My new teaching position has introduced me to a lot of new challenges in finding harmony between CI-based methodology and a textbook-based pacing guide. Our French 2 textbook is especially heavy on irregular verbs, and although my students are working their hardest — engaging actively in CI practice during class and completing a wide variety of practices at home — we’re still struggling to the meet the goal of mastering all these verbs forms. As usual, the textbook considers a set of verbs like dormir, partir and sortir to be one “rule” because all the verbs have similar irregularities. The reality is that acquiring all the present- and past-tense forms of these three verbs solidly enough for confident production is far beyond the scope of one week’s learning, and that doesn’t even take into account the twenty or more additional lexical items to be covered in the week. It’s also far more than can be sensibly addressed totally through CI activities.

Enter Conjuguno. I developed this activity to give students some kind of purpose for using all these verb forms that’s hopefully enjoyable enough to at least trigger a few good neurochemicals and boost their retention.Read More »

Is there room for tradition in TPR?

A lot of what we do in a TPR classroom is non-traditional. I’ve seen and taught numerous TPR lessons that spent little or no time on activities that are now considered the “great traditions” of a foreign language curriculum, such as InfoGaps and situational conversations. And I’ve seen students achieve more than in courses where those textbook-perfect activities are commonplace.

The question that I hear is, “But what if I want to use these activities in my class? What if I’m required to use them as part of my curriculum or assessments?” Well, the good news is that you can incorporate all kinds of traditional activities as part of a TPR lesson. The better news is that the results are often impressive.Read More »

Lessons from the Weight Room

I remember my first trip to Paris. As I stepped off the plane and passed through security, one of the officers suddenly said to me, “Sit down quickly and put this book on your head! A mean boy has stolen a cat from a young blonde girl, and we need to ask you some questions.”

Obviously, that never happens. Why, then, do we spend so much time doing goofy actions and telling bizarre stories in class? Why can’t I just tell my students that a chair is une chaise and move on?Read More »

PAD (Person, Action, Detail)

I noticed some of my students playing a game of sorts the other day. They tear up strips of paper, and each person writes down the name of a person, an action, and a place or other detail, each on a separate slip. They put all the strips in a hat, pull out one strip of each category, and then they have to draw whatever scenario they can come up with based on the words they pulled out. The students were having lots of fun with their game, so I decided to steal the idea for a little extra practice over the Beginner’s French Reader stories we’ve been reading.Read More »