Friday, April 27, 2018

"Teaching" subjunctive

I got a huge kick in the pants yesterday during a one-day workshop from TPRS Books (they offered it free of charge to a local district, which was kind enough to open it to any teachers in the area).  Mike Coxon and Craig Sheehy were the presenters (full disclosure, I was there to be trained to become a trainer in the future).

I think that this time of year is a great time to do a re-start (and probably would have been even better last month...but I'll take what I can get).  I learned/was reminded of so much that I brought to the classroom today.

First, I had gotten lazy about requiring choral responses and was losing kids because of it.  So I started with that, saying, "When I say Classe, you say Oui!  Classe? Oui! Classe? Oui!"

Next, yesterday at training, Mike Coxon put me on the spot and said that he wanted to learn some subjunctive.  Confession: I'm not good at it and I'm never sure if you do or don't use it with vouloir (to want)...but I went with it on the spot and then looked it up later.  So, I had two actors.  I started by saying, "Classe, il voulait que Shakira soit sa copine."  Then I checked in with the actor, "Bart, est-ce que tu veux que Shakira soit ta copine?"  "Est-ce que tu veux que Shakira soit ma copine?"  Etc.

So, today I decided to try it out in class.  I had two actors: my first actor we talked about who she did/did not want to be her boyfriend.  Second person, I told the class that I had a magic wand (and I pulled out my awesome hand-carved wand) and I need to find out what we wanted her to be able to do "Qu'est-ce qu'on veut qu'elle puisse faire?"  In first hour, we decided that we wanted the actress to be able to transform into a tiger.  So, I got out my wand, said my magic spell, cut the lights, and the actress disappeared (hid in the back of the room) and was replaced by a stuffed tiger.  Hilarity!

The third sentence was that I told my kids that I wanted that they all go to France with me next summer.  "Je veux que vous alliez en France avec moi."

It was great.  My first hour was super into it and laughing and really playing the game well.  And I was so impressed with how I was able to make the subjunctive seem useful and meaningful.  Thanks Mike, for pushing me!!  And, if I made mistakes with the subjunctive, please let me know because I am NOT great at explicit grammar instruction myself, so I can't figure this out on my own!!  And there are only a few phrases that I have acquired and they don't always match up with what is useful to students.

Edit: Since posting this, a couple of awesome-sauce teachers reached out to tell me that I had an error, which I have since fixed.  If I ever make a mistake, I hope you all will tell me about it.  And I will assume that it is coming from a place of love and not judgement.  We're all in this together, right?

Second thing that happened is that a lot of people said that we should just use the subjunctive when it comes up naturally.  Absolutely.  But, in my non-native speech, it hasn't been coming out naturally, so I need to force it a bit so it starts to become natural.  Teaching TPRS has been the best thing I've ever done for my own French.  Before teaching, "Il lui a dit" would NEVER have come out of my mouth on its own.  But, because I forced myself to start using it in stories from the very beginning of French 1, it now falls out of my mouth as well as my students' mouths.  So, in summary...YES, the subjunctive should not be "taught" should be used naturally.  But I am forcing it a bit to make it work for me.

Here are some videos that a student snuck.  She thought she was soooo sneaky.  But I was happy to have the video of a happy class and she agreed to share with me what she took.

PS-I make mistakes.  I'm not a superhuman.  I hate watching myself.  I cringe hearing the errors my French 3s make.  BUT the love of the language and each other is there.  I hope you can see it.

Video 1
Video 2
Video 3


  1. Thanks for posting some great ideas!

    BTW: Je veux que vous "alliez" en France avec moi.

  2. Bess, you are such an inspiration for me using TPRS with your French classes! I hope to be able to incorporate TPRS in mine this year. And I’m so glad to have discovered your blog!