Friday, July 31, 2015

new resources to share!


Although it still is (and no doubt will always be) a work-in-progress, I have been updating my "French Teaching at Home" page with more books, games, songs, resources, and more.  Please take a look and tell me if I'm missing any of your favorites!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

jeux de mots avec Griffin

Griffin loves to play with words in all three of his languages--he tells and invents jokes, plays word games, does crossword puzzles and word searches, and even makes up puns.  Here's his best one in French so far--I am soooo happy that he has fun doing this sort of thing!

Maman : Oh, non, je me suis trompée. [Oh, no, I was wrong.]

Griffin: No, Mom, you're not all wet!  ["Trempée," soaked, is pronounced the same way as "trompée," wrong.]

Maman: [giggles appreciatively]

Griffin, on a roll: And you're not an elephant, either!  You're not "trompée" !  You don't have a trompe ! ["une trompe" is an elephant's trunk; he turned the noun into a new adjective, "trunked."]

(Okay, so I guess you had to be there.)

Here's one more example.  During a long car ride on vacation, Griffin and my mom and I were playing "Last Letter/First Letter" in French.  (One person says a word, and then the next player says a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word, and so on.)

After a while, they were getting stuck on "E" and "R," both of which appear very frequently in French.  Knowing that the words for some animals' young are formed by adding a suffix like -on (ourson, chaton) or -eau (éléphanteau, souriceau), Griffin started adding these suffixes to words where they don't belong, and in such a confident voice that my mother believed that words like rhinocéroseau (baby rhino) actually existed!

(Again, you had to be there--but I'm really glad that I was.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bonjour, bonjour ! Comment ça va ?

As a parent who only speaks French to my American children, I work as an unpaid teacher 24/7.  But I also have several private tutoring clients, parents who actually pay me to speak French to their children!  I really enjoy teaching French to these kiddos, but being with my own children reinforces that 30 or 60 minutes a week is not nearly enough for these other kids.  

Therefore, I'm starting to recommend videos that the kiddos can watch at home to reinforce what we cover during our private tutoring lessons.  Here are some fun videos to practice listening comprehension of words and phrases related to greeting people and asking how they're doing:

"Bonjour, Hello" by BASHO and Friends -- song with onscreen lyrics and lots of repetition of several ways to ask and answer "how are you" in French; designed for non-native speakers; no photos, videos, or other illustrations of what the words mean.

"Comment ça va" by Juli Powers -- an upbeat song for children that presents lots of options for responding to the question "How are you?", with photos illustrating each sentence and the lyrics in French at the bottom of the screen.

"French Greetings Song" by Natasha Morgan -- a gentle song with onscreen lyrics that appear as the singer writes and draws; features also common questions such as "what's your name" and "how old are you," plus numbers.  Each question or response is repeated three times in French and then the English equivalent is given.

Also from Natasha Morgan, here is her translation of "Two Little Birdies," this one with Fifi and Blanche, who greet each other, state their names, and then fly away.  Short and cute and clear!

"Bonjour" by Alain Le Lait, a short song with a rock and roll feel presenting several phrases in French worth memorizing: how are you, I'm happy to be here, thank you for coming.  A nice feature: the lyrics appear at the bottom of the screen (accompanied by happy, headless, dancing Gumbies) at the beginning but not when the verses are repeated.  Good for listening comprehension!


"Bonjour" by Louis and Josée of Mini TFO (a show for children on Canadian television), a short song featuring real live people who invite the watchers and other children to join them at the playground; no onscreen lyrics.

"Bonjour" from the Disney film "La Belle et la Bête" -- this is the opening song where Belle walks through her village greeting the other residents.  Sung in French; no lyrics onscreen, but you can read the transcription of the song and the dialogue interspersed here.

"Bonjour, bonjour" is a fast, catchy song by L'autobus à vapeur, a group that does songs in French for children (native speakers).  This video is a version sung by a children's choir, accompanied by a cute cartoon and onscreen lyrics.  (You can hear the original song here, no lyrics or video.)

Which one(s) do you and your kiddos like best and why?  Recommendations for other songs about French greetings?


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Gwyneth "can't stand" my French!

My daughter (who recently turned four, which gives me hope for my sanity, as she's no longer a "threenager") is very, very good at pushing my buttons, and she is realizing that perhaps the best way to do this is to claim that she doesn't know what I'm saying and that I need to translate it into English for her.
joyeux anniversaire !
"Mommy!  I can't 'stand your French!  Say it in English!"

Deep breaths.

Don't let her know that I'm frustrated and saddened.

Recognize that yelling, "Mais si, je sais que tu me comprends!" doesn't improve the situation.  [But I know you understand me!]  To which she will reply, in English, "No I don't!"

Just smile, rephrase, repeat.  Point, gesture, demonstrate.  Hug, rephrase, repeat.  Hug, repeat.  Hug.  Câlin.  Hug.

"You can take a picture of me, but you can't make me smile."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

how to get a seven-year-old to pay attention during French storytime

Ask him if he wants to read one of the books to the little kids!  Here's Griffin with T'choupi au cirque, about the beloved penguin's trip to the circus with his grandfather.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

nine years of blogging

My blog is older than my children!
Happy Ninth Birthday to my poor neglected blog!  Can't complain--the reason I'm not writing as regularly is because my energy flows into my family, my library job, my French tutoring, and volunteering.  (But I promise, I think about language acquisition and books and teaching all. the. time!  Just don't usually get around to writing about it.)

Occasionally I shower.


Best birthday present ever: being included on Love France, Learn French's list of top 100 sites! So since I have nothing else to add for now, go on over there and see Ryan's exhaustively researched and helpfully annotated list of websites, blogs, and other resources for students of this fun and beautiful and infuriating language.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

French storytime: le vert

After day after uncharacteristically rainy day here along Colorado's Front Range, our lawns are lush and weedy, our skies cloudy, and we are all rolling our eyes about the fact that for the second year in a row, it snowed on Mother's Day.  So in honor of our soggy springtime, I picked GREEN as the theme for my most recent library storytime.


After "Dans la forêt lointaine," our usual opening song (which happens to be about birds in the woods, so, green), we read and discussed a nonfiction board book about the seasons, Au fil des saisons.  Well, as much discussion as you can get from toddlers and preschoolers.  In other words, we named the seasons with help from the grown-ups; exclaimed about how pretty the tree in the book was; established that the apples were red, the leaves started out green but turned to red and orange and brown; and waved bye-bye to the baby birds as they left their nest.


To transition, we sang and danced to "Savez-vous planter les choux," a traditional song about planting cabbages with different parts of one's body.  Perfect for this time of year, and very much in keeping with the green theme.


And what else happens in the spring?  The caterpillars transform into butterflies, which means I had to read the French translation of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, prosaically titled La chenille qui fait des trous (the caterpillar that makes holes).  Everybody loves that little caterpillar!

And once you've spent time with a little green caterpillar, it just makes sense to move on to a little green mouse, so then we sang the vaguely psychodelic song "Une souris verte," in which the narrator catches said little green mouse by its tail, shows it to some gentlemen (who tell him to dip the mouse in oil and water in order to turn it into a hot snail--wtf, right?), and then tries to resettle it in cozy new homes (his drawer, his hat, and his--ew--underpants), each of which it objects to.  The song closes on the indelible and cringe-worthy image of the souris verte leaving trois petites crottes in the singer's shorts.


In other words, the children loooooooved it.  And not just the boys!

We concluded with another French translation of a familiar picture book, Ed Emberley's Go Away, Big Green Monster (thanks, Carol, for showing me the French version!).  This one is such a favorite for storytimes because the kiddos get to yell "Va-t-en!" (go away!) at the monster a lot.  (Go on, try it yourself!  Feels good, doesn't it?)


After our good-bye song ("Ainsi font font font"), we did a petit bricolage to close our green afternoon--a craft project that involved gluing torn pieces of brown and green construction paper onto a black-line drawing of a tree (copied onto card stock).  I also printed out some cute little clip art pictures related to trees--apple blossoms, apples, bird nests, owls, beehives, and squirrels.  (I am very fond of craft projects that require no artistic ability and very little prep on my part, especially since I do these storytimes on a volunteer basis!)

Gwyneth got tired of gluing before she finished her tree.  Oh well, she's three.
So, happy spring, all.  Hope you've got lots of vert where you are, too.

Friday, April 24, 2015

random Frenchy, teachy things

No time for full blog posts this month!  But at least I can make a bulleted list of some of my recent Frenchy and/or teachy thoughts….

gratuitous shot of G&G at the zoo

  • A mom I know who occasionally uses her non-native French with her teen daughters told me that she has discovered a way to cut down on the speed and intensity of their arguments: she announces things like curfew in French, and when the girls protest, they have to do so on French too!
  • Grandrabbit's Play, where Carol and I taught two French classes for kiddos, closed last month, so we won't be teaching there again.  :(
  • But I now am leading three separate weekly French tutoring sessions: one with a four-year-old, one with a group of siblings ages four through nine, and a duo of ten-year-old boys.  (See those toes down there?  These three very different classes are keeping me on them!)
  • The afore-mentioned siblings are already bilingual (from Spanish-speaking homes), and it's sooooo cool to observe how completely unfazed they are when I speak French to them for 30 minutes at a time.  No freaking out, no funny looks, no demands for translation.  It's like they know that they'll get it eventually, and in the meantime, they are understanding enough to have fun.
  • I saw the four-year-old at school; she was wearing a t-shirt with an owl on it, and when she saw me, she pointed to it and said "hibou!  hibou, Sarah!"
  • The mom of the other four-year-old told me excitedly that she can't wait until she and her daughter can converse in French.  Should I tell her that half an hour once a week won't lead to that anytime soon?
  • Griffin is really enjoying the following three resources in French: the magazine "Youpi! J'ai compris!" along with the free animated videos on nonfiction topics available on Brainpop and the geography games on Jeux de geographie
  • Gwyneth continues to assert that she doesn't know how to speak French whenever I ask her how to say something or other in French.
  • Gwyneth also continues to tell her nanny, "My daddy doesn't talk French or Spanish.  My mommy talks French and English.  I talk French, English, and Spanish."
  • Her pronunciation (in English) is gradually improving, which means that "Spanish" sounds like "panis" or "panish" now, instead of "penis."  (Oh, the shocked stares I intercepted when strangers heard my three-year-old announce, "I wike penis.  Mommy wike penis too.  Daddy don't wike penis.")
  • Gwyn and I attended a classmate's birthday party where we and one other family were the only anglophones there!  I ate spicy salsa, drank hibiscus cooler, and practiced my Spanish.
  • I've done three storytimes in French at the library this semester, and they're going well.  Themes: love (in February for valentines day), animals, and Paris. 
  • We've had two French playdates so far, each very different, and for the next one this weekend, I'm going to bring more games and puzzles and toys (and thus fewer French learning games).
  • Several private schools are offering French camps this summer, and I'm determined to send Griffin to one or two of them.  And there are Spanish camps in the area, too--including one at a farm!  I bet both kids would like those.
  • I need to make more time to blog and read the blogs of those I admire!  


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Legos make everything better

Wouldn't his would be a fun project for French playdates?
So my storytimes at the Lafayette Public Library are back, and so far successful at bringing in a fun mix of toddlers and preschoolers, Americans and native Francophones, people familiar with some of the stories and songs while others are eager to learn new ones (one maman even recorded me on her phone--"All we know are lullabies in French and I desperately need some new songs!").

I do want to get back in the habit of posting about storytimes in greater detail, but first I have more urgent--but related--business to cover:

French Playdates at the Library!

Gwyneth investigates a French trivia game called Voyage en France which features questions about culture, vocabulary, and grammar.  It's pretty dry, but Griffin enjoys it, especially the "which word doesn't belong?" cards.  I keep meaning to make new cards with easier questions that are more relevant to a seven-year-old boy and which address facts and ideas that he has already been exposed to, such as the areas we visited in France last year.
The Powers That Be gave me permission to offer a monthly playdate for older kids (ages 5-10) in addition to the storytime; it meets the fourth Sunday of the month from 2:00-4:00.  We have a nice medium-sized room with tables, a white board, computers, and even a sink and fridge.  

Ever since the Parenting Place--a nonprofit parenting support center in Boulder that offered classes, counseling, a food and diaper bank, and a lots of playgroups for various groups--closed, the French-speaking community in Boulder County has not had a regular, low-stress, drop-in playgroup that meets in a public place!

Ah, le bon vieux temps....

For nearly five years,  Griffin and I (and then Gwyneth, Griffin, and I) trekked to downtown Boulder every Monday morning so the kids could play on bikes, scooters, slides, sandbox, and other equipment in the enclosed courtyard, or engage with the dollhouse, puzzles, dinosaurs, cars, and craft supplies in the playroom, while anywhere between two and ten moms (and occasionally a dad) juggled juice boxes and breastfeeding babies and puzzle pieces and sun hats while sitting in chairs designed for tiny toddler tushies and sharing stories and advice in French.

I knew I couldn't recapture exactly that with my library playdate--the space is too different, many families have moved away, and the kiddos who were learning to walk and talk then are now in elementary school and have quite different needs and interests.

here's Griffin playing one of many games that can be conducted in any language at all--I need to bring this sort of thing to our playdates--checkers, Chinese checkers, Connect Four, Sorry….
But kids still need to play, and parents still need to commiserate and swap success stories, and I wanted a way to make this happen, regularly, in French (without having to clean my house, plan formal activities, or figure out how to include people I've never met).  Hence my new Meetup group, Boulder County Fun with French (join us!), whose calendar boasts a new playdate en français every month till the end of the year!

Our first playdate en français took place during the fifth day of a February snowstorm, and in the hours leading up to it I watched the list of oui RSVPs change to nons, so I was genuinely taken aback when three families showed up despite the weather!

I had made a pot of coffee just in case, and brought along four games in French, all of which require reading (or at least recognition of the alphabet) to play, which I thought would be okay, since the minimum age to attend was five.  

the French version of Spot It! is a great choice for encouraging kids to speak French, because it only requires saying individual words, not expressing complex ideas, and it's quick and fun
So I was genuinely taken aback a second time when it turned out that all the attendees were five and under!  (One toddler never even woke up from his car seat.)  But I was thrilled to see that all of them were from Francophone families.

this reading game has several different game boards and activities,  but it feels very educational, and I think the children were glad when it was over
Griffin and a five-year-old girl grudgingly played a French alphabet game until the little kids showed up, at which point I swept my games off the tables, fetched a tub of Legos, a tub of Duplos, and a tub of crayons, and printed a dozen French-themed coloring pages from the Internet (Petit Ours Brun, Kirikou, Babar…).  The kiddos happily fell upon the toys while we parents did our best to chat in French despite the near-constant attention and redirection that the children needed.  (At one point a French papa apologized for pulling someone else's toddler off a table, because he was afraid that Legos were about to be ingested.)

Ultimately, I can call it a successful event--just not quite what I was expecting (or hoping for).  So now with the second one coming up this weekend, what advice or suggestions do you have on providing kids (of all ages, apparently) with activities that will encourage them to speak French???  Please help!

It didn't occur to me to bring this last time--a handmade French "Go Fish" game that Griffin illustrated--but I'll try it next time.  I also have a"Old Maid" and "Go Fish" from the Dollar Store; I just crossed out the words in English with a Sharpie and wrote in the French translations.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

soirée à la française--for the kids!

How much do I want my children to meet other young native French speakers?  Enough that I convince my husband to leave work early on a Friday afternoon to drive our children to Denver so that they can attend "Parents' Night Out" at the Alliance Française, a three-hour immersion experience, even though it cost twice as much as similar events locally (and didn't include dinner, drinks, or a even a bowl of popcorn during the movie)!

Griffin's face fell when we walked in and he saw kids docilely doing simple crafts while listening to French music--he didn't want us to leave him there with his little sister while we went out for a leisurely dinner.  He was expecting fun and excitement, and he got coloring pages.  Very expensive coloring pages.

So I worried about him all evening, hoping that this experience wouldn't turn him off French, hoping that the teachers would stay in French the entire time, hoping that he would make a friend, hoping that there was more on the agenda than stickers and a movie.

And, as usual, I didn't need to be such a worrywart.  Both kids loved it and want to go back!

According to the teacher, Griffin spoke French with her and mostly English with the other kids.  When they played games like "1,2,3, Soleil," he did use French with everyone.  He immediately connected with another seven-year-old boy, as did Gwyneth with the boy's younger sister ("Her shared her sac de couchage with me during the film!"), so I'm now trying to get in touch with that family in hopes that they don't live too far away and would be interested in getting the kids together, or at least attending our library storytimes and playdates.

And now I have a better idea of why this evening was so pricey:


I think Gwyneth used $25 of foam stickers, glitter stickers, and plastic jewels for the craft projects alone!


My favorite Valentine card this year--because it says "je t'aime"!