Hands-on practice for French si clauses!

Kinesthetic learning activity for practicing French si clauses

French si clauses are so tricky!  If you want your students to really master them, you'll need to find some fun and effective ways for students to practice.  Here is my students' favorite way to practice si clauses with le conditionnel and le futur simple.

Related: French si clause writing activity

Each page has a si clause and another clause either in the conditional or the future.  Simply cut out each sentence clause, have students place them face up on their desks, then match the correct si clause with its corresponding clause.  You can easily walk the room and check their progress by using the original copy as your teacher key.

Hands-on practice makes French si clauses so much more fun and easy to understand.

To help students understand that the si clause can come at the beginning or end of the sentence, some sentences will start with the si clause and others will end with it.  The result clause is always underlined, so students will know to match two different types of clauses.

Hands-on practice makes French si clauses so much more fun and easy to understand.

Find this si clause activity at my TpT store here.

Your students will love it, and it will really help them understand the structures:
si + imparfait -->  conditionnel  and si + présent --> futur simple.

Want to add even more challenge?  Have them write their own si clauses as a follow-up homework assignment.  You can then use those sentences as bellwork, quiz questions, or another homework for those who need more practice!

I hope this makes si clauses fun for your students!  

Want even more practice for le conditionnel?  

Grab the bundle HERE!

French si clause practice your students will love!

Teaching French si clauses can be really difficult, because we often are teaching it after years of heavy grammar.  Students memorize conjugations, do some written quizzes, maybe do a project, and then move on to the next chapter, the next set of conjugations.

After several years of French, some of the students probably feel a little ... bored.   Are they able to memorize things? Without a doubt, some of the students can memorize any conjugation and recite to us out loud an entire verb chart (or 10).  Does that mean that they are understanding when and how to use those verbs?  Does it mean they can use them correctly in conversation?  Maybe, but chances are, some of our students mix up their tenses.  They can recall the conjugations, but after the futur simple, the imparfait, and maybe even the subjonctif, will they be able to flow through a normal conversation using the correct tense?  Most of the time, they need a lot more fun practice like this:

Teach conditional sentences with an engaging writing activity for French class.

Of all the verb tenses, the conditional is by far my favorite!  We love si clauses, and we often plays games of "What if..."  To get you started, you'll need to get students used to speaking in hypothetical terms.  This writing and speaking activity is a great way to get students used the conditional by speaking and writing in the 1st person.

I start the activity with writing prompts that I put on the wall on poster paper.  I use about 10-12 different prompts and posters for a class of 20-25.  I often have 2 or more classes doing this activity, so when I do, I might put 2 posters (or a larger poster) for each question to accommodate all of their answers.
Writing practice for French conditional si clauses.

Writing activity for French conditional si clauses.

Click here to see this writing resource at my TpT store!

Students do a tour of the room in pairs and complete the si clauses.  They aren't necessarily working together, but I do pairs because my room won't hold 25 posters.  This allows two students to work on the same question at a time.  They will work with that partner later, though, so be sure to pair them up well.

Related:  Grouping students has never been so easy!

The writing part of this activity will take about 1 minute per question.  You can give the students 30-45 seconds that you time, or you can have them do a self-paced tour.  If you have 10-12 questions, you should plan for 10-15 minutes to do the writing portion.

Because they only get about 30 seconds per question, you will notice that not every answer is 100% correct.  That's okay.  We do this as sort of a brainstorming activity.  Once students have done the tour of the room, then they sit back down with their partners and go over  their answers orally.   Each student should answer the questions with his/her partner and explain why he/she answered that way.  I usually give my classes about 7-10 minutes to do this part so that they can use references to find any vocabulary they were lacking during the first activity.  After students have had ample time to work with a partner, I randomly question students.

As a follow-up, you can use one last question as an exit ticket.  I usually ask students to answer and then explain why they answered that way.  I give them about 3-4 minutes to write a quality answer and turn it in.

Need FREE exit tickets?  Get them here!

In total, this activity usually takes about 35 minutes with teacher directions, movement time, follow-up questions, and the exit ticket.  I usually do it after students have learned the irregular stems of the conditional and are beginning to work on si clauses.  It is a good idea to make sure they understand the structure Si + imparfait --> conditionnel before doing it though, or you will find many sentences ending in the imparfait.

Using French si clauses doesn't have to be tricky, and it can be a ton of fun. Just look for fun conditional clauses and encourage students to imagine their lives using the futur simple, and they'll be making their own great sentences in no time.

Related: Hand-on practice for French si clauses

Engaging French writing activity using si clauses with the conditional tense.

Want more progress? Use quality assessments!

Using assessments is an essential part of teaching, but it is important that we find meaningful ways to assess our French students.

I almost didn't get in to kindergarten.  I say almost, because obviously I would not be writing this if I hadn't made my way through school. I went to school for many years, but that first fateful kindergarten round-up could have gone quite differently and put me on a different path with different teachers and different friends.  Who knows?  If I was held back that year, would I have made the same choices and become the same person?  No one can say, but luckily, they let me in.

You see, at kindergarten round-up, you had to be able to complete certain tasks before they would say you were ready.  Now, this doesn't mean they wouldn't ever let you in, but they did recommend that you waited if they thought you weren't not ready.  I know they still do this, because over many years as a middle school teacher, I've had many parents admit they wish they'd listened when the school told them their child might not be ready.  (What do schools know about stuff like that anyways, parents?)

A bad day at school can upset a child.

Maybe, just maybe, in my time, parents listened to teachers more.  I know my mother certainly thought what the teachers said was GOLD.  But... there were those moments when my mother challenged teachers, and that was huge, because she was the ultimate PTA mom, room helper, cookie baker, and best friend to all teachers.  When my mama challenged you, it was about to get ugly.

Well, the day of kindergarten round-up, I went to school with my mom.  I'm the last of 4 kids, so everyone knew my family.  My brother and sisters were all high-achievers, and the expectation for me to be as well was surely very high.  However, as able as I probably was, I was TERRIFIED of strangers.  I'm still very shy, but I wouldn't say terrified.  An extended conversation face-to-face with someone I don't know still freaks me out, but I put on my big girl pants and get on with it.

We go to the round-up and they give me whatever the assessments were that they used to test readiness. I remember thinking I did well and that it was easy, so you can imagine my confusion and embarrassment when they told my mom I was probably not ready because I had trouble with my colors.  My mom immediately questioned the woman, because she knew this wasn't true.  You see, they had asked us to identify the colors by pointing at them, and I wouldn't point out red.  When my mom, point blank, asked me why not, I replied, "It wasn't red, it was magenta."  (If you are wondering, I actually do  remember this day pretty well, but I'm sure that my memory of it was aided by my mom who told the story.  A lot.)

This brings me to my point.  Are we SURE that kids don't know something or is it POSSIBLE that our assessments aren't so great?  If the person assessing me had asked me to tell her the colors instead of pointing them out, this wouldn't have even been a problem.  I say maybe we need to look at the questions we ask and decide:
1.  Are they age appropriate?
2.  Are we using follow-up questions to make sure kids don't understand?
3.  Could they be confusing to kids?
4.  Is there another way to find out if kids can do the skill?
5.  Is a child's inability to do another task impeding his ability to show mastery of a certain skill?

Now, for question 5, this one has been on my mind a lot lately.  My son, who started reading Magic Tree House books in kindergarten, has always been a strong reader in English.  As a bilingual, he might read a little better in French right now, but as the skills are transferable, we work on reading skills often in both languages.  We read every night and when he reads without me, he tells me all about Jack and Annie, the places they go, and the adventures they have.  He can describe them in detail.  So, as a certified English teacher who taught Communication Arts for 5 years, I was confused when his teacher reported that he does not understand setting.  This guy can tell me, in detail, every aspect of setting from the story he just read.  I know he gets it.  Why doesn't she?

So, he came home last night with his assessment over setting.  There was one question where students were asked to draw the setting.  One.  There were no more questions.  Just that.  Draw the setting.  Well, I have a child who HATES to draw, so he halfway attempted a few stick figures standing in a few stick-like trees.  He didn't score so well.  Another assessment, draw the character.  Again, stick figure (this time of a teddy bear) and he got marked off because it didn't LOOK like a teddy bear.  Again, low score, because no effort is going to be put into drawing by him.  We've talked about it, and I've explained that his teacher thinks he doesn't understand, because he's not showing it.  He shrugs, says he can't draw well and that this is a stupid way for her to see if he gets it.

Wow!  Straight from the mouth of a seven year-old.  After looking at my son's reaction, it's clear to me that this isn't really testing his knowledge of setting, but more his ability, or more accurately, his effort, to draw the setting.  Is it possible that this isn't a great way to assess all children?  As a teacher, I would never assume to know what a teacher is doing in class, nor would I overstep my boundaries in the parent-teacher world and say a teacher is not doing a quality job, because that is just not fair.  Should my son work harder to complete the expected task?  Yes, he should, but I do think assessments should be geared towards assessing the actual skills we want to see rather than penalizing students for not being proficient at another task, such as drawing.  I am fortunate enough to be an educator, so when I see things on my son's report card that don't seem right, I can further assess to see if he is proficient.  If he needs improvement, we work on those skills.  If he can show understanding and mastery in another way, I'm good with that.  Sadly, grade cards and standardized tests reflect the understanding demonstrated by assessments that might not accurately reflect student understanding.

As a teacher, I have asked kids to draw before.  I don't grade them on the drawing, of course, but I do ask them to show that they understand.  It isn't THE assessment, but it might be part of my toolkit to see if students get it.   Now, as I've never taught first grade, I don't presume to know what they can do to show understanding of setting, but I do know it is much less than the middle schoolers and high schoolers I taught.  So, what would be a good way to assess here?  I don't claim to know much about our littlest learners, but I do know that we need to try different ways to figure out if kids get it.

As I have spent the majority of my years teaching French, either as second language or as a dual language, I'd like to look at this from a foreign language point of view.

Here are some questions that come to mind when I look at my own methods of assessing:

Do I assess speaking and listening as much as reading and writing?

Teachers who do this will often see that kids who aren't the best spellers might actually learn aurally, so wouldn't this be a great way to quiz vocabulary?  How about following up a fun speaking activity with a speaking quiz?  I have designed all of my Find Someone Who activities to be used as in-class activities, but each resource includes a follow-up homework and speaking rubrics so they can be used as interview-style speaking quizzes.

Find someone who activities are a great way to get French students up and speaking.

Related:  Get your students speaking French!  

Do I provide choice with projects?

If a student hates to draw, can they write about the topic?  Or conversely, if a student hates to write, could we allow them to draw, or present, or make a movie about the topic?  Here's a glimpse at a project from a French 2 class that I love.  Students write about themselves in the present tense, then write about their life as a child, then predict what their life will be like in the future.  The writing is not perfect, but it is pretty good for a second-year student!

This French project is a really fun way to encourage students to work with the futur simple and the imparfait and really show what they understand.

In this project, students have a choice of the questions they will answer, which makes the project a lot more fun and interesting for them.  When time allows, I have students read them to a small group or present them in class.

Click here to see this project in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Related: 10 tips for using projects in French

Do I vary my own teaching?

I'm guilty!   I love to read and write, and I hate to draw and speak in front of people.  As a new teacher, I relied very heavily on written activities because they fit in my own comfort zone, but I was doing a disservice to my kids.  Now, my classes are a mix of speaking, writing, moving, listening, acting, and so much more.  I was hesitant to try new things, thinking the kids would hate them, but enrollment in my classes increased greatly when I did this, because kids spread the word : French class is FUN!

Related : Learning a Foreign Language Should be Fun!

Do I assess the same skill in a variety of ways?

If you gave a written quiz, would you also follow it up with a speaking quiz or a presentation?  If you asked kids to draw, would you also ask them to write about it?
In order to really evaluate how well our students understand, we need to use a variety of ways to assess students, rather than relying solely on pencil and paper tasks that may not truly reflect their understanding.
My grammar bundles include games, speaking activities and quizzes, guided notes, writing exercises, projects and/or oral presentations.  There are so many ways to see if students are understanding, and the variety keeps students happy.
Here is a peek inside my passé composé bundle at few easy ways to assess students.

1.  Speaking cards 
This speaking activity for practicing the passé composé is one of my Mme R's most popular resources.

2.  Exit ticket tickets
These exit tickets come included in many French grammar and vocabulary packets from Mme R's French Resources.

3.  PowerPoint presentation - Mon Voyage à Paris
This fun passé composé project is a great way to assess French speaking and writing.

And of course, there is a standard grammar packet with pages of worksheets that will help your students practice and review the passé composé.

Here's what's included in this bundle: 

3 Find someone who activities with follow-up written component and rubrics for an interview-style quiz

Do I ask kids what they like?

The best way to find out what works for a student is to ask.  Even my first-grader will tell you his favorite way to practice something.  This may not mean we can always do what the students want, but it will give us some insight into what their strengths are, and it will help us understand when our assessment tells us that they can't do it, but they say, "Yes we can!"

I know we have a lot on our plates.  With constant paperwork, benchmarking, ever-changing standards, new students, new expectations, new....everything, a lot of us are just trying to get by.  We can't do it all, and we will burn out if we try.  But, what if we tried, once per unit, to do a different type of assessment than the textbook-provided quiz?  What if we asked students what they wanted to do and found a new, fun project instead of a test?  What if we looked at how we balance assessments to see if we are relying too much on one set of skills?

As teachers, we grow each year, and even as a veteran, my eyes were opened by my son's assessment.  I know I do a good job, but I know there is still so much more I could do, so I'm going to keep trying, and I'm going to keep getting better every year.

What do you think?  When are assessments just not good enough, and what can we do to really see if kids understand?