Monday, August 19, 2013

eBook + Teacher’s Guide Giveaway!

To celebrate the beginning of the school year, we’ve decided to offer a giveaway from Real Language right away.

The winner of the giveaway will receive a Partner Conversations eBook and Teacher’s Guide of the language and level of their choice, everything you need to use Real Language right away as a supplement, valued at $70+ dollars!

(To read more about the products, visit
To enter our “eBook + Teacher’s Guide” giveaway, here’s what you will need to do:

1. "Like" Real Language right away on facebook.

2. Leave a comment on our blog and/or facebook page telling us what level/ language you teach and at least one of the following : how you found out about RLRA, or how/if you use our ideas and products, a success story from one of your classes.

(Doing #1 and #2 will give you one entry)

You may do the following for extra entries. They are not mandatory, but they will increase your chances!

1. "Share" Real Language right away’s status on Facebook by posting it on your own page between August 19th and September 6th. (5 entries)

2. Mention or retweet our giveaway on twitter (tag @REALLANGUAGE) (5 entries)
3. If you use our products, send us an email at with a testimonial.  (10 entries)

**The giveaway will end on Friday, September 6th at 11:59pm.   A winner will be chosen and announced on Monday, September 9th via facebook and our blog. You must be a US resident to win the prize.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Student Trip to France!

Denise and I had the opportunity to take a group of incoming 8th graders to France in June.  We organized the trip with Vistas in Education, a wonderful travel company that specializes in family stays in France.  We traveled by train to Toulouse and then took a bus to Foix, where we were warmly greeted by the host families (see above photo).  VIE did a wonderful job placing our students with host families; we were so impressed with the care and attention the family stay coordinator had taken in matching them up.

We insisted that the students speak only French while we were traveling in France.  We used our immersion system, but we found that it was more difficult to enforce without grades-- this was an optional trip during the summer after all!  We set it up as a competition, though, letting students know that if everyone succeeded in keeping their points, there would be a reward for everyone.  If not, we would award the person with the most points some kind of prize.  (In the end they all succeeded-- we will have a special party for them when they return to school.)

When we met back up with the students after their family stays, it was remarkable to see the students' progress-- four days of immersion in the target language can do wonders.  Their curiosity about French had also increased, and two of the students asked me to explain the imperfect, conditional, and future tenses to them on the train ride back to Paris.  (How do you say should? How do you say was?  How do you say will?)  I wrote some exercises for them on the spot and they practiced their new tenses together.

The students' background using RLRA's communicative approach certainly helped them on the trip, and the opportunity to make good connections with native speakers and see how useful it is to be able to communicate certainly boosted their confidence and their motivation.  Denise mentioned noticing the look on one of the students' faces when he successfully ordered a sandwich-- it was as if a light bulb went off in his head-- It worked!

If any of you French teachers are interested in organizing a trip to France, we highly recommend VIE!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Field Trip Time = Practice Time!

Last week, we had the pleasure of taking our 6th grade students to the Alliance Française in Chicago for a cooking workshop and to view the French film, Le Château de ma mère.  It is a wonderful field trip for establishing an immersion atmosphere because all of the activities are conducted completely in French. 

In using the Real Language right away programs, we believe that class time should be practice time.  Naturally, field trip time should be practice time, too, so we implement our immersion system when we have the chance to do field trips.  This helps younger students to get used to the system before their 5-day trip to Québec in 8th grade, and it also allows us to maximize the time we have for French.  The students speak only in the target language all day, even while on the bus.  For this field trip, I gave each student 40 participation points to begin with, and if I heard them speak English, they lost 2 points.  We had lots of billets with us so that they could earn their points back if they slipped up.  Each billet is worth one fifth of a point.  We give them to students who are making an effort to practice French with their classmates and with us.  Everyone was very successful, and some students finished the day with some extra credit, earning 41 or 42 points out of 40.

On the bus, I encouraged a few students to earn some billets by taking short videos of them, introducing themselves in French.  I have posted the clips below; you will hear in the background that the students were not shy about practicing their French with one another!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Ultimate Immersion Trip System

Last week, we took our 8th graders Québec City for our annual immersion trip.  It is a wonderful opportunity for them, and it is an excellent culmination of our K-8 French program, allowing our students to speak only in French for five days!  We focus on oral communication (using the Real Language right away program!), so any immersion experience is a great opportunity!

Historically, this class trip was not a strictly an immersion trip; students were encouraged to practice their French as much as they could, but, no doubt, they spoke a lot of English.  When I began teaching at Avery Coonley, Denise was very interested in finding a way to intensify the immersion experience and hold students accountable for speaking in the target language during the trip, even with one another.  Our first step was to ensure that all of the chaperones speak French, and that they were up for speaking only in French during the week in Québec.  We have been lucky to have some good connections and some very willing and energetic chaperones. We also started using the travel company Immersion Tours, a local tour company based in Québec.  They provide interactive activities for the students, including a morning to a local school to interact with québécois pen pals.  It has been great to work with a company that reinforces our goals of getting students to practice as much as possible!

(Photos taken at La Cabane à Sucre)

We brainstormed, and we came up with a system to keep the students speaking in French.  We give each student 200 participation points for the trip.  If we hear them speaking English at any time, we write their name down and they lose 10 points.  There is a lot of grace in this system, however, because we bring a lot of extra credit tickets (see our post about billets/boletos), each worth one point.  We are very generous, and everyone feels that they can succeed!

This year, for the first time in this system's nine year history, all of the students finished the trip with 200 points or more-- everyone got an A+!  We threw them a pizza party to celebrate.  Kudos for their motivation and good French-speaking! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Stop : Grammar time.

Denise and I have grappled with how to approach the teaching of grammar in a program that is primarily focused on communication.  Our Real Language right away program integrates grammar study, and the grammar presented always relates back to the context of the conversation.  

We believe in giving the students as much reinforcement as possible : showing the written word, providing compelling visuals, modeling pronunciation, translating when things are abstract, using rhythmic chanting, songs, etc.  Teaching grammar is another way to reinforce the language and give students the framework to manipulate structures and make the language their own.  Why withhold anything that will help them acquire language?

That being said, we have also found it very helpful to stop what we're doing and give students time to practice and memorize verb conjugations and new tenses.  It takes time to do that, so we will take out a week or two with middle school students in order to do a focused grammar study.  We strive to create these units with familiar language because we believe that communication and comprehension  of the language should come before analysis.  If the students do not understand the context of the grammar point, the meaning and their ability to transfer the concepts into meaningful language will be lost.

With my sixth graders, I recently taught them a unit on present tense verbs, holding them accountable for regular -er, -ir, and -re verbs in French, as well as eight different irregular verbs that they had encountered in their REAL FRENCH tout de suite Level II Student Activity Books.  I gave them many ways to practice-- conjugation exercises, simple translation sentences, a number of Quizlet sets, and a number of verb "jingles" that my seventh grade students helped me create.  Here they are : 

The songs help the students remember the conjugations, and the "rap" included gives them a little context for the verb.  I set them up in different colors to help them distinguish the verbs.  My hope is to create some more of these, so that there will be a distinct jingle for all of the verbs in my unit.  If you are interested, you can see the final evaluation they had to do.  (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 If you would like a copy of the PowerPoint for this unit, feel free to email us at

Thursday, February 7, 2013

RLRA Target Language Poster Giveaway!

Denise and I are committed to keeping our classes in the target language.  Recently, we designed a number of posters to help us achieve this goal.  (If you would like to read more about keeping things in the target language, check out this post.)  We have put the posters up all over our classrooms, and their impact has been amazing.  It is music to our ears to hear our 2nd and 3rd graders (not to mention our middle school students) say things like, Comment ça s’écrit ? (How do you spell it?) or Tu peux me prêter une gomme ? (Can you lend me an eraser?)

Here is a photo of the posters in my classroom :
We had some extra posters printed in French and Spanish that we plan to take with us to conferences, and we thought it would be fun to offer a giveaway for you here on our blog!  We will send the lucky winner twelve 11”x17” Real Language right away Target Language Posters in the language of your choice – take a look at the posters below!

To enter our “Target Language Poster” giveaway, here’s what you will need to do:

1. "Like" Real Language right away on facebook : 1 entry.  (mandatory entry)

2. Leave a comment on our blog and/or facebook page telling us one of the following : how you found out about RLRA, what level/language you teach, or how/if you use our ideas and products : 1 entry (manditory entry)

You may do any of the following for extra entries. They are not mandatory, but they will increase your chances!

1. "Share" Real Language right away’s status on Facebook by posting it on your own page between February 7th and February 20th. (5 entries)

2. Follow our blog (5 entries)
3. If you use our products, send us an email at with a testimonial.  (10 entries)

**The giveaway will end on Wednesday, February 2oth at 11:59pm. A winner will be chosen and announced on Friday, February 22 via facebook and our blog. You must be a US resident to win the prize.

And the winner is ... Jenna VanDyke!!  Congratulations, Jenna!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Music and RLRA!

Music is a wonderful tool to reinforce language learning, and we try to integrate it as much as possible into our lessons.  Our favorite musician, Alain le Lait, has some wonderful resources for French on Youtube (including a couple created by Real Language right away!). 

His songs are catchy, fun, and they pair extremely well with Real French tout de suite and Real Spanish ahora mismo Level I.  You can purchase his CDs at, and we promise it will be a valuable investment for your language program!  (Alain does not yet have youtube videos for his songs in Spanish, but you can purchase them on his website.)

Here are some that we use with the RLRA Level I books:

Bonjour, Bonjour works very well with with Conversation 2a.

J’ai Faim, J’ai soif goes wonderfully with Conversation 2b.

Les jours de la semaine is great with 5b.

J’aime les fruits is perfect with Conversation 6a.

You can visit Alain’s youtube channel here and see what else he has to offer.  Our youtube channel has more songs, chants, and favorited videos that you will enjoy as well.