Monday, December 5, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

French and Spanish teachers : Do you need one more activity to use before winter break? Denise and I put together these New Year's Resolution conversations for that purpose-- it's a great way for your students to practice the close future tense. Have them brainstorm other resolutions and write short paragraphs about what they would like to do differently in 2012!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rhythmic Chanting!

I have found the use of rhythmic chanting very helpful as I introduce new conversations to my elementary school classes. It serves to teach them pronunciation, help them practice, and really get the language in their heads! (They are often chanting long after class is over.)

I put together these little youtube videos to enhance their experience of chanting-- they can now see the visuals as they chant, which is another way to reinforce the language. I hope that you French teachers will find them useful for your classes!

Check out our youtube channel at :

Halloween Conversations-- try these with your students!

It's October, and it's time to share our Halloween Conversation! Denise and I have been using this conversation with our classes for several years, and it is always a big hit. Feel free to click on them and print them out for your students.


Thank you to Diana Soerens and Dan Baltierra for their help with the Spanish!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Some thoughts on student writing

Denise and I have changed the way we approach student writing as we have implemented the REAL FRENCH tout de suite program with our 1st-6th grade students over the last few years.

Here are some of Denise’s thoughts on the subject and a writing sample from one of her new 5th graders.

I’ve been teaching French for over 17 years to students in Grades 1-8, and one thing I often struggled with was how to evaluate writing. I always knew deep inside that filling up a student’s paper with red marks was not productive or fair because in many cases, he was not ever provided with what he needed to complete the task at hand. What often happened was that students would scale back on their writing and only use the simplest language to avoid those red marks or they would use translating programs or even worse, spend hours looking words up in a dictionary. I would then spend days trying to figure out what they wanted to say and making all the corrections only to see them glance at the grade and promptly throw the paper in the garbage. Later, we put a stop to the immediate disposal into the garbage. We asked students to hand in a corrected copy, but they would only write out what we had written. Subsequently, they would often finish the complete assignment without acquiring any more knowledge of the language but with plenty of frustration and negative thoughts about language learning.

What I love about Real Language is that it focuses on small, interesting chunks of language and provides the students with lots of different ways to use that language. They are applauded for being able to communicate – rubrics in level II include points for making sense and sharing information with a partner. Isn’t that what language is all about? Using Real Language, I have found that writing assignments now ask students to let their knowledge shine through by asking them to write what they know. I have them write in a journal during class with no teacher help, no partner help, no dictionaries, no computers nor books, and I have found their writing delightful!

The writing example above is from one of my fifth grade students. She came new this year and spent one week with me during the summer using the Real Language level I program, and then she started with Level II with all the other fifth graders. She wrote this after about three weeks of French class. They know I’m not going to pick it apart, so they allow themselves to use language to communicate even if they don’t have everything they need. For example, Caroline did not know the possessive adjective, his, but she did know “birthday” and “he”, so she wrote “He birthday is the 10th of January.” I understand. She has communicated. This is success. She feels it and wants to learn more! I have been blown away by the writing in my classes. It is much, much better now that we are teaching grammar within a meaningful context and for the purpose of communication and NOT on its own in a vacuum.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

REAL SPANISH ahora mismo Level II has gone to press!

REAL SPANISH ahora mismo Level II is now complete! We hope to have it printed and on our website by early August! For now, we wanted to give you a little sneak preview of our Partner Conversations book, our Student Activity Book, our Teacher's guide, our Audio CD, and our eBook.

First, the Partner Conversations is the foundation of our approach. Level II builds on the vocabulary and structures from Level I, and at the higher level, the conversations are more situational and humorous. These conversational activities allow students to communicate using a large variety of structures, vocabulary, and expressions from everyday language. The visual cues and English translations ensure comprehension, and students find it rewarding to be able to speak right away. Each conversation provides choices so it is never static and can be repeated numerous times.

The Partner Conversations are embedded in the Student Activity Book, so each student has a copy for their reference. After each Conversation, a variety of activities that reinforce the written and oral language are provided. Activities include writing, grammar exercises, listening comprehension, vocabulary exercises, and speaking practice.

The Teacher's Guide offers evaluations, rubrics, and supplemental activities. Grammar, listening comprehension, vocabulary, and speaking evaluations are included. This book is reproducible.

REAL SPANISH ahora mismo Level II also includes an Audio CD. Recordings of native speakers allow students to imitate authentic language as they listen.

The Partner Conversations eBook is an essential resource for teachers who are able to project in their classrooms. The electronic PDF allows the instructor to teach directly from the conversation on the screen. Many teachers enjoy using this resource with their Smartboards.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Vacation Conversations from Level II -- Try these out!

The end of the school year is fast approaching, and Denise and I are hard at work on REAL SPANISH ahora mismo Level II program! We thought we would share a conversational activity from Level II French (and the in-progress Level II Spanish!) for you to try with your classes! Enjoy! (For more information on REAL FRENCH tout de suite Level II, visit our website!)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

REAL LANGUAGE right away- testimonials!

Denise and I have heard back from a few of the teachers who use the REAL LANGUAGE right away programs, and we thought we would share some of their impressions with you! If you would like to add your own impressions of the program, feel free to write to us at or comment on this post-- we love hearing from you!

I have really enjoyed this program because I have seen tremendous progress in my students' comprehension and speaking abilities. I really like the fact that the students are not just given isolated vocabulary, but rather the words are put into a context. It's real French! It is also a very intuitive way to learn French. My students have commented that it's not only fun to act out the dialogues, but they feel that their French has substantially improved as well. I would highly recommend the Real Language program.

– Dale Ziegler, Sacred Heart Academy, Chicago, IL (Elementary School French teacher)

Real Language materials pair extremely well with any textbook series as they cover the most common Level 1 topics and structures. I've found that by adding conversations to things we are already studying, more of my students are able to perform on assessments. And it is truly music to my ears to walk around my classroom and hear ALL of my students speaking FRENCH! And not only are they speaking they are having a full comprehensible conversation with excellent pronunciation!

--Sarah Woodward-Jones, Fayetteville-Manlius Central Schools, Manlius, NY (Middle School French teacher)

We are loving it. My first and second grade classes have been reenergized. The students love working on the mini dialogues and I am amazed at how quickly they can recall the material. THANK YOU for coming to IN-NELL and for sharing such a great idea.

--Claudia Nole, Park Tudor School, Indianapolis. (Elementary School Spanish teacher)

I think your program is great! It reminds me of how I learned English as a foreign language in South America: short conversations and focusing on chunks of the language.

– Andrea Suarez, Villamadonna Academy, Villa Hills, Kentucky (Elementary School Spanish teacher)

For students who have language-based learning challenge or who simply need to learn a foreign language differently than how it is taught at the high school level--fast paced with a lot of vocabulary to be acquired. The Real French Tout de Suite program offers a lot of flexibility for a teacher. The constructs are simplistic, authentic, very useful and can be easily modified for an older student. This program is perfect for use in a differentiated Level I classroom or in an alternative French program designed for students requiring a different model than that offered by a traditional program, with a traditional text. I am grateful to the authors who have a keen understanding of what works and who have done a lot of my work for me! Bravo!

-Lorin Pritikin, Francis W. Parker School, Chicago (High School French teacher)

I am so excited! I have been using your program for 9 weeks and the KIDS love it!!! They are speaking more Spanish than ever. I cannot wait until Spanish 2 comes out!!! Thank you all that you do.

-Joe Uriz, Parsons Elementary School, Gwinnett County, Georgia (Elementary School Spanish Teacher)

RL provides real life and age-appropriate conversations for elementary level. Students love short dialogs and practical vocabulary. I enjoy reading your blog for best practices. RL is a wonderful resource in the classroom to generate conversation and expand vocabulary. I use your method in 3rd and 4th grades and it works!!

-Gigi Olmstead, Catherine Cook School, Chicago (Elementary School French Teacher)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

REAL LANGUAGE right away on the radio!

It was our pleasure to join Tom Alsop on his online radio program. To learn more about Tom and his wonderful contributions to the field of language teaching, visit his website:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Article Published in Learning Languages Magazine!

Denise and I are proud to have an article in NNELL's publication Learning Languages magazine! The magazine arrived in mailboxes late last week, and it is full of wonderful article on early language instruction. Members of NNELL can download it on their website.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Spontaneous Production?

Oral assessment is often tricky….how do you equip students to express themselves orally and what is the best way to evaluate them?

As Denise and I prepared to write Level II of REAL FRENCH tout de suite, we thought long and hard about these questions. It’s one thing to have students memorize and perform a conversation, but how do you assess their ability to produce language spontaneously? How do you know if they own the language?

In the past, Denise and I would have students write skits and perform them; if we guided them well enough, these skits ended up being fairly well written and well presented. However, they were scripted and students were not asked to react to the language coming at them—a skill that is essential for using language effectively.

So we came up with a rubric for the Jeu de rôles—an oral assessment where students are asked to prepare a number of situations and perform them spontaneously for the class. A situation is chosen at random, a partner is chosen at random, and the students are asked to improvise and act out a situation on the spot. Here is an example of the Jeu de rôles rubric :

Of course, it takes time to prepare students to speak spontaneously. I give the students at least two class periods to prepare. The situations are based on the conversations they have already practiced, so they begin by being able to reference the conversation, and then slowly they rely on it less and less. In this video clip, my eighth graders are practicing the different situations, and switching partners often.

And here you see the end result: two students acting out the situation from Conversation 3e- Making plans.

As you can see, they are very comfortable with the language, and they are responding spontaneously to one another!