She doesn’t know this, but Annabelle Allen is very much my mentor. I’m lucky enough to live in New Orleans and she has invited me to observe, taught me Spanish, hung out with me to talk about school, and inspired me beyond what she can possibly know.
A lot of what I’ve learned from Annabelle isn’t a tangible takethisintoclasstomorrow kind of thing, but rather more a way of being. I’ve learned to go with the flow, trust students, LOVE students, use the power of positivity in everything we do, and have fun above all else.
There are some things, however, that I’ve adapted for the French classroom, so I thought I’d share how some Annabelle-esque things look in my classroom.
To start brain breaks I just yell ‘Pause!’ or ‘Petite pause!’ Because I teach such young learners (5-12) I use the power of cognates in naming things. If they don’t acquire the words ‘Brain Break’ in French in my class that’s fine. My purpose isn’t teaching them more words, it’s just to get them to the brain break! Pause! Short and simple. I also use ‘Pause!’ for when I need to freeze certain student actors when we act something out. There’s a great post here on what to call a brain break in classes (If you’re not a part of the CI/TPRS for French Teachers group, JOIN NOW! It’s amazing. De rien d’avance :))
Nitty Gritty of how I do certain brain breaks in my class:
Rock, Paper, Scissors: 1, 2, 3, voilà to start with, pierre/papier/ciseaux/voilà as an extension, evolution with oeuf/poule/dinosaure/prince OU princesse.
Hand Jives: Instead of ‘chocolate’ (not 4 syllables in French), I use ‘alligator’. So it sounds like: alli/alli/ga/ga–alli/alli/tor/tor–alli/ga/alli/tor–alli/alli/ga/tor. You could also use chocolat chaud (learned that from Lindsey Doucet and Mandy Migues, some amazing French teachers in Lafayette, Louisiana), or really ANYTHING. I’ve used a random word that we’ve used in class and just elongated the sounds to make it work. I don’t use this as my sole brain break, and I can vary the formations so much that the novelty doesn’t necessarily HAVE to come from the word. I just stick with alligator.
There are many other brain breaks that I use some from Annabelle and some from others, but in the interest of keeping this post on track I’ll write about those another time and stick to pure ‘Annabelle’ adaptations :).
Annabelle’s Pandora trick of always having music playing and just muting when she doesn’t need it is genius! But…for French teachers there’s no true French station of current music; mostly just stereotypical café music. There’s always Spotify and I have a few Spotify playlists, but even that isn’t exhaustive. It can be hard to find French titles and catchy French songs to have in the background.
Enter…NRJ streaming. If you don’t know, NRJ is a French radio station, and they offer free online streaming if you make an account. The BEST part of this is that if you hit a commercial it is IN FRENCH. BUT you have to make sure that you’re on the ‘Made in France’ station, otherwise you’ll get American or English songs that French people listen to on the radio. Here’s the link to that web radio: NRJ Made in France
Call and Response
There is no ‘hola hola/coca cola’ in French, but there are plenty of other things to use that follow that model.
I learned from Grant Boulanger a fun idea to sneeze and have students respond by stopping what they’re doing, saying ‘à tes souhaits’, and getting attentive.
I can extend that when it gets boring to sneezing twice and having them say ‘à tes amours’. When that gets boring I can sneeze twice and have them say ‘à ton argent’.
Technically it should be ‘à vos souhaits’, I know, I know. But the odds of a classmate sneezing and them needing ‘à tes souhaits’ are much higher than only ME (or a person of extreme authority) sneezing. I can always make this distinction later, but for now it stays ‘à tes souhaits’.
Aside from that I like the idea of using common expressions. I plan on using revenons/à nos moutons (literally: let’s get back to our sheep/figuratively: let’s get back to business) and j’ai d’autres/chats à fouetter (literally: I have other cats to whip/figuratively: I have other fish to fry) because I just really love those two expressions.
I’m excited about the ‘double duty’ of these call and responses. They teach them some kind of response that they would ACTUALLY have (sneezing), and some fun expressions.
These are my rules:
My rules are basically the same as Annabelle’s, but I’ve framed them a little differently because I teach little tiny babies from 5-12 for like 10 minutes a week (okay, more like 60 minutes a week, but it feels like 10) and I’ve learned the power of the cognate with all these time constraints. I LOVE the idea of no whining, but ‘ne pas pleurnicher’ would take so long for MY students to master that it’s just easier to say positivité! When someone whines or even starts to whine I say ‘Negativité?!’ and they’re all ‘omg no what no way, positivité!’ But ne pas pleurnicher might work for your students, so try it! I like pleurnicher more than se plaindre, but use what you like! There’s no one size fits all to any of this.
So there you have it, my takes on Annabelle’s oeuvres. I’m probably forgetting things or you probably do things in a way that would work better, so please tell me! The great thing is that 100% of the things that Spanish teachers do are adaptable to what we do.
My next post will be on how UNFAIR it is to be a French teacher in this field. You’ll love it. Stay tuned.