Léo et Anton

Léo et Anton
Un livre de Theresa Marrama

Anton est une petite souris différente. Anton n’a pas peur des chats ! Il habite dans la forêt au Québec au Canada. Mais Anton n’est pas heureux. Il n’a pas d’amis mais son Papa ne veut pas qu’il explore la forêt seul !

Purchase this very cute book about friendship perfect for beginners here.

Playlist des chapitres de Léo et Anton

Other related stories:

Agen Takeaway #4: Reading

Reading is breathing and comprehensible texts are oxygen” as Martina Bex wrote in a great article about reading in class.

At #Agen2019, I attended another inspiring session by the amazing Alina Filipescu about Free Voluntary Reading (Alina also happens to be one of my French online learners , she is my favourite one 😉

What is FVR?

Free Voluntary Reading [FVR] means reading what you want to read, with no book reports, no questions at the end of the chapter, and not having to finish the book if you don’t want to.  Sustained silent reading provides children with an opportunity to do free voluntary reading in school.” Stephen D. Krashen

This is the opening of Alina’s thoughtful blog post about how she has been building a FVR/SSR program with her Spanish classes.

This is also what Alina explained during her plenary presentation in Agen. The KEY is not to have reading as a dreading activity BUT at the same time holding students accountable for what they do.

How to get students to read for pleasure?

How to achieve it? Alina suggested different components such as:

  • Sharing quotes about the positive impacts of reading. When I was teaching Spanish at Thuringia International School in Germany, I had posters in my classroom and in the school library about reading. I got most of them from  Bryce Hedstrom website. It has an extensive list of reading “quotes”.
  • Model pleasure reading during Sustained Silent reading (SSR). When my IB students were reading Spanish books, I would also read a German reader. Since most of my students were German, I would often ask them what a word meant in the book I was reading. That way, they knew they could also ask me or others in the class if they didn’t understand something about what they were reading. It made them feel comfortable about reading.
  • Help students find the right book. The first books your students read should be easy to read with 150 to 200 unique words at most. Although my students were in grade 11 and 12 at an IB level (intermediate level), I first recommended them to read such “easy” books to start with. They realized reading in Spanish was not that difficult, they enjoyed the stories because they could understand them, they gained confidence. They thought: ” Wow! I can read a book in Spanish!” and they wanted to read more. This combined with Story Listening made my students read many books of around 400 unique words and more.
  • Have students review the books they have read for the others. Alina showed how her students write a few things on a sticky note about the book and leave that on the cover when done. They can write if they liked the book (or not) and why OR they just draw how many stars (1-5) they would give the book. My students also did it and it was a great motivator for other students to read.
    They also had a log book where they wrote how many pages or chapters they read during a lesson. They also wrote some new words if they wanted to or some expressions they liked. That way, they were keeping track of their progress throughout the year.
  • Have a ROUTINE. My routine was and still is (with my online learners) to read every lesson or at least once a week ( if I don’t see my learners regularly). Reading is POWERFUL and the MORE your students READ, the MORE they will acquire the language.

En pratique

As Alina explained, you cannot have your students read a book in silence for 10 minutes from day 1. You need to prepare them, to lead them the way.

To me, Story Listening is the bridge to Free Voluntary reading. And here are the steps I follow to lead learners to read independently:

Story Listening enables students to hear French (or another language) and understand stories in French with the help of many different kinds of support. French is a difficult language to hear because the spelling doesn’t match the pronunciation, therefore Story Listening helps prepare to read as you write down words on the board and pronounce them at the same time.

Story Reading is introduced gradually and gently, using texts of high interest,so that students find the reading comprehensible and enjoyable. The goal is to establish a pleasure reading habit. Cécile Lainé wrote an excellent blog post about how to create enjoyable reading habits: Reading is fun, right?

What I do is I tell a story, then read it aloud to students. I also tell a story, then the students read a parallel story. For example with beginner learners, I would tell Des frites ! (which is actually based upon the children’s book by Stephanie Blake entitled ” Je veux des pâtes).

Then students read and listen to a similar story (available when you are a member on my site) which you can download now: Paul veut manger des pizzas !

I am now building a database of such stories from beginner to advanced levels on the membership site. More stories (as well as articles, biographies and poems) are added every week. They all come with audio so learners can listen to how the words are pronounced. They get used to reading in French fluently.

Guided self-selected reading is when you go to the library with your students and help them choose a “real” book. You might sit next to them and read the book with them to see if it is right for them (and also to get them started!). Cécile Lainé wrote another great blog post about reaching this stage: Toward self selected reading.

Free Voluntary Reading is the ultimate stage when learners have become AUTONOMOUS. They have reached an intermediate level and they can choose a book on their own and read them with joy!

What about you? What are you strategies to get your students to read?

P.S. The eBook (pdf) about the adventures of Marie et Médor avant Noël is now available: 24 scripts in the present and in the past tense, and there is an eBook for dyslexic learners too.

For as little as 4.75EUR/month, you can download all the eBooks AND you have access to many other French stories, biographies, poems and articles (with a Dyslexic mode) as well as the audio files. JOIN NOW!

Read about Agen Takeway #1: Very Narrow Listening

Read about Agen Takeway #2: Get to know your learners

Read about Agen Takeway #3: Story Listening


Agen Takeaway #3: Story Listening

As I mentioned in my second takeaway from #Agen2019, Story Listening is the CORE of all my lessons.


Because my IB Spanish students have achieved tremendous results in the past two years I have been teaching at Thuringia International School.

My online learners love listening to stories. Their affective filter is very low and they are receiving optimal input, input which is rich and at the same time compelling. Since I see most of them only once a week for one hour, they need optimal input to acquire French.

The benefits of Story Listening

Kathrin Shechtman did two amazing presentations about Story Listening in Agen. One about the basics of Story Listening and another one about Story Listening and Reading. I was so happy to see Kathrin as we  do a tandem online. We teach each other German and Spanish respectively through Story Listening. It allows to use the sessions to work on my teaching skills and to acquire German, of course!

All we need is a teacher who can tell stories and a library full of books.” Beniko Mason.

Kathrin told a story in German aimed at beginners with lots of repetitions in the story “In einem dunklen, dunklen Zimmer“. She made the story comprehensible with her drawings, her gestures and also how she explained the new words in German. For example, Kathrin explained the word “Wald” (forest in German) by saying there were many trees in a forest. She drew a tree, and said there was a tree. Then she drew another tree, and said there was another tree. She drew many trees and said there were many trees in the forest.

And just this week, Megan Hayes who teaches Spanish to elementary students in the US, wrote a fantastic blog post about why she loves Story Listening. I could not explain better than she does why Story Listening is so good. I can relate to all the points she mentions in her post.

One point is particularly TRUE: ” The way I feel feeding students a consistent diet of SL.  I feel satisfied, relaxed even, because I know like I’m providing them with an abundance of rich, contextualized and compelling input.  It’s the same feeling I get when I feed my daughters a healthy balanced meal, like, I did it! I provided the optimal meal, which they ate, so they can have a cookie if they want!  After a successful story, I have a parallel thought, such as, we can play a game or even go out to recess a bit early because they have taking in so much good stuff already!“.

How to implement it with your learners?

First of all, get rid of the “I can’t draw” feeling! I know how you feel, I feel the same: I CAN’T draw!!!

However, drawing is NOT important. It doesn’t matter if you are the worst drawer! What matters is that YOUR learners COMPREHEND the story. They should not comprehend every detail of the story, they should comprehend the story as a whole.

Carla Tarini, who is a US based teacher of French and author of French readers, commented today on the Facebook group for CI French teachers: “Not only does drawing slow you down but it shows students that you are a bit vulnerable and are taking a risk. That’s just what we ask them to do everyday in our classes. I’m terrible at drawing. But we get a lot of smiles and laughs out of it (lowering the affective filter). (Also, you could save yourself a ton of time in prep work if you don’t have to make slides.)“.

Once you are ready to draw, choose a story YOU enjoy. If you like this story, chances are your learners will enjoy it too. They will see and feel you like this story and they will want to listen to it.

Once you have chosen a good story you enjoy, make it comprehensible. Prepare a prompter. Use:

  1. Drawings
  2. Written Words
  3.  Gestures (Body Movements)
  4. Mimic (Facial Expressions)
  5. Synonyms/Antonyms, Suffix/Prefix, Parts of Speech, Word Families
  6. Student’s First Language
  7. Students’ Knowledge of World
  8. Slow & Clear Speech
  9. Shorter, Easier Sentences
  10. Change the Content of the Story for Easier Predictability
  11. Quick Explanation about the rules of the Language for those who are initially trained in traditional grammar teaching. The explanation may make the input more comprehensible.


Your are NOW ready to tell the story to your learners! If you are still unsure, watch demos here.

En pratique

Start with relatively short stories (10-15 minutes max) and gradually tell longer stories. Your learners need to build on the stamina to listen to longer richer stories. You need to be CONSISTENT and to tell stories regularly, not just once a month. Try to tell a story each lesson.

Make sure, you tell your learners they are going to listen to a story in French. They should JUST listen and enjoy the story. If they don’t get all the details in the story, it is NOT important. They should try and understand the story as a whole.

If your learners start to un-focus and to talk over you about something else, STOP, BREATHE, SMILE and WAIT until they are silent again. Continue to tell the story. If they start to interact and say things about the story, it is GOOD, it means they understand the story and are enjoying it!

At the end of the story, ask your learners to write a summary of the story in L1, or to draw or to re-tell the story to someone else. You can then evaluate how well they understood the story and how well you told it.

Here are the stories I have told so far to a total beginner. She is Chinese and  it was a challenge because of the cultural gap. There are some simple words she did not understand although it was obvious to me she would understand them. Therefore she needed stories with repetitions and with a simple plot (Thank you To Claire Walter who has done an amazing job in adding many, many stories to the Great Story Reading Project):

What do you think? Have you tried Story Listening with your learners?

P.S. To have access to many French stories, eBooks, biographies, poems and articles to read (with a Dyslexic mode) as well as the audio files for as little as 4.75EUR/month, join now!

P.P.S. The eBook (pdf) about the adventures of Marie et Médor avant Noël is on its way! 24 scripts in the present and in the past tense to be dowloaded SOON!
The Dyslexic eBook of le Livre numéro 1 – 30 petites histoires  is also to be dowloaded SOON!

Read about Agen Takeway #1: Very Narrow Listening

Read about Agen Takeway #2: Get to know your learners

Read about Agen Takeaway #4: Reading

Agen Takeaway #2: get to know your learners

Welcome back for those teachers who are already back to school! And even for those who aren’t yet, this post should be of great help to start the school year!

Last week, I was telling you about my first takeaway from #Agen2019: Very Narrow Listening presented by Judith Dubois (who also happens to run the conference). It struck a chord because I strongly believe LISTENING is the KEY to acquire a language AND to succeed in life!

My second takeaway is strongly linked with Listening.

Card Talk

I got to experience Card Talk being a learner in Justin Soclum Bailey Latin class. Justin started on the first day by asking us, the learners, to draw or write down on a sticky note something we enjoyed doing.

How best to start a whole week of Latin class? Magister Justin showed us from the start he wanted to get to know us first. He was genuinely interested in us as people.

When he had collected all the sticky notes, he picked some of them and he asked questions to the people concerned, about what they liked to do. Not only, was the teacher interested in their learners, the learners were also getting to know each other.

Alice likes to shoot arrows!

HOWEVER, Magister Justin never, at any point during the week, forced us to speak in Latin! There was NO forced output during the class. The teacher would always repeat and rephrase what the learner wanted to say. The objective was to know the class and to give comprehensible input.

Card Talk is very well explained by Martina Bex here. It doesn’t need tons of preparation and it is the best way to start the school year when you already feel overwhelmed with all the resources and activities out there!

Genuinely know your learners

I don’t teach in a school anymore but I do teach online mostly one to one. First, when I start a session, I want to know how the learner feels. We have a genuine conversation about feelings, the weather… Exactly as we would do in real life!

For example, just today, we started to have a natural conversation with a beginner learner. She told she was tired in English. I asked her: ” Pourquoi tu es fatiguée ce matin ? ” and she answered in English that she hadn’t slept enough. So I rephrased in French: ” Tu n’as pas suffisamment dormi, n’est-ce pas ? ” and I wrote ” suffisamment ” on the board as I was spelling it. Then I asked her: ” Pourquoi tu n’as pas suffisamment dormi ? ” and she explained she didn’t sleep at her house but at a friend’s house. So there came the chance to have ” chez moi / toi / ton ami ” on the board. I didn’t plan this, the conversation just happened and it was NATURAL.

After this “small talk”, I told the learner the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I did Story Listening of Boucle d’Or et les trois ours (Find the simplified version of on the Great Story Reading Project) which was perfect because the learner already knew the story in English and since she was tired, she found it easier to understand the story.

Story Listening is the CORE of all my lessons but first I want to genuinely know my learners and have small conversations with them with NO forced output.

En pratique

Whether you are new to teaching Comprehensible Input or not, here is my routine:

Start by asking your learners how they feel. You can use these free downloadable cue cards (on Modolinguo Website) to help you ask questions to your students: Comment ça va ? & Mon humeur du jour

Do one Story Listening to give your learners Optimal Input from Day 1 and also to train them to listen with the intend to understand the story (not all the details of the story).

Tell them a short story (10 minutes max) like the fable of L’oie aux oeufs d’or or La grenouille et le boeuf (All stories are on The Great Story Reading Project):

Ask you learners to draw, write in L1 what they understood from the story. Your learners keep this in a portfolio with all the stories they will have listened to throughout the year.

THAT’S IT! No need to do tons of different activities and to tire yourself and the students!

If you need to give your learners homework, give them something to read like this fun story about Maxine (downloadable in pdf file here) and to listen to here:


What do you think? What is your routine with your learners?

P.S. To have access to many French stories (like the above one), biographies, poems and articles to read (with a Dyslexic mode) as well as the audio files for as little as 4.75EUR/month, join now!

P.P.S. The eBook (pdf) about the adventures of Marie et Médor avant Noël is on its way! 24 scripts in the present and in the past tense to be dowloaded SOON!

Read about Agen Takeway #1: Very Narrow Listening

Read about Agen Takeaway #3: Story Listening

Read about Agen Takeaway #4: Reading

Agen Takeaway #1: Very Narrow Listening with French Learners

I am back from #Agen2019 where I had an amazing time acquiring Latin with Justin Soclum Bailey.

The Latin class was in the morning and in the afternoon, I attended several excellent presentations. I got so inspired that I want to share my takeaways from Agen in a series of blog posts aimed at French teachers. I also want to share ready-made resources which you can straight away use with your learners.

So let’s start with my first takeaway!

Judith Dubois (who also happens to run the conference) presented about Very Narrow Listening and this how I would implement it with my own learners.

Judith Dubois with Karen Rowan (on the left) and French teacher Sabrina Sebban-Janczak (on the right) in Agen 2019.

What is Very Narrow Listening?

You can read Judith’s detailed blog post about how she uses Very Narrow Listening with her English learners. In fact, the term Narrow Listening comes from Dr Stephen Krashen who describes it as “acquirers collecting several brief tape-recordings of proficient speakers discussing a topic selected by the acquirer. Acquirers then listen to the tape as many times as they like, at their leisure. Repeated listening, interest in the topic, and familiar context help make the input comprehensible. Topics are gradually changed, which allows the acquirer to expand his or her competence comfortably.

Judith Dubois adapted it to Very Narrow Listening. She shows the scene of a film with no subtitles, and she discusses with her class what is happening, what the characters are saying. Then, she gives the class the script with blanks and the students listen again BUT they do not fill in the blanks yet! The blanks are words which the students are familiar with. They are EASY to understand and fill in (they are not tricky words). The point is to motivate students to listen repeatedly to the same recording (not to discourage them!). Judith will then ask students to put their pens down and they will listen again. Judith stops the film after the first speech or the first part of a speech, and she asks them if they grasped the words in the blanks.

Judith says: “I believe that the blanks and missing words are merely distracters. While the students are focused on understanding one word (that is already familiar to them) they are repeatedly hearing all the rest of the conversation, a conversation spoken at normal speed and which is comprehensible, because meaning has been established.”

How to implement it with French beginner learners?

Of course, bien sûr, as a French (and Spanish) teacher, I can do exactly the same with scenes from French films or videos. This works well with intermediate learners but what about beginners? After Judith’s presentation, I thought about using all the recorded stories I have on the membership (to find out more about it, watch my recent video on YouTube).

I agree 100% with Judith: LISTENING is the most important skill. We should teach our students TO LISTEN from the very beginning. We can still apply Very Narrow Listening at an early stage, when learners are still beginners by using stories instead of films or videos.

On the membership, There are many stories which are easy to understand with many repetitions. These are perfect to start with. There is one particular story about a man called Luke who loves black coffee. When you start the year or a lesson asking what you learners like to drink, you can then have them listen to this story. The pace is slow but the voice and pronunciation are different from you, the teacher so learners get used from the start to different ways of speaking French.

This story has two different versions: one from the point of view of a narrator and another one from the point of view of Luke. Already, learners have the chance to read and listen to this same story twice but from two different point of views. To add the cloze exercise, you just have to copy the story onto a blank document and to “blank out” or delete some familiar or high frequency words from the text.

En pratique

Here is how I would do it:

I would first start with Personalized Questions to get to know what my learners like to drink : ” Tu aimes boire du café ? Tu préfères le café ou le thé ? Tu aimes boire du café noir ? Tu préfères le café avec du lait ?…“.

  1. Learners listen to the story (when you are a member, you can download the mp3 file). You can pause and discuss what is happening with learners. You can compare Luke with your learners : ” Luke habite au Canada et toi, tu habites aussi au Canada ?
  2. Learners get the script with blanks. Here is the pdf file of the script which you can download when you are a member. Here is the cloze exercise I made from it. As you can see, I only blanked out 10 cognates and high frequency words like ” il veut “.
    Learners listen again BUT they do not fill in the blanks yet! Pause and check understanding with learners.
  3. Learners listen again with their pens down. You stop after each blank and ask the class if they grasped the missing word.
  4. Learners fill in the blanks. They listen again.
  5. Learners listen to the same story from the point of view of Luke.
  6. Learners listen and read and compare the stories. Here is the pdf file of the script.

In total, your acquirers will have listened six times to French input. Not only they will have received comprehensible input, they will also have trained their listening skill AND you, as a teacher, will have a little break from telling a story 🙂

What do you think? Have you used Narrow Listening before?

P.S. To have access to many more French stories (like the ones above), biographies, poems and articles as well as the audio files for as little as 4.75EUR/month, join now!

Read about Agen Takeway #2: Get to know your learners

Read about Agen Takeaway #3: Story Listening

Read about Agen Takeaway #4: Reading