  1. This is excellent. Thank you so much. I was involved in a virtual PLC for our online academy World Languages teachers last night, and one challenge they have is how to increase 'collaboration' among students, when everything is asynchronous. Discussion Boards--what is relevant to get students 'talking' and sharing? Naturally, there is a ton out there for Spanish, so this is helpful for me to share with French teachers regarding not only authentic resources, but how we might engage our online French students through discussion boards when their teachers use compelling texts, images, videos, etc. Thank you!

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