Last week’s blog post was about 7 reasons why we need routines in our classrooms.
There are so many amazing routines and practices you can put into place which will benefit you and your students in the classroom. Today I’d like to share some of the routines I use with my students in my Core French classroom. This is Part 1.
I didn’t start using all of them at once. It has taken me many years to develop the routines I use. And every June I assess what worked and what did not, and every September I modify those routines as per the needs of my students for the new school year. Sometimes I come up with a new routine, sometimes I discard a routine which may not have worked so well previously or which may not work for me this year. Every September brings a new opportunity for us to reassess our practice, and so I love doing so.
Let’s dig into some of the routines I use in my classroom.
Plan du jour
One of the most important routines I have in my classroom is to have a « plan du jour » clearly visible somewhere on my board.
Back when I started teaching, when there was so much to do, everything was brand new, I was still learning all the things and I didn’t have all the time in the world, I used to simply write my plan du jour, at the beginning of each period, on the blackboard. Even as an experienced teacher, I still love using this strategy.
However, teaching online during a pandemic meant my blackboard ways of writing my plan du jour on the board were not going to work. So, I created French Daily Slides that my students could see as soon as they joined my Google Meet.
I teach 6 classes, 3 different grades and my school runs on a 10 day cycle. I don’t see each class everyday. Which means on any given day I have no more than 2 classes that may be doing the same thing that day. So I make a separate set of Daily Slides for each class.
Although it may seem like a lot of work, I like to have my Daily Slides prepped for each class, and ready to go before the week begins, so that both me and my students know what to expect for class that day.
And one of the perks of using slides is that I can hyperlink all the digital resources I will need that day, so I don’t waste time during class searching for a file in my Google Drive.
I like to change my slides every month, at least, if not more often. At the beginning of a new month, it’s always so fun to see the students’ reactions when they come to class and see a new slide. They often look forward to it and I’ve also had students design slides for me themselves, which I’ve then used the following month or week.
I also like to create a matching Google Classroom header. It makes my teacher heart happy when things match. My students enjoy it too.
Trust me when I tell you, Daily Slides are a game changer!!
Curious to see what my Daily Slides and the matching Google Classroom headers look like? I’ll be sharing them soon. Keep an eye out!
This one may seem basic, and is probably quite common in most Core French classes, but I truly believe it is important and so it deserves a spot here on the blog.
At the beginning of every class, while I’m checking attendance, I like to ask someone to share the date. I often get the same students volunteering again and again, so I make sure to have a checklist by my side where I can check off the students who have had a turn and can make sure others are also getting a chance to participate. After the date, I ask students to describe what the weather is like. Sometimes we also talk about the season.
This may seem too basic for upper grades, but I can tell you that most of my students (grades 6-8) appreciate the review. There are usually only a handful of students who can comfortably respond to my question. Even when they hear it daily from others, when it is their turn to do the date, they often need help. Part of my process includes adding the date to my daily slides and supporting students who need help.
For each grade I teach, I have a bell ringer activity that I like my students to complete. Students know what to do as soon as they come to class and while they work on that, I am able to set up my screen or our activity for the day, have a private conversation with a student in need, etc. Sometimes the activity even sparks such great conversations that my students and I spend a good chunk of the period discussing the bell ringer. And sometimes, the bell ringer shows me where there may be some gaps in learning and what concepts I need to reinforce in my classroom.
Below are a few of my favourite bell ringers. I don’t use them all for each class. I pick and choose which ones work best for which class and where we are in our unit of study.
Question du jour
This one is pretty self explanatory. Everyday students have a new question to answer. Sometimes they write something, sometimes they draw something. Sometimes I ask them math questions and sometimes they are supposed to get up and move for a minute. When we are in the classroom, I like to give my students their question du jour ahead of time on paper (usually for the month). While I’ve been online, the question du jour has been something I have either put in my daily slides or posted a link to the activity (such as a Google Form), as soon as the students join my class.
Verbe du jour
I typically use this activity with my Grade 7 Core French students. We spend some time learning about regular verb conjugation patterns and once complete, they conjugate a new verb everyday. Not only are they practicing conjugating verbs, they learn a new word everyday. Some teachers may find this boring, and a lot of teachers may not believe in teaching grammar but I strongly believe in it having a place in the language classroom. I see the benefits of this when my students write in French. It is so rewarding.
Here are the two resources I use for verbe du jour.
A digital cahier de verbes which contains more than 125 verbs for students to practice conjugating, including regular -er, -ir, -re verbs as well as irregular verbs. What I love about the digital version is that it is all hyperlinked and it makes it so easy for students to search for the verb they are looking for.
I also have a cute printable version which I like to use in the classroom, when I’m not teaching online. At the beginning of the year, I like to print off the package and stick it in student duotangs.
Prof du jour
Here’s another classic activity that most French teachers are familiar with. Give students an opportunity to lead the conversation. I like to give my students a list of questions they can use to ask their peers. Or, I encourage students to make up their own questions that they would like to ask.
I am able to assess the student’s ability to ask questions but also assess the audience. I can see if students are understanding, if they are able to respond, if they participate in class and if they give their classmates the respect and attention of listening to others.
At the beginning of the year we start with a few basics like the date today, the date yesterday, the date tomorrow, their favourite colour, their favourite YouTuber, their favourite pizza toppings, etc. As the year progresses, the questions intensify in their complexity and ask for more details. I often have to help my students by displaying necessary vocabulary on the screen. It gives them a guided opportunity to practice speaking French.
Chanson de la semaine
Of all the bell ringer activities I’ve shared thus far, this one has to be, hands down, my favourite one. I absolutely love music and oftentimes many of my students do too.
Sometimes we just listen to music for the sake of listening. Sometimes we listen to discuss. Sometimes the song relates back to a particular phonetic sound we are talking about. Sometimes I share lyrics and we talk about vocabulary. We do this especially when the lyrics tie back to our unit of study.
Son de la semaine
This is one of my newest and most favourite bell ringer activities.
Over the last few years of teaching middle school Core French, I have realized that my students are always nervous to speak French because (1) they are afraid of making mistakes and (2) they are afraid of being laughed at by their peers. Both of these two things stand in the way of my students being able to comfortably and confidently speak or present in front of others in the class. And so I also realized that it’s unfair of us to expect our students to know how to make all the right sounds when they’ve never been explicitly taught about them.
I know in elementary French Immersion settings, teachers spend a lot of time teaching children about French phonics. It’s the base of most language learning programs for younger children. But in the Core French system, I’ve never come across a classroom where a teacher spends some time specifically talking about phonics with their students. And so we get students who come to class and say “I’m not sure if I’m saying this properly, but …” or others who refuse to try because “I don’t know how to say that in French.” So I’ve realized that it is so important for our Core French students to learn about French phonics so that they can produce the language more confidently.
Over the summer I worked very hard on developing a resource which my students could use to learn about French sounds. It is a year long activity bundle which includes 51 different sounds from the French language. They complete a range of activities for each sound to help them reinforce their learning. You can find this resource here.
I’ve also created posters to go with my phonics resource. I will be sharing that on TpT soon. Come follow me on Instagram (@mmeiresources) so you’re the first to know when that’s up.
If you’re still here with me, thank you.
That’s all I have for you today.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 which will be coming out next week!