Sunday, 26 August 2012

My Classroom is READY!!!

We now return to our regularly scheduled program; if you are looking for my letter to Dalton McGuinty please click here.

You read it correctly, my classroom is ready!  All I need now are students!  So I think we should take a look around my new beautiful Frog themed FSL classroom.  When students walk into my room this is the area they are welcomed into.   The wooden chair is for my calendar helper and my desk is really just there to hold my computer.

I always start class on the carpet regardless of whether they are grade 1s or grade 8s.  The routine varies a little depending on the grade level but typically we identify the today's date, yesterday's date and tomorrow's date, identify the weather and dress Mr. la grenouille for today's weather and then we practise our "Virelangue de la semaine".  Student absolutely love the tongue twister and are eager to participate in this activity.  It has made a huge difference in their reading and pronunciation.   

Here is a close up of my calendar/weather board.  It's difficult to see because of the horrible picture but the tongue twister is right beside the calendar at the top of the board.  

This is my word wall which will most certainly evolve as the year progresses.  My biggest challenge as a Core French teacher, in this area, is putting up the words that all my students need (grade 1 to 8) without it becoming overwhelming and disorganised.  In my opinion, for the word wall to be useful it needs to have high frequency words that students are using regularly and students need to be referencing/interacting with it.  Hence the Boggle board for the beginning of the year: 

On the same bulletin board as my word wall, is my brand new Boggle board.  I must admit I have never had one in my classroom before but my hope is that students will use the words found on the word wall to help them find words in the Boggle board.  (How many French words can you find?) I often have students that finish quickly and this will be one of the learning activities they can selected to do when they have completed their assignment.

Students sit in groups in my class to encourage conversation between students in the target language.  This year each table has a frog that is their mascot.  Since I have several classes that sit at these tables, students from all my classes will be trying to come up with a name for their frog and all students will vote for their favourite option.

The last thing I have set up prior to students arriving on the first day of school is my supply table.  I love how neat and tidy it all looks.  

The only thing missing from my classroom is the new guided reading table that will hopefully be arriving in September.  I'll share more pictures when get my guided reading table and some student work up for the open house BBQ!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Letter to Mr. McGuinty!

While my blog is intended to be a place for a sharing of ideas and resources for FSL teachers, today I will be taking a break from that and posting the letter I sent to Mr. McGuinty regarding his Putting Students First Act.  I hope that all other teachers from Ontario and even from Canada will take a moment to see what the government of Ontario is dictating in the piece of legislation.  This government is teetering on becoming dictators.  Ontario teachers are respectfully asking for fair bargaining from the government of Ontario.

Mr. Dalton McGuinty, 

A this time of year, I would typically be spending most of my spare time preparing for the upcoming school year, but this year on top of planning for the upcoming school year (which is not in danger in case you hadn’t heard Mr. McGuinty), I am working to have my voice heard at Queen’s Park where my rights as a taxpaying citizens are being trampled on ‘for the sake of the children’ and the benefit of your political party.  The teachers of this province will not sit by idly as you turn our democratic country into a dictatorship.    

You and your MPPs have created a crisis that does not exist to benefit your party in two current by-elections.  You have turned the public on us, referring to us as Teachers, turning us into the ‘other’, dismissing the fact that we are also taxpayers, we have families and obligations just like every other taxpaying citizen in the province.  A fellow teacher, Roy Reed, from Renfrew County put it very eloquently: 

What hurts me most is that these people we trusted have chosen to act exactly as every government has ever done, in order to achieve its goals. They have actively segregated, and targeted a people, and made them a single, faceless, other. 

Suddenly, they refer to us as Teachers, and refer to the rest of Ontario as Families, as Taxpayers. They 'ask' Teachers to, please, think about Ontario's Families. They 'ask' Teachers to, please, think about Ontario's Taxpayers.

And now, after all the progress we have made since Harris, in the minds of the average Ontarian, WE are accused of, and publicly shamed for, standing in the way of Families' and Taxpayers' happiness. Now, WE are selfish, and it will be OUR fault if the government doesn't pay off its debt. Now, it is perfectly fine to publicly call US names, to condemn US, to belittle US, because the government has fostered, and even encouraged the act of tearing US down.”

By turning us into a faceless group of people for the public to be angry with you are trying to convince them that removing our rights in an acceptable practice in a democratic society.  You are using us as scapegoats.  In your ‘Putting Students First Act’, which does nothing but put them last, you have the following: 

  1. (1) The Ontario Labour Relations Board shall not inquire into or make a decision on whether a provision of this Act, a regulation or an order made under subsection 9 (2) is constitutionally valid or is in conflict with the Human Rights Code." 

You are stripping us of rights that every other taxpaying citizen is entitled to!!!  You are putting your party above the law, and refusing to be held accountable for the actions you are taking.  Mr. McGuinty we will fight back, you will be held accountable.  MPP Sarah Campbell reminds us that: 

The simple fact is, we have numerous examples of how legislating collective agreements doesn’t work. It costs taxpayers more- way more- when taken to the Supreme Court. It cost B.C. $85 million when the Supreme Court overturned their legislated agreement. It could Ontario upwards of $780 million if our 90,000 teachers were to do the same. How is this move protecting the public purse?

Let me assure you Mr. McGuinty, that we will be doing the same.  You will be held accountable.  It will cost you far more, than fair bargaining ever would.   

On the first day of classes Mr. McGuinty, I will be putting students first by providing them with excellent teaching, while you put them last by trying to demonize teachers. 

Crystal Jones, OCT 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Teacher Planner SALE!

Finding the perfect Teacher Planner can be a challenge.  A challenge I have undertaken every fall but this year I gave up on finding the perfect (and often overpriced) planner and I decided to just make one.  Well 3 weeks and over 70 pages later I had a planner that was going to let me have everything I wanted to be available at my finger tips or at least it was ready to be printed.  (I know the girl who LOVES technology uses a paper planner....yes, yes she does because she also has a healthy obsession with stationary but that's another post.)  I printed it and had it bound and was thrilled with my planner, that when printed has over 150 pages in it.  This planner has everything I dreamed of in a planner;  bright colours, inspirational quotes and plenty of ways to stay organized.  Everything from student birthdays and class trips to student assessment and parent communication logs.  AND I can print off extras copies of any sheets I need, anytime I need them.  So here it is, I hope you pop over the Teachers Pay Teachers and take a look!  

It's available in English  and en Français!   

You can get yourself a copy HERE!  
All Planners 15% off ALL DAY August 20th! 

I'd to love hear what kind of teacher planner you use.  Paper, digital, do it yourself or bought at the store?  I myself have tried them all.  My preference is great paper planner, since students are often on my computer and it makes it difficult to check my plans as the day goes on.   Everyone has a preference, what's yours?

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Behaviour Charts - Do you use them?

Let's just say that I had an entirely different post planned for today but yesterday while on Twitter I stumbled up this great post by Miss Night, Too high a price: why I don't do behaviour charts.  I highly recommend you check it out.  (A huge thanks to @flourishingkids from for posting the link)

Miss Night clearly and effectively articulates why she doesn't use behaviour charts through a very realistic portrayal of how we as adults would feel if our bosses did the same to us.  Just click on the link up there to see what I mean.  In any case, her post has got the wheels in my head spinning round and round.  

I use behaviour/incentive charts in my FSL classroom, I find it stimulates many of my students to take risks and make attempts at answering questions and/or conversing in the target language.  I used Classdojo last year and honestly, still plan on using it next year but I will be changing the way I use it based on what I read over at Miss Night's blog.  What really struck a cord with me was that students who get their pins brought down to orange or in my case negative points added beside their names are essentially being humiliated in front of their classmates.  As Miss Night points out I would be furious if such a chart was put up in the staff room and that every time I have a bad moment I was reprimanded publicly.  So it has me thinking, what does my behavior management system do to my students self esteem, self worth, reputation amongst their peers.  Does it cause other students not to want work with them? Does it make them feel good? Does it help them LEARN?  The obvious answer to those questions, is a screaming NO!!! 

So why I am doing it? Well it seemed like a great idea at the time but what I do know is in my class this coming school year students will not publicly lose points for making a misstep in their day.  Students who are having difficulties living up to classroom expectation, for a variety of reasons, will be dealt with privately.  Classdojo gives me the ability to do this by tracking negative behaviours privately.  This way the student and I can have a discussion in private, when needed and get a system going that works for them.  It also allows me to have a record of incidents without humiliating any of my students.  Honestly, if it had ever crossed my mind before this that I was embarrassing them, I never would have done it at all.        

Will I still be giving public points?  Yes!  My students love getting a 'J'ai parlé en français!' or 'Je fais de mon mieux!' point.  Points are awarded for effort not accuracy and their is no reward at the end of the tunnel for getting x number of points.  Most of my students take pride just trying to get more points then they did the week before much like a runner strives for a faster pace.  So long as the positive points continue to encourage students to participate, bring smiles to their faces and fun to our classroom I will continue to use them.  

What about you? Do you public behaviour charts?  If yes, which ones? If not, why not? 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Is your classroom calling your name???

I hate to admit it but I always hear my classroom calling my name during the month of August begging me to come in and polish her up.  Truth is, it's one of my favourite things about the beginning of the school year approaching; those freshly waxed floors, sharp pencils, new labels, decorations and the glimmer of a new school year full of excitement.  With the rain drizzling down around here the last few days, I have ventured into my classroom to start pulling things together.  (Don't tell anyone but I may have been a few times during July as well).   I have my tables placed where I like them, I've put frogs labels on our classroom supplies, I even made a giant tissue paper flower for the chalk board.  But now I am starting to feel the pull to start planning lessons, roughly map out my long range plans and take some of those great Pinterest ideas

So when I start mapping out my school year my brain starts firing off : inquiry based, project based, instruction in French not always of French, cross curricular, technologically enhanced, paperless, creative, engaging, motivating......and on and on and on.  My solution is to get my pens, pencils, markers out and start mind mapping and see where I end up.  Mind mapping really comes from my need to calm the chaos within my brain when I become overwhelmed with ideas that are not quite connected.  Out of the chaos within though comes an external clarity when all those ideas are there on paper for me to see.

Now when I look at the mind map that contains all my random thoughts I can't help but think about AUTHENTIC learning experiences for my students.  I see my desire to teach them through activities they already enjoy such as games, sports and the arts while imparting on them the knowledge of my French culture through things such as Carnaval.  Furthermore, I notice immediate that my focus will be on oral communcation and reading with this age group.  Starting naturally with oral and moving them into reading simple texts as the year progresses.    Well that's where my thoughts took me today anyway, I am sure I will be revisiting this mind map frequently in the next few weeks.

So, is your classroom calling your name?   I know mine is!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Pinterest Inspiration!


Can you believe August is already here?  I know that my summer is just flying by.  During the summer, who am I kidding all the time, I have spend a good too much time looking around the world of Pinterest to get inspiration and ideas for my FSL classroom.  Today I thought I'd share a few great boards and a few really great pins that I think can easily be adapted to the FSL classroom.     

Here are a few board I love!

 En français SVP , French Resources (7-12), French Resources (12-14) are a great boards full of French ressources which have been pinned by SunnyEarthAcademy.  You really should check out not only her boards but her blog!  Amazing educator with a true passion for second language learning!

KB Konnected  has several amazing boards with all kinds of teacher's resources.  All are worth checking out.  Some of my favourites are her Technology board and her Teacher blogs board.  She also has a great blog and can be followed on Twitter. Some of my

Tina Jordan has a tone of great pins for teachers to check out.  Unfortunately, Tina does not have a blog or a Twitter feed from what I can tell.  

Now for a few of my all time favourite pins! 

Sight Word Jenga!  I love this idea.  You put sight words on the Jenga blocks using a permanent marker.  Then as students play the game they have to use the word on their block in a sentence.  I plan on putting my FSL word wall words, based entirely on the AIM program, onto the blocks for a great activity for my students who always seem to finish early.  

Boggle boards! Yet another great game that can be played en français.  What a great way for students to reinforce words they are learning or to discover new ones with a little help.  Great enrichment activity for my students.

This art activity plus the use of an audio QR code.  What a great way for my junior students to start off the year.  They will each create one of these great self portraits and then create an audio QR code in which they introduce themselve to go with it.  My plan is to have these up for our open house.  Parents/visitors can scan the QR codes with their Smartphones or our school ipods and here our students talking in French!

These are just a few of my favourite pins and boards, I hope you enjoy exploring them.  Do you have favourite pins?  Do you use Pinterest to help you colllect/organize your classroom inspirations?