Sunday, October 20, 2013

Teaching Languages in a Star Trek World

Salut, mes poulettes!

As I wrote my professional growth plan tonight, I realized that my blogging has left something to be desired this last while. It has been a big transition year, as I had previously alluded. My husband has taken a new job this month, too – completing the process of our life overhaul.  It’s been a process, but we are beginning to settle into our new world, roles, schools and life at last.

I must, then, return to blogging, as it has made such a difference in my life. I have grown professionally by reading the blogs of others…and through being ready to hear the wisdom of teachers and administrator friends around the world. I admit, there was a certain arrogance I was ready to shed. A certain “I don't need help, I've got this all under control.” attitude. There is no room for a loner attitude when teaching a community. Once I shed that skin, I became receptive to the amazing treasure trove of information and wisdom that existed at my fingertips.

I have undertaken many new endeavors. I am teaching a Grade Six class, giving them the tools of The Leader in Me, and deeply considering my French pedagogy and how to REALLY make it meaningful for kids. In that light, these Professional Growth Plan questions really struck me as something I would like to share with you and get your opinion on.

I truly believe the greatest resource we could ever have as educators is one another, so I would love to hear from you either here at,  on my Twitter feed @mmepoulet , or via my professional e-mail, I am also on Google+ under this moniker.

Now, the questions, and my reflection upon them:

1. As an educator, what should I do more of?

Allow students to be leaders in general. Give students guidance on how to be creators in language and technology. Allow them leadership opportunities in speaking, reading, creating and sharing in the FSL and Language Arts classroom. Give students a strong model of lifelong learning in myself. Take the advice of other teachers pertaining to the use of tech and its propriety and efficacy in regards to fulfilling students’ needs.

Why? Kids are looking for ways to stand out, and in a world such as ours, with advances coming faster than we can possibly keep up with as educators, it is my responsibility to be as far on the cutting edge of students’ futures as I can possibly be in order to give them a chance at this world they will be creating in the future.  It is our mandate and our responsibility to create ethical, engaged and entrepreneurial citizens. In order to do so, we had better believe we can do this ourselves!

2. What should I do less of?

 I don't do too much of it, but maybe the “Chalk and Talk” teaching style. Perhaps less worksheet-based teaching, in FSL especially. I need to stop shying away from taking a risk with newer technologies. Teaching in an “island” way, where I believe that I don’t need (or am unable to get) others’ advice as a languages teacher. Pencil and paper activities as the crux of assessment, marking everything that I see “the old way.”

Why? Well, this is simply not the way that the world is headed. The way we have been doing things for the last 100 years or so is absolutely, necessarily gone. It is antiquated. It is unfair to our students. In order to be the educators of these future citizens, we need to dig our minds out of the past and step forth into this unknown world….and start paving the way for the adults of tomorrow.

We truly do have enormous shoes to fill…and we have no idea what awaits us at the next turn. If today, we are using such technology as Google Glass, and  is reporting on rollable cellphones coming this year, what is five years away? Ten? Eighteen? It really is mind-boggling.

Tomorrow, I am partaking in a French language PD about technology. This weekend, I head to the Second Languages and Intercultural Council's annual conference in Canmore, Alberta. They are a subgroup of the Alberta Teachers' Association, and are certain to teach me many ways to improve my tech savvy with students. I cannot wait to report back on my discoveries!

As for our journey into the 21st century way of doing things, well, to misquote  The Great Gatsby, "... we beat on, boats against the current, borne forth ceaselessly into the future.”

A la prochaine, mes amis,

Mme Poulet

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Can you see the leader in me?

Ah, man, I love The Leader in Me* paradigm!

I was fortunate enough to receive the Signature Training two years ago,  and am excited for my transition into using it with my homeroom this year. I have come up with so many ideas recently to help implement The Leader In Me that my brain is just spinning!

I cannot say enough good things about the training. I truly believe that the 7 Habits changed my life, and will continue to do so. This year, I have decided to drench students with the common language of the 7 Habits, and to merge our goals and rewards within that framework.

How to do it in French? That is something I am working out, as I would love to use it with all my FSL classes as well. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them here or at @MmePoulet on Twitter.

Here are the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.* If you would like to know more, there are literally thousands of resources on the Web.

1. Be Proactive.
2. Begin With The End In Mind.
3. Put First Things First.
4. Think Win-Win.
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.
6. Synergize.
7. Sharpen the Saw.

I would explain further, but as my principal said in conversation today, "This is a journey and everyone takes it at their own pace." If you are curious, go for the read! Perhaps they are on to something massive!

Cheers, and I PROMISE to do a French post soon!
Mme Poulet

*Written by Steven Covey

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Get Ready to go Back to School!


Curated and edited by Shannon Ossinger (
Well, it’s almost that time here in Alberta-- where the vast majority of kids and teachers head back to school. I have been researching some fun and engaging ways to make that first day special, as well as effectively setting the year up for success.

This year, my school will be involved with The Leader in Me, and I will most definitely be doing some activities specific to that later on. As for now, getting through the first day(s) are a task of survival, especially for those newbies out there.

Here are a few of my favourite activities, taken from throughout the Web and also compiled from my years of teaching, as well as from the wisdom of my wonderful friends and colleagues.
I took the liberty of giving these activities a title if they were without one, so that they can be more easily identified in our 21st century world.

Remember this, before the first day of school gets you bogged down:
“Most people are so busy knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do,
they never get around to what they want to do.”
Kathleen Winsor (American Author)
(Thank you to @teachertoolkit on Twitter for sharing that wisdom!)

We’re All in This Together
Author: Shannon Ossinger
Source: Original Unknown, ideas found at @mmepoulet on Twitter. That’s me!

Starting with the teacher, each person shares a quirky/cool/unknown fact about themselves with the class, then passes the ball of yarn to the next person. Each person continues to hold on to part of the string. At the end of the activity, there is a visual “web,” showing how we are all connected.
* I would preface this with “Be sure it is something you feel comfortable sharing with a crowd,” as over-sharers need protective boundaries in this activity.

This activity helps demonstrate the need for integrity and cohesiveness in the classroom, and could be used for grades 4-12, in my opinion. It could also be used in a variety of ways, including demonstrating how the web is much like The Web, in that everyone has access to everyone else.

Shannon’s note: My daughter is in sixth grade and we bought a ball of yarn for her teacher as well. She is beginning a new school this year, and a shared activity is a great way to introduce herself to her class.

The Empathy Poster
Source: @edutopia on Twitter.
Start the year right with a poster detailing how to use and foster empathy in the classroom.

Everything but the Kitchen Sink
Author: Janet


 I bring a sack with a running shoe, a bread pan, a piece of stained glass, something of my daughter's etc. I group students and dump a few things on each table, then give them a few minutes to decide what they think each item says about me. I invite them to bring their own sack on the following day and you may be surprised at how many actually bring one!

 I also give them a paper with questions on it about where they were born, where they've lived, who they live with, their previous schools, and their favorite/worst subject. I also throw in some "What is your favorite band, clothing, person, color, food, etc?” You can either have them share their own paper with the class, or use it in groups of 2 as an interview and have the students introduce each other.

People Bingo
Source: My dear friend, retired teacher Bev Gibson
A fun activity to do with grades 2-6.

The Time Capsule
Author:  Dawn Schurman

1) Give each student an empty Pringles can to decorate as a "Time Capsule."

2) Each child will fill out a short interest inventory: a handwriting sample, a tracing of their hand, a self-portrait, and a few other things. (You can get creative here -- make the task fit your grade)

3) They will place their sheets into their time capsule and have a little ceremony to put them away until the end of the year. I'm planning to cheat and open the time capsules that night in order to learn a little more about each student's interests and abilities) 

4) At the end of the year, have the kids complete the same sheets and then open their time capsule to compare how they have changed during the school year.

Shannon’s PS: You don’t need Pringles cans! Spaghetti tins, jam jars, etc.

We’re On A Roll!
Author: Kelly Evans
Grade: all
Concepts: Getting to know your classmates
Materials: two rolls of toilet paper (perforated, so it's easy to tear)
Activity time: 30 - 45 minutes
  1. Have all the students sit at their desk, without talking.
  2. Take out two rolls of TP and tell the students to "Take as much as you think you'll need." This provokes a lot of questions, but DO NOT say anything more.
  3. Send a roll around at both sides of the room (this helps the activity to move along more quickly).
  4. Once all students have taken "what they need," collect the unused TP.
  5. Now tell the students that for each square they ripped off, they have to give one fact about themselves.
TEACHER'S NOTE: My sixth graders always love this activity.
Editor's Note: There are other variations of this game that use candy (M&M's, Smarties, etc.).

Remember Me?
Grade: Any
Materials: None
Activity time: About 60 min
On the first day of school challenge the students to a competition.
Them against you.
Who can remember the most about the other?
The students start, taking turns they each stand up and tell at least 5 facts about themselves.
For example: "My name is Shelley. This is my first year at this school. I have 3 sisters and one brother. I have a pet goldfish called "Fluffy", and I like soccer."
 Then tell at least 30 facts about yourself.
For example: "I'm married. I have 2 teenaged children, a girl Kelly and a boy, Doug. I have a pet dog called "Baby" and about 50 walking stick bugs, etc etc."
When you are finished introducing yourself, the children get to start. Let them volunteer answers and give them a tally mark for each new fact they remember about you. After they have exhausted all possibilities, (usually around 39 facts for a room of 28 grade 6/7 students) go around the room and try to remember facts about them.
 Extending a Warm Welcome to Students on the First Day
Author:  Brenda  
Modified from: Susan Kovalik's ITI (Integrated Thematic Instruction) ITI: The Model by Susan Kovalik with Karen Olsen. ISBN-1-878631-18-7.

The following is a list of ways that I feel you can help students feel comfortable on the first day and throughout the year.

1)  Let students know that you are a "real" person.  Tell them about yourself through pictures and stories.

2)  If you want students to know that you care about them show them by greeting them at the door, use eye contact when speaking with them, show compassion and always be honest.

3)  Establish procedures in the beginning. Let them know what is expected of them. Do not make a list of rules telling them what they can't do. Instead make a student created list of what is expected.  For instance, do not say "Don't run in the hall," say "Walk calmly and quietly in the hall." 

Review the procedures often. Most of all, be consistent.

4)  Create an atmosphere in the classroom that makes the students feel comfortable. The colors blue, green and purple are most calming. Natural lighting and plants are also good ideas for a comfortable classroom.
 (TEACHER'S NOTE: This point hit home when the instructor at the seminar I attended asked us to think about the places we go to feel relaxed and what colors were there.  Try it.)
5)  Be realistic in your expectations.  Don't expect the students to do more than they are capable of - this causes anxiety.  At the same time, don't make things so easy that they become bored.

6)  Make an effort to create a community in your classroom.  Use activities that help the class get to know each other as well as developing a sense of trust.

Remember to continue doing these activities throughout the school year.

(TEACHER'S NOTE:  The book Tribes by Jeanne Gibbs is loaded with activities that promote these things in the classroom.)

7)  Teach to all learning styles, beginning on day one.  Remember that all students do not learn the same way.  Give choices whenever possible.

8)  Learn the students’ names quickly and use their names when talking to them.

Be Careful With Your Words
Author: Submitted by: Anna XannaRod@email-removed Source:
Grades: Any

Help students understand the importance of thinking before they speak. I just went to an inservice that did an interesting thing in the beginning. The instructor asked for a volunteer to come up. She was handed a tube of toothpaste to squeeze out all over a piece of construction paper. The volunteer squeezed it all out. Then the instructor asked her to put it back in the tube. The volunteer said she couldn't. Then she was thanked and sat down. The instructor said the toothpaste symbolized words that are said and they cannot be taken back. It is "out there" and no apology can erase it. I thought this would be a good beginning of the year demonstration. I think I'm going to use it to remind my class to be more careful with their words. 

Have a wonderful first week back, teachers…enjoy your students!

Mme Poulet

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ch-ch-changes! Ma vie, v2.0.

Ahh, summer.

Fantastic, relaxation, quiet contemplation. Sleeping in. No bells! Spending copious amounts of time outdoors and visiting family and friends. This is the life!

..or at least that is what it usually is. This year it's a bit different.

This year, we are making a significant move, to a place where nobody knows us, to be closer to my school and my hubby's work. It is an overwhelmingly positive step for us, to a place we had once deeply considered years ago.
I am excited and scared, worried and anticipatory.

We are leaving the familiar...the town in which my husband and I married in, the town in which my daughter did a great deal of her elementary schooling, the town we thought was IT. Our forever home.

But sometimes stability means being elsewhere. Maybe you discover that peace of mind is wrapped up in defining, clarifying and unabashedly pursuing your dreams. Though difficult, it means ignoring what others tell you is the right choice, because they speak from the pain of losing that familiar proximity.

Let's face it - nobody is over exuberant about leaving his or her comfort zone.

It's not far away. I will be back to visit. They do say you never can go home again.

So I make our new nest and hatch my new plans and we build our nest egg  just a bit south of where we thought we'd be.

As educators - especially as 21st century educators - we are agents of change by nature.

Alas, change brings with it conflict. But doesn't it also create a better tomorrow? Is it not the crux upon which Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech stood? Did it not give my typewritten and hand-scrawled musings a way to be instantly shared among heaven-knows-how-many people, instantaneously? Did change not create literacy? Society? The wheel?

I shall not fear, for though staring down at the water from ten feet up is daunting, I know the thrill of the jump will be my reward.

Next time I blog, it will be from my new coop, with v 2.0 of my dreams. It will most definitely include curriculum and Français as well. But for now, I will focus on setting up the new roost.

I know it will  be just ducky!

A la prochaine,
Mme Poulet

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The evolution of The Chickenlady to Madame Poulet.

Once upon a time, I was a chicken. I confess. I would cluck constantly, but much was unintelligible chatter. I often thought the sky was falling, and frantically tried to get others to grind my corn into flour, but alone I stood, in frustration, doing it myself.

I walked around with a panicked look in my eyes and never quite understood how to tame my inner fire and outer fear.

Then one day, it magically happened. I looked back and realized that I could be. Just be. In my calm, in my fear, in my excitement, in my joy.

This liberated Madame Poulet. I became a woman. I began to see myself as a leader among children and realized that I do, indeed, have gifts to share with other leaders. I can, in fact, choose to put out meaningful words into the universe. I can ask for help grinding my corn into flour, and if that request is not granted, I can graciously seek it elsewhere.

I will never stop seeking now, as it really does exist. And I promise to do my best to help grind your corn to flour. If I cannot, I promise to help you find a miller.

As a French teacher with a bent on psychology and Gestalt, Twitter was a godsend. I believed I was doomed to be Chicken Little in a world of ducks and geese who couldn't possibly understand what ma classe was all about, let alone could they help me in my weak moments. It amazes me how suddenly, since finding Twitter,  I have become a confident teacher, happy with myself and proud of mes habilités.

I need to thank my Twitter nest for showing me that I can, indeed, be proud of my plumage and have something to share with the world.

Merci bien!