Musings on Unit Planning: Designing the Interpersonal Tasks

As described in a recent post on unit design, I generally introduce an interpersonal task after the interpretive task in the lessons I create. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have attended multiple workshops on communicative speaking activities presented by brilliant educators from whom I’ve borrowed the following ideas.

Novice Activities

Because learners at this level are highly dependent on memorized language, I incorporate a lot of interpersonal activities that will help them commit vocabulary and structures to memory through lots of meaningful repetition. Although I don’t assign a vocabulary list to memorize or assess vocabulary out of context, I do provide students at this level with a resource guide to scaffold these tasks.  

  1. Matching As this example from a lesson on daily routines shows, this activity requires students to take turns describing pictures in order to determine which picture on their partner’s paper matches each of their own. ( I usually have the students prepare a grid on a separate sheet of paper to record the matches, so that I can reuse the picture papers.) This is what a sample conversation might look like:

Partner A: #1. C’est un garçon. Il fait ses devoirs.

Partner B: Il a beaucoup de livres?

Partner A: Non, il fait des maths.

Partner B: Il mange son crayon?

Partner A: Oui, il mange son crayon.

Partner B: C’est lettre A. (Both students will write A next to #1 on their papers)

The students tend to really enjoy this activity and usually remain on task as I circulate to provide oral feedback on their conversations. As a follow-up formative assessment, I sometimes select a few of the pictures to describe to the students, who write the number or letter of each picture that I describe.

  1. Guess Who In this activity one student selects an identity from the page without telling their partner whom they have chosen.  Their partner then asks yes/no questions in order to use the process of elimination to determine their partner’s identity.  The students then switch roles.   Here’s a sample conversation:

Partner A: Tu prends le petit déjeuner?

Partner B: Oui, je prends le petit déjeuner.

Partner A: Tu te lèves?

Partner B: Non, je ne me lève pas.

Partner A: Tu t’habilles?

Partner B: Non, je ne m’habille pas.

Partner A: Tu te réveilles?

Partner B: Oui, je me réveille.

(Conversation continues until partner A has used the process of elimination to determine their partner’s identity.) I suggest requiring the students to ask at last 8 questions before they guess an identity. As a follow-up formative assessment, I sometimes select an identity and ask several true/false questions. Use the same clipart as I included in the resource guide so that there is no confusion about what activity the pictures are depicting.

  1. Same/Different Although this activity looks similar to the Matching one, it is quite different.  The object of this one is to determine, starting with #1, whether your partner has the same or a different picture.  The students then write Même or Différent on their paper. It’s important to let the students know that their pictures will be quite similar and that they’ll need to ask several questions before making up their minds whether the pictures are the same or different. Here’s a sample conversation:

Partner A: Sur mon #1 il y a une lune et des chauve-souris.

Partner B: Moi aussi. Est-ce que la lune est derrière les chauve-sours?

Partner A: Oui, la lune est derrière les chauve-souris. Tu as combien de chauve-souris?

Partner B: J’ai 10 chauve-souris.

Partner A: J’ai 12 chauve-souris. Alors, c’est différent.

Suggestions:

Placing the handouts in page protectors allows the students to use dry erase markers to cross out pictures as they match them (Matching) or eliminate them (Guess Who).

I usually change activities as soon as the first pair finishes the Matching and Same/Different Activity–it is not necessary for everyone to finish.  The students can play the Guess Who game several times in a row, however.

  1. Pair Crossword Puzzles In this activity, each partner is given a crossword puzzle with either the vertical or the horizontal responses filled in. The students then circumlocute in order to help their partner complete his/her puzzle. Although I use this activity more often with intermediates, this one worked with my Novice Mids because of the relatively formulaic phrases that could be used to circumlocute.  Here is a sample conversation:

Partner A: #1, c’est le mois avant octobre.

Partner B: Ah, septembre. #2, c’est le numéro entre quatorze et seize.

Click here for directions on using puzzlemaker.com to create these activities.

  1. Scaffolded Discussion.In addition to the games described above, I have the students practice a lot of interviews to prepare them for their IPA. In this example (based on this text), I’ve scaffolded the task by providing both the questions and possible responses.
  2. Friendship Circle In this example, the students will check the statements that describe their leisure activities typical morning, ask their partners whether they do each activity they have checked, and then write a sentence in the appropriate section of the diagram. (I find that the students can write more neatly in this modified form of Venn diagram.) Note: The students should be reminded NOT to ask a question about the activities they haven’t checked, as there is no place in the diagram to note activities that neither partner has done. The recovering grammarian in me loves this activity as it gives the students an opportunity to use the 1st person singular, 2nd person singular (in the questions), 3rd person singular AND the 1st person plural form of the verbs!
  3. Speed-friending. For this activity I have the students arrange their desks in two long rows, facing each other.  They then have 3 minutes to ask the person in front of them the questions they have written down (as well as answer the questions they’re asked). When the timer goes off, everybody in one of the rows moves one seat to the right (the last student goes to the beginning of the line). They then ask their next partner the same questions and note their responses.  After 3 minutes, the same students move another seat to the right (the other row never moves).  I find that the repetition really helps the students start to internalize the questions (a difficult structure) in preparation for the IPA.  They are also often excited to do the follow-up presentational writing where they ask to stay with the student with whom they had the most in common.

 

Intermediate Activities

  1. Venn or Top Hat Diagrams With these learners, who are now able to create with the language, I often integrate interpretive and interpersonal tasks. In this example, one partner read an article about same-sex marriage in France and the other about the same topic in Canada.They then discussed what they had read in order to compare same-sex marriage in the two countries in a Top Hat diagram. Similarly, in this activity, each partner read an article about Chandeleur and filled in the first graphic organizer with relevant details.  The students then discussed their notes in order to compare the details given in each article and fill in the Top Hat diagram.  
  2. Role Plays As with the graphic organizers, I find that incorporating role plays is an effective way to integrate interpretive and interpersonal communication. Assigning roles allows students to synthesize what they learn from written and recorded sources while at the same time developing their interpersonal communication skills.  In this example, the students performed role plays based on hypothetical situations from a film we watched in class. These role plays based on a Petit Nicolas story, allowed the students to retell the story they read from a different point of view.  I also find that creating roles when assigning debates provides a more authentic context for the discussion.
  3. Interviews Several different contexts lend themselves to various interviews in my Intermediate classes.  In some cases, the students compare their actual opinions and experiences, using a graphic organizer. On other occasions, I integrate interpretive and interpersonal communication by having students ask their partner questions whose answers are found in a text that only the partner has.  As in this example, I write the prompts in English so that the students are required to negotiate meaning in order to get the information they need to complete the task.
  4. Pair Crossword Puzzles Following the same process as the Novice example given above, I create an A/B version of a crossword puzzle that the students circumlocute to fill in.  This activity works great to review a story, as the students will use details/vocabulary from the story when giving clues, as well as for non-fiction themes. This activity is also a great way to practice relative pronouns (which can be encouraged by providing sentence starters such as these.) My students really enjoy these puzzles. As a matter of fact, a student last year asked if she and her partner could take their puzzles home and finish them on the bus “just for fun.” When time permits I sometimes follow up this activity with a $100,000 Pyramid game in which I project a slide with 5 of the words and pairs of students from two different teams take turns describing as many of the words as they can in one minute.
  5. Interactive Word Wall While I’ve used the above-mentioned activities for several years, some professional development on critical thinking skills this year yielded several strategies that I plan to add to my teacher toolbox.  In fact, I incorporated one such strategy, the Interactive Word Wall last year. Although this activity does not exactly meet the criteria for interpersonal communication (there is little negotiation of meaning), its implementation did provide a context for authentic speech in my combined Level 4/5 class.  For this activity, I created a set of cards on which were written vocabulary related to our theme, which was Migration. The rest of the cards had either single or double-sided arrows.  Each group of four students was given a set of cards and they took turns taking a word card and using an arrow card to connect it to another word, explaining the relationship between the two ideas in the target language. (Although the presenter used larger cards so that the whole class worked on one word wall, I wanted to involve more students by having them work in small groups.)  I was somewhat nervous about implementing this strategy for the first time, as I wasn’t sure how best to choose the terms, but the students were able to find connections for all of the randomly-chosen words I included. Here’s a picture of one of the webs and here’s a video explaining its implementation.
  6. Six Hats I will implement this strategy for the first ime in my introductory French ⅘ unit on family relationships.  Each student will be given one of the six cards in this document (no one will be given the blue hat at this point) and will “wear” this hat when read an article about adoption. They will then discuss the article from the point of view of their hat. I created this graphic organizer so that the students could take notes about their group members’ responses.
  7. Bracketology. As an introduction to this family unit, I’ll give each student a copy of this bracket Each group will fill in the first column of 8 rectangles with their ideas about the characteristics of a good parent.  They will then discuss these characteristics in pairs in order to choose which of these 4 are the most important.  After narrowing down their list they will further discuss in order to choose the 2 most important qualities, and then finally the single most important quality.  

I’d love to add more variety to my interpersonal activities, so please share some of your favorites!

Musings on Unit Planning: Designing the Interpretive Tasks

As I described in this recent post on unit design, most of my lessons begin with an interpretive activity designed to introduce thematic vocabulary, targeted structures and/or cultural content via an authentic text. In most cases, this task is based on a written text that the students will interpret individually or in small groups.  In selecting texts, I look for those that are interesting, culturally-rich and comprehensible (with a little bit of “stretch” built in). These are the steps that I take to create my interpretive tasks.

Step 1a: Select the Written Text. Here’s a list of the types of texts I use most often.

  • Infographics Even Novice Low students can interpret a carefully chosen infographic because of the highly visual nature of these texts. At the Intermediate level, I sometimes ask my students to interpret an infographic as the basis of an interpersonal activity to follow. To find infographics I type in the word Infographie and the French word for my topic into Google Images.
  • Children’s books Texts written for French-speaking beginning readers are often comprehensible for Novice Mid-Novice High students.  Some of my favorite sources for these texts are Reading a-z (free trial), Il était une histoire (documentaires) and Du Plaisir à lire . Although only Il etait une histoire is free, I find the others are well worth the money I spend.  I also use stories from French elementary teacher’s blogs. A search on “tapuscript” on Google Images will reveal many such stories that are comprehensible to Novice Mid-High students.
  • Children’s and Teen’s magazines I have subscribed to Astrapi, Okapi and Phosphore in recent years (But only one at a time–these don’t come cheap!)  Depending on the article, Astrapi is often comprehensible for Novice High, Okapi for Intermediate Low and Phosphore for Intermediate Mid. I’ve also used some online content from GeoAdo in addition to the print copies that I have picked up in France.
  • 1jour1actu.com Depending on the article and my objective, I use these online articles with my Nov. High through Intermediate Mids.  A search on a key word related to my current theme usually yields several articles and/or videos.
  • Petit Nicolas I have incorporated several Petit Nicolas stories into my curriculum over the years and the students continue to enjoy them.  The books are available for purchase and many of the stories can be found online.  Audio recordings can also be found, as well as cartoon videos that are loosely based on individual stories.
  • Google. Of course the majority of the resources I use come from Google searches.  I have found that adding “expliqué aux enfants” to the term I am searching sometimes yields results that are comprehensible to my Novices.
  • Pinterest. I depend on Pinterest to curate authentic resources shared by French teachers from around the world.  Feel free to check out my boards (madameshepard)

Step 1b: Select a Recorded Text. Some of my lessons incorporate either a written or a recorded text, while others include both.  These are the recorded texts I use most often:

  • Cartoons. For my Novice Mids – Novice Highs, I rely heavily on cartoons for interpretive listenings.  Of the series I use regularly, I find that Trotro is the most comprehensible, followed by Petit Ours Brun, T’choupi et Doudou Toupie et Binou and TomTom et Nana. I’ve also used short stories from Les Belles Histoires de Pomme d’Api with Intermediate Lows. There are, of course, dozens of other cartoon series available on Youtube–I just haven’t had a chance to explore them all!
  • Other. For the Intermediates, other than the previously mentioned 1jour1question series, I rely on the search function on YouTube to find videos on my chosen topic.  

Step 2: Create an Interpretive Task. After collecting several comprehensible, culturally-rich and high-interest authentic texts, I develop the formative assessment that will guide the students’ interpretation of these texts. Here are the formats that I use most often.

  1. Written Texts
  • IPA Template. When I first began implementing IPAs, I used this template for nearly all of my interpretive assessments.  By using this format for my formative assessments, I ensure that my students will be practicing and receiving feedback on the same types of tasks that they will perform on the summative assessments.  (Click here for an example from a recent unit.) However, this format does take some time to create as well as considerable class time to complete.Furthermore, providing whole class feedback requires extensive use of English.  Therefore, while I continue to use the template occasionally for formative assessments, I’ve added other formats to my teacher toolbox.
  • True/False Statements with Justification. An advantage of this format is that it can be used with students at all different levels of proficiency.  While I have occasionally used English sentences for my Novices, I prefer writing the statements in  French for all learners, as doing so encourages the students to collaborate in French as well as allows me to stay in the target language when providing whole class feedback. This format works equally well with both literal and inferential question types and is appropriate for both fiction and non-fiction texts. An additional advantage is that since I am writing the statements, I can incorporate targeted structures, (such as the use of the passé composé in these statements) that did not exist in the original text. Because this question type is common on the French IB test that some of my students will take, I think it is important to provide many opportunities for them to practice them.
  • Graphic Organizers.  Venn diagrams, story maps, cause-effect diagrams and various types of webs can be used to demonstrate comprehension of texts and the relationships of ideas found within them. Unfortunately, I don’t use them as often as I should as it is impractical for me to provide timely feedback due to the creative/individualized nature of the responses.  I do, however, often use graphic organizers as a pre-interpersonal communication task–more about incorporating this mode in my next post!
  • Cornell Notes. I was unfamiliar with this type of note-taking format until I learned that a colleague was successfully using it with her upper level students. I am looking forward to incorporating this note-taking format to both assess reading comprehension and as a springboard to small group discussions. Although I found many types of Cornell Note-taking diagrams on Google, this is the one I’m going to try first with my Intermediate Mids.
  • Multiple Choice.  On the summative assessments I create for my Intermediate Mid – High students I try to replicate the multiple choice/short answer questions that they will encounter on their high stakes AP or IB tests.  Although I find these questions very difficult to write well, I think it’s important that the students be familiar with these formats.  I have found that requiring the students to underline relevant sections in the text helps to reduce the “multiple guessing” of easily frustrated students.
  1. Recorded Texts
  • Edpuzzle For the past year I have been relying heavily on Edpuzzle for interpretive listening formative assessments, especially for my Novices.  Because each student has a Chromebook, s/he is able to listen as many times as necessary to the relevant section of the video before answering each question. Because I usually create multiple choice questions, the students receive immediate feedback. (Click here for an example.) The questions that I design for my Novice Mids primarily require them to identify familiar vocabulary in the dialogue or make inferences based on the visual content. I also introduce some new lexical items by providing the sentence in which the word occurs and asking the students to use context clues to determine the most likely meaning of the new (underlined) word.  
  • Picture Matching When incorporating cartoons with my Novices, I often create a matching activity for the students to work on cooperatively after watching the video. For these activities (example) I take several screenshots of scenes from the video and then copy and paste them into cells on a table I’ve created.  For each image I write a sentence that narrates what is happening/happened at that point in the video  I then print the table on cardstock and cut out the individual squares to create a manipulative activity.  The students work with a partner to put the pictures in chronological order and then match the appropriate sentence to each picture.  While this is not a pure assessment of listening comprehension (students must also read the sentences to complete the task), it is a meaningful follow up to watching the video which also provides a springboard to interpersonal communication as the students negotiate to complete the task. The task also allows for repeated exposure to the vocabulary and structures from the video, albeit in a written form.
  • Graphic Organizer. For my Intermediate students I often create a graphic organizer, such as this table, to assess listening comprehension. By providing opportunities for students to fill in both main ideas and supporting details I am able to differentiate these formative assessments for my mixed (French ⅘) classes.
  • True/False with Justification. I find this format is also appropriate for assessing listening comprehension, especially with Intermediates.  Click here for an example.
  • Multiple Choice in the Target Language.  While I wrote multiple choice questions to assess listening when preparing my students for the AP test (example) in the past, I found the process arduous.  Replicating the AP question types required avoiding the vocabulary from the original text when writing responses (and logical detractors), determining logical inferences,  identifying authors’ perspectives and other cognitively demanding and time-consuming tasks. While I will no doubt find myself creating some type of multiple choice questions when the IB test begins incorporating listening comprehension in a couple of years, for now I’m content to use more open-ended question types.

While I have found these tasks to be effective in developing my students’ interpretive skills, I’m looking forward to incorporating a greater variety of activities in the future.  If you have any ideas, please share in the comments so that we can all learn from you!

In a Nutshell: 5 Steps to Designing a Thematic Unit

As a result of several recent questions by members of my PLN who are beginning their journey to a more proficiency-based methodology, I have created this outline of the steps I take when creating a thematic unit. While I am planning a series of posts with more detailed information about each step, I’ve included basic information about the process I use, as well as an agenda with resources for an Intermediate Low unit on vacations, in this post.

Step 1: Determine what I want the students to be able to do at the end of the unit and write a Can-Do statement for each mode of communication. Because ACTFL has not yet released their new version of the Can-Do Statements, I based these Can-Do’s on the current benchmarks. These statements are based on the Intermediate Low descriptors, which is my targeted performance level for these students.

  • Interpersonal Communication: I can participate in conversations about vacations using simple sentences.
  • Presentational Speaking: I can present information on a vacation using a series of simple sentences.
  • Presentational Writing: I can write briefly about a vacation using a series of simple sentences.
  • Interpretive Listening: I can understand the main idea in short, simple messages and presentations about vacations.
  • Interpretive Reading: I can understand the main idea of short and simple texts about vacations.

Step 2: Create the Integrated Performance Assessment. For an in-depth explanation of how I design IPA’s, please refer to this previous post. In short, I 1) Select an authentic written and/or recorded resource, 2) Create a comprehension guide based on the ACTFL IPA template, 3) Create an interpersonal task based on the authentic text and 4) Create a presentational writing and/or speaking task based on the authentic resource and interpersonal task.

Step 3:  Identify the structures, vocabulary and skills the students need in order to demonstrate the targeted proficiency level on the IPA.  In this unit, I determined that the students would need to learn/acquire the following language, structures and content.

  • Vocabulary related to the topic of vacations.  This would include terms for vacation activities, lodging, transportation, etc. While these students will be familiar with some leisure activities that are part of a typical vacation, a greater variety of vocabulary will allow for more detailed performances.
  • The ability to use past tenses to describe vacations they have taken. While these students used some past tenses in French 2, they will need lots of exposure and practice to be able to use these structures, albeit with expected errors, on these performances. Because the descriptor, “I can usually talk about events and experiences in various time frames” is part of the Intermediate High benchmark,   it will be some time before I will expect these students to easily use these structures. However, by providing opportunities for students to use past tenses in a variety of contexts in this unit I am preparing them to eventually reach this level of proficiency.
  • Cultural background on French products, practices and perspectives.  Because I assess my students’ cultural competence as part of each mode of communication, it is important that they have adequate preparation in determining these aspects of culture throughout the unit.

Step 4. Create a series of lessons that will allow the students to demonstrate the targeted proficiency level on the IPA. Having determined the students’ needs in terms of vocabulary, structures and content, I create individual lessons designed to fill these gaps. These lessons will provide the students with multiple exposures to the targeted vocabulary and structures as well as learning activities that will allow the students to practice/receive feedback on their use of these structures. Here is a simple explanation of the steps that I usually take in designing each individual lesson for a thematic unit. 

A. Determine an organizational structure for the lessons. Based on the theme of a given unit, there are many ways to break the topic into smaller subtopics to provide an integrated structure for individual lessons.  In general, I find it works best to begin with lessons that will provide general information on the topic before focusing on more specific details. So in this case, I began with lessons focusing on general vacation practices and then added tasks related to specifics such as beach destinations, vacation activities, traveling with friends, camping vacations and packing for vacation. Because I curate authentic resources on Pinterest boards for each unit that I teach, I often begin the process of creating subtopics by looking at the resources I already have, and grouping them according to subtopic. This saves a considerable amount of time compared to choosing subtopics and then finding appropriate resources. (Of course, I end up searching for additional resources after I have a skeleton of the unit design.)

B. Create a hook for the lesson.  I choose an authentic written or recorded text to present at the beginning of each lesson.  Presenting simple texts such as infographics or short videos allows me to provide comprehensible input as I talk about the information in the text and ask personalized questions incorporating the vocabulary, structure and content of the text. Click here for a transcript of a sample discussion during the hook portion of the first lesson in this unit based on this infographic.

C. Design an interpretive activity for the lesson. I choose an authentic resource that the students will read or listen to and create a corresponding learning activity/formative assessment that will allow the students to interact with this text.  While I will go into greater detail about this aspect of lesson design in a future post, you will find several different examples in this and other units in this blog. In my opinion, this is the most important part of each lesson, as it provides the basis of the interpersonal and presentational activities that follow.  In addition, because I don’t use a textbook in my classroom, the authentic resources used in the hook and interpretive activities provide the vocabulary and some structures that the students will use in their performance assessments. Note: You will notice that most of the authentic resources used for the interpretive activities in this unit are written texts. In order to ensure that my students have adequate opportunities to interpret recorded texts, I’ve included several video-based formative assessments (using Edpuzzle) that the students will complete in class or at home throughout the unit.

D. Construct an interpersonal activity based on the content, vocabulary and/or structures in the authentic resource. The interpersonal activity provides students with an opportunity to use the vocabulary and structures that were introduced in the authentic resource to create their own meaning.  In addition, as they negotiate meaning on these tasks they are practicing the skills they will use on the IPA with additional scaffolding. Based on the authentic resource and the targeted proficiency level, I incorporate a variety of different types of interpersonal activities.  At the novice level, I often focus on vocabulary-building activities such as those described in this post or even this one. As students reach the Intermediate level and are able to create more with the language, I often integrate interpersonal and interpretive activities by having the students co-create graphic organizers (such as in the 1st and 2nd lesson in this unit) or discuss responses on target language interpretive assessments.

E. Devise a presentational writing and/or speaking formative assessment. These activities provide the students with scaffolded opportunities to synthesize the vocabulary and structures introduced in the lesson to create a written or oral product. The scaffolding provided in these formative assessments, as well as the individualized feedback I will give on many of these tasks, will provide the support the students need to demonstrate growth in proficiency on the IPA. Note: While I have included an idea for a written or spoken presentational task for each lesson, it is unlikely that time will permit me to actually assign all of these tasks.  Instead, I will choose from among those tasks as time allows.

Step 5: Administer and assess the IPA. Because the format of the IPA mimics the organizational structure of the lessons in the unit, the students should feel confident in their ability to be successful on this assessment.

Stay tuned for additional posts on each step of the lesson design and let me know if you have any questions!

Image Credit: http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Peanut-Shell-Nutshell-Peanut-Shell-Nuts-Nut-390081

Revising a Novice High “Journée Typique” unit with the ACTFL Core Practices

As I spend some time this summer revising units I have created over the past few years,  I want to make sure that I’m incorporating current best practices as I understand them.  Fortunately, ACTFL has provided a list of six Core Practices that have provided an easy to use framework for my revision work this summer. (Click on this link for a pdf with a full explanation of these practices.)  Although my own practice continues to be a work in progress,  I’ve decided to share how I used these Core Practices to modify a Novice High unit on “Ma Journée Typique.” Click here for a unit agenda to which all resources and materials have been linked.

Plan with Backward Design Model I began, as always, by first identifying the learning goals for this unit (which I will share with the students in this document) and then creating the IPA.  For the interpretive reading component, I chose an article from a series that 1jour1actu published a couple of years ago about how children around the world spend their summer vacation. I then created a context for reading this article–the student would be hosting a child from Sénégal and needed to know what his typical day might be like during the summer.  Based on this context, I designed the interpersonal task–the students will perform a role play between the teenager who is hosting the boy from Sénégal and a neighbor who has a younger brother in which they discuss what a typical day is like. Lastly, I defined the presentational writing performance–the students will write an e-mail to their house guest, telling him about what his days will be like when he comes to stay.

Use Authentic Cultural Resources Because I have designed units on daily routines and leisure activities in the past, I had already curated quite a few authentic resources that I would incorporate into this unit–although I couldn’t resist adding just a few more!  Among the resources that these students will interpret are French cartoons, Canadian children’s songs, French and Canadian vlogs, French children’s posters and online and print articles about daily activities in France, Canada and Sénégal. By interpreting these resources, the students will see the unit’s vocabulary and structures in a variety of authentic contexts and will learn about the daily life of young people in a variety of Francophone cultures.

Design Communicative Activities For each of these authentic resources, I created one or more interpersonal activities.  In some cases, I used the authentic resource as a hook at the beginning of a lesson.  In this case, I use a class discussion of the resource as a means to providing comprehensible input to the class as a whole.  In other instances, I create a pair or small group activity based on the vocabulary, structures and content of the resource. Because Novice Learners are highly dependent on memorized vocabulary, I design opportunities for lots of repetition in the form of picture matching activities and Guess Who games.  In order to prepare the students for the types of questions they will ask in the IPA, I have included several highly-scaffolded communicative tasks such as Interviews, Friendship Circles and Speed-Friending. 

Teach Grammar as Concept and Use in Context The structures that the students will need to perform the tasks on the IPA are primarily the present tense of a variety of verb forms, including reflexive verbs.  Therefore, I chose authentic resources that contained multiple repetitions of these structures. I then designed corresponding interpersonal and presentation tasks that would ensure that the students were able to use these structures in a variety of contexts.  In the case of reflexive verbs, for example, I started with a children’s poster on which a French child would write the time that s/he completed each step of his/her morning routine. The images on the poster will allow the students to establish the meaning of the new structure.  I then provided a list of partner interview questions, providing the 2nd person singular form of the verb. The following day’s Friendship Circle activity will provide a context for using the 1st person plural forms.  The sentences I wrote for the cartoon ordering activity will then introduce the students to the 3rd person singular forms, which will be reinforced in the Guess Who and Matching activities.

Provide Appropriate Feedback Creating activities that mirror the tasks on the IPA enables me to provide targeted feedback that will help the students meet the goals I have set for this unit.  Students will receive feedback on interpretive reading activities when we go over them in class or when I grade them using the same rubric that I will use on their IPA.  Using  Edpuzzle for formative assessments on several cartoon videos will provide immediate feedback on interpretive listening.  As I circulate around the room during interpersonal activities, I will provide individualized oral feedback on pronunciation, vocabulary, structures and content. Feedback on presentational writing and speaking will be provided by me when these formative assessments are submitted.

Use Target Language for Learning Although I have read a lot of great posts from members of my PLN about how best to meet the goal of 90% target language, I’ve found that when I incorporate the other Core Practices, I can come pretty close to meeting this one by default. Other than when providing whole class feedback on some of the IPA-style comprehension guides, my students and I are able to remain in the target language throughout these lessons.

 

Let me know if you have any questions about this unit!

 

 

 

Image Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/active-athletic-exercise-female-84646/

Continuing Along the Path with a Novice High Mini-Unit and IPA on Leisure Activities

For the past few years, my life has been all about following paths.  For three weeks each summer I hike on the Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle/Camino de Santiago and during the rest of the year I plan how to lead my students on their own path to proficiency. Just as I find myself returning to Europe to discover new routes to the same destination, I continue to rework my lessons to more closely align with my current understandings of best practices.

This year I will once again start my French 2 classes with a unit on leisure activities.  This topic is well-suited to their proficiency level and the nature of the unit helps us all get to know each other. Rather than a lengthily, all-encompassing unit this year, however, I’ve created a short mini-unit. Last year’s more thorough unit presented a few unanticipated problems.  Due to the length of the unit, my students did not take a summative assessment/IPA for several weeks.  As a result, I did not have formal data on their level of proficiency for my own records or to share with them, until the end of our first 6-week grading period.  Because one of my goals for this year is to provide more targeted, proficiency-based feedback, I want to create earlier opportunities for this type of conversations with my students, especially those who may not have been exposed to the idea of proficiency during their first year of language study. When my colleague suggested we create a short mini-unit to introduce the topic of leisure activities (which will be followed with a longer unit that includes daily activities, weather and seasons), I thought it was a brilliant idea.  This 2-3-week unit will give us an opportunity to introduce our students to proficiency-based Can-Do statements, lessons designed around the three modes of communication and exposure to authentic resources.  Furthermore, the IPA will give us data on the proficiency level at which the students are able to perform.  Armed with this knowledge, we will be able to begin the process of providing the types of feedback that will help these students to progress throughout the year. Best of all, our conversations about how we spend our free time will help to create the types of relationships that will facilitate the warm and positive classroom environment that is so important to language learning.

Day 1: As this agenda shows, we’ll introduce the topic of leisure activities with a teacher-led discussion of a basic infographic on Sunday activities.This discussion will allow us to provide comprehensible input using some of the targeted structures. The students will then engage in a short pre-viewing conversation before listening (as a class) to a video in which a girl describes some of her leisure activities.  A teacher-led discussion during the viewing will help provide additional comprehensible input. Lastly, the students will begin reading a detailed infographic on leisure activities and completing an IPA-style comprehension guide.  (This interpretive activity will continue the following day.)

Day 2: The lesson will begin with a video and teacher-led discussion of the video as well as personalized questions.The students will then complete a heavily-scaffolded interpersonal activity in which they ask and answer questions about a partner’s leisure activities, and then fill in a graphic organizer comparing their pastimes. The rest of the class period will be used for finishing the infographic from the previous day.

Day 3: After another short teacher-directed discussion based on an infographic (with personalized questioning), the students will interview a new partner about the frequency with which s/he participates in various activities. The students will then participate in a matching “game” in which they take turns describing pictures in order to match each picture on their paper to the corresponding picture on their partner’s paper.  I often use this type of activity with my novice learners and have found it effective in engaging these students and encouraging their spontaneous speech. Time permitting, I may conduct a formative assessment in which I describe a few of the pictures and the students jot down the number/letter of the corresponding picture.  

Day 4: I will begin this lesson with another infographic-based discussion, which will be followed by an interpretive activity for an infographic on teens and sports.  In this case, I’ve created French comprehension questions in order to encourage target language use as the students work on the task.

Day 5: I will start this lesson by going over the correct answers on the previous day’s interpretive activity. This discussion will provide additional input that will prepare the students for the interpersonal and presentational activities that follow. Finally, the students will complete a series of Edpuzzle formative listening assessments for cartoon videos in which Trotro the donkey does various sports-related activities.

Day 6: This lesson, on the topic of music, will again begin with a teacher-led discussion of an infographic as well as personalized questions about music.  The students will then complete an interpretive activity about a music-themed infographic and a related conversation.

Day 7: This lesson will begin with a cloze activity for the current top-20 song Je joue de la musique. The students will then complete a presentational writing assignment designed to encourage them to synthesize what they learned about the listening habits of French teens and compare these practices to their own.  Finally, they will complete an Edpuzzle for a  music-based Trotro video.

Day 8: This class period will be spent preparing for the IPA. The students will both practice the conversation prompt and prepare a draft of the writing prompt.  I will divide the class into two separate groups, enabling me to provide feedback to those students who are speaking.  I will collect the written drafts at the end of the period and provide feedback using this document from my previous post.

Day 9: If all goes as planned, the students will take their IPA during this 90-minute block. (Otherwise, I will give it over the next two days.)  I will distribute the article and IPA packet to the class, and will call up pairs of students for the interpersonal task while the rest of the class is working on the reading.  As students finish the reading, they will begin the final draft of the writing, on which they will have access to their first draft as well as my feedback.  

Note: You should find each of the resources and materials linked to the agenda.  However, if anything is missing or not shared correctly, please let me know.  I encourage you to make a copy for your own use so that you can correct any errors you may find and make modifications based on your own students’ needs.  As an additional resource for my students, I prepared this document which includes the learning goals for the unit and some vocabulary and structures that the students can use on the learning activities throughout the unit (but not on their IPA).

Have a great rest of the summer!

Closing the Feedback Loop: An Action Plan

 As my understanding about how languages are acquired continues to evolve, so does my vision of my role in the classroom.  When I began teaching, I considered my prime responsibility to be that of providing vocabulary lists and explanations of grammatical rules followed by opportunities to practice them. A lot has changed over the past few years! I now see my primary role as that of creating contexts for my students to communicate using language suitable to their proficiency level and then providing feedback on their use of that language.  Specifically, I provide language input via culturally-rich authentic resources (as well as my own language use) and create activities that require the students to interpret this language and use the vocabulary and structures they acquire to communicate with others. Of course, my work isn’t finished when these learning opportunities have been created!  These students need feedback on their language use.  They need to know whether their interpretation of a text is accurate and whether their own oral and written communication is comprehensible.  More importantly, they need to know what they can do to increase their proficiency in the language.  

In an ideal world, this means that the students would engage in communicative activities, I would provide immediate feedback on this communication, and the students would use this feedback to set goals enabling them to communicate more proficiently in the future.  However, in the imperfect world of my classroom, this process has not been working they way it should. My feedback has not been timely enough and I have not provided adequate opportunities for the students to use this feedback in a way that would inform their subsequent communication.  As a result, my feedback process looked like the image linked to this post rather than the loop it should have been. The feedback my students received from me often seemed to be a dead end–clearly I need to do much better at closing my feedback loop!

After careful reflection, I’ve come up with the following action plan for the upcoming school year.

Interpretive Communication

My students read a lot of authentic materials in class, but I often fail to provide timely feedback on the accuracy of their interpretation for several reasons.  First of all, I’ve been using the ACTFL IPA template to create comprehension guides for many of these texts.  While I think it’s important that instruction mirror assessment, the use of English for these formative assessments (which I support) would impede my ability to stay in the target language. Furthermore, I worried that my students will be less likely to focus on interpretive tasks if they know that I would be providing the answers at the end of the class.  As a result, I collected way too many papers, spent way too much time grading and recording them (and cajoling absent students to complete them) and wasted valuable class time passing them back to students who looked at the grade and threw them away. I plan to address these obstacles this year by 1) creating formative comprehension tasks that don’t require English, 2) letting go of the idea that grades can be used to control student behavior and 3) providing whole-class feedback directly after the formative interpretive task.  As a result of these changes, I will spend less time grading and my students will receive immediate feedback on their interpretive communication.

Interpersonal and Presentational Communication

While whole-class feedback can be effective on interpretive tasks that often have right or wrong answers, students need specific, individualized feedback to improve their performance on this mode.  While I am able to provide some feedback as I circulate among the students during these activities, I think I could provide more global feedback if each student had an opportunity to receive feedback on the entirety of their performance.  Therefore, my plan is to provide each student an opportunity to be formatively assessed on the same prompt they will have on the IPA, although with a different partner in order to maintain spontaneity on the summative task.  I will then use this document to provide feedback, an opportunity for goal-setting and a means of self-reflection for the students. As the document shows, the students will check the level of proficiency that their formative performance demonstrated (see note below).  They will then check which steps they need to take to improve on their performance on the IPA, based on the feedback given on the rubric on the back of the page. In cases where I have suggested additional practice on vocabulary and grammatical structures, this document provides opportunities for individualized interactive practice. I will then assess their performance on the IPA using the rubric on the second (identical) rubric.  After the IPA, the students will complete the reflection portion of the document which I will then file until the next round of IPA’s. (I might end up making the process digital, rather than paper and pencil.)  I am hoping that the requiring the students to choose action steps, simplifying the rubrics and providing an opportunity for reflection will help close the feedback loop on interpersonal assessments.

I will follow this same process for the presentational task of the IPA.  Using either the presentational speaking or presentational writing feedback form, the students will again record their formative proficiency level, create an action plan and then reflect on whether they were able to achieve their proficiency goal.  

Note about the rubrics

One of my favorite aspects of the Ohio Department of Education rubrics that I had been using is the fact that they break down each proficiency level into 3 different sublevels.  This has allowed me to track small changes, which helps my students see their progress and me to use proficiency-based grading.  However, this specificity makes the rubrics very wordy.  While this would not be especially problematic if I were using them as they were intended–to document proficiency growth from the beginning to the end of an academic year– I found that my students did not have the patience to read through the lengthily descriptors.  Therefore, I created the simplified versions I have included in the documents.  However, in order to document smaller increments of growth, I will add the following sublevels to their proficiency level.

Sublevel 1 Meets all relevant criteria for previous level and at least 70% of the relevant criteria for the targeted level.
Sublevel 2 Meets all relevant criteria for the targeted level.
Sublevel 3 Meets all relevant criteria for the targeted level and at least 30% of the relevant criteria for the targeted level.

While I may adjust the percentages, I think these sublevels will enable the students to see growth and allow me to continue to assign grades based on proficiency levels.

I’d love to hear suggestions on what procedures you’ve developed to create a successful feedback loop!

Assessments for mini-unit on French presidential election mini-unit

I was pleasantly surprised by my students’ engagement during my mini-unit on the French presidential elections.  The students were especially excited to find out which candidate was best-suited to their own values (although I encouraged students to answer the questions differently if they prefered to keep their own beliefs private). Although I pretty much followed by plan as I outlined it here, I did make the following modifications to the summative assessments.

  1. Although I kept the presentational writing task that I had planned (writing a speech for one of the candidates), I decided to assign an interpersonal speaking assessment rather than having the students present the speech they had written.  For this task, I projected some of the questions from the political quiz and had the students debate each one small groups (made up of different candidates), playing the role of the candidate they had researched.  
  2. I added this interpretive assessment. For the interpretive reading the students read these pages (1, 2, 3) from this site. Because some of these students will be taking the IB test in a few weeks, I’ve done my best to replicate the IB style in creating my questions.  The listening assessment comes from this video and I used true/false with justification questions to assess their comprehension.  (IB will start assessing listening in a couple of years, but no word yet on what question types they will use.) The students did very well on the reading portion (with one perfect score) on Thursday, but I haven’t yet graded the listening portion.

Image from: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/wooden-tile/e/election.html

A Votre Sante: A Unit for Intermediate Low French Students

As we begin creating our own thematic units, rather than relying on those presented in our textbooks, we are faced with the challenge of selecting themes that are relevant to our students while at the same time preparing them for authentic situations in the target culture as well as high-stakes testing such as IB or AP.  In creating this unit, my goal was to help my students learn the vocabulary they would need to express the symptoms of common illnesses as well as study health concerns that are relevant to them at this point of their lives (such as stress and lack of sleep). I also wanted to lay the foundation for other health-related topics that will be included in next year’s IB curriculum.  Here’s a quick summary of this unit and a full agenda, to which the materials are linked, can be accessed here.

Day 1: I started the unit with the topic of stress because I thought this would hook the students.  I began by projecting an infographic showing symptoms, sources, and remedies for stress. (Note: As I selected sections of the infographic to project, I was intentional about which effects of stress I projected in order to avoid those that were less appropriate for class.) Discussing this infographic provided an opportunity to provide lots of input to the students and introduce them to the vocabulary they would be using throughout the unit. After this input phase, I projected images from an infographic and had the students discuss what they saw in each picture, as well as what stress reduction strategy was being depicted. (The students discussed with a partner, and then I randomly chose students to share their ideas with the class.) I then projected the original infographic so that the students could compare their ideas to those of the original author.

Day 2: As a lesson hook, I showed a short video about stress and exams.  I then had the students discuss pre-reading questions related to their own stress, followed by a short comprehension guide for an 1jour1actu article about kids and stress.  Using French comprehension questions, rather than English IPA-style questions, allowed us to discuss this formative assessment as a class. The students then discussed what they had learned from the article, as well as their own stress, in order to create a Venn diagram comparing student stress in France and the U.S. Lastly the students wrote a paragraph comparing and contrasting stress in the two cultures.

Day 3: I began this lesson, which focused on the role of exercise, by projecting an infographic with data about French health habits, especially those related to exercise.  Asking questions about the infographic, as well as personalized questions about the students’ habits, provided input for this lesson.  The students then completed an interpersonal activity in which they formulated French questions (based on an English cue) which their partner answered based on information in his/her infographic.  Lastly the students completed a comprehension guide on a short video about exercise.

Day 4: Because I had a 90-minute block on this day, I assigned a series of learning stations to enable the students to use all modes to communicate about the role of sleep in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. At the interpersonal station, each student was given an infographic about the effects of a lack of sleep.  The students discussed the information in their infographics and filled in a graphic organizer with facts that were found only on Infographic A, only on Infographic B, or on both infographics.  I encouraged the students to share simple facts, using their own words, rather than reading directly from the infographic in order to ensure their partner’s comprehension and encourage negotiation of meaning. At the reading station the students read an 1jour1actu article about sleep and filled in a graphic organizer with main ideas and supporting details. At the listening station, the students first watched a video and filled in a graphic organizer with main ideas and supporting details, and then completed an Edpuzzle for a second video.

Day 5: As a hook to this lesson I played the Stromae song, le Sommeil. I then had the students interview a partner about his/her sleeping habits, based on the ideas from the first video from the previous day’s lesson.  In order to ensure an adequate negotiation of meaning, I created an A and B form, so that each member of the dyad had different topics to discuss.  The students then wrote a message to their partner in which they gave advice, based on the video, about how their partner could improve his/her sleeping habits.  In order to introduce an interpersonal component to this writing, I may have the students write a response to the message they receive, indicating whether or not they will follow the advice and why/why not.

Day 6: I provided input to this lesson on common illness by projecting an interactive quiz about colds and flu. After submitting the class’s responses to the questions and projecting the results, I projected a comic that the students discussed with a partner before discussing as a class. The students then watched a short video about the flu and completed a comprehension guide.  Lastly, the students completed an interpersonal activity in which they compared the symptoms of a cold and the flu based on infographics they read.

Day 7: Because I had a sub on the day of this lesson, the students worked individually on an IPA-format reading comprehension guide to accompany an infographic on the flu. (Most students did not have time to also completed the comprehension guide for the cartoon video I included with this lesson.)

Day 8: Students continued their study of common illnesses by watching a cartoon video and then writing a message in which they explain their symptoms and treatment to a principal in order to excuse their absence. (I didn’t use the speaking activities in this packet this year, but have left them in the document for anyone who might be able to use them.)

Day 9: While preparing this unit, I curated several health-related infographics that I did not feel warranted an entire lesson.  I used these “orphan” infographics as a basis for a short presentational speaking activity.  In this one 90-minute period the students selected the topic that most interested them, read the corresponding infographic and then prepared a Google Presentation with images that would help them remember the key facts of the infographic, as well as ensure that their listeners understood the information they would present.  During the last 20 minutes of the period, I conducted a health fair. The class was divided into two equal groups and one half of the students presented while the other half chose a presentation to listen to.  The listeners took notes on what they learned from each presentation.  After several rotations, the two groups traded places so that the listeners became the presenters and vice versa.  The advantage of this style of presentational activity was that presenting to one classmate at a time reduces anxiety for the speakers, while still allowing me to assess each student as I circulate during the presentations.

Days 10-12: Next week the students will read a Petit Nicolas story called “Je suis malade.” On each day, I will play the recorded version of about a third of the story as the students read along.  (I have a hard copy of the story from the book in which it is found, but the text can easily be found on line.) They will then complete the true/false (with justification) items that correspond to that day’s reading in small groups.  This question format encourages interpersonal communication as the questions are written in French and many require deeper interpretation of the text. Depending on time, I may also assign the grammar-based exercises that I’ve included in the packet.

Day 13: In order to review the story and practice circumlocution the students will complete a pair crossword puzzle. For this activity, each member of the dyad is given a crossword puzzle in which half of the clues have been filled in.  The students must give his/her partner French clues so that s/he can fill in the answers on his/her own puzzle.  My students love these puzzles and the last time I used one, two students asked if they could take it home and finish on the bus!

Day 14: The students will write Maman’s diary entry for the day that the majority of this story took place.  This prompt will encourage the students to reread the story for details about Maman’s point of view as well as prepare them for tomorrow’s interpersonal assessment.

Day 15: The students will complete an interpersonal assessment by performing a role play based on the Petit Nicolas story.  I will have the students practice the role play with several different partners, switching roles each time.  I will then assign a partner and have all of the dyads simultaneously record their role plays.  In this way I can assess all of the students in one day.

Day 16: The students will complete an Edpuzzle for a cartoon video based on this story.  Due to the differences between the story and the cartoon, I prefer to leave this assessment for the end, so that the students don’t mix up what they read with what they watched on the interpersonal and presentational assessments.

As always, I welcome feedback on this unit!

Les Elections Présidentielles en France: A mini-unit for Intermediate students

This week my French 4 and French 5 students will begin a short unit on the presidential elections in France. Because my own knowledge about the French electoral system was woefully meager, I have learned a lot while planning these lessons.  Fortunately there are a lot of great, comprehensible resources for this theme.  In fact, I had to really rein myself in or this unit may have gone on much longer than I suspect my students’ interest levels would sustain.  Here’s an agenda with links to the resources I’ve curated and created for this short unit.

In Lesson 1 the students will watch a video about the American presidential electoral system to activate their background knowledge and another video about the French system. They will also read a short article about the French system and use the information from these three sources to complete a graphic organizer.  I will then have them discuss their graphic organizers with a partner with the intention that this discussion might provide additional details for each partner.

In Lesson 2, the students will watch a video about the left and right political parties and complete a comprehension guide.  The students will then be given either an article on one of two political candidates and will fill in half of a graphic organizer with information about this candidate.  Their partner will simultaneous read an article about the other candidate, filling in the opposite half of the graphic organizer. The dyads will then discuss the information in their graphic organizers so that each member of the pair ends up with a complete organizer.

In Lesson 3, one member of each pair will watch a video about le Front National and the other will read an article about this same political party.  Each student will fill out a comprehension guide.  They will then discuss what they learned and complete a graphic organizer comparing the information from the two sources.

In Lessons 4 and 5, the students will watch a Simpsons video about the presidential candidates, and then read about several candidates and complete a graphic organizer.  Next, they will complete an online questionnaire which will provide them with the name of the candidate whose platform most closely aligns with their own opinions and values. They will then complete additional research on this candidate in order to fill in a graphic organizer.

In Lesson 6, the students will use what they’ve learned about their candidate to write a speech intended to persuade young French people to vote for him/her.

In Lesson 7, the students will prepare a Google Presentation of photographs/captions that will support their performance of the speech they have prepared.

In Lesson 8, the students will present their speeches.  

Although I haven’t prepared units for past presidential elections in France for fear that the topic would not be engaging to my students, I think the current political climate has led to young people being much more politically interested than students were in years past.  I’m hoping that they learn as much from this mini-unit as I did by creating it!

Impressionnisme: Partie 2 (Van Gogh, Gauguin et Cezanne)

As I promised in my previous entry, here’s a quick post with the materials and resources I used to introduce three post-impressionist painters (Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cezanne) to my students.

As shown on this agenda , my students completed the following learning stations for each artist:

  • Listening Comprehension: The students completed Edpuzzles for each artist.  At the Cezanne station they also listened to a song and fill in the blanks with the missing words. In addition, they completed a vocabulary matching activities using context clues.
  • Interpersonal Speaking: The students completed the same types of activities, using manipulatives I’m not able to share, that I included for the first group of artists.
  • Reading Comprehension: Rather than the true/false questions I created for the first group of artists, I created a crossword puzzle for each post-impressionist based on the encyclopedia article.  As you will see, the students must first answer the questions (which are written in the same order as they will appear in the article) before checking the puzzle clues for the correct location for each answer. (Let me know if this doesn’t make sense.  It’s a little confusing, but it would have been very time-consuming for the students if the questions weren’t in order.)

After the learning stations for each of these three post-impressionists, the students spent one day on a cooperative activity to review the seven artists we studied in this unit.  For this activity I prepared 8 baggies, each of which had a painting for each of the 7 artists.  The students worked together in groups of 3 to identify which painting in the baggy was by each artist and filled in the artists’ names on this form. They rotated the baggies until each group had completed each of the 8 activities.  Since I used postcards that I have collected over the years, I’m not able to share this activity, but it could easily be replicated using Google Images.

I’ve also included the IPA on the last slide, which I’ve slightly modified from the original version. For this assessments the students will read a children’s magazine article about Impressionism, write a letter to the Orsay describing a painting they “found” (I give them a random paining postcard) at a thrift store and then present their painting to an administrator at the museum.  I definitely think this IPA could use some modifications to make the tasks more authentic, but given the demands of my current school year I made do with what I had–There’s always next year!