Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Googd ideas from Twitter: iPad Rules Lock Screens

I love Twitter!  I find the best ideas by browsing my hashtags #fslchat and #langchat!  If you don't follow those groups, you are missing out!  I find great activity ideas, and classroom management ideas-- and more recently tech integration and management ideas.  This idea came from the blog:
Technology Erintegration.  I am so happy I found this blog!  So many great ideas.

In this article, she talks about 5 ways to use iPad backgrounds in the classroom.  The idea I loved (being a middle school teacher) is using the lock screen as a rule reminder.  The above picture is the lock screen I made for my FSL ipads.  Here's a close up of one of the screens:

I have the reminders for proper iPad ettiquette, a note on agreeing with the rules before the students unlock the screen, and in the top corner, a little banner that shows the iPad number of my set.

I struggled with whether or not to put the rules on the screen in French, but I opted for English because I want the students to understand the rules to which they are to agree before using the technology.  Also, students should read the TOA (terms of agreement) before anything they click on the internet, so its an opportunity to teach digital citizenship too. I think in the future, I will do a bilingual lock screen, but for now, I thought it would be more useful for my students in my Core classes to have the rules available in English. 

This idea was a hit at my school!  We are now in the process of creating lock screens for the Learning Commons sets of iPads.  Do you think this is a useful idea for your school's tech?

Monday, 20 April 2015

Using Pop Music in FSL Class

Image by Phil Fung from

I love Pop Music.  It's not the only type of music I love, but it is a pretty great way of learning a language, about a culture and about a generation.  I owe some of my French speaking skills, and my Spanish speaking skills to Pop Music.  Getting a song or lyric in my head is a great way of learning about pronunciation, and sentences, and um.. rhyming.

So, it can't be surprising that I use a healthy amount of Pop Music in my FSL teaching.  I'm specifying Pop Music here as popular music from around la Francophonie-- stuff that French people would listen to on the radio; or buy the CDs of.  I do believe there is a place for FSL music created for children learning FSL, but I really love the authentic learning about language and culture that happens when listening to and studying a piece of Pop Music from a different country.  So, for the most part, I use Pop Music and not FSL created music in class.

There are a few exceptions: I love Mike Ford's Canadiana Folky Pop Music that is targeted for FSL learners and full of Canadian history that he's researched.  But I still consider that Canadian Pop/ Folk music with a cultural focus.  Besides, he was in Moxy Fruvous, so he is practically a pop star.  (And if you haven't heard his albums Canada Needs You, Vols. 1 & 2, and Seaway you're missing out.) The other exception I make is the stuff I wrote for my students, because that was directly related to their own writing, and more of a product of learning than a tool for learning.

So in order to organize the songs that I have used, and will probably use again in my classes, I created a Google Sheet that lists the songs I've used with their links and notes.  It is available here:

As always, please preview any videos before using in your class.  One video on my list, Paradis ou Enfer would be inappropriate to watch in its entirety in class.  He swears at the end, and flashes the middle finger after 1:23 in the video.  Why did I include it?  I cropped the video to 1:20 using TubeChop to avoid the inappropriate sections, so our class could have a discussion on Sierra Leone.  It has some great visuals about the disparity between the rich and poor in that country. So it was worthwhile to use that video for me.  But, you know the rules and culture of your school.  

So, how would I use all these songs in class?  I use music in a few ways, and I thought I could share a few of those strategies with you!  

1. Where was it filmed?/ Où est-ce que l'artiste?

This is a critical thinking activity that I use in class with a music video.  It usually takes a full class to complete, as students will need to watch the video more than one time to answer the questions.  I have used the video A coup de reves by Ben l'Oncle Soul, and the first 1:20 of Paradis ou Enfer by Kaaris.  
  1. First we read the questions we will have to answer.  they are usually: 1. Où est-ce que la location du clip?  Pourquoi est-ce que tu penses ça?  2. Quelle est la signification du titre ____?  
  2. I have the students watch the video.  
  3. Then we make a word bank of what we saw in the video.
  4. I give students a few minutes to gather their thought about the questions.  Most will ask to watch the video again.
  5. Re-watch the video. Students will point out les indices to help answer the questions.
  6. Then we discuss the questions.  We consult maps or other resources to help us find the answer.
My students love figuring this stuff out.  Because the whole discussion happens in French, it is an authentic way of getting them to communicate with each other in French, and to build a curious community which is necessary for any inquiry-type activities.

2. Gimmie!/ Donnez-moi!

This strategy can be used with any song, and a video is not necessary.  Preparation includes making cards with key words from the song on them, cut out.  You need enough sets of cards for the number of groups you have.  For younger grades, focus on less words, and older grades use more words.
  1. Hand out the cards to each group of students.
  2. Students set the cards out face up between them on a desk or table.
  3. Play the song.  While students listen, the try to grab the words they hear before the other members in their group do.
  4. Player who got the most words wins.
This is a great activity for introducing new vocabulary, and new words of a song.  Sometime, I have the people act out the words they collected to consolidate comprehension.  Its a fun activity.

3. Rhymes/ Les rîmes

To activate students prior learning, especially around vocabulary, this is a great warm-up.  This can be created in a work sheet, or on a chart paper for students to copy or do orally.
  1. Write out the lyrics on a page for each student, or on a chart paper, but omit the words at the end of phrases, or in other places.  The word that is omitted must rhyme with a word in the previous or next line.
  2. Before students listen tot he song, have them predict what words will be in the lyrics, by reading the lyrics, and have students fill in the blanks with the words they think are missing.
  3. Play the songs.  In a different color have the students write in the real words. 
  4. Reflect: How many did they get right? Why did they choose the words they did?
4. Correct this/ Corrigez!

You will need the lyrics posted or copied out for all the students to refer to.  When you write them, replace several of the words in the lyrics with fakes.  This can be as obvious or sneaky as you would like it to be.
  1. With the students, read the lyrics (with the errors your put in) together.  Tell the students that there are some errors in the lyrics.  Have them predict which words don't belong.
  2. Listen to the song.  Have the students write down the correct words for discussion after the song is over.
  3. Discuss which words were wrong.  Did the students know they were wrong? How?
5. How does it go?/ Comment va la chanson?

To prepare this activity, you will need to print out the lyrics of the song and cut each line into a strip, and mix them up.  You will need strips with lyrics for each group or student.
  1. Give the students the strips, and have them read them in groups.  Before playing the song, have them predict how the song will go by placing the strips in certain order.  (I take a picture of the order for comparison later in the activity.)
  2. Play the song.  Have the student rearrange the strips as the song plays.
  3. Compare their prediction to their ordering after they heard the song.  How did it change? (Sometimes I ask the students to try and sing their version of the song.  It gets pretty funny.)
6. Find the picture for the lyrics/ Trouvez l'image des paroles

This activity takes a fair amount of prep.  You will either need to find pictures that go with a song, print out or save stills from a video or movie, or draw simple pictures that reflect lines in the song you are using.  I usually create a sketchnote for the lines, and use those.  You will also need a print out of the lyrics for the students completing the activity.

  1. Review the lyrics with the students to ensure comprehension.
  2. Have the students review the images available for matching.
  3. Listen to the song, and have the student match the images to lines or verses of the song.
  4. After they have matched them, reflect: why did they choose that image for that line?
I have a few more ideas, but I haven't tried them yet.  As I do, I will update this post.  What are some ways you use Pop Music in your FSL class?  

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Reflection: World Congress of Modern Languages, 2015

What an event!  I think that should be the first line in any review/ reflection of this conference.  There were lots of people to meet; many organization and companies to talk with and items to look at; so many workshops it was difficult to choose where to go!  In all, I am very happy that I got to attend this conference this year.  I thought it would be good to share some of the things that I learned from the amazing workshops I attended.  

Roundtable Discussion- March 26

I went to the conference early to register, because I really wanted to hear the roundtable discussion about technology in the L2 classroom.  Since tech in FSL is kind of my bailiwick (yep, I just used that word) I knew that there would be some great information to glean from the address.  The presentations were moderated by Terry Lamb, and the speakers were Jacques Cool, Sylvia Duckworth and Jim Murphy.  

The last speaker, Jacques Cool ( wouldn't you love to be a teacher with this last name??! Mine's a fish.  Which the kids don't let me forget.  Or worse it has the word 'ass' in it.  ANYWAYS...) spoke about the responsibility of teachers to innovate in the classroom.   What I found most interesting, and something I've been working on in my teaching and learning are the redefinition or addition of  the "new competencies" that our students will need to compete and success in our technological world.   Students need to know have to explore, create, collaborate, debate, solve problem and so much more in order to use the technology effectively.  

I also like that he spoke to student motivations, and how technology helps teachers fulfill those motivations.  The 6 motivations he outlined were that students want to 1- do it themselves; 2- do it now; 3- with their friends; 4- for others; 5- for pleasure or 6- for an audience.  This was the concept that really resonated with me, as I see those motivations in the actions of my students daily.  So for me, the takeaway was how am I going to use the motivations to make my students succeed?  

Cool made many more great points in her presentation, and if you would like to read it for yourself, visit his blog at (in French.)  He is also on Twitter, @zecool.

The second speaker was Sylvia Duckworth, who many French Teachers already know through her awesome teacher blog/ French teacher bible and resource E-tools for Language Teacher at  She spoke about the importance of PLNs or Personal Learning Networks for Teachers.  Duckworth noted that technology make wider collaboration between teachers possible.  She outlined 6 main hurdles to teacher development 1-no time; 2- need access; 3- need training; 4-need tech support; 5-need confidence; 6- need conviction, to know this development is worthwhile.  I appreciated Sylvia's contribution that focused on how teachers need access to this technology too in order to improve their learning.  I think we often forget about how beneficial tech is to our own development since we are often focused on our student's learning.  She also included a bunch of sketchnotes-- which I appreciate because I love sketchnotes.  Generously, her presentation is available at  for download.  

First speaker was Jim Murphy of the Center for Distance Learning in Newfoundland.  The model for schooling in parts of NFLD are an amazing example of how technology has transformed learning for some students.  As many students live in remote parts of NFLD, the CDL provides courses and education, that would otherwise be impossible for students to access.  The CDL uses a synchronous learning model, meaning that there are teachers and students that interact in a class online.  This was the interesting aspect of the presentation for me.  I have done online courses myself, and had contact with my teachers only through messaging and feedback.  Students in the synchronous model get to know and form relationships with their teachers despite the distance.  

They were all very knowledgeable people, and I was a little stunned afterwards with all the new information to process.  It was a great talk.  A great kick off!

Workshops: March 27-28

A. Paula Capa- "Speaking Only in French: It Can be Done!"

The first workshop I attended was about working towards French as the only language of communication in the L2 classroom.  What I found most helpful was the approach that the speak outlined.  That is, that you start with what the students know for a small amount of time, and then build on that time as the year progresses.  I found it affirming that so many people have questions about using French as the sole language of class.  This presentation also affirmed for me that I was on the right track.  In my class I use the "Zone Francais" in which I have a time keeper track our time for speaking French-- and then we try to beat that time the next day.  

B.  Sylvia Duckworth- "Web 2.0 and Social Media Tools in the French Classroom"

Had to sign up for Sylvia's session on Social Media and Web 2.0 Tools in the classroom.  The problem with this session was that 45 minutes was just not enough.  Sylvia had so much information and so many great ideas that people left the room wanted to try something new that coming Monday. I know I did!  I especially liked how she shared multiple strategies for an application.  I new about Voice Thread-- but I had no idea about the potential for VT in the FSL classroom.  One other great thing about Sylvia is that she shares so many of her ideas on her blog  So if you haven't already, check it out. She's also on Twitter @sylviaduckworth.

C. Bev Kukhta-Jackson- "Engaging your Core French Students"

One of my collegues in HWDSB, and a career-long champion of Core FSL, gave a fun presentation on how to engage core French students.  There were some really fun ideas like Movie Monday, and using music and other authentic media in French.  The crux of her message though-- and one that you could see she followed and felt herself-- was that the teacher needed to enjoy and love what they teach.  That is the most engaging thing you can do.  She showed a video that she made to futher her own PD, which just further exuded the love she has for her job.  She was also elected to the Board on the OMLTA- so a doubly successful day for her!

D. Bill and Hanna- "Go Digital! Supporting FSL with Digial Resources

Bill and Hanna lead the audience through the digital learning platform that is now available to all teachers in public funded schools.  The online education platform is an asynchronous learning platform, i think created by Desire2Learn.  Students are able to create and curate an online, multi-media portfolio for every subject.  Which is a pretty cool concept.  This presentation fell short of provide strategies to integrate some of these new technologies into the class.  More, Bill and Hanna were the bearer of the bad news-- National Film Board videos won't be available after the summer for school to use.  The liscencing was not renewed.  

E. Susanna Beatrice-Gojsic and Carole Knezevic- "Let Them Speak! Strategies that Maximize Student Talk Time in the FSL Classroom

Two more of my colleagues in the HWDSB presented this awesome, and helpful presentation, that was packed with strategies on making sure students get the most talk time in FSL class.  As always, Susanna and Carole provided fun, engaging and non threatening ways for students to participate in FSL class, and succeed.  The strategies they discussed allowed for maximum practice for students of their skills.  More, they explained how to implement some of their ideas.  Most generously, they provided a link to a wiki Susanna is on Twitter @sgojsic

F. Katy Arnett- Designing Differentiation for FSL Students

Having read Arnett's book, Languages For All, I was looking forward to seeing what new understanding I would leave with.  Luckily, Arnett brought tons of ideas and examples of how to integrate almost any student into the FSL classroom.  Arnett brought a number of speaking and reading/ writing activities to share, and discussed how, and why they were differentiated.  I appreciated the discussions, for me it led to an even deeper understanding of how I could apply some of these techniques and activities I use in class.  I felt more confident in my differentiation abilities after listening to this presentation.  Dr. Arnett's Twitter: @KatyArnett.

G. Trevor Gulliver- "A Dozen Ways to Use Songs"

I use music in my class almost every day.  So learning about ways to use those songs more effectively was  something I really looked forward to.  Trevor provided literally 12 ways to used songs in class.  Some of them were too close to a word cloze activity for my taste, but there were some gems that stood out for me.  My favorite ideas were the word snatch activity: students lay out small card of word between them, and as the song plays students grab the word as they hear it.  It was fun!  The second idea I loved was the rearranging lyrics activity.  You cut up the lines of a song, and mix them up.  Student have to arrange the lyrics correctly as they hear the song.  I immediately thought of other ways to use those same cards-- use them as a prediction activity when student try to arrange them in order before they hear the song.  Or as a writing activity where student get to choose a line as a writing prompt for their own lyric.  The best ideas for me, launch my brain into new strategies, and this presentation did just that.
H. Stephanie Bass- "iPads and Cell Phones in the FSL Classroom"

Ha!  I had to attend my own session.  So instead of making a note of how great the info provided was (at least I think it was) I think I will reflect on my delivery, and things I learned about myself from presenting.
  1. I am too short to stand behind most podiums.  The microphone was set up on a podium, and the top of the podium came to my neck. From the front of it, I probably looked like a talking head on top of the podium.  So I scrapped the podium, and consequently the mic and stood beside it.
  2. I make a lot of jokes when I'm nervous.  I am pretty sarcastic generally, and when I'm nervous that is amplified.  And I was really nervous.  And from the laughter of the group, really funny.
  3. I make strange analogies when I'm nervous.  I actually said, "The internet is the Wild West, and you as teachers are the Sheriffs."  Yep.
  4. I have a loud teacher voice.  Apparently I can't turn it off.
  5. I have some really supportive colleagues.  They came to listen, and were available if I needed help.  They're super.
  6. People hate completing surveys.  They hate 'em. No matter how short.  Mine is like 2 questions.  Help me out, folks!
  7. People appreciated that my presentation was available for download to follow at  The seating was not great, so I thought to give out the presentation at the beginning for the unfortunate short people in the back.  I know their plight.  So I will make sure to do that in the future too.
  8. It is fun to present.  It was fun to share what I knew with others.  
  9. My Twitter: @MadameBassHWDSB
I. Jennifer Lisi- "Using QR Code to Motivate Students"

Jennifer had a small group-- which was great for me, because I was able to ask as many questions, and make comments.  I was looking forward to learning more about QR codes; I use them sometimes in class, but after this presentation I was sure I was going to use them more often.  Jennifer offered many ideas and resources to use QR codes to support student learning.  She also offered great information that I had never thought of, like, using QR codes can make internet searching for students a little safer, as you have control of which sites students use through the code.  The one idea that I am excited to try is the QR code scavenger hunt.  I'm in the middle of creating an En route vers la Francophonie hunt for my 7s and 8s.  She is also on Twitter @Lisi_JE.

Phew! A long summary of the World Congress of Modern Languages.  I also stayed for the closing remarks which featured a great Brazillian band.  An upbeat, fun end to a great conference. 

If you are interested in more information that people have collected throughout the conference, there is a Twitter Hashtag for the conference #WCML2015, where people were Tweeting soundbites and ideas they learned.  I tweeted the ideas I heard in several workshops, and so did many others.  People are still using this hashtag to provide follow up information and reflections. So check it out! 

What reflections or highlights do you have from the WCML?  Feel free to leave them in the comments!