Bienvenue and welcome to French class!
Please complete this checklist before the second day of class.
- Get your class supplies together.
- Composition book: 9 x 7 inches or larger with at least 100 sheets (200 pages)
- Pencils or pens
- Several glue sticks
- A place to store graded work at home, such as a small folder
- Blank notebook paper for homework
- Add your Quick Reference sheets into your composition book.
- Find a French name for yourself. You can choose any name in the lists at that link. Practice saying and spelling your new name! You can click on the speaker icon to hear your name.
- Read the information below thoroughly. This is your introduction to French class. I won’t be going over all these things in detail; class time is for communicating in French. If you have questions, e-mail me or drop by Extra Help. I’ve typed all this up because I want you to get off to a good start!
Note: Your composition book is for classwork. Homework is always completed on notebook paper or handouts and placed in the turn-in tray.
The Big Goal
You have one primary goal in this class: to learn how to communicate effectively in French in real-life scenarios. Every part of our class leads to that goal. I expect you to one day be able to travel to France and carry on a conversation, and I will hold you to that expectation in every assignment and assessment. You must be able to understand, speak, read and write French, and all of those skills will be assessed regularly.
Keep that goal in mind as you continue reading. The first step in meeting that goal is understanding how to be an effective member of this class.
Our class is based on current research related to how people learn language. Everything we do, whether it’s serious or silly, has a very specific purpose. My degree is specifically in teaching foreign languages, so my expertise is bringing that research in the classroom to make your learning process more effective and enjoyable.
The most important part of this process is comprehensible input. That means I expose you to as much French as possible, and I use pictures, actions and scenarios to reveal the meaning of words.
There are two parts to your job in this process. Firstly, you need to watch, listen and get involved. You can’t get input, especially comprehensible input, unless you’re paying close attention to what’s happening in class and participating when it’s your turn. Secondly, you need to ask questions. Remember, the input has to be comprehensible. If you’re lost or don’t understand, we’re both wasting our time. And if you never ask questions, I never know exactly how to tailor my teaching to fit your needs.
The All-French Classroom
There are three reasons why we only use French in class. The first is because we need to spend as much time as possible getting input in French. Think of it this way: even if we spend 45 minutes every day using nothing but French, that still leaves you with over 900 minutes of awake time using your native language. That’s not a very good ratio! But I hope it helps you understand that every second of French-only class time is important.
The second reason is because we want to make direct connections in your brain between words and their meaning. If you have to think up the English and then mentally translate it into French, it will slow you down every time. Real-life communication happens at a much faster rate. There isn’t time for you to flip through a mental multilingual dictionary. The French has to be automatic: as soon as the image, feeling or action pops up in your brain, the French is right there.
The third reason is because French is a unique language, just as all languages are. Again, you don’t want to have to walk through an endless list of rules and literal translations every time you try to use French. There are many similarities between English and French, but you can’t communicate effectively in French until your brain has been trained to think of things the French way. Look at how this very simple sentence gets translated so differently from one language to the next:
English: I’m twenty-five years old.
French: J’ai vingt-cinq ans. (literally, I have twenty-five years.)
Chinese: 我二十五岁 (literally, I two-ten-five years.)
Gaelic: Tha mi còig bliadhna air fhichead a dh’aois. (literally, I’m five years beyond twenty of age.)
Latin: Vīgintī quīnque annōs nātus sum. (literally, I’ve been born for twenty-five years.)
Imagine how difficult it is to communicate effectively when you have all those weird patterns floating around in your head! Learning French through French bypasses all those sensations of “This is weird!” and “This isn’t how it works in English!” Things become habit. You hear a phrase so many times, and use it so many times, that it simply puts itself together automatically.
Learning Another Language
Everyone can learn another language! Look at you right now — you’re already using language! If you’re capable of learning one language, doesn’t it make sense that you’re capable of learning another? People who think they’re “bad” at learning another language or “can’t” learn another language are often simply taking the wrong approach. In this class, we take the right approach so everyone can succeed.
Don’t ever let yourself think you can’t do well in this class. If you aren’t doing well, there’s another issue at work, and we can always talk together to figure that out.
I’m no genius. I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee. No one in my family speaks a second language. Over half my graduating class outranked me by GPA in high school. I’m only good at learning foreign languages because I’m determined and I know how to learn them effectively. If I can learn French, I know you can too.
Our Learning Environment
Our classroom environment is a very important part of our learning process. I appreciate teaching at Webb because students here are held to the expectations that make for an excellent learning environment: integrity, courtesy, respect, focus.
Our learning environment must be completely effective at all times. It can be a challenge, figuring out the fine line between silliness and seriousness that we walk every day in French class. I expect you to adapt to that environment and be an effective member of it. We have no time for disruptions of any kind.
Here are some ways you can keep our learning environment effective for you and others:
- Put those devices away!
- Pay attention to whose turn it is to talk. Raise your hand and wait your turn.
- Use French only. There are phrases posted on the walls to help you. It’s my choice to use English when your questions or needs go beyond what’s on those posters, but I expect you to at least start with a French phrase.
- Show your best sense of character and respect toward everyone and everything in our classroom.
- Take advantage of resources like Extra Help and RenWeb. Class time is for communicating in French, not discussing your grades or asking about your missing assignments. RenWeb posts are in English, and I’m here every school day for an hour to speak all the English you want.
Our Daily Routine
I know it can be confusing to walk into an all-French class. We follow the same basic routine every day to help us all stay on the same page and avoid confusion.
- Before class starts, place homework in the turn-in tray, check your dossier (file folder) for papers to pick up, and take out your class supplies.
- When I enter the room and close the door, everyone stands up and we say Bonjour to each other. Devices should be put away, you should be in your seat, and French-only time begins.
- We start each lesson by talking about the calendar, the weather and what’s going on in your life. This is not only a warm-up process but also helps you pick up many useful phrases.
- As you leave class, say goodbye to your friends and me in French. Try to use more than a simple Au revoir. Using courtesy phrases in real situations like these will help keep them sharp.
- I don’t usually mention homework in class. Homework is always posted on RenWeb well in advance. Don’t forget to check the lesson plan as well. I know a lot of students overlook that section, but it’s critical in this class. We don’t always follow the textbook page by page, and you need to know how our class activities align with the book. An “understood” homework expectation in this class is that you look at the lesson plan and review the relevant pages in your book.
- It’s okay to have water in class, but please don’t bring other drinks or eat food during class time. We want to keep our room clean, and also eating in class would be very bizarre in French culture.
There are tons of resources in your textbooks: maps, charts, explanations, unit goals and vocabulary lists, and an English-French glossary in the back. We don’t often use those resources during class time, but please take advantage of them at home.
Grading & Performance Expectations
Expect to have homework every night, a quiz every week, a test at the end of each unit, and a project every quarter. Remember that you’ll be assessed on all four language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening.
As we move through a unit, the expectations increase. I may not count off for an error on homework, but I mark those errors to tell you that the same error may cause you to lose points on a quiz or an assessment. Get in the habit of reviewing your grading work for mistakes, regardless of the score, to learn from those mistakes. If you don’t understand why something was marked wrong, see me during Extra Help.
There are three components to your quarterly averages:
- Devoirs: homework and graded classwork (25%)
- Interros: quizzes and speaking/writing assessments (30%)
- Examens: unit tests and quarter projects (45%)
Per departmental policy, I deduct 10% for each day that an assignment is late. After three school days, the assignment becomes a permanent grade of 0%. It’s your responsibility to track missing assignments on RenWeb.
I mark all missing assignments as “Missing”, regardless of the reason. I do make records on my end, however, so I know if you were absent. I do this to help you avoid unpleasant surprises from “Absent” assignments, which tend to get overlooked because they don’t appear on reports and don’t affect your grade.
Homework should be formatted exactly like the example image. Begin on the first line. Include your first (French) and last names, the course, the period, and the date in French format (day/month/year). Add the exercise and page number, centered.
Include the Honor Pledge at the end of each homework assignment and sign it:
Je donne ma parole d’honneur comme un monsieur (une demoiselle) de Webb que je n’ai donné ni reçu d’aide sur ce travail.
Pledging your homework is an important reminder. These tasks inform me about your individual, independent progress. I would much rather see your mistakes than see perfect answers that you copied from someone else. Acceptable homework resources are your textbook, class handouts, print dictionaries and WordReference.com.
The only way to fail a homework assignment is to not complete it. If there are a lot of mistakes, I draw a reverse arrow at the top of the assignment that means “try this again and turn it back in”. You’ll receive full credit for the assignment. In other words, don’t be afraid to try the homework on your own. The assignments are often quite simple and take only a few minutes, but if you run into a challenge, you can always drop by Extra Help.
Tests & Projects
All our tests are very cumulative. Every test is like a mini-exam. While homework and quizzes tend to focus on current skills, exams often cover a mix of everything we’ve learned up to that point, even things we learned at lower levels.
You may correct a test to regain one fourth of the points you lost on it. In other words, if you lost 16 points on a test, you may gain back 4 points. Test corrections must be completed with me during Extra Help.
Directions for quarter projects are posted online, in your digital class folder at www.wmjsimpson.com/class. Those directions are posted near the start of the quarter. In other words, you have weeks to work on each project, and I expect your performance to reflect the amount of time you’ve had to prepare. Quarter projects for French 1B and higher always include an in-class presentation component.
If you’re present on the day of project presentations, you must present or receive a grade of 0%. Again, you’ve had weeks to work on this project. You could probably put something together in the hour or so you’ll spend watching everyone else present. I simply can’t reschedule class time around a lapse in your responsibilities. Exceptions to this policy are only made in extreme documented cases, such as extended medical leaves.
I don’t keep extra copies of handouts. However, I do post all handouts online at wmjsimpson.com/class so you can download and print any extra copies you might need.
Per departmental policy, WordReference.com is the only acceptable online dictionary tool that may be used in foreign language classes at Webb. It’s a much better resources than Google Translate, and once you get familiar with it, you’ll find it very helpful.