FLANC 2020


FLANC has set up an amazing virtual conference so that we can all come together and have amazing professional development even thought we can’t be in the same location.

If you came to my presentation or if you couldn’t make it and are just interested in using mysteries to build proficiency, you can find my presentation linked below. The presentation also includes links to the French activities that I used as examples.

FLANC 2020 Presentation

I hope you can gain something from the presentation! Let me know how mysteries work in your classrooms.


SCOLT 2019

Bonjour et Bienvenu(e) to Homework Hotline.  If you are finding this blog via my SCOLT presentation, welcome and I hope you found some useful information to take back home with you and make your own.  A link to the presentation is below.

Homework Hotline

Please let me know if you have any questions or problems with any of the information or materials.

I hope to update the blog more regularly – it’s a goal – so I hope you will check back again in the future!


FLANC 2018

Bonjour et Bienvenu(e)!  If you are finding this blog through FLANC, thank you for coming to my presentation.  If you are here through the joys of the internet, I hope this is useful to you.  My presentation is linked below.  Please feel free to send me any questions through my contact information!

Homework Hotline

What to do on the first day?

Laura Sexton (@SraSpanglish) asked for first day ideas on Twitter this week and that got me thinking about what I did on the first day for the last two years – the first year for something different and last year because our administration challenged all teacher to jump into the curriculum on the first day.  They wanted us to give the students a taste of the class instead of going over the syllabus, rules, etc.  Let’s be honest, a day of listening to people go over syllabus, rules, etc. wouldn’t be very exciting.

Our school offered a book study this summer on Grit in the Classroom by Laila Sanguras.  One of the things the book discusses is about the importance of passion – kids finding their passions and using that to develop grit.  No one will find their passion if they don’t get to experience different things.  Why not start your class by showing your passion and something amazing about your subject that you love?

So, this is a rough overview of what I did last year.  (Disclaimer:  I want to revamp this idea, but since people were asking questions, I decided to show what I have done already.  I’ll update you with new ideas.)

French 1 did learning stations – on day 1 without me know anything about any of them.  And it worked well for the most part.  I think the key was that I very clearly went over the expectations of the activity and what they would do at each station.  I also borrowed a page from Rosalyn Rhodes’s stations plans and had the students write something for each station as a bit of accountability.  So what stations did we do?

  • There was a Q&A with me about anything they wanted to know (about French, France, my cat, etc.).  I gave them possible questions like (What do French people think about cats?  Do French people like to eat at McDonalds?  Etc.) to give them a starting point if they were stuck.
  • I had QR codes for them to listen to a few French songs and tell me which ones they liked and didn’t like.  They loved this and it helped me know what genres of music they would enjoy listening to for activities later in the semester.
  • I had them read several infographics about the benefits of learning a language.  It’s not super exciting, but I wanted them to see the value in what they would be doing.  Hopefully, this would help build some motivation.
  • Pictures!  I printed off some of my own pictures from France and Senegal (but you could use pictures from the internet) and had students pick pictures that interested them and write what the pictures showed about the culture and any questions they had about the pictures.  This was popular and gave us something to have conversations about over the course of the first week.
  • Word Cloud reading.  I actually stole this from Laura Sexton.  I made word clouds of pages from children’s books and students worked with a partner (one with the books and one with the word clouds) to pick out words they recognized (cognates) and match the books to the word clouds.
  • Jenga.  This was just an ice breaker.  I had a series of questions that the students would ask based on which number was on the block they chose. The questions were just general get-to-know-you questions so that the student would feel more comfortable with the students in their groups.  I leave them in the first groups until I learn their names, so it’s good that they feel comfortable in case it takes me a while.  (Disclaimer:  The first year, I did a syllabus scavenger hunt at this station.)

At the end of class, we went over a few details about the syllabus (materials, procedures, safety information,etc.) and I have the kids practice the turn-in procedure to give me their station worksheets.

French 2 did an activity that I modified from the amazing Lisa Shepard.  The students got a sheet with a series of questions and sentence starters/vocabulary to answer the questions.  It was information we covered in level 1 and basic get-to-know-you information like favorite sports, family, likes/dislikes, etc.  I modeled it with them and then let them talk to each other.  Afterwards, they presented their partner to the class and then we transitioned to write down information about ourselves.

I really like parts of both of these activities, but I think they could be tweaked/changed to better reach my goal of showing students my passion for French and giving them a glimpse into what we’ll do in class this semester.

I hope this gives you some ideas!  It’s helped me start getting back into the mindset of lesson planning and now I’m excited about starting a new year.  I’ll keep you updated as I revamp if I come up with any new information.

As always, if you have questions, just let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them quickly.


Les Jeux Olympiques

I had some big plans to create a new unit on Les Jeux Olympiques for the three levels of French I’m teaching right now.  It’s perfect to show French being used in the real world and my students love sports.  My friends at #langchat were kind enough to send ideas and resources for authentic materials my way.


I just couldn’t find enough time to create a whole unit while teaching three preps on block schedule (one is a French 2/3 combo class).


I loved the idea so much and I could already envision all the additional authentic materials that are going to flood the Internet once the games actually start.


I decided to scale back my unit to something more manageable that I could get done in time.  I made a homework choice board.  It ties into my new homework plan that I got from SCOLT last year and it lets me provide different options to reach multiple proficiency levels and different student interests.

I get to bring Les Jeux Olympiques into my classroom, have my students practice their reading, writing, and speaking skills, give them choice in their learning, and an engaging assignment (at least I hope they find it engaging…we’ll see…).


If you want to pull les Jeux Olympiques into your class and have just run out of time, you are welcome to borrow my homework choice board.  It’s not perfect and it’s untested, but you are welcome to it.  It’s general enough that it will hopefully be useful to teachers of other languages.

French 1 Homework Choice Board

French 2/3 Homework Choice Board

I hope you enjoy watching les Jeux Olympiques for the next weeks!

Art Theft Mystery Mini Unit

Bonjour!  Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!

I know that no one really wants to think about returning to work as Christmas vacation winds down, but if you are anything like me, your brain has started dreaming of new ideas and revising plans for January.

Does anyone else have a few days of review and then exams right after?  It’s so hard to find a short unit that will help students refresh their knowledge and prepare for their exams.  I’m doing a project with mine that I will hopefully share soon, but I do have something for you today!

I thought I would share a new mini-unit that I tried for the first time a month or so ago with my French 1 students.  I did it in one day, but it was super rushed and the kids wanted more time to work on it.  I think extra time for the speaking and writing parts  – plus some additional study and activities with the paintings – would easily make this a three day activity.

The basis of the unit is a real life art theft in Paris that finally had a conviction in court earlier this year.  It’s fascinating!

Overview (This is what I did, but feel free to modify it or add/delete activities as you want!)

The materials:

  • Google Slides  (You’ll need to add pictures of the paintings, but they are easily found!)
  • First news article
  • Tip line texts
  • Suspects (You’ll need to add pictures.  You can add any pictures you want for most of them, but the guilty parties are Vjeran Tomic, Jean-Michel Corvez, and Yonathan Birn.  Their pictures are easily found. I added in some fake relationships and red herrings just for fun!)
  • Last news article


Let me know what you think and if your students enjoyed it!

FLANC 2017

It’s the best time of the year to be a world language teacher in North Carolina because it’s time for FLANC!

I’m presenting this year on how to use mysteries to engage students and help build their language proficiency.  My presentation is available at the link below, so feel free to follow along at FLANC 2017 or through the wonders of the internet!

Masterpiece Mystery:  Proficiency through Engagement.

If you are interested in my presentations from years past, they are below:

FLANC 2016

FLANC 2015

If you have questions or want to know more, feel free to contact me.  You are welcome to any of my ideas!

Tomorrow (well…Monday) is a new day.

Right before I started this blog, I was having a conversation with two other teachers and one of the teachers expressed an issue with teacher blogs.  These blogs share amazing ideas that work so wonderfully and every student using language with a high degree of proficiency.

That can make us feel like bad teachers.  We’ve all felt that way at some point?  Right?  I know that I have.

So, this isn’t one of those blogs.  Let me be very honest and say that in my class, I work every day to help my students learn and improve – their French, their writing skills, etc.  I don’t succeed with every activity or every day.  I try new ideas and sometimes they are great successes and sometimes they crash and burn.

My key to balance teacher blogs and real life in the classroom?  I constantly remind myself that I am not other teachers and my students aren’t their students.  Each of my classes are so different from each other anyway.

So, I take ideas from blogs, brainstorm with other amazing teacher near and far, and I try a new strategy, lesson, etc.

Sometimes it works and I add it to my plans, my units, my toolkit.

Sometimes it doesn’t work and I give myself permission to let go of that failure and try something new the next day.

Feel free to take my ideas and try them for yourselves.  If they work, that’s great!  If they don’t, don’t stress!  All I want to do is give back to a community of teachers that has given so much to me.

Teaching is an imperfect art.  You have to be willing to take risks because that’s where the magic happens, but you also have to be willing to let go of things that don’t work.

Legend by Marie Lu is one novel I always recommend to my students because it’s just lovely.  I’m going to share my favorite quote with you as an encouragement to get back up one more time even when nothing seems to be working.

“Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.”
~ Marie Lu, Legend

Tomorrow is a new day.  Cut yourself some slack and try again.

Les Verbes Essentiels

Confession:  I love trying new strategies and methods.  I get bored if I do the same thing every semester.

This year, my new strategy has been to more toward a more comprehensive input (CI) method of teaching.  So far, it’s going pretty well and I feel like my students – especially in level 1 – are very engaged and learning.  The hard part is coming up with good activities and finding resources to support all these lovely ideas I come up or steal from some other great teachers (Gracias to Laura Sexton!  Check out her blog.)

One strategy that I had read about and then saw in action when I visited Laura Sexton’s class early this semester was using Essential Verbs.  If you haven’t heard of this strategy, the premise is to take commonly used verbs – some use 5 or 7 or even 10 verbs – and show students one or two conjugations.  Some people only do the 1st person form and some do 1st person and 3rd person.  Students learn these verbs at the beginning of the class and that helps build their understanding of the target language in the class and gives them building blocks to communicate.

I had always thought this was an interesting idea, but I wasn’t sold on it completely until I sat in Laura’s class.  It was within the first week of school, maybe the fourth day of class, and her students had already learned about the essential verbs.  Laura was able to use the posters she made of the verbs to cue students as she spoke in Spanish.  That little cue was all they needed most of the time to understand a question or comment.  They also used the verbs to share their own thoughts.  It didn’t matter if the verb was regular or irregular – they could still use it within the first week of class.

I left Laura’s class with a list of ideas that I wanted to try in class and essential verbs were at the top of this list.  I was ready to jump in and start planning!

Then my planning days disappeared in a classroom moves, preparing for three different preps, meetings, and other bright and shiny ideas that I started working on.  So, my essential verbs didn’t make an appearance in the first days of class as I had hoped.  I got a little stuck and needed some French language focus to help me get started.  I began looking for French resources on different locations – blogs, TeachersPayTeachers, etc.  I couldn’t find what I was looking for, but #langchat provided some much needed help. I got wonderful suggestions from great teachers and some brainstorming help from Wendy Farabaugh (Merci mille fois mon amie!).  Wendy also has an amazing blog.

So, I thought I would share the materials I ended up creating with you in case you too are looking for a starting place with Les Verbes Essentiels.  All these materials are still very much works in progress, but I hope they help you or give you some good ideas.  I love comments, suggestions for improvement, etc., so feel free to contact me!

Les Verbes Essentiels PowerPoint

Les Verbes Essentiels Posters – updated (There was a problem with the “Il faut” poster and it’s been corrected.  Sorry!)

11/4/17 – Sorry for the broken link!  You should be able to get to the posters now!  If there is another problem or you have a suggestion for improvement, please let me know!

À bientôt!




Bienvenu!  Welcome!  So many wonderful bloggers have helped me become a better teacher by sharing their thoughts, experiences, and strategies.  I’m going to try to follow in their footsteps and share anything I have of value.


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