MiddleJunior High School Educators

Middle School: in search of strategies, resources, any advice!!

  • 1.  Middle School: in search of strategies, resources, any advice!!

    Posted 07-19-2018 09:59
    Good morning fellow teachers!
    My name is Claire Jette.  I have taught FRENCH 3 years at the college level in VA, 5 years at the high school level in NY, and I will now be teaching in a Middle School in NJ starting in September!  I'm very excited for this new opportunity and I am reaching out to this community for advice.  In my position, I will teach 6th (complete beginners), 7th and 8th grade students every other day for 50 minutes (with the exception of 8th graders whom I will teach every day for 50 minutes).  Here are some topics I would love some insight/advice on:
    - first days of lesson plans: how to use maximum amount of immersion with beginners while setting a positive tone (getting to know each other, creating a warm environment where students are not fearful etc).  I'm thinking games will be important and any specific ideas are most welcome!
    - pacing:  Having taught upper level, AP etc courses, I am used to needing to work at a fast pace with students.  My new teaching experience will be quite the opposite.  Any suggestions on how to slow it down yet keep it fun?, how to reinforce a particular topic in different ways?
    -On-line resources geared towards beginners, advanced beginners (French): the district may be willing to purchase some online materials so if you have opinions on your personal favorites, please lmk (or even better if some of the materials are free:)
    - advice on best practices with this age group - I know this is a whole new world compared to high school:))
    As you can see, I have many questions.  I would love to hear back from teachers experiences in this area.  I want to thank you for taking the time to read my message - I really appreciate it!
    Happy Summer,
    Claire Jette

    Claire Jette
    French Teacher

  • 2.  RE: Middle School: in search of strategies, resources, any advice!!

    Posted 09-25-2018 16:24
    ​Hi, Claire,

    Welcome to Middle School!  I no longer teach in middle school, but once upon a time I taught Spanish and Russian.

    You're dealing with 3 very different grade levels, as I'm guessing you're finding out now!  I always found 6th graders to be closer to elementary school and 8th graders closer to high school (in their minds anyway!), with 7th graders stuck in the middle. I absolutely adored all three levels.

    Don't hesitate to use French in your classroom - please don't resort to using English at all if you can avoid it. At this age level, the students will absorb language so naturally it will amaze you.  Use a lot of comprehensible input techniques (don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking of teaching as a performing art - at this level a lot of movement and some song and dance isn't a bad thing).  Use games, as you said, but if you have the luxury of time, do a little investigating ahead of time to see what games your students are playing.  My students were fine with games popular in the cultures I was teaching, so don't rule that out.  I adapted a lot of games the students knew from their childhood, too; even though they're "big kids" at 11, 12, 13 years old, they seemed to derive some comfort playing games from when they were little; they kne the rules, but now they were playing with a little FL twist.

    In my Russian classes, I was lucky enough to have almost complete control over my curriculum, and so I decided to focus on what Russian children their age knew, so I had them learn songs and read picture books that every Russian knew.  I used a similar approach to supplement my Spanish curriculum when I could.

    Don't rely on grammar as an organizing principle, if you can avoid it.  I only used grammar when the students noticed it, and at that age, only taught it in context, with attention paid to what they would understand (in other words, complicated words for verb tenses were out - "past", "present" or "future" worked well, with the promise of learning more as they grew more experienced in the language).

    One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you, though, is the one that probably will make the most sense to you.  Take the time to figure them out.  See what motivates them.  What do they like to do on the weekends?  What music do they listen to?  What videogames are they playing?  Use that info creatively to make it look like what they have to learn is what they really want to learn, and you'll be all set.

    I know this isn't French-specific, but it's a little experience-acquired wisdom for you.  Also, make sure YOU are having fun with them - and don't beat yourself up if you try something and it doesn't work.  Just laugh it off and promise yourself not to do it the next time!

    Good luck, and hang in there!


    Anna Jacobson
    Princeton University

  • 3.  RE: Middle School: in search of strategies, resources, any advice!!

    Posted 09-26-2018 15:59

    Hopefully your time with the middle school students  so far has been engaging.  I taught middle school french for 10 years and I have to say the 7th graders were my favorite.  Don't forget to add fun songs for learning the numbers and alphabet.  Alain LeLait alain le lait - Yahoo Video Search Results
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    The kids love these silly videos, even though they are very elementary.  I only had my students one marking period a year so I was very limited with what I could teach.  Hopefully you have the students all year.

    Karen LaFragola
    Veterans Memorial Middle School