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Friday, 29 October 2021

Middle School Math - Exploring Ratios with Manipulatives

This activity is a great low floor, high ceiling hands-on math activity that takes zero prep and had all of my kids fully engaged. 

My 6th graders this year love to use their hands and build. So, to help them better understand ratios, I decided to bring out the manipulatives. 

First, I asked my students to find one or two partners, then in their groups select a collection of items from our manipulatives bins. I had tangrams, pattern blocks, beads, unifix cubes, cuisinaire rods, and place value blocks, but this could work with any manipulatives that you may have in your classroom.

When they had their items, I asked them to find as many ratios they could to describe relationships between their items. 

For the collection above, they might find the following ratios.
  • triangles to hexagons = 7:3
  • unifix cubes to beads = 5:20
  • green triangles to triangles = 4:7
  • yellow to red = 9:3
I gave my students about 15 minutes to find and record as many ratio relationships as they could, in as many ways as possible. When they had found as many as they could, they then we went around to a few different groups to see if they could find even more ratio relationships.

Next, I challenged the students to build a design with their items with a green:yellow ratio of 6:4. Here are some of their designs.

Most groups chose to only use green and yellow items, but I was encouraged to see that a few used other colours, as well. 

One group reduced the ratio to its simplest form of green:yellow 3:2 and created this design:

I loved that this activity allowed all of my students to participate at their own level. My struggling students were able to recognize relationships and record them as ratios in their collections, and still create a design with the given ratio. My proficient students were able to find a lot of relationships between the items in their collections, and were able to record part to whole ratios as fractions. My extending students were able to show the challenge 6:4 in different ways.

If you try something like this in your class, let me know how it goes in the comments below.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

How I structure my Middle School Core French blocks

The number one question I get asked by colleagues and customers is "How do you structure your Core French blocks?" Because it is such a common request, I thought I'd share it here.

In my middle school, our blocks are 52 minutes long. I try to fit in some opportunity for students to speak, listen to, read, and write French in every block, but it doesn't always work out that way for timing purposes. If I don't have time and have to cut something, I make sure that I never cut out speaking. I want my students to speak French every single day.

Here is a sample structure for a typical middle school French block:

1.    Date and Weather report (2-3 minutes)

a.    The first unit I teach in Core French is weather and calendar. This allows for all the students to have familiar vocabulary and framework so that we can start every day with a brief weather report. I will welcome the students in French and tell them the date, then I ask “Quel temps fait-il?” and ask for volunteers to answer, giving the current weather conditions. I have a class list and check off who answers each day in order to choose someone new each time. Alternatively, you could assign this task to a different student each day. Here are the resources I use to introduce weather and calendar with my students.

2.    Question du Jour (10-15 minutes)

a.    This is my assurance that every student is speaking French at least once in the block. For this activity, I create a question, usually something that fits in to the theme or unit we are studying. I usually have the question written on the board as they come into class. A question during a family unit could be “As-tu des cousins ou des cousins?” A question during a sports unit could be “Aimes-tu jouer au football?”

b.    We discuss the question and I ask the student what they think it means. I also use this time to point out grammatical elements/pronunciation of the words so they can make the connection to how the French is written and what it sounds like. Then we brainstorm possible answers. I like to write down the possible outcomes so that the students have a visual to refer to.

c.    Once the class understands the question, everyone stands up. I ask the question to a student, who answers it and asks it to another student. Once a student has answered the question and asked someone else, they sit down.

d.    The question is passed through the classroom in the same way. The last student standing asks me the question to complete the loop.

e.    This activity takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on how long the brainstorming piece takes. Later in the year, my class usually has it down to 8-10 minutes from beginning to end.

3.    Mini lesson (10-15 minutes)

a.    After we’ve done the question of the day, this is where I will teach a mini-lesson. I might introduce new vocabulary or grammar structures, or review something we’ve done in the past that the class hasn’t quite grasped.

4.    Independent practice (15-20 minutes)

a.    After my mini-lesson, I will give the students something to work on to practice the skills they’ve just learned. This could be a worksheet, puzzle, dialogue, poster, etc. Students might be working independently or with a partner. At the beginning of a new unit, I might use the mini lesson to introduce a new set of vocabulary, then use the practice time to give the students puzzles to practice the new words. If I’m teaching a new verb, the practice might be a game to help conjugate or make sentences.

5.    Game (5-10 minutes)

a.    I like to end my French blocks with games. Some of my students’ favourites are Loto! and Zut! You can read more about these games (and a few others) here.

My Beginner French resources include everything you'll need for the independent practice part of your French blocks. They include vocabulary lists, vocabulary puzzles, verbs, grammar, dialogues, reading comprehension activities, and more! I have units on many different themes, including families, food, music, pets, animals, sports, and more.

So what do you think? Would this structure work for your class? Do you do something differently that you'd like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 12 August 2021

Free Back to School French Activity!


Back to School time is just around the corner for us here in BC. For my FSL classes, I like to start the year off with a study (or review) of basic greetings and introductions. That way, we can get to know each other and speak French at the same time.

Here is a free FSL greetings and introductions packet that can be used with beginner French students or as a review for those kids who may need a reminder after the summer break!

Click on the picture to get this free packet!

How do you like to begin your year in FSL? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, 5 August 2021

10 Games for Middle School Math

I love to add games into my Middle School math lessons. So much learning happens when students play games, not just because the content of the games relates to curriculum, but because when they are playing, they are engaged in the material and are applying theory in a context that makes sense.

Here are 10 of my favourite games to play during my math blocks.

1. Cribbage

Cribbage is a great game for mental math skills, addition, and strategy.

Materials: Cribbage Board, Deck of Cards

Objective: Be the first to score 121 points

Number of Players: 2-3

How to Play

Play Online

2. Achi

Achi is a simple game, but takes concentration and strategy.
Materials: Achi Board, 4 pieces for each player
Objective: be the first player to get three pieces in a row
Number of Players: 2

3. Make 100

This game is great to practice basic operations. My students really love it, especially the end when everyone is hovering around 100 and they need to add, then subtract, then add again. 

Materials: 2 dice, paper and pencil

Objective: Be the first to get exactly 100

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play: Take turns rolling 2 dice.  You may add, subtract, multiply or divide the two numbers.  Keep a running total. The first player to get a total of exactly 100 is the winner.

4. Farkle

Farkle is a great game for mental math, multiplication, addition, and probability.

Materials: 6 dice, paper, pencil

Objective: Be the first to score 10 000 points

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play

Play Online

5. Yahtzee

Yahtzee is a great game for addition and multiplication. Players also have to consider probability as part of their strategies.

Materials: 5 dice, Yahtzee score sheet, pencil

Objective: To have the highest score after 13 rounds

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play

Download Yahtzee Score Sheet

Play Online

6. Territory

Territory is a great game to practice multiplication and to relate multiplication to area. There are a lot of different ways that this game can be played. I always introduce it to my students the way it is written below, then they come up with new rules and procedures and turn it into something else. This is always a favourite among my class. I have individual white boards with grids on the back, and any time the students have free choice time, they grab one of the boards and start playing territory.

Materials: 2 dice, grid paper, two different colour markers

Objective: Claim the most territory

Number of Players: 2

How to Play: Players take turn rolling two dice. After each roll, the player makes an array on the grid using the scores from the dice. Play continues until a player can’t draw an array on the grid (because there isn’t enough open space left). The winner is the player with the most territory claimed.

7. Chess

Chess is another favourite in my classroom. My students love it so much, I brought in extra chess sets so that there wasn't such a line for who would play next. It's a game that takes a short time to learn, but a lifetime to master. It's all about strategy and anticipating your opponent's moves.

Materials: Chess Board with Pieces

Objective: To Checkmate the other player’s king

Number of Players: 2

How to Play

Play Online

8. Get to 1000!

Get to 1000 is a staple game in my classroom. I usually play it on the first or second day of the year because it's quick to learn. Then, I can pull it out any time we have a spare 15 minutes and the kids love it. If I am unexpectedly away from school, I can simply tell my sub to play Get to 1000 as the math lesson for the day. I would recommend that you laminate the score sheets, or put them in page protectors and use dry erase markers to play the game. These get used a lot, so I'd rather not waste so much paper if I don't have to.

Materials: 1 die, “Get to 1000” score sheet, pencil

Objective: Be the closest to 1000 without going over after 10 rolls.

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play: Roll a die. Decide whether you will multiply the value of the roll by 1, 10, or 100 then complete the multiplication. Add your product to your total. The person who comes closest to 1000 by the end of 10 rolls is the winner.

Students can play this in partners, but I like to play it as a whole class. I roll the dice under the document camera, then the class has to make their choices in real time. As we get closer to the end of the game, they start to shout out the numbers they want to fulfil their strategy ("Ms. Wiens, I really need a 3, then a 4 and I'll get 1000 exactly!"). When we play all together, I end the game by asking the class to stand if they think they have the winning score. We go through the players standing to see who has the closest to 1000.

There are often several winners, and there are only so many choices per roll. It's great to see what kind of strategy emerges.

Download a copy of the score sheet

9. Dara

Dara is a game of strategy that comes from Nigeria. It's pretty simple to play, but takes strategy to plan ahead and set up your board to be successful.

Materials: Dara Board, 12 pieces for each player

Objective: Be the first to eliminate 10 of your opponent’s pieces.

Number of Players: 2

How to Play

Download a printable Dara Board

10. Fraction War

This game is great for comparing fractions. Since it doesn't matter in this game if there are repeats, I find this is also a great game for all the "odds and ends" decks (extra cards that don't make full decks) that I know are in every middle school math classroom! 

Materials: Deck of cards with face cards taken out

Objective: Win all of your opponent’s cards

Number of Players: 2

How to Play: This game is played very similarly to the card game war, but instead of trying to flip the highest card, you want to flip the largest fraction.

Split the deck into two equal halves. Each player takes one half and at the same time, flips two cards face up, one above the other on the table. The two cards make a fraction with the top card as the numerator and the bottom card as the denominator. The player who makes the larger fraction wins all 4 cards and adds them to their deck. If the fractions are equal, the players flip again and battle for those cards, plus the four new cards. Play continues until one player has captured all of their opponent’s cards. Aces count as 1.

So, which of these games are tried and true in your class? Which of these would you like to try? Do you have other math games that I should know about? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, 29 July 2021

10 Fun Games and Activities for the Middle School Core French Classroom


French is one of my favourite subjects to teach, especially at the Middle School level. In BC, students begin taking French in Grade 5. When I get them in Grade 6, they have an initial understanding of vocabulary, and it's amazing to see how much growth can occur in just one year. Last year, my class was so excited in February to be reading (and understanding) this French text during our study of Francophone communities in Canada.

This text comes from the TpT store Les Ressources de Mme Bedard

Here are 10 tried and true activities and games that can bring some variety and fun to your FSL classroom!

1. Question du Jour (Question of the Day)

What? (purpose of the activity)

This activity gives a low-stress way for every student to speak French everyday, practice asking and answering questions, and connect letter patterns with pronunciation.

How? (steps)

  • Create a question. 
    • I like to ask questions that fit in with the theme of the unit we’re studying at the time. I usually have the question written on the board as they come in to class.
  • Brainstorm possible answers.
    • I ask the students to brainstorm how to answer in different ways and write the answers on the board so that the students feel more confident and comfortable speaking.
    • I go over how to pronounce the question and possible answers and the students repeat back.
  • All students stand up.
  • I ask the question to one student. That student answers, then asks someone else and so on.
  • Once a student has answered the question, then asked another one, they sit down.
  • The last student standing answers the question, then asks the question to me to complete the chain.

2. Grid Puzzle

What? (purpose of the activity)

This activity allows students to work as part of a team to achieve a goal, and to recognize the connection between English and French vocabulary.

How? (steps)

  • Fill in the 4 x 4 grid so that each French word is facing its English translation.
  • Make a copy of the grid for each pair/team.
  • Cut along the lines so that you have 16 pieces.
  • Ask the students to piece the puzzle back together so that all the French words are facing their English translations.
  • Consider making it a race, and give the first team to complete the puzzle a prize.
  • Consider using this as an intro to a new unit to see what words they already know or can figure out (by using cognates, etc.), or as a review game for the end of a unit.
  • I like to put a line on the outside edges to give the students a bit of a clue.

3. Loto! 

What? (purpose of the activity)

This is a fun review game for vocabulary. It also helps students to make a connection between how French words are written and how they are pronounced.

How? (steps)

  • This game works like Bingo.
  • Give your students a blank 4x4 or 5x5 grid and have them fill each box with a vocabulary word from your unit. I like to give my students a vocabulary list that they can use to build their Loto board, so that they have the same words as I do.
  • Make a copy of each of the vocabulary words for yourself on small slips of paper and put them in a paper bag.
  • One at a time, pull out a vocab word and call it out. If a student has the word on their board, they can mark the word. I usually give my students counters, buttons, or other small items to use to mark the squares, rather than having them cross out the word with pencil. That way, we can re-use the boards and play again.
  • The first student to cross out a full line jumps up and shouts “Loto!”
  • To win, I have my students tell me the words they marked and what they mean in English.
  • You can set the goal to win as whatever you’d like: one line, two lines, outside edges, blackout, etc.
  • I like this game because as I am calling out the words in French, the students need to recognize the words as they are written to know which words have been called. 

4. Traversez la classe 

What? (purpose of the activity)

This listening activity gives students a chance to practice vocabulary. It incorporates physical education, too. My students ask to play this all the time!

How? (steps)

  • Move the furniture aside so that you have a clear space in the classroom, or bring your class to the gym or outside.
  • Have half the class stand on one side of the space, and half on the other.
  • You will say “Traversez la classe si tu…” (Cross the room if you…) and fill in the rest of the sentence with whatever vocabulary you’re working on.
    • For example, when I teach my clothing unit, I use “…si tu portes…” (…if you are wearing…) and fill in clothing words. For an animal unit, you can use “…si tu as…” (…if you have…) or “…si tu veux…” (…if you want…) then add an animal word.
  • Anyone who fits the category runs across the open space.
  • You can extend this to make it a tag game as well if you have someone in the middle of the open space trying to tag the runners.
    • I’ve also made this more advanced by having the “it” person come up with the next call.

5. Trouvez quelqu'un qui... (Find someone who...)

What? (purpose of the activity)

This is a simple speaking/listening activity that gets students up and moving and talking to each other in French. It helps with practicing vocabulary and asking and answering questions.

How? (steps)

  • Decide on which questions you will use based on the theme of your unit. The questions should each begin with “find someone who…” ("trouvez quelqu’un qui…”)
  • For example, in a food unit, you could use “Aimes-tu manger…” as your question stem, then fill in each line with a different food. In a sports unit, your stem could be “Aimes-tu jouer…” with different types of sports. In a pets unit, you could ask “As-tu des…” and complete the questions with different animals.
  • Have the students go to each other and ask them the questions. Once they find someone who says “oui,” they can record that name on their page.
  • Students are not allowed to use the same name more than once, so they must ask a lot of different people.
  • After each student has found someone to fit each question, I usually go through and ask for volunteers for each question. For example: “Qui a un chien?” (Who has a dog?). Students respond with the name they recorded on their form.

6. Interview and Present

What? (purpose of the activity)

This is a simple activity that allows students to practice speaking and listening, and gives them a chance to express their likes and dislikes.

How? (steps)

  • Separate students into pairs.
  • Students will ask each other “Est-ce que tu aimes…” or “Aimes-tu…” (Do you like…) questions. The end of the question will depend on the vocabulary theme you are working on (food, animals, colours, etc.).
  • Students will answer in full sentences, and their partners will record the answers.
  • After each partner has asked and answered their questions, each student will prepare a short presentation to the class, describing the likes and dislikes of their partner.
    • Mon partenaire s’appelle…
    • Mon partenaire aime…
    • Mon partneaire n’aime pas…
  • Alternatively, you can have the students write a short paragraph about their partners’ likes and dislikes.
  • You can extend this to have students include reasons for their likes and dislikes.

7. This or That? 

What? (purpose of the activity)

This activity gives students a chance to express reasons for their preferences. It also allows for practice with adverbs of quantity (trop, assez, beaucoup, etc.) and adjectives.

How? (steps) 

  • Choose two elements that relate to the theme of your unit (two different animals for an animal unit, two different foods for a food unit, etc.).
  • Have the students choose which one they like better and describe why.
  • This can be done in writing or verbally
  • Students can come up with the pairings, or you can decide for them.
  • You could extend this to a whole class activity by having the students move to one side of the room or the other to indicate their preferences, then try to persuade others to join their side by offering reasons for their preferences.

8. Heads Up! (Suis je...) 

What? (purpose of the activity)

This is a fun, interactive activity to help students practice vocabulary and ask and answer simple questions. 

How? (steps) 

  • Make flash cards for the vocabulary unit you’re studying, or have the students make them. (I like to laminate the cards so that they’ll last). Make enough for each student to have their own.
  • Each student will get a card and hold it up to their forehead without looking at it.
  • Students walk around the room and have other students give them clues, or act out the word until they guess their own word.
  • To guess, students will ask “Suis je…?” (Am I…?).
  • Once a student guesses their word, they hand back in the card but keep playing until  everyone knows their word.
  • Alternatively, you can give 2 or 3 copies of each card out and students have to find the other students with the same card.
  • You can extend this by having the students ask each other questions in French to help guess the word.
    • For example, if you are using animal vocabulary, your students can ask “Est-ce que j’habite dans le mer?” (Do I live in the ocean) “Est-ce que j’ai une crinière?” (Do I have a mane), etc.

9. Memory Matching Game

What? (purpose of the activity)

This is a fun game that students can play on their own in free time, or with a partner to practice vocabulary words.

How? (steps)

  • Give students pairs of cards with a French word and a matching image.
  • Students turn each card upside down and mix them up so that they don’t know which card is where.
  • One at a time, students turn over two cards. If they are a match, the student gets to keep the pair and try again. If they are not a match, the student turns them back over and the other student gets a turn.
  • Play goes back and forth until all the cards are claimed.
  • The player with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner.
  • This can be adapted to include French and English words (instead of French words and images). You can also get students to create the cards themselves.
  • This can be further extended in higher grades to require students to create a full sentence using the French word before they can claim the cards.

10. Zut!

What? (purpose of the activity)

This is a fun game that helps students remember French numbers and can tie in to math outcomes about multiples.

How? (steps)

  • Ask the students to stand in a circle.
  • Choose a number to be the "Zut!" 
  • One at a time, students count in French around the circle, but for every multiple of your chosen number, the student must say "Zut" instead of the number.
  • For example, if the number is 4, then the first student would say "un." The next student says "deux." Then "trois." Then "zut!" (instead of quatre). The next student would go on to "cinq."
  • If a student is supposed to say zut, but says the number, that student is out. A student is also out if they count the wrong number. For example, if they count sept after cinq and forget six. A student is also out if they say zut when it isn't a multiple of the chosen number.
  • Every time a student is out, the next person starts back at un. I usually start the year by challenging my class to get all the way to 31 without a mistake. It's tricky, but last year's class made it to 31 before winter break!
  • Whenever we have a bit of time, my students always ask to play Zut! It's definitely a favourite.

Bonus Activities using a Verb Ball :

There are several ways to use a “Verb Ball” in your classroom. Here are a few I’ve done:


  • Write the standard subject pronouns (je, tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles) on a beach ball (or other soft ball that can be passed around the classroom).
  • Make sure to cover the ball with pronouns.


  • Have students pass the ball to one another.
  • The student who catches the ball will translate the subject pronoun under his or her thumb to English.


  • Have students pass the ball to one another. When a student tosses the ball, he or she will say a regular verb category (ER, RE, or IR).
  • The student who catches the ball will give the correct verb ending for the subject pronoun under his or her thumb.


  • This works for whatever verb you are working on at the time.
  • Have students pass the ball to one another.
  • The student who catches the ball will conjugate the verb for the subject pronoun under his or her thumb.
  • If you are working on a verb group (RE verbs, for example), the student who tosses the ball can choose a verb for the person who catches the ball to conjugate.

Which of these activities do you think could be useful in your FSL class? What other activities do you use that your kids love? Let me know in the comments.