Category Archives: Planning

Starting off on the right foot: Using the language and getting to know each other

footAs many of you know, I relocated over the summer and will be teaching in a new school this year. After spending the last 15 years in a building where August meant mostly reconnecting with my former students (only the Freshmen were new to me each year), in a couple of weeks I will welcome about 150 brand-new faces to my classroom. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared to death! As a relatively introverted, somewhat anxious person, the challenge of learning a whole new school culture, finding my way around a humongous new school, and connecting with all of those new students is nearly overwhelming.  

While I have pledged to be patient with myself when it comes to finding my way around my school and its policies, getting to know my students simply can’t wait.  Therefore, I’ll spend the first few days of school on learning activities that will help me learn more about my students, as well as introduce them to the types of communicative activities I’ll be assigning to help them increase their proficiency.  Here’s what I have in mind for each of the classes I’ll be teaching:

French 2 In this class the students will be introducing themselves to the class by presenting a self-portrait.

Day 1 I’ll show the students these self-portraits from TV5Monde. As I project each one, I’ll facilitate class discussion by asking the students questions about what they see, as well as personalized questions using the same vocabulary.  I’ve prepared this handout as a reference as I’m not sure whether they will have been introduced to the vocabulary required for these tasks. Next, the students will listen to these descriptions (Darius, Cheryl, Deivan Anastasia and complete this comprehension guide. (I’ve chosen to provide the students with direct links to the mp3 files rather than the TV5Monde website so that they do not have access to the transcripts.) For homework the students will prepare (and submit electronically) a self-portrait (drawing, painting, phone selfie).

Day 2 First the students to write out a script for presenting their self-portraits. As they are writing I will circulate and provide feedback.  Next, the students will present their self-portrait to classmates using inside/outside circles. Finally the students will compare self-portraits with a partner and complete a Venn diagram with details they discuss.  

French 3 In this class the students will be introducing themselves to the class by presenting 10 things about themselves.  

Day 1 The students will work in small groups to read this blog and complete this comprehension guide.  Then they will answer the same questions in the space provided.  Finally, they will circulate among their classmates, asking questions in order to find a classmate who has the same answer for each question.  

Day 2 The students will listen to this video and fill in this comprehension guide. I’ll then play the video and facilitate a class discussion by discussing what Benji says and asking personalized questions based on his information. Lastly, the students will write a script for their own “10 Things” presentation which will be submitted for feedback before being recorded.  

French 4/5 In this class the students will be introducing themselves by preparing a presentation on 12 things they have done.  

Day 1 The students will listen to this video and fill in this comprehension guide. I’ll then play the video and discuss it so that students have feedback on their comprehension.

Day 2 The students will read this blog and fill in this comprehension guide, which they will then discuss in small groups.

Day 3 The students will write a script for their own presentation of 12 things they have done.  They will then trade papers with a classmate who will fill out this feedback form. The students will then revise their scripts, which will be graded according to this rubric. For homework the students will record a video of their own presentation and submit it via Schoology. For the next day’s homework, the students will listen to three of their classmates’ videos and respond to each one with a comment and follow up question.

It is my hope that these activities will help me get to know my new students as create a focus for using the language from Day 1.  If you have other suggestions about how you achieve these goals with your students, please share!

Resources for Planning and a Food Unit for Intermediate Low French Students


As regular readers may have noticed, I ended up taking a hiatus from blogging this spring.  It all started when I welcomed an awesome student teacher to my classroom who was so well-skilled in proficiency-based instructional methods that I didn’t need to create any new lessons for several weeks. Then I decided to relocate closer to family, creating a whirlwind of life changes which including finding a new position, selling a house, buying a new house, moving and setting up a new household.  Needless to say, I had to put aside my blogging for a few months!  However, now that I’m settled into my new home I’m anxious to share some of the materials I’ve been working on for my new students.

Creating units for students that I’ve never met, in a school with a different curriculum and culture than the one I left has been a bit of a challenge.  Although I don’t know much about the proficiency level or personal interests of my new students, I can’t wait until August to begin preparing instructional materials for my new kiddos.

Besides, reading Chapter 1 of The Keys to Planning for Learning for #langbook has me thinking about all of the ways I can improve my planning and I’m excited to start implementing some of the ideas that are reinforced in this book.

I decided to start with my French 3 curriculum, since I will have three different French classes this year–half of my school day.  In addition to reading The Keys to Planning for Learning, I completed the self-assessment survey provided by the TELL Project before developing this unit.  As a result of this self-assessment, I realized I needed to be more intentional in developing daily objectives for my lessons. Although I had previously created Can Do Statements for each unit, I hadn’t provided my students with a clear objective for each lesson.  I have therefore included daily performance objectives in addition to the Essential Questions and Can Do Statements for this unit.  

Because the first theme in my new French 3 curriculum, “Nourriture,” is so broad, I have broken it down into three topics–breakfast, school lunch, and Francophone specialties. This Google Slide Presentation contains the unit plan as well as links to the materials I’ve created/borrowed for each of the 19 lessons in the unit.I am hoping that this format will improve transitions, encourage the students to work more independently and allow absent students to complete work from home. It will also facilitate sharing this work as I can continue to make edits/correct errors without having to reload word documents to this blog. While I’ve previously shared some of these materials, many others are new, including several Edpuzzle video quizzes that will serve as formative assessments in the 1:1 learning environment of my new school.  

While I have not included assessments in the presentation, you can click here for the breakfast IPA and here for the school lunch IPA. As the agenda shows, the students will prepare a presentation, rather than a full IPA as a summative assessment on the Francophone specialty topic.


As always, I welcome feedback on these materials!


Image Credit:


Integrating Culture – Step 1: Essential Questions

globeAs the World Language teachers in my district continue to work on revising our curriculum, one of our most important goals is to be more purposeful in teaching our students the products, practices and perspectives of the cultures who speak the languages we teach.  In Ohio, where I teach, the role of culture in communication is made clear by the inclusion of an interculturality component in both the performance and proficiency rubrics.  As a result of this week’s lively discussion on #langchat, I have realized that my local colleagues and I are not alone in our desire to more fully integrate culture in spite of the challenges inherent in doing so.

While it is clear that cultural knowledge plays an important role in communication, we face certain difficulties as we strive to develop culturally rich lessons for our students.  Designing units that address the breadth of our target cultures, are accessible to learners across proficiency levels, and are respectful of our students’ own varied cultural backgrounds is not an easy undertaking.  While designing our lessons around authentic resources helps us to infuse our lessons with relevant cultural information, it is often challenging to find appropriate materials that reflect Francophone cultures outside of Europe and North America. As a result, we must sometimes choose between the authenticity of the texts we select as sources of linguistic input and the diversity of the cultural information we present to our students. Furthermore, novice students, whose communicative proficiency may be limited to expressing their own basic needs,  may not be able to adequately represent their knowledge of the target culture in the target language. Lastly, the lack of a common culture among our diverse students sometimes makes cultural comparisons nearly impossible.

In spite of these challenges, there is no doubt that it is our responsibility to develop our students’ cultural competence.  As a first step to improving my own practices in this area, I looked over this year’s course outlines for my French 1, 2, and 3 classes and listed some cultural essential questions that are addressed by the instructional activities I’ve planned for each one.  (I’ve slightly modified the topics since my initial reflection in this post.)  For each unit, I identified a general essential question for the topic, as well as some more specific questions that will be answered in the authentic resources I’ve chosen for the unit. While most of the resources I’ve used in the past reflected mostly French culture, my first goal will be to incorporate more materials from other Francophone cultures in order to more fully address these essential questions.

French 1

  1. Why is it important to learn French?
  • Who speaks French?
  • How do French people greet each other?
  1. What is school like in a Francophone country?
  • What school supplies do students need?
  • How and where do students get their school supplies?
  • What classes do kids take in Francophone countries?
  1. How do people in Francophone cultures spend their free time?
  • How much leisure time to people have?
  • What sports, games and hobbies are popular?
  • What role does technology play in leisure activities?
  1. What are families like in Francophone cultures?
  • What members of a family live together?
  • How common are divorce and blended families?
  • What are the roles of each member of the family?
  • What role do pets play in the family?
  1. What is a year like in different Francophone cultures?
  • What is the weather like at different times of the year?
  • How does the weather affect people’s activities?
  • What major holidays are celebrated throughout the year and how are they celebrated?
  1. What are mealtimes like in Francophone countries?
  • When do people eat each meal?
  • What do people eat at each meal?
  • Where do people eat each meal?
  1. Where do people in the Francophone culture live?
  • What are their homes like?
  • What are their neighborhoods like?
  • Where do they go for various activities?
  • Where might a visitor to their area go and why?

French 2

  1. What is a typical day like for teenagers in different Francophone countries?
  • When do they wake up, how, and why?
  • What do they do after school and why?
  • When do they go to bed and how do they fall asleep?
  1. What do Francophone teens do with their friends?
  • What do they do when they get together at someone’s house?
  • What do they do when they go out together?
  1. How do people in Francophone cultures buy their food?
  • Where do they go to buy food?
  • What ecological and nutritional values are reflected in their shopping habits?
  • What dishes are commonly prepared at home?
  1. How do people in Francophone cultures stay healthy?
  • Where do people go for health care?
  • What role does exercise play in their daily lives?
  • What diseases cause the most concern?
  1. What are schools like in Francophone cultures?
  • What are relationships between students and teachers like?
  • What role do parents play in the education of their children?
  • What are the relationships among the students like?
  1. What was it like to live in a castle?
  • How were castles built?
  • Who lived in castles?
  • How did a boy become a knight?
  • How did castles evolve?
  • What did people do for fun during medieval times?
  1. What are some things you can do for fun in Quebec?
  • What is there to do in Montreal?
  • What do you need if you want to go camping in a provincial park?
  • What role did the French play in Canadian history?

French 3

  1. What role does travel play in Francophone culture?
  • Where do people go on vacation?
  • With whom do they travel?
  • What vacation activities are popular?
  1. How have educational reforms affected Francophone schools?
  • How are students graded?
  • What high stakes tests do students take?
  • When do students go to school?
  1. How do people form romantic relationships in Francophone cultures?
  • What role does dating play in forming a relationship?
  • What role does marriage play in the culture?
  • Who has the right to marry?
  • What is a marriage ceremony like?
  1. What role do sports play in Francophone culture?
  • What sports are popular in various countries?
  • What teams are popular?
  • What Francophone athletes play in the U.S.?
  • What athletic competitions are important?
  1. What is Impressionism?
  • How did Impressionism develop?
  • Who are the major artists associated with the movement?
  • How did Impressionists influence later artists?
  1. What are the ecological challenges in some Francophone countries?
  • What do people do to conserve resources?
  • How do economic factors influence conservation efforts in various countries?
  • What animals are endangered?
  1. What was France like during prehistoric times?
  • How did early humans live?
  • What prehistoric sites can people visit?
  • How are characters from ancient cultures portrayed in literature?

I have a long way to go before I will be satisfied with the degree to which I’ve integrated the diversity of Francophone culture in my instructional practices, but this list of essential questions will give me someplace to start.  I’d love to know more about how you integrate culture into your classroom, as well as authentic resources you’ve used to adress any of these topics as they related to French speakers outside of France and Canada.

How a little bird helped me with a challenging Can-Do

twitter-312464_640Last summer, when I decided to ditch my textbooks and develop a proficiency-oriented curriculum, I didn’t know for sure exactly what themes I would end up including.   Like many of you, I teach one or more French 1, 2, 3, and 4/5/AP classes per day, so I had to be satisfied with creating one unit at a time during my first year with this new course design. At the beginning of the year, I knew only that I would be choosing a theme for each unit, and would then create learning activities around that theme that would address at least one NCSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statement for each mode of communication. While I was nervous about having enough time to curate the resources and develop the learning experiences that my students would need, I wasn’t overly concerned about “what” to teach.  By planning lessons that addressed each of the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements, I felt I would be providing my students with what they needed to reach their proficiency goals.  This allowed me to focus on choosing themes that would interest my students and for which I was able to find an adequate number of authentic written and recorded texts. Although it was a challenging year in terms of time management, it was a rewarding one as well.  The majority of my students demonstrated proficiency at the expected or higher level and seemed to enjoy the class.  In fact, there was a significant increase in enrollment (due, undoubtedly, to many different factors).

So, as I reflected on last year while preparing for this one, I was feeling pretty satisfied with the curricula I had developed. I was confident that the thematic units I had created had allowed my students to meet each of the Can-Do’s multiple times, so I just needed to do a quick double-check as I wrote out my outline for this year. Since they’re first in the Can-Do document, I started with Novice High Interpersonal Communication Can-Do’s when I was preparing my French 2 outline. I can exchange some personal information. Check—they’ve been doing that since French 1.  I can exchange information using texts, graphs, or pictures. No problem here.  Many of my lessons are organized around an infographic that the students interpret and then discuss.  We also read and discuss illustrated stories and the students do lots of picture-based interpersonal activities, like “Guess Who” games, “Same/Different” activities, “Matching Pictures,” and picture sequencing activities to review stories or videos. I’ve definitely got that one covered. Next came, I can ask for and give simple directions. Piece of cake, they learn how to give directions in French 1, and the picture description activities ensure that the students maintain this skill.  Only two more Interpersonal Can-Do’s and I could move on. I can make plans with others. What??? Hmmm. I must have done something last year that addressed this one. So I checked out the examples given, hoping they would jog my memory:

  • I can accept or reject an invitation to do something or go somewhere.
  • I can invite and make plans with someone to do something or go somewhere.
  • I can exchange information about where to go, such as to the store, the movie theatre, a concert, a restaurant, the lab, or when to meet.

Nope. I couldn’t think of a single learning activity I had created that would allow my students to meet this Can-Do.  So, I prayed that no one would alert the proficiency police and then started planning how I could make sure to include this Can-Do in this year’s curriculum. (Fortunately, I’d addressed the final Novice High Interpersonal Communication Can-Do, I can interact with others in everyday situations, in a unit on grocery shopping and another on health, so I didn’t have any other unfortunate surprises.)

Unfortunately, introducing the skill of inviting and accepting or rejecting invitations proved to be more challenging than I had expected.  I just couldn’t come up with an authentic resource that would give my students enough comprehensible input with the phrases that are typically used for these language functions.  Fortunately, around this same time I came across this great post  and as I surfed around their fabulous blog I saw several references to the use of Twitter as an authentic resource.  While many of you have no doubt been using Twitter with your students for ages, I only got my own account a couple of years ago in order to stay in touch with my son. In fact, I didn’t follow anyone else until I was introduced to #langchat a few months ago.  As a result of my own lack of experience with this particular social medium, I hadn’t yet explored Twitter as an authentic resource that could be used with my students. I wondered whether this medium might provide the type of comprehensible input I was looking for.

Since I wasn’t exactly sure where to begin in planning my first Twitter lesson, I simply logged into my Twitter account and typed in “Si tu veux, on peut” as I felt this would be a useful phrase for extending invitations.  Lo and behold, I immediately had dozens of recent tweets to choose from, each which contained this expression used in an authentic context.  I simply chose those tweets that were 1) comprehensible, 2) interesting, 3) culturally relevant, and 4) school-appropriate and then copied (using the snip tool) and pasted them into a Word document.  I then did additional searches for “Ca te dit de..” and “si on allait”” so that my students would become familiar with these expressions, too.  The students will read these tweets at the beginning of the lesson on invitations, and complete a simple interpretive activity.  I think this activity will be engaging to students due to its authenticity and connection with their own daily lives. They may or may not notice the lack of accuracy in the language used, but if they do I will use this teachable moment to discuss the register of language used in social media.

After reading these tweets, the students will then write tweets of their own to the other members of their group using these invitation expressions. I will provide them with an authentic resource which includes common texting abbreviations, so that the students can incorporate these abbreviations in their own tweets. Having practiced reading and writing invitations, I will then introduce the students to expressions used in accepting and rejecting invitations with another group of tweets. After reading these tweets, they will return to the tweets that were written to them by their classmates, and either accept or reject each one.

After this introduction to the language used in invitations, the students will complete an interpersonal speaking activity in which they extend several invitations to a partner who accepts or rejects each one as they fill out an agenda for a weekend together.  They will then complete a presentational writing activity in which they write a series of tweets between themselves and another student, inviting him/her to participate in the activities from the agenda.

Click here for the resource I created for this lesson: Twitter Invitation Lesson

Since developing this lesson, I’ve done several other Twitter searches for upcoming units and I’m really excited about how this authentic resource can be used with students.  I’d love to hear how any of you have incorporated Twitter into your classrooms!

5 Steps to Implementing Learning Stations in the Language Classroom

station folderMy readers asked such great questions about learning stations after my recent post, that I decided to write up a quick “How To” for those who are new to learning stations.  In this previous post  I commented on some of the reasons why I find learning stations to such a valuable teaching tool.  Today, I’ll just mention a few practical considerations. These are the steps I suggest when designing learning stations.

Step 1: Decide how many stations you’re going to have.   In some cases your resources will determine the number of stations you must have.  In my classroom, I have eight computers (including mine).  Because I like to include a computer station, I can never have groups larger than 8.  This means that if I have more than 32 students, I must have at least 5 stations.

Step 2: Determine the maximum number of students you will have in each group. (In other words, divide the number of students in the class by the number of stations.) This step is important because it will help you determine how many sets of materials you will need at each station.  I usually organize my stations according to language skill, sometimes with a game or computer station thrown in. Some of my station activities are done with a partner (such as the speaking) or a small group (some of the games), so I need to have the appropriate number of manipulatives for the number of groups.  For example, in the French I introductory unit, I will have about 8 students in each group.  I’ve instructed them to divide into groups of 2-3 for the games, so I will need at least 3 sets of each card game that I’ve created (if there’s only one game at the station).  If there is more than one game, the subgroups might be playing different games, so you might not need 3 sets of each one.  However, keep in mind that if there is more than one activity at the same station, the students will not finish at the same time, so you need to have a couple of extra sets. For example, if a group of 8 is divided into 3 groups (3 + 3 + 2) to play Go Fish, Memory, and Loto, it would not be enough to have one set of each game.  The Go Fish group might finish before the Memory and Loto groups, and would not have anything to do.  Stations work great for engaging students, until someone doesn’t have work to do.  I usually have a few enrichment activities, but students will resist starting something else when they know that they can play a game in 2-3 minutes.   Three minutes is a lot of time!  My students tease me for my now famous saying, “You still have 3 minutes, that’s 16% of our class period.”

Step 3: Decide the logistics.  In this French I unit, I wanted to spend only 2 days on each mini-lesson and I wanted to have some time to introduce the vocabulary at the beginning of the first day as well as a formative assessment at the end of the second day.  As a result, I determined that I would have 30 minutes per day to spend on stations. Therefore, I planned four 15-minute stations that would be completed over a 2-day period.  At other times, I create 48-minute stations and the students will do one per day for 4 days.  Note that it is vital for logistical purposes that kids stay in the same group every day and that the order of rotation is decided in advance and remains unchanged. For example, if on the first rotation Group A is Speaking, Group B is Reading, Group C is Playing, and Group D is at the computer, then on the second rotation, they each group moves one, so Group A is Reading, Group B is Playing, Group C is at the Computer and Group D is Speaking.  On the third rotation, they will move in this same order.  Once I have assigned each student to his/her first station, I usually just have them follow the order in the packet, with the understanding that when they get to the last station, they’ll go to the first one.  Another logistical consideration is absent students.  I usually tell them to join their group on their return, and schedule time for them to make up missed station work, so that I don’t end up with too many kids at one station.  The problem, of course, is if they missed the Speaking Station.  If I’m using the Speaking Station for formative assessment purposes, I might have an absent student move out of order if I won’t max out the number of students in a group.

Step 4: Design the station activities.  Stations allow me to implement so many resources that I wouldn’t be able to use otherwise, so I try to take full advantage of the fact that I don’t need 30 copies of any materials I use.  Authentic books and games, realia, teacher-created or purchased manipulatives, etc. can all be incorporated into stations.  I try to create more activities than I think the students will have time to complete, in order to avoid downtime (see above.) I also suggest organizing the materials in a way that increases time on task.  For the computer activities, I put all of the links on Canvas (learning management system) so the students can just click on the links. The materials for each of the other stations are in a folder labeled with the name of the station.  For the Speaking and/or Game station, each set of manipulatives is in a baggie which is labeled with the name of the activity.  (Hint: Make each set a different color so that if you find a card that isn’t in a baggie, you know which set it belongs to.) Keep in mind that each group will be starting with a different station, so the stations can’t be dependent on each other.  In other words, you can’t have the Writing students write about something they read at the Reading station, because some students will be at Writing before Reading.

station folders    manips

Step 5: Create your groups.  Depending on your own objectives, you might choose more homogenous or heterogeneous grouping.   I do try to have even-numbered groups when possible.  This allows everyone to have a partner at the speaking station (unless someone is absent).  Therefore, I might have a group of 8 and one of 6, rather than two groups of 7.  I usually try to have students work with students other than those they are seated near during station time so that they can get to know each other.  As a practical matter, I like to use the Popsicle sticks that I make with students’ names to organize them into groups before the first station day.  It helps me to visualize the personalities in my groups if I have this manipulative.

I hope this post has cleared up some of the questions that people had.  If not, keep those questions coming and I can address them in a future post!




Thoughts on Themes

thinkerAs I continue to reflect on curriculum planning, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the role of thematic units in proficiency-based instruction.  Although most of us seem to have designed our curriculum around themes, this organizational structure is not specific to proficiency-based methodologies.  Most of the textbooks I have used during my 27-year career have been divided into chapters, each of which addressed a different theme.  The difference, of course, was that themes were used to introduce a specific set of prescribed vocabulary and structures.  Rather than providing a context for students to increase their ability to use the language to express their own needs, interests, and connections to other curricular content, most of these textbooks provided non-contextualized exercises designed to increase accuracy on the structures and vocabulary that were presented.

In a proficiency-based classroom, where the focus is on what the students can do with the language, our lessons might not actually need to be organized around specific themes.  We could simply create a series of lessons based on various high-interest authentic written or recorded resource that were rich in cultural content and appropriate to the proficiency of our students. If we then created interpretive, interpersonal and presentational learning tasks based on these resources (and aligned with the level-appropriate Can-Do Statements), I think our students would probably show the same growth in proficiency as they do in a theme-based curriculum.

I imagine, however, that most of us (myself included) will continue to develop our curricula around a series of thematic units for several reasons. The main reason is that we need an organization structure that breaks big ideas (unit themes) into smaller parts (lessons) in order to meet our planning and assessment needs. Because I use the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can Do Statements to guide my instruction, I need to know at the beginning of the year that I will be addressing each of the statements that correspond to the targeted proficiency level one or more times throughout the course of instruction.  In addition, my administration, students and parents expect to see some type of course outline at the beginning of the year.  While I think it is vital that these stakeholders understand that the overarching goal of each course is to meet proficiency goals, it is also valuable to share the thematic content of the course.  Students are excited to see what they’ll be learning and look forward to the units that most appeal to their own individual interests.

Thematic units also enable us to meet our schools’ expectations in terms of student evaluation.  By organizing a series of lessons around a common theme, there is a natural point at which the summative Integrated Performance Assessment is administered.  The tasks which are assigned in each lesson allow us an opportunity to provide students with feedback and to accumulate formative assessment data to guide our ensuing instruction, so that our students will be successful on the summative tasks.

So, if we are to choose overarching themes to organize our curricula, what themes will we use? As I was revising my curricula for next year, I considered the following questions in evaluating possible themes:

  1. Is this theme appropriate to the targeted proficiency level of the course?
  2. Can I find authentic resources based on this theme that are appropriate to the proficiency level of the students?
  3. Will this theme be interesting to the students—Is it something they like to talk about, would need to talk about in the target culture, and/or a topic that is relevant to other courses?
  4. Will this theme introduce the students to new aspects of Francophone culture?

Here’s the process I used to choose my themes for each course and some reflection on each one.

French 1

Since my goal for my French I’s is that they achieve the Novice Mid level, I first looked at these NCSSFL-ACTFL Novice Mid Can-Do Benchmarks ( ):

  • Interpersonal Communication: I can communicate on very familiar topics using a variety of words and phrases that I have practiced and memorized.
  • Presentational Speaking: I can present information about myself and some other very familiar topics using a variety of words, phrases, and memorized expressions.
  • Presentational Writing: I can write lists and memorized phrases on familiar topics
  • Interpretive Listening: I can recognize some familiar words and phrases when I hear them spoken
  • Interpretive Reading: I can recognize some letters or characters. I can understand some learned or memorized words and phrases when I read.  Note: All italics are mine

Since the key phrase in these benchmarks is “very familiar,” I have chosen themes that relate to the students’ immediate environment. Not surprisingly, they are closely related to the themes from my previous textbook.

  1. Introduction to French class (I cover the Can-Do Statements for Novice Low in this unit by teaching greetings, introductions, the alphabet, numbers, calendar words, colors, school supplies, and geography of France. )
  2. All about me: What I’m like and what I like
  3. My Family
  4. What I do
  5. What I eat
  6. What I wear
  7. Where I live
  8. Where I go

In addition to these unit themes, include a mini-unit on Halloween, Noel (IPA is midterm exam), and Paris (IPA is final exam).  In my opinion, there’s much less “wiggle room” at this level.  As beginners, the students need to develop a variety of familiar vocabulary.  Because most tasks at this level involved memorized language, we need to ensure that they are memorizing frequently-used words that they will need as they progress to higher levels of proficiency.

French 2

Next, I looked at these NCSSFL-ACTFL Novice High Benchmarks, the targeted level of proficiency for my French 2 students.  Specifically, I wanted to make sure I address what was new at this level, in order to make sure that the topics I chose would allow my students to increase their proficiency level.  Here are the benchmarks:

  • Interpersonal Communication: I can communicate and exchange information about familiar topics using phrases and simple sentences, sometimes supported by memorized language.  I can usually handle short social interactions in everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions
  • Presentational Speaking I can present basic information on familiar topics using language I have practiced using phrases and simple sentences.
  • Presentational Writing I can write short messages and notes on familiar topics related to everyday life
  • Interpretive Listening: I can often understand words, phrases, and simple sentences related to everyday life. I can recognize pieces of information and sometimes understand the main topic of what is being said.
  • Interpretive Reading: I can understand familiar words, phrases, and sentences within short and simple texts related to everyday life. I can sometimes understand the main idea of what I have read.

 As the italicized phrases show, it seems clear that the jump from Novice Mid to Novice High requires that students be able to participate in “social interactions” that are related to “everyday life.” Therefore I thought about whom students would talk to if they were to spend time in a target culture and what types of conversations they would have in order to come up with the following themes.  Because I have a student who will be spending the year in France as an exchange student, I thought about the most important types of social interactions she would be having and what topics she might discuss with these people that extend beyond the themes covered in French This is the list I generated:

  1. Conversations with friends
  • Discussions about daily activities
  • Making plans, gossiping
  • Discussions about things that happened at school
  • Discussions about vacations
  1. Conversations with shopkeepers
  • Discussions about buying food and other items
  1. Conversations with health professionals
  • Discussions about physical and mental health
  1. Conversations with her teachers
  • Discussions about the content of lessons

Based on this list, as well as themes that had been well-liked by previous classes, I chose the following themes for my French 2 class this year.

  1. Talking about daily activities
  • I think this is a good one to start with because it will allow the students to recycle the vocabulary and structures they learned last year. It will allow me to address several Can Do statements, as well as include cultural information by providing resources about the daily activities of people in various Francophone regions.  Although the theme of “Daily Routine” has been questioned by some of my #langchat colleagues, I think their criticism stems from the fact that we tend to focus too much on pre-determined activities with this topic, specifically those requiring reflexive verbs.  While some of my authentic resources will include reflexive verbs and I might have to do a quick pop-up lesson to explain the pronoun, the focus will be on talking about what we do and how these activities are related to our culture.
  1. Talking about other people and making plans
  • Although I didn’t use this theme before, I’ve decided to include it because I know kids like talking about other people/gossiping. I also wasn’t able to address the Novice High (Interpersonal Communication) Can Do “I can make plans with others” with the themes I used last year.  I have lots of high-interest authentic resources that I can use in this unit!
  1. Buying groceries and making food
  • Kids love talking about food and meals play such an important role in Francophone culture that this topic deserves to be recycled this year. Since the students learned the vocabulary for various foods last year, I’ll focus on the vocabulary, structures, and cultural background needed to purchase food items. I’ll also include some lessons on food preparation, in order to address the Novice High (Presentational Speaking) Can Do “I can give basic instructions on how to make or do something using phrases and simple sentences.” This is a Can Do that’s been hard for me to find another context for.
  1. Talking about how I feel and what I do to be healthy
  • It is important to be able to explain symptoms and injuries when in a target culture so I’ll keep this commonly-used theme. Last year the students especially enjoyed lessons related to mental health such as stress, so I’ll make sure to use those resources again.  This topic is also relevant because it addresses content that the students also learn in their health class.
  1. Talking about what happened at school
  • School is certainly an “everyday situation” for teenagers and is thus a relevant, high-interest theme. I’ve obviously added the “what happened” aspect to this topic in order to introduce the past tense into the students’ communication. Although students are not expected to be able to write in various time frames until Intermediate High, I think this structure must be introduced much earlier in order to provide sufficient practice to eventually achieve accuracy.  Assigning interpretive tasks on authentic resources that include the past tense is one way to introduce the students to these structures but still retain a focus on meaning, rather than form.  The introduction to past tenses at this level is further supported by the Can Do Statement “I can write about a familiar experience or event using practiced material” and the example, “ I can write about a website, a field trip, or an activity that I participated in” (italics mine).
  1. Talking about a vacation to Martinique
  • This unit allows the students to practice talking about (hypothetical) activities they did in the context of a visit to a Francophone region. They learn lots of new vocabulary that can be recycled when talking about actual vacations they have taken, as well as cultural information about Martinique. Because many students enjoy the beach and water sports, this unit has been a high-interest one in past years.
  1. Talking about life in a castle
  • Although my resources and methods have changed, I’ve been teaching units on Loire Valley Castles since 1989. Because students often cite this unit as one of their favorites and because I sometimes visit Loire Valley castles when traveling with students, I’ve decided to continue teaching this topic. In addition to being of high interest to students, this unit introduces important historical information about France and correlates to the World History curriculum in our school.  This theme also allows me to address the Novice High Can Do statement, “I can present basic information about things I have learned using phrases and simple sentences.”  Lastly, as I shared in a previous post, the materials I’ve used for this unit provide my students with an introduction to imperfect tense in a contextualized, meaningful way.
  1. Talking about a camping trip in Canada
  • As with the Martinique unit, this one is based on a topic from a textbook I had used in the past. Because my students are more likely to be able to use the language skills in Canada than France, I think it’s important that they learn to talk about thinks they might see and do while they’re there.  Although I include lessons on Quebec City and Montreal, by focusing on the context of a camping trip I’m able to introduce additional vocabulary.  I also include resources on animals that live in Canada, a high-interest topic for many of my students.  Finally, the authentic resources I incorporate into this unit introduce my students to the use of passé composé and imperfect used together, a concept that they will continue to practice in the following year.

French 3

In choosing appropriate themes for my French 3 class, I began by considering the following Intermediate Low Can-Do benchmarks (italics mine):

  • Interpersonal Communication: I can participate in conversations on a number of familiar topics using simple sentences. I can handle short social interactions in everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions.
  • Presentational Speaking I can present information on most familiar topics using a series of simple sentences.
  • Presentational Writing I can write briefly about most familiar topics and present information using a series of simple sentences
  • Interpretive Listening: I can understand the main idea in short, simple messages and presentations on familiar topics. I can understand the main idea of simple conversations that I overhear.
  • Interpretive Reading: I can understand the main idea of short and simple texts when the topic is familiar.

Because the key phrase here is “most familiar topics,” I think it’s relevant to include any topic that is either already familiar to my students, or that I familiarize them with using authentic resources.  The corresponding Can-Do statements for this proficiency level are quite general in nature, allowing me to modify them to fit any high-interest or content-based theme.  An additional consideration in choosing these topics is that many of these students will be enrolled in AP French next year, so I’m introducing some of the topics that are incorporated into the AP themes.  These are the topics that I will include this year:

  1. Education
  • The lessons in this unit are designed to teach the students about Francophone products, practices and perspectives regarding education. The cultural content of this unit lends itself to addressing the Intermediate Low (Presentational Speaking) Can-Do: “I can make a presentation about common interests and issues and state my viewpoint” as well as other content-based Can-Do’s.  The authentic resources I’ve selected for this unit will also introduce my students to the future tense in a contextualized manner.
  1. Entertainment
  • This unit, in which the students will read and listen to authentic resources on various topics such as music, movies, video games and other forms of entertainment. In addition to the interest generated by these topics, this theme lends itself to the Can-Do statements related to topics of interest.
  1. Love and Marriage
  • This is a very high-interest topic to my students and the authentic resources I incorporate present important cultural information about the role of dating and marriage in Francophone culture. The conversations and role-plays in this unit address the Intermediate Low (Interpersonal Communication) Can Do Statement, “I can use the language to meet my basic needs in familiar situations” as well as others related to familiar topics and situations.
  1. Sports
  • When I revised my curriculum last year, this one slipped through the cracks—probably because I don’t find it especially interesting. However, since it is a topic that’s relevant to most of my students, I definitely need to make sure to address it his year.  Lessons on various Francophone athletes will allow me to address the Intermediate Low (Presentational Writing) Can Do statement, “I can write about people, activities, events, and experiences” along with others related to personal interest.
  1. French Impressionism
  • This remains one of the favorite topics that I’ve consistently included in my French 3 curriculum. Impressionist works are among the most well-known products of French culture to Americans and many of my students have Impressionist prints in their homes.  In addition, the students who travel to France with me will see many of the paintings they learn about in this unit when we visit the Orsay museum.  The presentation that I assign during this unit addresses the Intermediate Low (Presentational Writing) Can-Do statement, “I can prepare materials for a presentation,” as well as others related to factual information.
  1. Environment
  • Although I’m going to work on increasing the student interest in this topic, I’m keeping this one because it is aligned with the AP themes, correlates to the curriculum of science courses, and provides an additional context for the Can-Do’s related to factual information, such as the Intermediate Low (Presentational Writing) Can Do: “I can write basic instructions on how to make or do something” for a lesson on recycling. Due to the nature of this topic, the students will also be introduced to the subjunctive in a contextualized manner.
  1. History
  • While many of my students study both World and European History, they do not seem to learn much about the history of France before the Renaissance. Therefore, I will include two separate history units in this curriculum.  The first unit, on prehistory, is especially relevant to French students because of the location of several well-known prehistoric painted caves in southwestern France. The second history unit, on Gaule, is one that the students enjoy because they are introduced to Astérix and Obélix for the first time.  The non-fiction authentic resources that the students read in this unit provides important content-based knowledge and the comic books and film familiarize the students with important figures in children’s literature.

Now that I’ve settled on my themes, it’s time to begin creating or modifying lessons. I’d love to hear what process you use when choosing themes and which thematic units have worked well for you!


4 Steps to Creating a Proficiency-Based Curriculum Map

mapWhile I was completing my French walkabout (pictures to follow!) a group of teachers from my district met to design a curriculum map in order to facilitate consistency across the district.  While I wasn’t able to participate in this work, here are the steps I’d suggest for designing curriculum, based on my current understandings of proficiency-based teaching and curriculum-design processes.

Step 1: Choose Unit Themes

I order to provide an overarching organization across levels and to avoid repeating topics, I would select the themes that would be addressed at each level.  Because our school year is organized into four, nine-week quarters, I would choose about eight broad themes for each level.  I would rely heavily on NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements for the targeted proficiency level when choosing these themes in order to ensure that they are appropriate for the students’ proficiency level. Since the Novice-Mid Can-Do Benchmark (Presentational Speaking) states “I can present information about myself and some other very familiar topics…” I would choose themes such as Introductions, What I like/dislike, My Family and Friends, Places I Go, My Activities, My School, Where I live, What I eat, etc. for French I.  Because the Novice-High Can-Do Benchmark (Interpersonal Communication) says, “I can usually handle short social interactions in everyday situations” I would choose themes that are slightly outside the students’ immediate environment such as Shopping for Groceries, Buying an Outfit, Visiting the Doctor, Going out with Friends, etc. for French 2. I would also begin introducing cross-curricular content themes such as topics related to geography, history, and Francophone stories at this level, as these topics are clearly suggested by the Can-Do Statements. In French 3, where the targeted proficiency level is Intermediate Low, I would suggest a greater variety of cultural and cross-curricular themes such as Travel, Education, Environment, Art, History, etc.  These themes are consistent with the Intermediate Low Benchmark (Presentational Speaking) which states, “I can present information on most familiar topics” and will prepare the students for the AP curriculum in our level 4 classess. These suggestions are purposely broad in nature, and I would suggest phrasing them in a way that was consistent with whatever curriculum format or template is being used.

 Step 2: Write Proficiency-Based Can-Do Statements for Each Theme

Having chosen the themes for each level, I would then write a Can-Do Statement for each communicative mode/language skill.  In some cases, one of the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statement examples (those which are placed below the bold-print statements and next to a box) might already correspond to the chosen theme. In other cases, the language from the actual Can-Do could be modified to fit the unit theme. For example, in a French I unit on Likes/Dislikes, I would suggest using the following Can-Do Statements as they are written:

  • Interpersonal Communication: I can answer questions about what I like and dislike.
  • Presentational Writing: I can list my likes and dislikes such as favorite subjects, sports, or free-time activities.
  • Presentational Speaking: I can say which sports I like and don’t like. (Although I would add other categories such as free-time activities.)

Because there are no specific NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statement examples for Interpretive Listening or Interpretive Reading that are related to the theme of Likes/Dislikes, I would write my own, incorporating the language used in the Can-Do Statement.  ACTFL clearly invites us to do so, by including the blank line at the bottom of each list of examples.  Here are some examples for this theme (the italicized words are taken from the published Can-Do’s):

  • Interpretive Listening: I can recognize and sometimes understand words and phrases in a recording where someone discusses his/her likes and dislikes.
  • Interpretive Reading: I can recognize words and phrases, about likes and dislikes such as sports and free-time activities.

Note: While some of the bold-print Can-Do Statements will be used in more than one unit, I think it’s important to make sure that each of these statements are included at least once in each curriculum map

Step 3: Create the Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA)

According to the principals of backwards design, the next step is to create the IPA that will serve as the summative assessment for the unit.  The IPA should allow the students to demonstrate their mastery of the Can-Do statements. For specific suggestions on writing IPA’s, see this previous post.  In my opinion, it is equally important that any curriculum development also address how the IPA will be assessed. Whether the ACTFL IPA manual rubrics, those developed by the Ohio Department of Education, or another source, in my opinion choosing a common rubric is a vital part of any curriculum planning process.

While these three steps might be adequate in designing a curriculum map, districts in which the teachers are less experienced in proficiency-based methodologies may find it helpful to design common lessons for some or all of the units.  These lessons should be designed to provide the students with the background knowledge they need for the performance tasks on the IPA.  This knowledge might include cultural competence related to the theme, as well as language skills such as the development of vocabulary and/or structures needed to complete the tasks.

 Step 4: Design the Lessons

In my opinion, the best organizational structure for proficiency-based lessons is the “Authentic Lesson Cycle” described by Amy Lenord ( As this document describes, a proficiency-based lesson will enable the students to practice the skills that they will demonstrate on the IPA.  Therefore, for each lesson the teacher will begin by selecting an authentic written and/or recorded text.  I would suggest choosing texts that a) are suitable to the proficiency level of the students, b) contain key vocabulary and structures that the students will need for the unit, c) are rich in cultural content, and d) are similar in nature to the authentic resources used for the IPA.  After selecting the resource, the teacher will create the interpretive task for the text.  I suggest similar tasks as those that are used on the IPA so that the students can practice these skills and the teacher can give targeted feedback as well as collect formative assessment data. Once the students have completed the interpretive task and been given feedback (either as a whole-class discussion or by being given individualized written feedback), the students should then complete an interpersonal task based on the resource.  This task will allow the students to practice the skills they will use on the IPA, but with more scaffolding.  Therefore, students might have access to a list of helpful vocabulary, grammatical forms and/or sentence starters to be used in completing the task. As the teacher circulates among the dyads or tryads, s/he can provide individualized written or oral feedback on the students’ performance. In the last phase of Amy’s Authentic Lesson Cycle, the teacher assigns a presentational writing assignment in which the students personalize the cultural and linguistic competencies they have gained from the authentic resource. Depending on the teacher and students, these performances might be completed inside or outside of class. In my particular situation, I prefer to monitor my students as they complete these tasks.  However, I often add an additional task, in which the students prepare a short oral presentation based on the Presentational Speaking Can-Do.  I then randomly select 2-3 students to present their performance at the beginning of the following class period.  Note: each of my authentic lessons usually require at least two 48-minute class periods, so a unit usually includes about five lessons.

I’d love to hear to hear feedback on these ideas from those of you who have been involved in designing a proficiency-based curriculum.  Did you follow a similar process or did you go about designing your curriculum in a different way?  What worked and what didn’t as you worked through the process?

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
Although I’ve embraced many aspects of middle age, I’m still a kid at heart when it comes to celebrating Halloween. In spite of the fact that my husband and I have been empty nesters for several years, our house is the most decorated one on the block, and we’re more excited than most children when we choose our costumes each year. Fortunately, most of my students get as excited as I do about Halloween, so I make sure to set aside a week or so each year on Halloween-themed activities. Although most of my authentic texts come from children’s books and magazines that I can’t share, here are a few activities that some of you might be able to use.
1. Vocabulary List & Flashcards Vocab_list & flashcards
This document includes the vocabulary list that I hand out with pictures and words, as well as the pictures without the words. I printed 30 copies of this version on tagboard several years ago and cut each one apart so I can hand out a baggie of picture cards to each student for review games such as Bingo, Memory, and Go Fish.
2. Vocabulary Review Worksheet Vocabulary review (novice)
I’ve used this worksheet with French 2 students. Although the “choose the word that doesn’t belong” format is traditional in nature, it does encourage interpersonal communication when students are allowed to work in small groups.
3. Same/Different Pair Activity Halloween same_different
I think I got a little carried away when I made this one up! (I could have probably stopped after the first 10 pictures, but I was having too much fun!). To use this activity, you will first have to cut the table down the middle (or reconfigure the table), and number each picture (1-25). The first column is given to Partner A and the second column to Partner B. The pairs must discuss their pictures in order to decide whether they have the same or different picture for each number. (I have them write #1-#25 on loose-leaf and write Même or Différent next to each number).
4. Halloween Videos Halloween Videos
On this document I’ve included English comprehension question for several Halloween-related YouTube videos. Included are two stories (L’Ogre qui avait peur des enfants and Franklin fete l’Halloween) as well as two news videos. I have used these videos with French 3 students.
In addition to these activities, my students will read authentic stories (titles depend on the proficiency level), and the French 3 students will read authentic articles about the history of Halloween, bats, and spiders.
I’d love to hear back from those of you who incorporate Halloween into your lesson planning. What resources have you used with your students?

Six Reasons Why I Love Learning Stations

Although I have left behind many of the teaching strategies that I relied on earlier in my career, some techniques continue to be valuable in a proficiency-oriented classroom. A strategy that I continue to implement is the use of learning stations. A recent French 2 unit on grocery shopping reminded me of the following advantages of incorporating learning stations into my classroom instruction.

#1: Learning stations enable me to incorporate authentic materials in their most authentic form. While the internet gives us access to limitless authentic materials, actual concrete objects that were brought back from the target country are inherently interesting to students. They love seeing the French price tags on items that I’ve purchased and always want to know whether I’ve “stolen” items such as menus and other realia. It is often difficult, though, to procure enough of an authentic item for the entire class to use simultaneously. However, if I divide my class into small groups, a few grocery flyers, for example, are sufficient for an interpretive task. IMG_20141007_140608_625-1
#2: Learning stations allow me to make the most of the technology I have available to me. I have eight computers in my classroom. When I divide my classes of 25-30 students into 4-5 different station groups, I am able to have my students use the classroom computers to access authentic videos for interpretive listening tasks. The students shown here are able to watch their Peppa le Cochon video at their own pace, pausing and rewinding as necessary in order to improve their comprehension.
#3: Learning stations allow me to incorporate manipulatives into my lessons. While it would be cost prohibitive (and a storage nightmare) to buy enough play food to use for these grocery store role-plays, learning stations made it possible for these students to use the play food that I do have, as well as some spare euro coins, to lend authenticity to their interpersonal task for the unit. In other units I’ve been able to use authentic and teacher-created games that would not be possible with an entire class. IMG_20141007_140551_927
#4: Learning stations allow me to provide better feedback to my students. During the learning station phase of a unit, I generally position myself near the students who are either practicing the interpersonal task for the IPA. In this way I am able give the students very specific feedback on their progress, which I would not be able to do if I were circulating among an entire class who was working on the same task. By having my students write drafts for their presentational task at a learning station, I am also able to give them more detailed feedback, as I have only about seven or eight papers each evening, rather than a set of 30.
#5: Learning stations give me a little breathing space. While each set of learning stations requires a lot of advanced preparation on my part, once we begin this phase of instruction, my work is basically done. There are no copies to be made at the end of the day, a new agenda does not need to be written on the board, etc.
#6: Learning stations allow me to show off a little. There are many times that we need to be able to demonstrate our best practices to others. This might be for a graduate class, evaluation by an administrator, or National Board Certification. It is always a challenge to decide what those evaluators will see during the short time they will be spending in our classroom or watching us on a video. When we invite others to see our students working on learning stations, they can see how we teach all modes of communication, 21st century skills, several state standards, etc. in a single lesson. When required, we also have a lot to reflect about when a single lesson includes so many different activities.
These are only a few of the advantages of using learning stations in a proficiency-based classroom. If you use learning stations, I’d love to hear the reasons why!

Food for Thought

The title of this post comes not only from the fact that I have prepared a couple of food-related French 2 lessons to share, but because I have been doing a lot of reflecting on the changes that I have been making in order to focus more on increasing student proficiency. When a colleague asked me what I meant by proficiency-based teaching, I realized that I could not explain in only a sentence or two what this term meant to me. Since even a Google search did not identify a universal definition or specific methodology, I can only share what I have been doing and how the paradigm shift has worked in my classroom. To see specific examples of the types of lessons I’ve designed, please see my other posts on this blog.
Curriculum: The most important change that I have made is to develop a curriculum that is totally independent of any textbook series. In the absence of this resource to guide my instruction, I chose ten to twelve broad themes for each of the classes (Level 1-5) that I teach. I then follow the following steps to create a unit for these themes.
Step 1: Choosing the unit goals
In order to ensure that I’m choosing appropriate goals for each of these thematic units, I rely heavily on the ACTFL Can-Do Statements for the targeted proficiency level of the class. For French 1 I am beginning with Novice Low statements, but will transition into Novice Mid later in the year. In French 2 I use mainly Novice High statements, in French 3 I use Intermediate Low-Mid, and in AP I use Intermediate Mid-High. In many cases I can use an exact statement as a goal, but when necessary I modify a statement to reflect the content of the unit. In this way I am essentially filling in the blank line after the prepared statements.
Step 2: Choosing the authentic texts
In planning the learning activities for each unit, I have relied heavily on Amy Lenord’s description of the authentic lesson cycle ( Based on my understanding of her ideas, I select an authentic text for each lesson and then create interpretive, interpersonal, and presentation tasks related to the text. I have found that each lesson cycle takes about two to three class days, so I choose about four authentic texts for each unit. This enables me to cover a unit, including the IPA, in about three weeks.
I begin my search for authentic texts for these lessons by checking the Pinterest boards I have created for each theme. Relying on my colleagues to pre-select relevant, high-interest and appropriate texts has saved me countless hours of research. As described in my earlier posts, I rely heavily on infographics, especially for novice learners and to introduce a theme. Based on the proficiency level of the students, I also use children’s magazine articles, children’s stories, and lots of web-based materials.
In addition to these written texts, I also choose authentic recorded texts related to the theme of the unit. Usually videos, these texts might not be directly related to the written text, they do reflect the theme of the unit. In my lower level classes, I use lots of cartoons, because their visual nature provides important context for the novice learners. Some of my favorites are Trotro l’Ane, Petit Ours Brun, Caillou, and Tchoupi et Doudou. Youtube searches on each of these characters will reveal the titles of several different episodes, many of which complement commonly used themes. With my Intermediate students, I usually opt for news videos or other more formal recorded materials.
Step 3: Creating the learning activities
After choosing each text, I develop an interpretive reading task based on the template provided by ACTFL in Implementing Integrated Performance Assessment ( Based on the text I have chosen, I will use some or all of the sections on this template. I do not personally feel that this template works for well for listening, so I usually develop basic comprehension questions for the videos I use, although I try to include multi-level (main idea, supporting detail, inference) questions.
After preparing the comprehension guides for the interpretive tasks, I develop the interpersonal tasks that the students will complete after reading and listening. For my Novice learners, I usually provide personalized questions based on the reading that they will ask a partner. For the Intermediate students, I write more open-ended discussion questions related to the information in the text.
For the last step of each lesson, I design at least one presentational task. For this activity, I give the students some type of scenario related to the authentic text (usually the written one), and they respond in writing or orally.
Although I have been mostly pleased with these lessons, I’ve found that adding a vocabulary-building game or other not-quite-authentic activity here and there helps to add a little bit of variety while still increasing proficiency. As the year progresses I hope to find the right balance between these types of activities.
Step 4: Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA)
Since each lesson is essentially a “Mini IPA,” this type of assessment works well in my classes. In addition, my students are very comfortable with IPA’s, because I began implementing them last year, as a result of some professional development that I had done. Although I am describing the IPA as Step 4, it is actually the first step that I complete when designing the unit. By writing the IPA before creating any of the other lessons, I can ensure that each task prepares the students for what they will be expected to do on the IPA.
Before beginning an IPA, I give the students a day or two to prepare. During this stage, I give them time to practice the interpersonal task (although they will not be allowed to choose their partner on the actual IPA) and to write rough drafts of the presentational writing task. My interpersonal IPA tasks are less structured than the tasks that I assign for the individual lessons. For example, rather than a set of specific questions, I will give them only a general situation or theme and they will be required to ask the appropriate questions to develop the conversation. Based on the needs of the students, I might also give them time to practice some of the specific skills needed for the IPA during this time. For example, in a recent French 1 unit on school supplies, I gave the students time to complete interactive vocabulary activities on the computer in addition to the rough draft and interpersonal practice time.
When writing the IPA, I again begin by choosing both an authentic written and recorded text, and then creating a comprehension guide, based on the ACTFL template. The students usually complete these two tasks on the first day of the IPA. On Day 2, I assign the final draft of the presentational written task and then call up pairs of students to my desk for the interpersonal assessment.
While these steps seem to be working well for me so far, only time will tell whether they will enable my students to meet the proficiency goals I have set for them. I’d love to hear back from any of you that have developed other methods of increasing student proficiency in your classrooms!
In the meantime, here are a couple of examples of authentic lessons from my current French 2 unit on Mealtimes.
le temps de l’alimentation