Manie Musicale 2018

Well friends, it is March and today is the day my brackets for #maniemusicale2018 got printed.

It is not for lack of preparation, however. I’m more excited about this MMM than I have been about any previous, in part because I’m giving my students control over the bracket. Since about October, we’ve listened to a different French song every single Wednesday, and my students voted for their favorites from that list today. I added the top 16 to my bracket for the class.

Today also starts a unit on … MUSIC! I’m so excited to have this pair up with #maniemusicale, so I’m not even mad that my brackets will be ready after the 1st. I have some grandiose ideas about how to get kids talking about music, supporting their opinions, and researching French artists to compare to their favorite American ones.

I hope to post more later, but here’s my updated list for this year!

Papaoutai – Stromae
Est-ce que tu m’aimes – Maître Gims
Soul Man – Ben l’Oncle Soul
French Kiss – Black M
Je veux – Zaz
Moi Aimer Toi – Vianney
En feu – Soprano
J’ai cherché – Amir
Tombé sous le charme – Christophe Maé
On danse – M Pokora
Non non non – Camélia Jordana
Tourner dans le vide – Indila
Là-Bas – Generation Goldman/Baptiste Giabiconi et Marie Mai
Maman – Wissem
Elle me dit – MIKA
Andalouse – Kendji Girac



If you happen to be a person who is discouraged, discouraged, or disheartened by the present situation of #langchat, please know that I feel that way too.

If you happen to be a person who is looking for someone to blame for the present situation of #langchat, please know that I am the one who initially suggested this change, with the same tears in my eyes then as I have now.

If you happen to be a person who is angry, I will listen to you anger, and for the most part, I will not argue. I am also angry.

If you happen to be a person that is shocked, I understand, and I ask you to consider that is much more that does or does not happen behind the scenes to make each chat a reality.

If you happen to be a person who has suggestions for our team, I thank you for sharing them respectfully. I also have many suggestions for the future.

If you happen to be a person who wants to do what they can to help us toward the future, I thank you, and I promise there will be a time when your help is needed.

If you happen to be a person who speaks to the importance of #langchat, especially for new teachers, I nod my head vigorously. #Langchat is the reason that I didn’t quit teaching after my first year, and the reason I maintain a professional social media presence at all.

If you happen to be a person who has “the answer” to our situation, please feel free to voice it. Please know that I have thought of every possible scenario and outcome for the future, and what the best interests of #langchat are.

If happen to be a person who thinks this is a selfish choice, please know that I always do my best to think of the whole #langchat population with every choice that I make.


There is so much that I wish you all knew about how hard it has been to continue #langchat in the past year. We’ve lost so many great mods to weariness. #Langchat, while not my brainchild, is a massively important part of who I am.

But that’s just the thing. #Langchat is not me. It’s not you. #Langchat is not about one person, one mod, one new teacher, one colleague. #Langchat is a group of educators who are passionate about doing the best at their jobs, for reflecting on what that looks like, and for posing the right questions, regardless if there are any “right” answers out there. #Langchat is a community, and I understand right now that community is hurt. If I could openly share my frustrations, I would, but instead I’ll just tell you this:

We moderators love #langchat. We have ideas for the future, just like you. We are busy, sad, angry, hopeful, and reflective, just as you are.

But #langchat is not about us.
We are not the makeup of #langchat; our participants are.

If you have free time on Thursday nights or Saturday mornings, feel free to converse respectfully while using the hashtag you have come to know, love, wait for, and find solace in. We’re not stopping you from learning, from talking, from asking those questions. We moderators can’t exist without you, the participants. Your suggestions, thoughts, and comments guide all that we do. You are much more #langchat than we are. I’m sorry we’re all going through this season, but please know that we, underneath the profile pics and gifs, are people. We feel it too.

I’ve got that Flipgrid FEVER

So, for a long time, people have been asking me about doing a Flipgrid post (here’s looking at you, Alison!) and I think that it’s pretty timely to do it now that Flipgrid’s new features launched last night. I am proud and not at all ashamed to say that I spent last night from 8-9:30ish PM watching the new features.

Even if I wasn’t a Flipgrid Ambassador, I’d use it! I’d still tell you about it. I don’t get paid to tell anyone about Flipgrid – I just love to share the things that I love!

So, a quick intro to Flipgrid:

When you create an account, they always use three specific words:

  1. Grids: Grids are the biggest part of Flipgrid – they let you divide your content into whatever areas you want. I’ve seen people use a grid per class, a grid per response type (story retellings, interpersonal convo practice, etc.) – some people use grids as units within their bigger curriculum – the sky’s the limit on how you divide them.
  2. Topics: Topics are housed within grids and are the stimuli that your students will eventually respond to. I like to think of these as questions, and the grid as the “theme” that each question falls under.
  3. Responses: These are the video responses that your students record for each topic you’ve created.

An example: I think that this year, in AP, I’ll have a grid for each AP theme (ie: Global Challenges). Within that Global Challenges grid, I’ll have different topics throughout the year, like this question: “how can we reduce food waste in our own homes?” Then, students will record reponses to that specific topic, all while being able to see the other topics that fall under this theme.

Need a more concrete example? I’m a visual person too! Here is the “What if…grid. The grid is called “What if…” and every topic is a question that follows “what if…” If you click the black title of each topic (for example, “What’s in your suitcase”) it will take you to the page of student response videos to that particular topic. Make sense?

Things that I love about Flipgrid:

  • No more “back of the class!” – you get to hear each student’s voice
  • If you have extremely shy students, they can record at home – I love seeing kids come alive with their puppy at their side, or on the comfort of their bed in their favorite hoodie.
  • Students can watch each other’s videos and like their classmates posts, or (with the paid version) respond to their classmates’ posts.
  • Students get a chance to redo their video as they need to. Now, I don’t advocate re-recording 50 times, but if they totally blank, they can start over.
  • As a teacher, they’re easy to listen to – I can pop in one headphone and listen while I’m looking over a rubric, and it doesn’t take the in-class time of speaking with every student.


So what are those new features I’m so excited about?

  • In the past (even before this year,) the teacher created a video as a topic that students respond to. Now, the sky is the limit! Flipgrid lets you use a ton of things as a video stimulus. Import from Youtube and let students respond. Youtube is blocked at your school – no problem, Vimeo is supported too. Don’t have a video in mind? Use an emoji or a giphy as your topic photo. You can even import from your camera roll on iPhone or iPad.


  • Can’t fit everything you need into one topic, like extra materials, a link to a rubric, or an article that you want to be your topic, rather than a video? Flipgrid now supports all of these attachment types:

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  • Did one of your students have an AMAZING response that all of their classmates are inspired by? Now you can use that video as a “spark” – this will make your student response into a new topic that all of your other students can respond to!

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  • For both the free and paid version of Flipgrid, the “elevator pitch” mode is now active – you can set the time limit for students to record as 15 seconds!
  • PARENT SHARING – this may be paid-specific, but you can request a “private link” to a particular student’s video, and only that video can be shared via link with parents – how awesome!
  • Stickies – when I record a topic, I’m always looking at a piece of paper to remember what I wanted to ask. Now, students can add a “sticky” to their screen that reminds them to add information about a particular topic! (don’t mind the morning shot of me!)
    Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 9.54.30 AM


  • Flipgrid now allows students to do more than “like” their peers responses – if you choose, they can react in all of these ways, including the mic-drop!
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  • Students can now add hashtags to their responses. So, if you’ve grouped students, have them their group number (like #group1) or, if you’ve got the free version and only have one grid, have students #1stperiod, #3rdperiod so you can sort responses for easy grading or check ups! (disclaimer: I’m not sure if the hashtag is a free or paid part – they did not specify last night, so I’ll update when I know! UPDATE: this is free! what an awesome way to make use of one grid)
  • Flipgrid has always required that you take a selfie when you respond to a topic so that the teacher can see who responded at a glance. Now, Flipgrid supports drawing and icons – at the teacher discretion – so that kids can be silly and add to their photo. This really will be helpful for my students who don’t want to take their own picture.


Want to know more about the basics of flipgrid, including how to set up and a walkthrough? Click here. Want to know more about those new features, like OneNote and Canvas integration? Click here.


I know that a lot of you will ask: yes, I have the paid version of Flipgrid. It is one of TWO tech tools I pay for (and usually my department covers the cost) and I believe that it is ABSOLUTELY worth $65 a year.

With the paid version, these are the features I love and use:

  • Unlimited grids – I organize in lower levels per class
  • Unlimited replies to responses – this means my students can respond to their peers and build “interpersonal” skills.
  • Time limits – with the free version, you can select that student responses are up to 15 or 90 seconds. With the paid version, you can select 15, 30, 60, 90, 120, 180, or 300 seconds!
  • Student feedback and assessment – you can rate students and they get the ratings in their email (if they type their email when they make a response) – they also just launched custom rubrics, which I’m excited to try
  • Move/duplicate grid topics – when my grids are organized by class, I don’t have to record the same stimulus video 4 times, I can just duplicate it into other grids.
  • Download – you can download student response videos (and they can too, if they’re proud of it!)

Here’s a breakdown of the different types – the free version is called One and the paid is called Classroom. Can’t afford it? Ask your school to pay. The worst the can say is “no” and then you can use the free version. Or, you can try the #flipgridback2school Challenge and win a free subscription for yourself (or yourself and 4 friends!)

I’m doing a Flipgrid presentation next week in my district, so I’ll probably be back with practical ways to use it, but in the meantime, let me know if you have questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

First week plans: level 1

It’s that time, isn’t it? To share first week plans? I can’t believe how fast July flew and August right behind it!

Last year, lots of readers loved that I shared my first week plans for level one, and I plan on doing a modified version of those this year. Since I got SO many questions about the picture I posted on twitter, I figured I’d share those again.

Thursday, August 17th – first day for students

  • We’re going to start early with an introduction to me, where I’ll be speaking lots of comprehensible French with pictures, gestures, etc.
  • Then, we’ll debrief about what worked and what didn’t, how speaking French doesn’t have to be hard, and what our roles are as teacher and learners.
  • Then, students will fill out a name card – they’ll write their name and draw a picture of something that they like. We’ll use these for the rest of class to do the typical first day circling activity. I call it “names and likes” because I really don’t like that other name.

Friday, August 18th

  • It has not yet been confirmed, but we usually have class assemblies on this day that kills the attendance in morning classes. So we’ll continue with names and likes at the beginning of class.
  • Then, we’ll head into a second day story, and I’ll have students draw along with me. We’ll talk again about how we understood what was happening and anything that was unclear.
  • Then, we’ll fill out student info sheets and I’ll circulate to hopefully get to know students a little bit. I figure this is an easy-enough activity that any absent students can make it up at home and return it.

Monday, August 21st

  • Again, we’ll review names and likes, getting to anyone that hasn’t been previously mentioned due to absence or time constraints.
  • As I mentioned in my last post – I purchased a first day station set that I don’t plan on using as stations this year. There’s a great “which one” activity where students get to know each other in groups, by answering questions that start with “which one (of us) …” and some of them are fun and silly. It also helps me get to know students.
  • I’ll also hand out syllabi this day, and maybe we’ll do the “syllabus scavenger” hunt, but I’m not really sure. If we do this activity, I need to shorten it significantly — it’s way too long for me to want to look over.
  • If time remains, we’ll start the crepe talk.

Tuesday, August 22nd

  • Today we start proficiency talks! We’ll read over the crepe sheet individually and as a class and talk about what that means.
  • Then, as a group, we’ll make a proficiency analogy. I plan on leading students through “bike riding” and what each level would be as you’re learning to ride a bike. Then, I’ll set students free to make their own scale. I’ll probably make a template for this on google drawing so that students can do it easily and we can practice submitting to Schoology and pairing our Google Drive to it.
  • If time, we’ll talk about what we think our goal is, and we’ll star it on the proficiency path from Shelby County Schools. I will collect, and these will eventually go in our interactive notebooks.

Wednesday, August 23rd

  • We’ll finish any proficiency activities we didn’t get to yesterday.
  • Then, we’ll start with introductions: “Bonjour, je m’appelle ______” We’ll hopefully get a chance to add on with “j’aime” if we remember those name and like activities.
  • If there’s time (Wednesdays are shortened classes at my school), we might start the good/bad ball activity that I stole from Sara Elizabeth, but I’m not sure if she posted about.

Thursday August 24th and Friday August 25th

  • In the state of Ohio, we’re required to do student growth measures, which we call SLOs (I think it stands for Student Learning Objectives, but after 4 years of only calling them SLOs, I don’t really know for sure) – in which we give a pretest and the same posttest at the end of the year. This is especially terrible for level one morale, since we do reading, writing, listening, and speaking, but it needs to be done. I coach students through by saying “this is the only assessment in my class that you won’t know the answers to, I promise!” and with lots of “don’t guess – this is the only time it’s okay to leave answers blank.”
  • We’ll cover listening and writing on Thursday and reading and speaking Friday. Speaking will be done through Flipgrid just to save time asking questions students can’t answer. I say, “listen to the question. If you can answer it in French, make a response, but if you can’t, don’t respond.” I rather have 1-2 videos to listen to than 100+ “I don’t know” videos.
  • SLOs are a huge pain in level one, but I grin and do my best. I refuse to let it damage the rapport I build with these kids.


The week after, we’ll probably get into cognate stations and setting up our interactive notebooks. I’m trying to decide when and what to do with the super seven verbs this year since I failed terribly at them last year.

What are your first week plans? I’d love to see the link to your blog or your ideas in the comment or on twitter! Sharing is caring!

My (same) infographic syllabus

I wrote recently that I planned on using the same syllabus for students as I did for last year, and that would be enough. (Raise your hand if you also sang that in your best Eliza Schuyler voice!)

So, some of the things that were “enough:”

  • My absent work policies
  • How to meet with me (even though the times changed)
  • My grading scale (ours is determined on a school/district level)
  • My materials – all of these worked for me last year, though I used funding to get coloring supplies for each class, so I nixed that.
  • Rules and consequences
  • The general framework of grading/redos/incompletes
  • Almost the entire second page (though I did delete a few topics we might not get to)

Things that needed changed:

  • Updated room numbers, times that I’m free, and rewording of some general information
  • The addition of the policy on translators – though not stated in the syllabus is that the first time (or, okay, two) it happens, they will be expected to redo.
  • A general “redo” catch-all if the assignment is not up to the standards I expect.
  • A window for assessment make-ups – anyone else have kids wait like a month to make up a missed assessment and wonder why their grade is so low?
  • My sliding grading scale – this was a MUST for this year and I love the way it turned out.
  • I ditched the parent/student signature portion – having kids turn in tiny slips of paper is what my nightmares are made of, and I never needed to reference them last year.

Where did I reinvent?

  • If you can call it that, I needed to make a version for my AP students. This included most of the same information on the first page, but the Intermediate 4 information on the back, as well as the AP themes and a grading scale that isn’t my favorite, but will work for this class (I wish I could have done it without numbers, but we don’t do +/- at my school.)

You can compare to last year’s syllabus here, but here are the new versions:

French 1:





ap-syllabus-17-_23631560 (1)ap-syllabus-17-_23631645

How are you making last year’s syllabus “enough?” I would love to see them! Feel free to link in the comments or share with me on twitter!

Same = enough

I cannot believe that it is August. And that August, as far as summer goes, is so SHORT! In my district, teachers go back on the 14th, and students return on the 17th, which is a jarring reality check after having the entire months of June and July off.

Recently, I was having a talk with Laura Sexton, who I not only consider to be a mentor, but a really close friend. As we were chatting, it came up that I didn’t know if I could reuse last year’s syllabus, or if I needed to make a new one. Another key component to this story is that last year’s syllabus is good. It’s pretty, I still love how it looks, it has almost all of the info that I need, can be resized/moved around/adapted easily, and only needs a couple of modest changes. I mused aloud if changing the color would be enough to make it “new” or “different.”

What Laura said to me next really hit me, and has stuck with me as I’m preparing this year’s back-to-school resources: “I think it’s a sickness that we can’t be satisfied and reuse.” Now, at first glance, that might seem like a harsh thing to say, but Laura and I have a great relationship and if you could see our looooooooooong history of GIFs, freak outs (mostly mine), encouragement, and real talk, you’d see it like I see it – as truth.

It’s a sickness to never be satisfied. I don’t know if truer words have ever been spoken about the plight I feel (and a lot of us feel) as a teacher. I am never content with things I’ve made in the past, always trying to redo them completely or make them better, and in the words of another amazing mentor, I’m trying to “sacrifice the good on the altar of the perfect.” (Thanks for those other heart words, Sara-Elizabeth!)

I’ve got a lot going on this year – teaching a new (to me – sort of) class, taking on grad school, being a part of the #langchat team, plus my personal stuff like “seeing my husband, ever,” “making sure there’s food to eat,” “pretending like my house is clean sometimes,” and my multitudinous church-related commitments.

So with Laura’s advice in my head and heart, I modified last year’s syllabus. I didn’t change anything major. I resized a few boxes. I changed the font sizes and deleted a few topics we might not get to. I added in that contingent about translators. I FINALLY remembered to add my sliding grading scale. I ditched the parent/student signatures because of the hassle that became last year. I took what would have been hours of work and got to allocate that time to things that I really need to do. And somehow, I’m not just okay with that decision – I’m happy with it. I still do love my syllabus. It covers everything I want. It looks good printed in black and white, and is only two pages. I think that’s a total win (and I will share it with you soon, I promise.)

What else am I planning to reuse this back-to-school season?

  • My back to school resources, like student info sheets, getting-to-know-you activities, and maybe the syllabus scavenger hunt (or maybe I’ll ditch that like I’m ditching French names.) I actually bought and made editable copies of these activities, so if you’re interested, I got those here (made for English classes but mostly applicable for WL!)
  • My proficiency activities from last year – crepe talk, movie descriptions, and analogy making are all still good and relevant. Maybe I’ll add in a few things here this year, but I won’t be starting from scratch.
  • My first few days of French 1 – although I’ll change their order around, these activities really seem to work for me each year and my students seem to really like them.

That leaves me time for those things where I might need to “reinvent the wheel” (for good, I promise):

  • My AP Syllabus that needs submitted to the college board (more on that later)
  • Short-, medium-, and long-term planning for AP (ditto)
  • Making Meredith’s file folder selfies work for me/my students
  • Deciding on a go-to rubric (maybe) before school starts


I encourage you to find ways this back-to-school season (and all year, really) that same = enough. Because with all that’s going on this year, same = enough and enough = amazing.


I don’t know what I (don’t) know

Can you believe that it’s already “mid-to-late” July? I cannot and I know that the summer always flies by, but this one seems to be speeding ahead at a pace I cannot keep up with!

Last week I had the amazing privilege to attend a College Board AP Training presented by Davara Potel, who, before she retired, taught in a district that was near mine, and she is just the sweetest woman that I’ve ever met – and really knows her AP stuff! I was blown away by so much that she said and I just wanted to record her so that I could get every bit of information imaginable.

What really struck me about AP is how much everything needs to be vertically aligned from level one until AP. I knew this, or at least, I thought that I did. But this workshop had me looking back at last year and feeling even worse about it than I did at the end of May. I was not focusing on the right things. I wasn’t getting kids prepared now to build on their knowledge as it relates to AP. I wasn’t doing enough grammar, probably.

And it really hit me: I’m so young. I have four years of teaching under my belt, and like that old guessing adage, “the first two don’t count.” I don’t know a lot of things that most people give me credit for, and for that I sort of blame the internet. Each 140 character interjection makes me seem like the world’s best teacher, but believe me that I’m far from it. This four-day workshop took a lot of the things that I “thought” I had figured out and turned them upside-down, as it relates to AP.


What I thought I knew #1: We should be spiraling the same themes from level one to AP. I feel like this one was pretty self explanatory.

What I learned from this workshop: It’s not enough to cover the same things – we should be covering the same themes with different contexts! For example, in the theme of science and technology, year two would be “what are the benefits of recycling,” year three would be “how can we save the planet” and year four would be something like “eliminating food waste” or “what future inventions could change our world?” If you’re blessed to have AP in years five or six, you could go even deeper! I need to rethink what my level one units look like for this purpose.

What I thought I knew #2: We should continuously be asking questions to elicit information from our students. Again, self-explanatory. But teaching level one, it looks a lot different than it does in the upper levels.

What I learned from this workshop: It’s not enough to just ask the question and get a response. For upper levels in particular, it’s about the follow up questions – the spontaneous answers that show what and why our students are thinking a specific thing. Davara was great at asking a question and then following it up with a great 5 W question – “Who are these people?” “Farmers” “Oh, they’re farmers? What is it about them that made you think they were farmers?” I need to be intentional about the follow up questions I choose, in level one and beyond.

What I thought I knew #3: The role (or supporting role) of grammar.

What I learned from this workshop: Everything. Nothing. More. Less. I’m doing it wrong. I’m not doing enough. I don’t know the role of grammar in each (or any) level. (sidenote: a few years ago I plunged a ladle into the “grammar is bad” punch and sipped so much kool-aid that now I hardly touch grammar. I’m not saying it’s a good system. I need to rethink all of this completely and totally.)

What I thought I knew #4: If kids are speaking (to me, to each other, to the video recording of me), they’re getting interpersonal practice. I know that level 1 is primarily memorized chunks of language, so “spontaneous” just means not knowing which question I might ask.

What I learned from this workshop: The key to success on the interpersonal speaking part of the AP test is just that – it needs to be truly interpersonal. I need to develop and implement more ways for my kids to speak spontaneously without knowing what I’m going to say beforehand. I’m thinking implementing a can of questions à la Creative Language Class will help in all levels. 5 minutes left? Boom, pull a topic. Need a brain break? Boom, pull a topic. Half the class is gone for an assembly? Boom, pull 4 topics. I’m thinking of color coding these by either a) the level in which the learned the information (this year’s AP interpersonal speaking was about CAMPING for goodness sakes!) or b) by the type of interaction (invitations, question to elicit information, opinion, etc.) I’m also thinking that Wednesdays (our classes are shortened) might be purely to practice interpersonal skills.


What I thought I knew #5: Novices need structure in what they read. I rely so heavily on infographics in level one that if I had a nickel for every one I used, I could buy my own classroom supplies! (har har)

What I learned from this workshop: Infographics are still great. But, I also looked closely at the kinds of texts that students are reading in AP, and my level ones should be exposed to more text as we get to the end of the year. Sure, I might edit the text to break up the paragraphs or make things double spaced, etc, but I think they need to get exposure to text-driven texts as well as visual-driven texts. This workshop did reiterate that there are GREAT infographics for all levels, though, not just level one. Still relevant at the AP level, so booyah!


So, this year, I’m going to be a little bit like Laura reinventing the wheel where it needs a little work, and hopefully coming out with lots of knowledge on the other side. And, hopefully, like Laura does so well, I’m going to try to show my ups, but mostly my downs as I try to figure it out and make it work for me and my students. A lot of that goes back to being intentional, no?