Category Archives: new teaching strategies

When getting sick helps our professional practices…

These last weeks I have had a few health problems and because of bad luck (poor medical care from incompetent doctors), it was hard to control and I had quite a lot of side effects from drugs. As a consequence, it affected my ear as well as my voice and my respiratory capacity.  Now my health condition is much better, but while reflecting on my professional practices, I have been surprised to see to what extent I changed some of my teaching strategies to cope and to compensate for my weaknesses. Even if it was quite a demanding situation, I am quite happy with the new tools that I used and I thought that I could share this experience with you if by chance it should happen to you as well. Here are some tips:

When being sick is more than only that....

1/ I slowed down my speech. It helped the students to think more before responding to my answers

2/ I gave instructions and information thanks to an online prompter:

The funny fact is that many students who used to be reluctant in reading, were happy to develop this skill and were keen to increase the speed of their reading.

3/ I also gave them some information thanks to online readings in the target language. This tool is interesting for students with dyslexia. It is available in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Arabic Languages

The fact that men and women’s voices can be chosen freely lead students to be accustomed to different speech rhythms, accents, tones and intonations.  

In conclusion, being sick can lead to great professional experiences and new discoveries….

Talk and engagement, such a big issue in foreign language! (Course 3)

In PYP, I created new accessories to enhance students’ engagement and to increase student awareness of grammar. For example, instead of teaching how the personal pronouns work in French, I use masks. Students wearing masks feel more at ease to participate and to understand the differences between ‘I’ and ‘we’, as well as ‘you’ and ‘they’ forms, as they can embody the grammar forms. For example, ‘I’ can be a pirate, whereas ‘we’ can stand for Animals.

Even shy students have fun and express themselves more openly because of these masks.

Use of masks in class

Iceberg model of culture… how to break the ice?

The Iceberg Theory underline the fact that just like an iceberg, culture is made of a visible and an invisible part (Edward T. Hall – 1973, 1976). The visible manifestations of culture are just the tip of the iceberg. However, it is the lower, the hidden part of the iceberg, that is the powerful foundation of these visible manifestations. One challenge for any foreign language teacher is to help the target language learners to have a glance of the country where the language is spoken and to be balanced according to students needs, interests, and maturity. Most of the time we are so focused on language, literature or specific cultural aspects, that we forget implicit manifestation of culture.
As far as I am concerned, I tried differents interculturalists strategies and tools to break the ice and go beyond the tip of the iceberg.

Here are some ideas that I share with you:

  1. Overcoming Stereotypes

    As everybody, our students have stereotypes about my home county and about French people. So, I thing that I like to do is creating a positive atmosphere where I share quite often about French values, myths, habits… and I compare them with their own perspective on French people. By this way, the students overcome stereotypes engage effectively and are more eager to discover, rather than relying on racial or ethnic stereotypes. For example, we speak about people’s habits in our second unit as is it very meaningful in term of values (family, work…) In the third unit, where I teach about people description, I also give them a cultural understanding and tolerance message by working on famous French people whose background are international because of the many migrations, such as football player coming from Central Africa or singers coming from Maghreb region.


  2. Meals/food

    Everyone eats, but students can experience the differences in diet from one culture to the next.To borrow Marcel Mauss, meals can be a ” total social fact” especially some meals eaten during religious festivals, such as Christmas, easter…In class, we talk about their meals and their share dishes typical in their countries. Students research also about French food (eg. King cake traditionally eaten in January), taste French food and cook French cakes. In November, Grade 5 students will even invite their parents and serve them a French breakfast and present their learning to them, as part of our French food festival. Last year, Grade 4 student eat “crepes” at a French restaurant downtown.

    cuisine-2 cuisine

    resto-1 resto-2

  3. Holidays/historical events
    I do like to let my students know about holidays and historical events thanks to my blog, where they can read some information about their origins and the way French people celebrate them.
    e.g: Here is a post written about the festival celebrated in France on 8 May every year.
    The students can compare with the traditional holiday from their native culture.
  4. Clothes 

    In France, many regions have different traditional dress. I could have asked my students to bring some pieces of formal or traditional dress…Me, I do not have any traditional clothing from my hometown. But, during our third unit about describing people, students learn how to describe people with colorful traditional clothes (as it is the case in some French spoken countries in Central Africa for example).   Recently, when a famous French fashion designers passed away, I took this event to show that how clothes can reveal  about country values and perspectives. For example, Sonia Rykiel is a symbol for her struggle to promote woman freedom and respect. I used my blog for this chat with my students:

  5. Music

    In class, when students are doing creative activities, we often listen music from different parts of Francophony (Canada, Comores, Marocco…).  The fact that students could hear how the same language is used in different countries, accents, instruments, rhythms… is just a great cultural experience!

  6. Traditional Stories

    Traditional stories such as folk tales or tall tales are another way to bring culture and history into the classroom. So I read extracts of French books to my students and we compare the stories that they know and that are quite similar in French and in their mother tong. Last year, we went in field trip at the French Institute library so that Gr 5 students could be familiarized with a place where there are plenty of French books…

  7. Body language
    Even though some face emotions are quite similar in many countries in the world (joy, hate, disgust…), it is obvious that non-verbal communication is an important part of how people communicate and there are differents from culture to culture. Hand, arm gestures, touch, eyes contacts could be quite inappropriate or rude in Asia but not in France. So, Grade 2 to grade 5 students can experiment it in class. For example, many students are surprised by ” la bise”, the traditional French kiss to greet people.

    Last year, on 21th February, we celebrated the International Mother Language Day. To make students aware of these cultural differents, Grade 4 and grade 5 students participated in a fun activity: they compared some easy gesture commonly used to indicate: number, actions…they could understand that While some gestures are vulgar, others are as innocuous as shaking or nodding one’s head.

  8. Art 

    Besides discovering some of the most famous museums of Paris (Le Louvre, Orsay, Beaubourg…) through short videos, my students learn more about French culture thanks to some artists like Ben. Also, they participated in creative activities linked with cultural events. For example, Students created posters to present Cannes international Movies Festival and they chose their favorite poster among a selection of posters created since the early 50’s by international designers.


    10. Ecology
    Last year in France, an international conference called ” COP 21″ had been organized to speak other environment issues and for politics to make a change in the world. All the students discovered what does ecology means in France and to what extent French people support ecological projects.Making research, creating collage or slogans, making presentations…all of them participated.
    cop-2 cope-la-dernier cope-autre


To conclude, there are thousands of ways to share our culture and break the ice in class. I humbly date to present you some of my strategies but…there is still a lot of work to be done around this issue!

Translanguaging in FL… I embark on a new adventure!

Here is my post that share ideas about how to use Translanguaging in FL to enhance students learning. Click on the link to hear my recording:

(lenght: around 9 minutes)

Here is an illustration of 3 strategies for translanguaging in FL.

  1. Writing Skills (Words Wall)
Students wrote the key vocabulary of our first unit in the target language, in English language as well as in their mother tong (here, in Vietnamese language)
Grade 5 students wrote the key vocabulary of our first unit  in our Word Wall, in the target language, in English language as well as in their mother tong (here, in Vietnamese language)

2. Reading Skills (Vocabulary Activity)

After reading a short book in the target language (for the book week), students worked on the vocabulary and filled this chart. They wrote down 5 new vocab in the target language, in English and in their mother tong (in Pastho language, in Hindi language, in Vietnamese language, in Turkish language... )
After reading a short book in the target language (for the book week), students worked on the vocabulary and filled this chart. Grade 5 students wrote down 5 new vocab in the target language, in English and in their mother tong (in Pastho language, in Hindi language, in Vietnamese language, in Turkish language… )
Same exercice in khmer language
Same exercise in Khmer language
Same exercice in Hindi language
Same exercise in Hindi language

3. Writing skills (Writing cards)

Multilingual and translanguaging activity with Grade 3 students: after a brainstorming to contrast French, English and Spanish languages, students write cards to greet a sick student in the 3 languages.
Multilingual and translanguaging activity with Grade 3 students: after a brainstorming to contrast French, English and Spanish languages, students write cards to greet a sick student in the 3 languages.
Detail of 1 card writing.
Detail of 1 card written by a Grade 3 student.
Other sample
Other sample
Other sample
Other sample

Learning the grammar of a target language…is it thrilling? Is it boring or horrific?

During the 70’s, the traditional model in teaching the grammar of a target language was abandoned for more communicative approaches. What good news!

We saw the need to teach grammar forms and structures in relation to meaning and use, for the specific communication tasks that students need to complete. For example, instead of asking students to write 10 sentences to understand that in French the verb changes according to number, gender, person and tense, we now give two accurate and appropriate statement examples of the current unit. Then, we ask the students to read the statements, find the differences, and ask questions about points they don’t understand. By sharing information, we help them to understand the rule logically.

Also, we understood that students should be taught to use their knowledge of English or another language when learning the target language. In French language, it is quite easy, as English and French grammar share certain similarities. All my Grade 2-5 students know that many common and declarative sentences in English follow an order: the subject of a sentence comes directly in front of the verb.

Using simplified terms that make sense for “ subject” and “verb”, students can easily create a common French sentence.

Using an inter-lingual approach can be key for some to teach grammar. Helping the students to compare and contrast the two languages and find the differences, as well as giving them little by little an awareness of language, has proved to be efficient.

Researchers have also explained how to mix this approach with the inter-lingual approach, which results in inputs and interaction and is also very effective.

As far as I am concerned, I use different strategies and the one I have been using more often these past two years is: flipping class. This strategy ensures student involvement, interest, and understanding when I expect them to understand certain grammar. For example, working in groups to understand and to teach others how to create questions and why there is three words for my in French, generally works quite well.

Students discuss their work
Students discussing their work
Students presenting their news learning
Students presenting their news learning
Students playing jigsaw puzzle to apply grammar rules
Students playing jigsaw to apply grammar rules
Students practicing how to ask questions in French
Students practicing how to ask questions in French

A few days ago, I read an article that I saw on Twitter about new creative and successful ways to teach grammar.

Since then, I have reflected on how to apply these ideas. If you have any creative ways that alter this approach, please share them with me!