Sharing the Love of Languages

Posts tagged ‘French’

La Veille de “Sunny Earth Camp”


Tonight’s “la veille” (the night before) Sunny Earth Camp. Even if it’s rainy, tomorrow will be sunny! It’s my first ever “Sunny Earth Camp” and I just cannot wait! It has been two years in the making and the day has finally come. Since the “birth” of the  “Sunny Earth Academy,” I have dreamt of this day. With life’s busy twists and turns of the past couple years, the time was just not right, but the day has finally come! I will welcome little linguists into our home and treat them to a one hour French “camp.” My hope is that everyone has so much fun they don’t want to leave and they definitely want to come back next week and the week after!!! I also hope that this camp will help my children embrace speaking French. I am one of the only people they see on a regular basis who speaks to them in French and my French is far from perfect. Plus, I slip into English often as I am married to a monolingual. The kids need a boost like this. They both will help teach the others and act as my assistants. I will be using AIM which means little to no English at all. I am sooooooo ready and excited for this Sunny Adventure!  🙂
Sunny Earth Sun in Texas by ZakTo read a blog post I wrote about AIM, visit here. Special thanks to Zak for the photo! 🙂



Spontaneous Speech by the Sunny Earth Kids


Soleil has started speaking French spontaneously! It is so cool! I have created this blog post so I can start recording some of the things she is saying.

1. Où est le chat? <–Along with other “Où est…” questions. Read more about where she got this phrase from here.

2. Je suis petit. <—She’s missing the “e” to make petit feminine…but I am raising that affective filter to stop and correct her spontaneous speech! What I do is say back a sentence about myself using the proper pronunciation of “petite” in the feminine form.

3. Je suis triste/contente/malade/etc. <—Special thanks to @jeannedelalune for this gem that has taught the children these useful phrases. To see her amazing website, click here. Soleil has really taken a liking to Mimi la souris. You can read more about this “liking” here!

4. Et puis ça. <—She said that tonight 6/10/13 when we were finished reading one book, gearing up for next, and she wanted yet another after!

5. Ça c’est bien/bon/amusant/chouette/etc.

Numbers 4 and 5 have come from Soleil without coaching or special repetition from me…I’m not quite sure where or how she has picked them up, but it must be things I’ve said along the way many times over without realizing.


Geo has started speaking some French. I will record what I am hearing in this section of the blog. It is not spontaneous speech yet. However, when I speak to him in French and ask him a question, he will give me one or two word answers in French. If I provide him with two possible answers to the question, with a “question totale” (AIM Language Learning technique) then he almost always will answer in French. For instance today at the dinner table, I asked him if he wanted more chicken in French but I phrased it giving him two possible answers: Est-ce que tu veux encore de poulet ou ça va? Do you want more chicken or are you all set. Geo answered with “ça va.”

Geo is not up to answering in a complete sentence yet, but we have not been pushing him to speak French because of his speech delay. You can read more about Geo’s language journey at Geo’s World of Words.

1. Bonjour

2. Papa mon baiser <—A song he has picked up from his sister that he sings around the house. Read more about that here.

3. Merci <—With the touch cue for “c.”

4. S’il te plaît <—He needs me to provide his touch cues for the “s,” “t” and “p” sometimes. For more on Geo’s touch cues, read here.


Both children have certain words and phrases they say only (or mainly) in French. As they come up, I will record them here. (There are many, but I have trouble remembering!)

1. Jolies lumières<—One of the children’s favorite pastimes is driving around during the holiday season at night to scope out all the “jolies lumières” (pretty lights). Even monolingual daddy says it en français, now!

2. Frites<—They love les frites! I cannot wait to take them to Belgium!!!

3. Le panier sale<—This is what I call where they put the dirty clothes. I didn’t know how to say hamper, so I just named it “the dirty basket.” This will probably become one of the many things that will have to be unlearned and retaught when we finally go live in Québec or France for a bit!

Mimi la souris

Mimi la souris is an adorable creation by our friend, Nathalie Bonneau (aka @jeannedelalune). Her website has a variety of fun animations that the Sunny Earth Kids keep coming back to time and time again. There are many fun resources for French on the Internet, but to be honest, there are only a handful that have attracted Soleil & Géo’s attention. Nathalie’s website is one of them!


Mimi is definitely a favorite! Soleil, who is now 5 1/2 years-old, wanted to write a story about Mimi. She cut up a bunch of papers, told me what to draw and asked me to help her write the phrases in French on a separate sheet of paper. She then colored the pages and copied down the French for each page. I photographed the pages on colored paper with the iPad, then uploaded them to Explain Everything. Soleil and Géo have been learning French from birth, but they are still not entirely comfortable speaking in French. The Explain Everything app helped Soleil record her French speech in small comfortable chunks. Here’s what we ended up with:

Soleil insists that it is not the end…that Mimi’s story must go on. We will see what other adventures Mimi will have! Soleil’s current obsessions include egg hunts and sleepovers…it will be interesting to see what Mimi will end up doing next! Perhaps we can get Géo’s help on the next one!!! 🙂

Thank you, Nathalie, for making French come alive for our children…complete with fireworks and iron-eating robots! We are so grateful you exist!

French Playlist Extravaganzaa

We have our 100th subscriber on YouTube! In honor of this event, we have compiled this list of Playlists for French teachers and learners. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

L’alphabet français

Bonjour! Comment ça va?: French greetings and basic phrases, questions and answers

Catchy & Easy French Songs: A list of French songs that are pleasantly repetitive and/or have easy tunes for quick learning

French for young learners and the young and young at heart: Over 100 videos for young linguists!

Kinesthetic French Fun: Get up and move while learning French! Read the notes on some videos to learn how to play games or do movements that go along with the song or activity.

Fun French Cartoon called Barbapapa

Les histoires: Stories in French

Les histoires: A playlist of stories in French by Sylvia Duckworth

Hilarious French Cartoon complete with a talking pineapple called Téléfrançais

Les nombres et l’heure: A playlist dedicated to the French numbers & time

Boowa et Kwala: A blue dog and yellow koala sing adorable songs. We love to learn them and sing and dance to them! Animations by which has a wonderful interactive website for children ages 0-7.

Trotro: A French-speaking donkey and his adventures…a favorite of my 4 and 6-year-olds!

Le calendrier et le temps: French Calendar & Weather Playlist

C’est l’Halloween: A playlist of Halloween-themed songs and videos.

C’est Noël: A playlist of Christmas-themed songs and videos

L’arbre est dans ses feuilles: Canadian folk song

Am Stram Gram This French choosing rhyme is great for learning the sounds in French and fun for kids to use when making a choice

Les dinosaures: Playlist for little dinosaur lovers

Robots: Playlist for little robot lovers

Les sons français: Songs for learning all the French sounds

Comment est-il?: Learn how to describe others and yourself with this “What is he like?” playlist

Le Petit Nicolas: A cartoon about a little boy and his adventures

Sam le pompier: A cartoon about a fireman and his adventures

Les animaux: Learn the names and sounds of animals with this playlist

Les animaux: Sylvia Duckworth’s playlist includes videos featuring animals

Les couleurs: A playlist dedicated to learning the colors within a context of a story or a song

Les couleurs: A playlist about the colors in French by Sylvia Duckworth

Thomas en français: Thomas the train is available in French!

The following playlists are more geared towards learners at the secondary level:

French for Secondary

La Musique

Les questions en français: (Some videos may also work for middle school or elementary school)

Here are some other channel’s playlists that are definitely worth a look!

We like playlists because it’s a safer way to show our kids videos on YouTube. We still monitor them, bien sûr!

If you have any that you think  we should add, please contact Audrey at MERCI! 🙂

French For the Family (Videos with subtitles)

Boowa et Kwala (Chansons…in case we missed any above in our playlist!)

Chansons et comptines

More to come, so check back! 🙂

Aquí está un árbol de navidad

We are so happy to announce that we have been working together with Jeanne de la Lune (@Jeannedelalune) to create a Spanish version of this well loved French holiday song. Please click on TRANSCRIPT (pdf) to view the lyrics. The song really makes more sense once you read the story. Please find the text and audio of the story read by Fabiola Valdez (@NhsValdez) below.

Esta es la historia de un pequeño árbol de navidad. El árbol espera que alguien le elige en el supermercado. Es orgulloso y espinoso.
Un niño y su papá elige y lleva el árbol a casa y para decorarlo. Él es feliz y brillante.
Es la noche antes de Navidad. Todo el mundo se reúne alrededor del árbol y para cantar villancicos. Él es feliz cantando.
Ya pasó la Navidad. El niño y su padre quitan las decoraciones. El árbol está triste y llora porque se pregunta que va le a devenir.
El papá y niño pequeño cava un hoyo en el jardín y lo replanta. El árbol es feliz. Crece mucho y cada diciembre regresa a casa para la Navidad.

El_arbol_de_navidad2.mp3 Listen on Posterous

Little ones really love to act out this song as they sing it. In this video (French version) you can see this for yourself! The actions used are a mixture of invented ones and gestures from AIM Language Learning.

Have You Ever Listened in the Wrong Language?

Have you ever listened in the wrong language? If you are like me, it has happened to you many times.

Today my daughter, Soleil, experienced the other side of this type of miscommunication. We were at a French Honor Society fundraiser for Haiti. Along with the delicious breakfast, silent auction and live music by French students, was face painting. While Geo danced along to some holiday classics, Soleil was being painted with a Rudolph nose and a beautiful flower. She came to show me her artwork and said she’d also like to have a “papillon.” For those who don’t know French, this is the word for “butterfly” and it’s pronounced somewhat like the word “puppy” with a “yo” sound at the end. I told Soleil in French that she could go ask for “un papillon,” thinking it was a great opportunity for her to practice her French with members of the French Honor Society. The artist was listening in the wrong language, though. I don’t know how else to explain the fact that she came back with a puppy on her cheek! Soleil and I got a good laugh about how silly this was. She agreed that it was “très drôle” (very funny) and that “ça nous fait rire” (it makes us laugh) to think about it.

Do you have any silly stories to share about listening in the wrong language? I’d love to hear them! I’ll bet there are some really interesting ones out there!

The Accelerative Integrative Methodology Promotes Multiliteracy

I am committed to life-long learning and hope to continue learning and growing my entire life. I am so grateful to have found the langchat hash tag on twitter. The educators who share ideas and resources using #langchat have sparked me to critique and tweak my teaching techniques and have helped me bring new, exciting lessons to my students. From engaging, interactive videos to fun songs and dances, my professional learning network offers it all with free professional development topping the list. The feedback from students and parents alike has been phenomenal. Students are taking what we learn in class and sharing it around school and in their homes. Just today, a parent shared with me that she had a houseful of 7th grade girls singing songs in Spanish and French all night long during a sleepover.

Never before have I been able to connect with innovative teachers outside my district like I have since following #langchat. Just last month, I was invited by Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth) to visit her classroom and to attend a two-day AIM Language workshop. Through twitter, Sylvia had also helped me connect with another French teacher, Mardi Michels (@eatlivtravwrite) at the NYSAFLT conference. Mardi gave a presentation “Haiti on a Plate,” which was the best presentation I attended. Mardi graciously invited me into her classroom as well.

I found out about the Accelerative Integrative Methodology (AIM) for language learning via the langchat hash tag. I came across a video of Stephen Lai’s (@sly111) AIM classroom learning the emotions in French. Stephen teaches elementary French in Richmond, British Columbia. When my two children saw the video, they couldn’t get enough and by the third viewing, they were acting out the emotions along with the student actor. The engagement and excitement of my four and two-year-old was what ignited my desire to learn more about the program. If it could keep their attention and encourage them to interact with French, then what could it do for my students’ language acquisition?

The four-day learning adventure started at Royal St. George’s College with Mardi and her 4th-6th grade classes. The next day I spent at Crescent School with Sylvia’s 3rd-6th grade classes. Lastly, I attended a two-day workshop where I had the opportunity to learn more formally about AIM from Sylvia, Renée Villeneuve (@ReneeVil) and Dan Bart. I will share here the two days spent in the classrooms. I will not attempt to share much from the two-day workshop. No amount of words could properly portray the learning. I highly recommend attending one, and hope to get back to Ontario in July for the summer institute! (You can visit here for offerings.)

After the observations, it was clear to me that when used properly, AIM was a very effective program that stood true to its claim to create astounding results. The fact that the teachers and students were conversing entirely in French was astounding, humbling and thrilling. The level of excitement and engagement of the students was exhilarating. I will now outline some of what I witnessed during the two days of observations.

-Class is conducted entirely in the target language (French, in this case, however, AIM offers programs in Spanish and English as well)

-Students are interacting with the language throughout the class time

-Students are engaged and excited about class

-Students not only passively understand the teacher, they also produce speech in the target language (and in complete sentences)

-Students were invited to ask me questions. Here are some of the questions they asked: Quel est ton nom? Est-ce que tu as des frères et sœurs? Combien de jours est-ce que tu restes ici? D’ou viens tu? Est-ce que tu as des animaux? Pourquoi tu es ici?

-Students created the following Phrases bizarres : Je fais du ski dans la maison. Je suis une banane/un ananas. Je suis un ananas qui joue au base-ball. Ananas danse et chante pendant le concert. Ananas joue au hockey avec les Maple Leaves. Une banane fait du patinage à la maison de Laurence. Une banane et une pomme jouent à la chasse avec Ananas! Un champignon mange 55 personnes sur une pizza. Ananas lance un œil et l’œil frappe Ananas sur la tête. Un hippopotame fait de la peinture dans le bayou.

-Gestures were used to help students understand the proper use of verb tenses. In one case, the imperfect tense was used to tell what they were for halloween: J’étais un squelette. J’étais un œuf. J’étais nourriture de chien. J’étais un jedi. J’étais un iPhone. J’étais un voleur. J’étais un iPad

-Students write in French independently: Students had written descriptions about themselves the day before. When asked what they did in class the day before, a student answered: « On a écrit des descriptions.» The desciptions were read aloud and the students had to guess who wrote it. The boys adored this activity and were extremely eager to be the person who guessed the correct classmate. Here is a couple examples of what the boys had written to describe themselves : 1. J’ai les cheveux blonds et raids. Je suis très grand. J’ai les yeux noisette. J’adore les sports de hockey et basket-ball. 2. Je suis de taille moyenne. J’ai les cheveux noirs. J’ai la peau olive. Je suis mince.

-The use of daily routines ensures language acquisition of key topics. Routines I saw include the outside-the-classroom rap to prepare students to enter the French-only space, hangman agenda (students play hangman to learn what they will be doing in class that day) and the following :

1. As students enter class, they are asked: Quel est la date aujourd’hui? Together, teacher and students state : Le jour, c’est vendredi. Le date, c’est le vingt-huit. Le mois, c’est octobre. L’année, c’est deux mille onze. La saison, c’est automne. Then they sing a little song : « Quel temps fait-il? » Then : Est-ce que le soleil brille ? Ou est-ce que le soleil ne brille pas ? Class continues to properly describe the weather as seen out the window. (« Oui » and « Non » were not acceptable answers. All responses were formulated into complete phrases)

2. Next was the time : « Quel heure est-il? » Il est neuf heures trente-huit

3. Another routine combined math with rewards : « Est-ce que tout le monde a les agendas? » OUI, madame! « Maintenant je peux donner les points aux groups » Groups must then add the numbers in French: Groups state their new number. Ex : « On a deux cent et dix points maintenant. » « On a cent quatre-vingt dix points maintenant. »

-Students paraphrased the plays they were learning for me so that’d I’d understand the plot of the play

-Students rewrote scenes of the play

-Students broke up into groups and practiced performing the plays

Wendy Maxwell, creator of the AIM program, made gestures to portray grammatical structures such as verb tenses, singular vs. plural and gender. The grammar of the language is ingrained in the gesturing and is taught within context. AIM takes the effectiveness of integrating gestures into language learning and ingeniously incorporates a multimodal, differentiated approach that draws all students into learning. Dan Bart stated that with AIM, even students with academic difficulties have access to learning and are successful where in other classes they may not be. I can definitely see how his statement would be true. I know spending two days in AIM classrooms does not make me an expert, however, the amount of student engagement and levels of teacher support I witnessed support Dan’s statement.

The gestures are only one of five key elements of the AIM program:

1. The Gesture Approach

2. Pared Down Language

3. Stories/Plays/Music/Dance

4. Language Manipulation Activities (written and oral)

5. Transfer to Spontaneous Speech and Creative Storytelling

Through the integration of all five key elements, Maxwell perfected her ingenious system which, when properly used, produces outstanding levels of fluency. When students speak and write in the target language, AIM teachers are trained to provide students with varying levels of support, flexible enough to meet the needs of all learners.

Last year I started integrating American Sign Language (ASL) into my teaching. I taught some of the basic phrases of greeting and expressions of courtesy (which I had remembered from first grade). I found that if the students forgot a phrase, all I had to do was provide them with the sign, and that would spark their memory and they would then be able to say the phrase. I planned to learn and incorporate more ASL into lessons but then, I joined twitter, found #langchat and subsequently discovered AIM Language (#aimlang), and as I’ve heard other AIM teachers say: I’ll never look back! To me, it seems as if Wendy Maxwell fashioned a program that recreates the natural way one acquires language as a young child. As we grow up, we learn through the repetition of hearing words and phrases as we, or as our parents, are performing the actions. In AIM, the stories, music and plays give the opportunity for children to learn the language while performing the language. AIM thus exemplifies the Ancient Chinese Proverb: Tell me and I will forget; teach me and I will remember; involve me and I will learn. AIM involves students in such a way that keeps the affective filter low and the engagement high. AIM also makes learning fun, and I think we all learn better when we feel good about what we’re learning.

I am so excited to have had this learning adventure…and the adventure has only just begun!

Our Digital Natives

Our digital natives inspire us.

Our children, Soleil (4) and Geo (2), love to use our iPod and iPhone to play instrument apps. They also both ask to play Super Why which teaches basic English literacy. Soleil plays games that have taught her the alphabet in French and she can sing along to several children’s songs in French from YouTube.

We are wondering if there’s any other parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, etc., out there who are inspired as we are, by the digital natives in their lives…and if so, how? What are you doing with your inspiration? We’d love to hear!

As teachers and as parents we want to keep learning about the new amazing apps that hand-held devices are providing for our digital natives in the classroom and at home. Sometimes it’s hard to sift through all the possibilities! There are so many!! If you have found any must-have apps or other online resources for learning Math, French, Spanish or English, please share! Thank you!