Category Archives: Musings

Bonne Rentrée: 2019

Today I just wanted to share a quick beginning of the year post.  The chronological nature of a blog can make it difficult for new readers to find helpful posts. So, as I did last year, I’ve created this list of links to past posts that included complete unit plans.  Keep in mind that these units were not all created or taught in one year. I switch things up based on the curriculum of my current school and the interests of my students. In addition, each post reflects where I was on my journey toward proficiency at the time I wrote it.  I have continued to evolve, and you will no doubt improve upon the plans that you find here!

Bonne rentrée à tous!

French 1 Units

Bienvenue à la classe de Français: http://madameshepard.com/?p=752

Bienvenue: Partie II: http://madameshepard.com/?p=789

Ce que j’aime: http://madameshepard.com/?p=855  

La Famille: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1110

Bon Appétit pt. 1: http://madameshepard.com/?p=282 (petit déjeuner)

Bon Appétit pt. 2: http://madameshepard.com/?p=321

Bon Appétit pt. 3: http://madameshepard.com/?p=345

Noël: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1282

French 2 Units

Les Loisirs: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1335

Ma Journée Typique: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1340

Halloween: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1387

Mon Look: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1278

C’est quoi, une maison idéale?: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1406

Les Tâches Ménagères: http://madameshepard.com/?p=502

Joyeux Noel: http://madameshepard.com/?p=267

Allons en Martinique: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1424

Les Châteaux (pt. 1)http://madameshepard.com/?p=415

Les Châteaux (pt. 2) http://madameshepard.com/?p=445

Une journée à l’école: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1081

French 3 Units

Bon Appétit: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1193

Education: http://madameshepard.com/?p=111

Les Vacances: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1345

Les Campeurs (Petit Nicolas) http://madameshepard.com/?p=200

Les Animaux de Compagnie: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1261

Les Impressionnistes: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1389

Le Jour de la Terre: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1136

Le Gaspillage Alimentaire: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1287

Joyeux Noël: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1418

Ma Bonne Resolution (La Santé) : http://madameshepard.com/?p=1428

La Préhistoire: http://madameshepard.com/?p=516

Je t’aime:  http://madameshepard.com/?p=1589

Je quitte la maison (Petit Nicolas): http://madameshepard.com/?p=1013

French 4/5 Units

Cultural Stereotypes: http://madameshepard.com/?p=80

La Famille dans le Monde Francophone: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1376

Communication et Media: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1397

Le Droit a l’Education: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1450

Les Droits des Femmes: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1469

La Laïcité: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1128

Le Petit Prince: http://madameshepard.com/?p=219

L’Immigration:http://madameshepard.com/?p=880 Click here for the agenda of a more recent version of this unit.

Mixed Levels

First week of school: http://madameshepard.com/?p=1246

Halloween: http://madameshepard.com/?p=897

CSCTFL 2019

It was such a joy to meet so many virtual colleagues at this year’s Central States Conference. I was grateful for the chance to see old friends and make new ones and I was so inspired by the presentations I attended. It was an honor to see so many attendees at my own session on Saturday morning. (For the record, I didn’t think to take a picture until my presentation was over–those that are leaving did not walk out in a huff!)

For those that are interested, here’s a link to my presentation, “Incorporating Authentic Resources Across the Modes.”

Incorporating Music: A Sample Lesson for Intermediate Learners

In order to prepare for an upcoming workshop, I’ve been creating some materials for using songs in the language classroom.  While I incorporated several songs during my last two years in the classroom (I blogged some of my lessons here), I wanted to add a few more ideas for my workshop participants.  Fortunately, some awesome language teachers out there have blogged lots of great suggestions for using songs and I relied heavily on ideas shared by others (see bibliography below).  

One activity that I hadn’t had time to prepare when I was in the classroom was a Picture Talk with a music video.  (Click here for a great explanation of Picture Talk.) In order to demonstrate this strategy, I chose the song, Je te le donne by Vitaa as the video illustrates a sweet story that I thought would be engaging to students.  To implement this strategy, I would use the screenshots in this Google Slides Presentation to narrate the narrative depicted in the video.  I have included a few questions on the slides, to help guide the Picture Talk.  As directed on slide #23, I would not show the actual video until we had discussed the first 22 slides, as a way of building anticipation. While I created this Picture Talk with Intermediate learners in mind, the questions could easily be modified for Novices.  

In addition to the Picture Talk presentation, I prepared this document with additional activities that could be used when using this song with Intermediate learners.  On the first day, I would lead a short discussion of the pre-reading questions and then play the song (without showing the video). Although not included on the document, I would create a cloze activity for the students to complete as they listened. After going over the cloze activity, I would have the students complete the interpretive activities (B & C). If time permits, I would then have the students complete one of the presentational writing activities, although this could also be assigned for homework.

On the second day, I would have the students do the pre-viewing collaborative storyboard activity in preparation for the Picture Talk. Following the Picture Talk, I would have the students complete the interpersonal and then presentational activities.

For other great ideas on using songs in the classroom, here’s the bibliography I compiled for my presentation:

Do’s and Don’ts for Using Vocabulary Lists

Recent conversations in my workshops and with my online PLN have me thinking a lot about the role of vocabulary lists in a communication-based classroom.  As I look back at my evolution in teaching for proficiency, my use of vocabulary lists has changed significantly. For years I introduced the vocabulary in the textbook by having my students repeat the words on the list and then complete textbook activities, most of which were not communicative in nature.  I then assessed my students’ memorization of this vocabulary in isolation through objective-style questions.

As I transitioned away from teaching from a textbook, the role of the vocabulary list changed, too. It became my responsibility to compile a list and share it with my students. Therefore, it was up to me to determine which words and structures my students would need to complete the communicative tasks that I had created for each unit. As you’ll notice from reading my posts, I have created various types of resources to scaffold communicative tasks for my students during the past few years.  For my novice students, I often created an illustrated list of key vocabulary items, as well as a list of sentence starters. In other cases, especially with my French 4/5 students, I never quite got around to creating the list–and my students acquired the vocabulary they needed to complete the communicative tasks anyway! So, based on my own experience, here’s my list of Do’s and Don’ts. What would you add?

Do’s and Don’ts for Using Vocabulary Lists

  1. DO wait until you have designed the unit to create the list.  It is only after you have selected your authentic resources, customized your NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Dos, created your communicative activities, designed your summative assessments, etc. that you will know what vocabulary your students will need.
  2. DO wait until your students have received lots of comprehensible input in which the vocabulary is embedded (via authentic resources and/or teacher talk) before providing the list.
  3. DO include sentence starters in which the vocabulary is embedded on your list (rather than just isolated words) to scaffold communicative tasks.
  4. DO provide space for your students to add their own personalized items to the list.
  5. DO create opportunities for students to focus on vocabulary in a communicative context. This Interactive Word Wall is one idea!
  6. DO provide opportunities for your students to practice their circumlocution skills.  This pair crossword activity is one of my students’ favorites! (Click here for the sample puzzle.)
  7. DO provide lots of opportunities for your students to use context clues to figure out the meanings of new words.  I like to give the students lots of practice for part V of the ACTFL Interpretive Template by typing sentences from an authentic resource and underlining the word whose meaning I think they can guess.  I provide multiple choice answers to scaffold this task for my novices.
  8. DO avoid straight L1-L2 translation when creating activities/review games in Quizlet/Kahoot/Gimkit/etc.
  9. DO avoid assessing your students’ memorization of vocabulary in isolation.  Instead, assess your students’ overall interpretive, interpersonal and presentational skills.
  10. DON’T be afraid to eliminate the list altogether, especially for Intermediate Mid-High students.  Your students will most likely learn the words they need by communicating about a topic throughout the unit.

Please share your Dos and Don’ts in the comments below!

A New Beginning

As some of you know, I have decided to transition out of the classroom at the end of the school year.  (The photo shows a lovely gift from a student in honor of my retirement.) This was a difficult decision to make and I will miss my students enormously.  There are many reasons why I’ve chosen this, my 29th year, to be my last. My grandsons, Oli (born April 25, 2017) and Remy (expected July 8, 2018) are two of the most important ones!  (Yes, both my son/daughter-in-law and my daughter/son-in-law have been kind enough to provide me with a baby boy to love on in the past year!)

Although I will no longer have a classroom of my own, my passion for the work of language teaching has not waned in the slightest.  I cannot imagine a life in which I am no longer creating lessons, collaborating with colleagues and providing professional development to other language teachers! Therefore, I’m happy to announce my next venture, Shepard World Language Consulting, LLC.  I have already been invited by several districts to provide professional development and revise curriculum over the next few months and am so excited about this new chapter in my professional life!

I still plan to maintain this blog and will add posts when I have ideas to share. In fact, I hope to add some lessons that I created this spring when I have some time off later in the summer.  I do want to let my readers know, though, that I will soon lose access to my Google Drive at school.  I have been busy making copies of my materials on my personal account, but it may be some time before I am able to recreate the agendas with hyperlinks to the new copies of each resource.  My suggestion to all of you is that if there is anything on the blog that you would like to use, please make a copy of the Google Docs as soon as possible.  (Word documents that I created before June, 2016 will not be affected.) Thank you for your patience as I work to update the last two years’ work over the next few months!

Bon Courage to those of you that are in the final stretch of this school year and Bonnes Vacances to those of you who are enjoying some well-deserved rest and relaxation.  Please keep in touch if you have any questions on anything that I’ve shared here, or if you’d like to schedule professional development or curriculum revision in your district.

Happy Summer!

Focus on Function in a Unit about Women’s Rights for Intermediate French Students

As some of you might know, I had the great honor of interviewing Laura Terrill, co-author of The Keys to Planning for Learning (purchase here) as part of a #langbook discussion on Twitter.  (Our interview was featured in this podcast.) As I read the 2nd edition of this crucial text, one new understanding that I gained was the vital role that language functions play in teaching for proficiency.  I definitely  have not been intentional enough in creating opportunities for my students to communicate using various functions, so this was one of my goals in designing my latest unit for my French 4 and 5 students.  Here’s a link (Updated 5/24/18: new link) to the agenda for the unit to which the resources I created are linked. A brief description of each lesson can be found below.

Lesson 1: Since the functions of Describing and Asking/Answering questions are typically the mainstays of my communicative tasks (along with a liberal sprinkling of Telling and Retelling Stories), I wanted to pay special attention to the functions of Expressing Feelings and Emotions and Expressing Advice, Opinions and Preferences in designing this unit.  Here’s a link to the agenda with the resources for the unit I created with this goal in mind and here is a short description of each lesson:

Lesson 1: In order to introduce my students to a few aspects of sexual inequality in France, I’ll begin the first lesson by projecting a short infographic and leading a brief discussion about relevant cultural practices and perspectives in France and the U.S.  Next, I’ll give the students a more detailed infographic and ask them to complete statements expressing their opinions and emotions about facts in their infographic in order to practice the structures they’ll need for these functions.  After discussing their reactions to the infographic in small groups, they’ll listen to a video about La Journée de la Femme and respond by filling in a table with details they have understood.

Lesson 2: As a hook for this lesson, I’ll play and discuss a video about La Journée de la Femme. Next the students will listen to part of a video about the history of women’s rights in France and complete a manipulative activity in small groups.  Next each student will be given one of two different infographics with important dates for  women’s rights in France.  After filling in a graphic organizer with their opinions of the most important events in this movement, they will discuss with a partner (who had the other infographic) in order to reach a consensus about the most important dates.  I think this activity will provide an important opportunity for the students to engage in the function of Expressing Opinion.

Lesson 3: The hook for this lesson is a video about women’s rights in Tunisia that I will discuss with the class in order to provide background information about the perspectives of another Francophone culture. The students will then complete the manipulative for the second half of the history video before beginning work on a short written presentation about one of the women who played an important role in the women’s movement in France.  In order to ensure that the students are focusing on expressing advice and opinions, I have chosen a prompt in which they are writing to the French postal system to nominate one of the women to be featured on a new stamp.  After finishing their letters, the students will discuss their choice with a partner in order to try to convince each other that their woman is the most deserving. (Lessons 4 and 5)

In Lesson 6 I will assign the first summative interpretive assessment, an 1jour1actu article about the experiences of women from different generations.  Because some of these students will be taking the IB exam, I have used used questions types that are part of this test in my assessment.

In lesson 7 I will turn the focus toward women’s experiences in the workplace.  As a hook I’ll present a short video with women’s statements of their experiences and then an infographic with key dates. Next, I will send the students to a website with period videos related to different aspects of the women’s movement, along with the reactions of experts in the field.  Although we’ll only be using the videos related to the workplace, there are a wealth of great videos related to other aspects of gender equality here.  I’ll have the students select one of the videos to listen to and prepare a short commentary.  The next day (Lesson 8) the students will present the video they selected, as well as their commentary, in a gallery-style presentation. Rather than a generic presentational rubric, I have created one that specifically addresses the extent to which the students presented their opinion of the video in order to ensure that they focused on this language function.

Lesson 9: After a short video hook, I will facilitate a brief whole-class discussion of French products, practices and perspectives illustrated in an infographic on sexism in the workplace.  Students will then read an article about work equality from 1jour1actu and fill in a Cornell note-taking template.  The questions they write will form the basis of a small group discussion on the article.

In Lesson 10, I will project an infographic on sexual harassment and discuss it with the students before assigning an A or B infographic to each student. Students will then discuss the information in their infographics in order to compare details in a “top hat” diagram.  The students will then complete a table with information from a video about sexual harassment.  

In Lesson 11, I will introduce other types of harassment by discussing an infographic and drawing. I will then have the students discuss a very short film on the topic of harassment at school.  In order to facilitate their discussions, I have created an Edpuzzle and embedded discussion questions at various points in the film.  The students will then annotate a short article about sexual harassment in Belgian schools and discuss it with their groups.

In Lesson 12 I will give the second summative interpretive assessment–an article about sexism in schools with IB-style questions.

In Lesson 13 I will have the students take a quiz on gender stereotypes (the same quiz I used in this lesson) and discuss their opinions of each item in order to select the correct answers.  I’ll give a small  prize to the pair with the most correct answers in order to encourage the opinion-giving.  We’ll then go over the correct answers in class (this will not be a graded activity). We’ll continue with the topic of gender-based stereotypes in Lesson 14 by completing a short comprehension guide of the answers to the previous day’s quiz and then taking a formative assessment on a video about stereotypes.

In Lesson 15 we’ll look at Tweets in which people express how their lives would be different if they were of the opposite gender.  (Finding PG-rated Tweets on this topic was not as easy as it sounds!) The students will then read and fill in a comprehension guide about an article on the same topic.  Next, the students will write a paragraph of their own expressing how they think their lives would be different if they were a member of the opposite sex.

In Lesson 16, I will have the students sign-up to present one of the political cartoons I have curated about gender inequality.  The students will answer a series of guiding questions about their cartoon. In Lesson 17 they will present their caricatures, gallery-style, to their classmates.

In Lesson 18 the students will complete the final summative assessments of the unit.  In the interpersonal task they will discuss their opinions with a partner in order to select which of several political cartoons (I will select a few of those I included in the Google Slides) would best illustrate a blog post on the role of women in French culture.  As a presentational writing task they will then write this blog post.

I hope that the lessons I have created will allow my students to progress in their proficiency, especially as it relates to expressing feelings and opinions.  Let me know what you think!

Making Learning Visible

Thursday evening on #langchat we had a great discussion about what had worked well for us in 2017.  When I shared that I had begun having my students graph their progress toward proficiency, several people expressed interest. So I thought I’d type up a quick post about what we’ve been doing and what I’ve learned from the process.

I began by passing out this document when I returned the students’ first IPA of the year. Although I am clearly evaluating classroom performance in my assessments, it is important to me that my students see their progress in terms of language proficiency, so I use the proficiency rubrics from the Ohio Department of Education for presentational writing and interpersonal speaking. As the directions on the graph document indicate, I had the students place a dot in the appropriate square for each IPA and then draw a line connecting their dots.  I had them use the same graph, but two different colored lines for presentational writing and interpersonal speaking.  Here are a few of the graphs from my French 2 classes:

    

    

There are a few reasons why I consider the simple task of graphing proficiency/performance progress to be one of my successes in 2017.  For one, I LOVED the conversations that I heard among my students as they completed their graphs each time.  It is so much more meaningful to hear “I moved up to Intermediate Low 1” than “I got a B.”  These graphs are also a great visual for my students.  As we transition toward teaching for proficiency (and away from discrete point assessments) some students question “what” they’re learning.  These graphs help students to see their progress in a concrete way.

These graphs also inform my instructional and assessment practices.  Because nearly every student performed lower on the 3rd IPA, I had to take a long, hard look at this assessment (from this post).  My conclusion is that the prompts that I used for the writing and speaking tasks did not encourage the students to stretch in a way that would demonstrate their highest proficiency/performance.  Few students ask the variety of questions that would enable them to demonstrate Intermediate interpersonal communication and most did not include the compound sentences, creativity and cultural competence described in the Intermediate descriptors for the presentational mode. I clearly need to either change these prompts and provide additional direction and targeted practice the next time I teach this unit. I also wonder whether some of the results may indicate a lack of evaluator reliability on my part.  As with most rubrics, there is a bit of subjectivity and I hope to increase my consistency as I continue to use these rubrics.

Image Credit: http://www.publicdomainfiles.com/show_file.php?id=13489790414892

Musings on Unit Planning: Designing the Interpersonal Tasks

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

Novice Activities

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

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

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

Partner B: Il a beaucoup de livres?

Partner A: Non, il fait des maths.

Partner B: Il mange son crayon?

Partner A: Oui, il mange son crayon.

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

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

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

Partner A: Tu prends le petit déjeuner?

Partner B: Oui, je prends le petit déjeuner.

Partner A: Tu te lèves?

Partner B: Non, je ne me lève pas.

Partner A: Tu t’habilles?

Partner B: Non, je ne m’habille pas.

Partner A: Tu te réveilles?

Partner B: Oui, je me réveille.

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

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

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

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

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

Partner B: J’ai 10 chauve-souris.

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

Suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Intermediate Activities

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

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

Musings on Unit Planning: Designing the Interpretive Tasks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a Nutshell: 5 Steps to Designing a Thematic Unit

As a result of several recent questions by members of my PLN who are beginning their journey to a more proficiency-based methodology, I have created this outline of the steps I take when creating a thematic unit. While I am planning a series of posts with more detailed information about each step, I’ve included basic information about the process I use, as well as an agenda (updated 8/4/18) with resources for an Intermediate Low unit on vacations, in this post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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