Experimenting…

I’m usually pretty nervous when I try something new in my class.  I always worry: “Will this actually work?”, “Am I forgetting anything?”, “Will this result in the outcomes I’m looking for?”  This was my day today and this is why…

Today I tried two new activities.  The first was inspired by my principal.  We were having a discussion and he reminded me of something that we had heard during one of our professional development sessions.  The focus of the session was to develop students’  critical thinking skills.  During the session, it was suggested that we start with a problem that students must figure out, rather than work towards it.  I decided that I would experiment with that idea.  I knew that my grade 9 Immersion class had learned the passé composé and the imparfait in elementary school, but their new grammar point was to focus on the difference between the two.  I gave them a really short comic strip without any dialogue.  They were to tell the story of what happened by giving as much detail as possible.  I was worried about it, though.  Were they going to put all the verbs in the passé composé?  If so, the activity would be a flop.  They worked in partners.  After they wrote their short stories, I asked if they would share what they wrote.  I had two groups volunteer.  For the most part, the use of the two tenses was correct!  Then, I had them underline all their verbs.  Once they had done that, I asked them to take a look at what they had underlined and to tell me what they noticed.  They said that some of them ended in “-ait” and others ended in “-u” or “-é”.  So, I probed even further and asked them why they chose to write certain verbs one way and others in a different way.  They struggled a bit, but that was good!  I was making them think about the decisions they had made unconsciously.  They gave me exactly what I was looking for…the differences between the passé composé and the imparfait.  Success!

The second activity came with my grade 11 Core French class.  We’re working on le discours indirect and I wanted them to practice the concept orally.  So, I made up cards that looked like this:

“Je vais au cinéma”.

Il/Elle a dit qu’il / elle allait au cinéma.

I gave one card to each student and I had them stand in a circle (keep in mind, there are only 7 of them!)  The first person had to say the “quote”.  The person next to them had to give the answer underneath.  I did two rounds and the second round had more complicated constructions such as questions that required the use of “demander si” and time references such as “hier” which needed to be changed to “la veille”.  I hope it helped them grasp the concept a bit better.  I asked them if they thought it helped and they said that it helped a little.  With a bigger class, I might make a few smaller groups, or do it as an information gap activity in pairs.  This one is a keeper too!

Thanks for reading!

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About Mme Martin

I am a high school French teacher in Ontario, Canada. I've been a teacher for the last 14 years and I love what I do. I am always looking for ways to improve my teaching by learning from my colleagues, reading, attending conferences and workshops. I also completed a Masters of Education degree, specializing in Second Language Acquisition. My goal is to increase students' oral fluency in French and I would like to share this journey with you in the hopes that you will find new ideas and be inspired to do the same. I will let you know what I try in my classes and what works and what doesn't. I hope you will find a wealth of ideas to use in your class.
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