Monday, 27 May 2013

Mon sandwich - using a dictionary

A task I set my low ability year 8 group recently was to describe, label and draw a sandwich in French. 

We had learned some basic food vocabulary and the partitive article.

The brief was that they could put in anything they wanted - the more disgusting, the better. (It's a group of mostly boys!)

They didn't know the words for almost all of these things so I gave them dictionaries.

I've never seen children so excited about looking up words before.

Sadly (or not!) some of the words they were looking for were not in the school's dictionaries so we settled for some less horrific words.

So, by the end, we had some quite horrible stuff on them  (I hope you're not eating)

We had:

Dans mon sandwich il y a du vomi.

Dans mon sandwich il y a de la morve.

Dans mon sandwich il y a des mouches.

Dans mon sandwich il y a des crottes.

You can see a pattern forming here, can't you?

Anyway the point was not to learn new words but to learn how to use a dictionary properly.

And have fun.

Which we did.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Alibi - making speaking fun

This week is assessment week and some of my classes have been doing speaking exams.

Some students were supposed to have a conversation with a partner using the past tense to find out what they had been doing recently.

It seemed a little tedious and I decided to make it more fun.

Instead of a conversation, it became an interrogation.

One student is the police officer and the other a suspect.

Exactly the same types of questions and answers except with added details.

So, instead of "What did you do at the weekend?" the question becomes more specific: "What were you doing between 7pm and 10pm on Friday evening?"

The interrogator can occasionally interrupt with phrases like, "Liar!", "That's not possible!", "That can't be!" and, obviously, "Don't leave town."

You can do this in any language and boys seem to like it.

I'm even thinking of investing in some dressing up police hats, too.

I'm ashamed to say that the idea came from my overhearing a pupil sing this song...

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Les people et les stars - Reading for pleasure?

Loathe them or hate them, you can't switch on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing "celebrities".

It seems that these days everyone is obsessed with the cult of the celebrity.

Everyone except me, of course.


Even the French are becoming curiously interested.

To prove this, here is a list of trashy magazine/website links so that your students can find out who is "dating" whom, when and with what... in French.

  • Actuastar - loads of "scoops" and "news" about "celebs" form around the world. currently obsessed with Kim Kardashian's feet. (I have no idea who this is!)

  • Gossip -  currently obsessed with a young lady who goes by the name of Nabilla. (Again, I have no idea who this is, either!)

  • Closer (les stars et les news people en live - their words, not mine!) - some stuff on Eurovision. (I've heard of this!)

So there you have it. 

A brilliant way to interest the majority of your students in reading for pleasure in the Target Language. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Le sac des filles - opportunities for thinking and speaking

Le sac des filles is a blog which publishes photos of the contents of girls' bags (and sometimes boys' pockets) and lists the contents in French.

That's pretty much it.

I discovered this from a conference I went to in Manchester in 2010 run by Juliet Park and Wendy Adeniji of i-languages. It was from Wendy's session on thinking skills which I just discovered on an old memory stick.

So, why do I like it?

It can be used for lots of things:

  • Learning vocabulary (it's more up to date than your text books and dictionaries)
  • Describing people from the contents of their bags. are they male or female? How old are they?what kind of a person do you think owns this bag? Why? etc...
  • A "Through the Keyhole" activity. Guess the celebrity: This is Rihanna's bag because it contains....
  • Comparing 2 people by studying their personal effects. 
  • Comparing British and French culture. (There's a lot of bags with cigarettes in!)

Some of the pictures are annotated:

and some are just photos with lists added at the end.
These are great if you want to teach in a different language, or if you want to get the students to describe the contents by themselves.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Do you speak English?

I love this clip from the BBC's Big Train comedy programme.

My year 9 students are made to watch this just before they choose their options.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Studying a French film - Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec

One of my favourite French films of recent years is Luc Besson's Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec.

I rediscovered it today as I was going through my collection of French DVDs to find suitable films which I might show to the students at the end of the year.

It's rated 12 in the UK but I would not show it to my younger students as there is a scene where Louise Bourgoin (Adèle) (for no reason I can think of, other than it being a French film) appears, albeit briefly, topless. She is seen smoking, too.

The reason why I'm telling you about this film is that this afternoon I found an amazing resource made by the institut français in Germany.

It is a 27 page work pack in pdf format which contains teacher notes and activities for students based on the film. All of the activities and notes are in French. (This pack is no longer available online but if you contact me I can email it to you!)

The contents of the pack are as follows:


A) Fiche technique du film
B) Informations sur le réalisateur
C) Résumé du film


A) Avant la séance

Fiche-élève n°1: Découvrir le film par l’affiche
Fiche-professeur n°1: Découvrir le film par l’affiche
Fiche-élève n°2: Découvrir le film par la bande-annonce
Fiche-professeur n°2: Découvrir le film par la bande-annonce

B) Après la séance

Fiche-élève n°3: Reconstituer l’histoire du film
Fiche-professeur n°3: Reconstituer l’histoire du film
Fiche-élève n°4: Étudier les personnages du film
Fiche-professeur n°4: Étudier les personnages du film
Fiche-élève n°5: Comprendre un dialogue du film
Fiche-professeur n°5: Comprendre un dialogue du film
Fiche-élève n°6: Étudier les lieux du film
Fiche-professeur n°6: Étudier les lieux du film


A) Champollion et le déchiffrement des hiéroglyphes
B) Les costumes de la Belle Époque
C) L’Égypte à Paris
D) Analyse d’une séquence
E) Résumé du film en séquences
F) Sitographie

The worksheets are not too difficult and could be done by most of the students I teach in KS4.

The film and the workpack could be used as the basis for a piece of Controlled Assessment for GCSE, too.