As I work with teachers around the country, I continue to be in awe of the work that you are doing! While I am very grateful that I am not navigating the demands of distance, hybrid, and face to face but socially distant learning, I have spent considerable time thinking about how I might have modified different aspects of my practice to accommodate these challenges.
While I previously shared some ideas about using graphic organizers for assessing interpretive reading, I really struggled on how I might have assessed presentational writing. I have always had students do their writing assessments in class, so that I could be confident that the work I was evaluating reflected their actual level of proficiency. Based on the assessment and my thinking at the time, I sometimes allowed access to paper dictionaries, online dictionaries, drafts, nothing but their brain cells, etc.
Distance learning, of course, presents a whole new set of challenges as we cannot physically prevent students from using Google Translate. While I agree with others that there is an appropriate time and place for using GT, when I was teaching I wanted to avoid having students write entire paragraphs in English and then plug them into any translation program. Like all of you, I could easily identify when students had done so, but this realization just created additional obstacles. Firstly, I preferred that my students’ grades reflect their proficiency rather than their behavior, so I needed to provide an alternate assessment rather than simply give them a zero. Secondly, the disciplinary measures that I was sometimes required to take did little to improve my relationships with students who already lacked the confidence to do the work as directed.
As a result of these challenges, I decided to turn my attention to how I might make it more difficult, rather than less difficult, to complete an assignment using translation software. Here’s a link to a Google Presentation with the steps I came up with.
On Slide 1 the students brainstorm the vocabulary they will use to complete the task (a message about a typical day in their life.) While they might use a translation program for this step, I am somewhat confident they will have made these words their own by the time they complete the assessment.
On Slide 2 the students write simple sentences about their day using the vocabulary they have selected.
On Slide 3 the students rewrite (or copy/paste) their simple sentence but add additional details.
On Slide 4 they organize their sentences, add transitions and proofread.
On Slide 5, they submit the final draft.
It is my hope that by following these steps, the students will be much less likely to resort to Google Translate. In fact, I’m not even sure what that would look like. In addition, I think this writing process could lead to increased proficiency in presentational writing even for students who are learning in a classroom environment.
I’d love to hear back from any of you who use a similar process. I have so much to learn from you that are doing the work!
Based on the encouragement of my readers, I have spent the last month continuing my work creating mini-units based on the Lou! cartoon series. I have now posted mini-units for the first 9 episodes as well as a bundle that includes all 9 episodes at a discounted price. It is my intention that these 9 mini-units could provide a stand-alone first quarter curriculum for Intermediate students (Level 3+) regardless of whether they are attending class face-to-face, in a hybrid situation or entirely via distance learning. Because of the focus on communicative tasks and authentic resources, these units are also appropriate supplements for AP or IB classes.
Since I am so new to creating resources that I am not actually using with my own students, I would be very grateful for feedback from any of you that have used the mini-units. I have no doubt that you are finding typos and other errors (which is why I have provided editable documents) and I would love to correct those. It would also be helpful for me to know which activities you are finding useful and which do not meet your needs so that I can focus on providing more beneficial resources in the future. Please send your feedback to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s a link to the bundle: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Lou-Intermediate-French-Curriculum-for-Remote-Hybrid-or-In-Class-Learners-5988136
My work with language teachers this summer has been one of the most humbling experiences of my career. I see your sacrifice, dedication and courage in impossible situations and I’ve spent some time thinking about how I might help a little bit.
Since I’ve heard a few teachers (especially our valued newbies) mention how much they were struggling to find time to create a curriculum for their upper levels, I decided to start there. I think that many of us face planning challenges with that group. Due to the smaller numbers, we often find our level 3s and 4s or 4s and 5s (or all of the above!) mixed together. We might even find ourselves with one single student whom we so want to provide an independent study for but just don’t have enough hours in the day. The pandemic, of course, adds the nearly insurmountable problems of having to provide a curriculum for distance learning, hybrid learning and face to face learning (while keeping these faces from getting too close).
While I cannot do nearly as much to help as I would like, I have spent some time during the last week or so working on a mini-unit that I thought might provide a jumping off point for some of you.
For this mini-unit, rather than a typical content-based theme, I chose to design my activities around the first episode of the French cartoon Lou! . I was introduced to this program through my position with FluentKey where I’ve been working on transcribing and creating quizzes for the episodes. (It will take a while, I’m only on episode 14!) I would have loved to use this series with my own students–the characters are diverse, the main character’s family is non-traditional (in many ways) and the series addresses issues that affect adolescents in an engaging way. Although the episodes have recurring characters, each one could stand alone if necessary. As a result, I thought a mini-unit on the first episode could be used regardless of the regular curriculum, or with independent study students, or with the students who can’t be in school if you’re face to face, or with that small group of level 4’s that got put in with your level 3s or any of the myriad unimaginable challenges that you’re facing.
So feel free to skip to the link at the bottom, because I’m about to get pretty wordy as I describe the process I used to create the unit for any of you that might like to create units of your own for other episodes.
An Essential Question: I started here because backward design just makes sense to me and helps me frame my work.
Can-Do Statements: I created one Can-Do for each mode of communication based on the NCSSFL-ACTFL Intermediate benchmarks.
Avant de visionner: I included a few discussion questions to use as an advance organizer before introducing the video. These questions could be discussed in-class, via videoconference, in writing using an LMS, etc.
Vocabulaire: I selected ten vocabulary terms from the video and used pictures to introduce them.
Choisissez le bon mot: I created a matching activity in which students will select the word that corresponds to the French definition. This activity can be completed on paper, inserted into a Google Doc, or made into an online quiz using an LMS or other platform.
Regardez la vidéo: I’ve included a link to the FluentKey video for teachers that want to assign the video to students and use a quiz or play FluentKey live with the video. This could be played in-class or via video conference (link to directions is included in teacher notes). I’ve also included a YouTube link. Depending on the proficiency level of the students, I might play the video once, narrating and questioning to increase comprehension. This could be done in class or via videoconferencing. For other students, I would just assign the FluentKey video as an independent activity or assessment.
Remplissez ce schéma: I’ve included a story map graphic organizer for students to fill out about the video. I’ve included a link to a version of the map that can be completed online in the teacher resources at the end of the document.
Remplissez le résumé avec la forme correcte du verbe: I created a one-page summary of the video and left blanks for the students to fill in the correct form (imparfait, passe compose or plus-que-parfait  ). I included a key in the teacher resources. This activity could be completed on paper or put in a Google Doc for submitting online. Teachers could also quickly make a multiple choice version as an assessment or way of providing immediate feedback using an appropriate program/LMS.
Mots Croisés à deux: My students loved these partner crosswords! In the teacher notes you’ll find an A puzzle (with the vertical answers filled in) and a B puzzle with the horizontal answers filled in. There are no clues included, as the students use circumlocution to help their partner fill in their missing words. This activity serves as a fun review of the story, as the words in the puzzle are related to key events from the video. In the teacher notes I included an editable version of the puzzle that teachers could send out so that students could complete this activity via Google Meets or Zoom, recording and submitting if possible. Otherwise, the puzzle could be printed for in class use. I’ve also included a rubric for assessing the students if this is possible in your situation.
Citations à discuter: In this section you’ll find a list of quotes from the video as well as a list of discussion questions. I’ve found that this type of activity is an engaging way to review the video. If I were spending a few days on the episode, I might have the students discuss 6-7 questions a day. These discussions could take place face to face, via videoconference or in writing using a discussion board.
Comparaison Culturelle: I’ve created a graphic organizer which the students will complete to compare their lives to Lou’s. I’ve included an editable version in the teacher’s notes for online submission.
Lecture: Students will complete this simple graphic organizer to demonstrate comprehension of an article about journal writing. (Link and rubric included in teacher materials.)
Jeux de Rôles: I’ve included 3 different role plays based on the video. In my classroom, I would usually have the students practice each role play at least twice (changing roles) and often changing partners. I would then call up an unannounced pair and randomly assign a role play for assessment purposes. This ensured a more spontaneous conversation. In a virtual environment, I would have students practice via break out room or have them call each other on the phone. Then I would assign them a 3-minute Zoom conference for the assessment, if that were possible in my particular situation. In the teacher notes I also included a series of phone messages that could be used as speaking assessments if necessary. While these would not be interpersonal tasks, they would allow you to at least have a speaking prompt to assess. They could even be submitted via Flipgrid and classmates could respond as the character who listened to the message.
Journal Intime: You’ll find 3 different prompts based on the video. I generally allowed students to pick the one that most interested them. Having 3 prompts allows the teacher options if they find a student needs to redo the activity for any reason. (I’ve included wording in my rubrics to clarify why students might need to redo an assessment.)
Bonus Activity: This activity, found in the teacher notes, includes the time stamp and a description of a scene from the video so that a teacher could take screenshots from important scenes for discussion activities. I’ve included discussion questions if you choose to include this activity. A teacher could also use the screenshots and questions to assess a student individually, asking follow up questions and personalized questions to create a more developed conversation. Lastly, students could also respond orally or in writing via an LMS for an online environment.
Whew! Congratulations for making it to the end! Here’s a link to the document:
As many of you know, one of my post-retirement gigs is creating content for FluentKey.com. For those of you that are not familiar with FluentKey, it is a tool that allows language teachers to upload videos and create quizzes with a variety of question types. In addition, FluentKey also includes hundreds of Featured videos that have a transcript and computer-graded quiz questions. (The transcripts and quiz questions are where I come in.) A basic subscription to FluentKey is free and there is also a Pro subscription that includes additional features.
If you’re interested in learning more about FluentKey here’s a link to the FAQs and another link to a blog post explaining some differences between FluentKey and Edpuzzle.
I really enjoy my work at FluentKey and find it has been a great way to keep my language skills fresh since I am no longer in the classroom. A couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that it might be helpful if I created a document which lists some possible thematic units for each level and links to existing FluentKey videos for each of these topics. The current document includes possible themes for Levels 1-3 but I’ll be adding Level 4 and 5 in the next couple of weeks. As this link shows, the document includes an Essential Question for each unit, along with one or more Can-Do statements and some relevant vocabulary topics and contexts.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know!
Although I have written about my grading policies in the past, my ideas have continued to evolve since these earlier posts. Prompted by a recent conversation on the French Teachers in the US Facebook page, I thought I would share my most recent policies for grading in a proficiency-based classroom.
Step 1: Gradebook
My preferred gradebook configuration is to have five different categories: Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing and Miscellaneous . I weight each of these categories evenly at 20%. Other people use the modes (Interpretive, Interpersonal and Presentational) as their categories and I think that’s great. I preferred to use the skills rather than modes, because my students and I got more specific feedback this way. I found that a student’s interpersonal speaking and presentational speaking skills were much more congruous than their presentational speaking and presentational writing skills were. If I used Presentational as a category, I would not immediately be clear whether a struggling student needed support for writing or speaking. Note: If I were in a school with standards-based grading, I would eliminate the Miscellaneous category and move the other categories to 25%.
Step 2: Formative Assessments
In my classroom the majority of the each class period was spent on communicative activities that I assessed as follows:
Interpretive Reading: When the students read something in class and completed some type of comprehension-based task, I either gave whole class feedback (providing the correct answers) or collected their work for written feedback. This feedback was usually limited to a score (I scored out of 10 rather than percentages) based on accuracy.
Interpretive Listening: I assigned a lot of Edpuzzles (but only because FluentKey wasn’t yet available!) I used the computer-generated score as a basis for a score out of 10. Because I didn’t expect my students to get all of my questions correct (I designed some questions to encourage my high flyers to stretch), I usually gave a 10/10 for 90% or higher, 9/10 for 80% or higher, etc.
Interpersonal Speaking: I circulated among my students as they worked on interpersonal tasks. Sometimes I filled out a rubric with specific feedback and recorded a score (out of 10) but most times I jotted down notes on a class roster. Occasionally I used these notes to determine a grade. I did not generally assign any interpersonal writing tasks.
Presentational Writing: I often assigned short written tasks based on the interpretive and interpersonal tasks from the lesson and gave basic feedback and a score out of 10.
Presentational Speaking: I seldom assigned a presentational speaking task as a formative assessment. When I did so, I provided feedback and a score out of 10.
In addition to these communicative activities, I occasionally gave a quiz of some kind. For example, if the students had done a pair activity that involved describing pictures to each other, I might describe 5 pictures and have the students identify them. If they had done a reading activity with a partner, I might ask some oral true/false questions about the reading.
At the end of a 4-6 week unit, I had a LOT of scores. They ALL went in the Miscellaneous category. A better name for this category would have been Formative Assessment, but I was leaving myself a little wiggle room for the rare instances that I needed to include something that I didn’t consider to be a formative assessment but that I was required to assign by my department.
Step 3: Summative Assessments
At the end of each unit, I assigned an Integrated Performance Assessment. Each task in the assessment resulted in a separate grade. So for most IPAs I had a grade for each performance category: Interpretive Reading, Interpretive Listening, Interpersonal Speaking and Presentational Writing. If I included a Presentational Speaking task, that would be an additional grade in my Speaking category.
The grades for the IPAs were the only grades that went into my performance categories. In other words, 80% of my grades (all but the formative assessments) came from IPAs.
When I graded my IPAs, I used the following rubrics.
Interpretive Reading: I used the rubric from the ACTFL publication,Implementing Integrated Performance Assessment by Bonnie Adair-Hauck, Eileen W. Glisan and Francis J. Troyan. I assigned 10/10 for students whose work fell in the Accomplished Comprehension category, and 8/10 or 9/10 for Strong Comprehension, a 7/10 for Minimal Comprehension and a 5/10 or 6/10 for Limited Comprehension. I did not assign scores of less that 5/10. (See this article for an explanation of this policy.)
Interpretive Listening: Because I did not use the IPA Interpretive Template for my listening assessments, I developed individual rubrics for my listening tasks. I usually used a graphic organizer or comprehension questions for listening assessment and a rubric something like this:
10: Identifies the main ideas and supports each one with relevant details
9: Identifies the main ideas and supports most of them with relevant details
8: Identifies some main ideas and/or several details
7: Identifies a main idea and a couple of details.
6: Identifies a few details.
5: Is unable to identify a main idea or provide any relevant details.
Presentational Speaking and/or Presentational Writing: I used this proficiency-based rubric from the Ohio Department of Education.
Note: The Interpersonal and Presentational rubrics do not provide a numeric or letter grade. I preferred to just check the relevant boxes to provide feedback to my students. In order to determine a numerical grade for my gradebook, I used this conversion chart:
*In each case (9) represents the ACTFL expectation.
As I begin to adjust to this new normal, my thoughts have turned to how I might be modifying my teaching practices for an online environment if I were in the classroom. Since I like to start each lesson with an interpretive task, I began by envisioning some activities that I thought might be appropriate for distance learners. Two significant challenges to assigning interpretive texts in a distance learning environment occurred to me. First and foremost, teachers are spending more time working than ever before. Creating specific comprehension guides for each text is simply not possible. Secondly, without the physical presence of a teacher, many students find themselves resorting to copying classmates’ work or using Google to translate the texts they are given. While I’m not sure there’s a way to totally eliminate these behaviors, I have created a few tasks that I hope might discourage them. Each of these activities are open-ended, so that no two students would randomly end up with the same responses. Best of all, little or no modification should be needed. For the most part they are ready to be shared with students as is.
This oldy but goody can be used with any informative text. As a pre-reading activity, the students fill in what they know about the topic, as well as what they’d like to know. After reading a text or watching a video about the topic, the students fill in new information that they learned about the topic. Because I think this activity works best if the students are writing in French, I think it works best with Intermediate learners.
In this activity students fill in a graphic organizer with main ideas and supporting details. I find this one works well with both written and recorded informational texts and Novices might write in English while Intermediates might write in French.
For this graphic organizer, the teacher identifies a problem or event related to the content being studied, and students fill in the causes and consequences of this problem based on their interpretation of a written or recorded text. Based on the level of students, this might be completed in French or English.
Unlike the previous graphic organizer, this one is designed to work with narrative texts. As this example shows, students begin with the first event of the story and then add an effect of this action, which becomes the cause of the next one. I think this one works best in French, so I would have Novices write very short, simple sentences.
The last low prep, open-ended task that I wanted to share was an annotation activity. While I often had students annotate texts in my classroom, I had them do so with a pencil and hard copy of the text. Since this won’t work with distance learning, I did some research and taught myself a new tech tool. (I actually practiced with several online annotation tools, but this one seemed pretty user-friendly so that’s the one that I chose to share here.)
Click on Free Online on the left side of the screen.
(Note: If you are giving the students a pdf link from the internet, they will click Load pdf from Internet.
If you have uploaded a pdf to Google and are sharing the Google link, they will click on Upload pdf to PDFescape.)
These are the ideas I had about using this tool with remote learners. You’ll probably think of some others, too!
Once the pdf is
Choose 10 words that helped you understand what you were reading.
Click on the Annotate tab in the upper left corner.
Click on Underline.
Highlight the section you would like to underline. Make sure to change the color if necessary by clicking on Color at the top of the page.
(Note: Click on Underline again to stop Underlining texts. If you make a mistake, click the Undo arrow or highlight the annotation and click on the trash icon.)
Choose at least 3 words that you don’t know but which would have helped you better understand the text.
Click on the Annotate tab.
Click on Rectangle.
Highlight the word to create a rectangle around it.. Change the color if necessary
Click inside the rectangle to bring up a text box.
Look up the word at Wordreference.com and type the English meaning in the box.
You can make the textbox smaller by clicking on the corners and you can move the text box by clicking on it and dragging it to a better location on your screen.
Ask at least 2 questions about the information in the text.
Click on the Annotate tab in the upper left corner.
Click on More.
Click on Oval.
Highlight the section you have a question about.
Change the color of your oval to either red or white, depending on the background color of your page.
Click on the circle and type your question in the text box that appears.
Write at least 3 new things you learned (about Francophone culture) from this text.
Click on the Annotate tab in the upper left corner.
Click on More.
Click on Oval.
Highlight the relevant part of the text. Change the color of the oval to blue or red.
Click in the oval until you see a text box. Type a sentence explaining what you learned about Francophone culture from that section of the text.
Make at least 3 connections between your life and the text.
Click on the Annotate tab in the upper left corner.
Click on Sticky Note.
Highlight the relevant part of the text and when the Sticky Note box opens up, type a sentence explaining the connection between the text and your life.
If I were assigning this activity, I would have the students submit a screenshot of their annotated text. They can also select “Save and download pdf” but I found that when I sent myself a copy of the downloaded pdf, the information from the textboxes was not available. When I uploaded the pdf to my Google Drive, the sticky notes appeared as Comments, but the information from the textboxes in the ovals and rectangles did not appear. You could, of course, have the students use Sticky Notes for the types of information that I included in Circles and Rectangles.
Courage to all of you. You have my utmost admiration for the work that you are doing.
It seems so strange to be blogging after such a long absence! While I have been busy with professional obligations as an independent consultant, moderator of #langchat and #langbook and as the French Content Editor of FluentKey, I have not been lesson planning, leaving me with so little to share here. And while I am in absolute awe of the amazing way that all of you are addressing the challenges inherent in distance learning, I felt at a loss when it came to providing support for something with which I have little experience. However, when a member of the French Teachers in the US Facebook page posted a question about Petit Nicolas books, I thought that maybe sharing some of the resources I’ve created might be helpful to some of you that were using these stories for the first (or twenty-first) time.
Please note that I have used these stories in a lot of different ways over the past thirty years. My understandings about how languages are learned evolved immensely during that time, and I would not necessarily use some of these resources in the same way now as I did then. You will be invited to make a copy of any document you wish and I encourage you to make any changes that you’d like to meet your needs and those of your students.
I also wanted to provide a bit of information about the links to the videos I have shared. These videos are adorable and I love using them with students. Unfortunately, the videos seem to disappear quite regularly from Youtube (often to reappear later from a different source) so the links will most likely not remain active for very long. If you have problems with any of them, try a search with the title in Youtube and you might find a different copy. I would also recommend checking Edpuzzle for listening activities. I had created Edpuzzles for several of the videos, but my account is no longer active as it was associated with my school email.
I’ve also included a link to the text of each story for those of you that don’t have access to the books. There are several sources for online texts, but unfortunately these often do not include the adorable pictures from the book. It would be so much nicer to be able to post a copy of the book pages for the students!
Here are the links to the resources I had in my files. While some have been shared in previous posts, I thought it might be helpful to have them all in one place. Please let me know if you have any questions!
One of the highlights of my time at ACTFL 2019 was a short conversation I had with Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell in the ACTFL Playground Saturday morning. She and her co-presenter, Laura Sexton, had presented a session, PBLL + TCI: Love Connection or Divorce Court that really resonated with me. In this presentation, Sara-Elizabeth had adopted the persona of TCI (Teaching with Comprehensible Input) and Laura had played the role of PBLL (Project-Based Language Learning) in a skit based on a game show. This format created a context for a detailed conversation about the differences between TCI and PBLL. It was the first time I had heard two experts in our field openly discussing the disparities inherent in these methodologies and I couldn’t wait to find out how the characters in their dramatic presentation would resolve their conflict. Of course, by the end of the session PBLL and TCI realized (as Laura and Sara-Elizabeth had years earlier) that the two strategies could be used together to build proficiency.
I was so thrilled to see these two amazing women demonstrate a way to bridge the divide that many have perceived in the world language community. It is an unfortunate reality that the labels we use to describe our teaching methodology can sometimes create a wall between “us” and “them.” In fact, I have witnessed some very difficult conversations between those teachers who identify as “CI,” and those who have chosen the “proficiency-based,” label. However, I couldn’t agree more with Sara-Elizabeth who later tweeted that the dichotomy between being a CI teacher OR a proficiency teacher is “NOT A THING.” It was such a relief to have someone as knowledgeable as Sara-Elizabeth so succinctly summarize my own beliefs. Although I sometimes use the term “proficiency-based” to refer to my own constantly-evolving teaching style, this is not meant to deny the importance of comprehensible input for language acquisition. In fact, I fully agree with Sara-Elizabeth’s explanation (via Twitter) that “proficiency can’t be built without CI and the result of CI is proficiency.”
While most 21st century language teachers understand the role of comprehensible input in building proficiency, there is less agreement on how best to provide this input. Current methodologies differ in both the specific strategies and the types of resources that are suggested. Based on our training, experience and community, many of us have aligned our practice with one of these methodologies and may even identify ourselves as “I am [methodology].” It is so validating to be a part of a specific community and I understand the desire to identify as a member of a specific group. However, I think that doing so sometimes negates the fact that we are more alike than we are different. I love Sara-Elizabeth’s suggestion that we instead describe our practice by saying, “I use [strategies].” In my opinion, doing so encourages us to go beyond the limits of our labels and incorporate strategies based on our knowledge of our students, our unique personalities and experiences, and the requirements of our teaching environments. Furthermore, by letting go of our labels we might facilitate more inclusive conversations with teachers whose language teaching journeys have led them in slightly different directions than our own. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/discounts-discount-label-promotion-2894129/
As I sit here at the airport waiting to return to my life as a part-time grandma, part-time professional development provider, I am so excited about all the people I met and all the new ideas that were presented at this conference. Thanks to all who presented as well as to those who reached out to me and made me feel so special! For those who weren’t able to attend this year’s conference, click here for a link to my presentation, “Using ACTFL Core Practices to Facilitate Vocabulary Acquisition.”
I’m so excited to announce that I’ve been selected to present at this year’s World Language Teacher Summit! When I “attended” (it’s an online conference so I never had to leave the couch) last year, I never imagined I’d be submitting a video of my own this year. If you’re interested in seeing my video, “Engaging Students in the Interpretive Mode” or any of the videos submitted by these fantastic language teachers, click here for your free registration. (Note: This is an affiliate link and if you purchase anything I might receive a commission.)