Category Archives: Musings

Musings on Unit Planning: Designing the Interpersonal Tasks

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

Novice Activities

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

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

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

Partner B: Il a beaucoup de livres?

Partner A: Non, il fait des maths.

Partner B: Il mange son crayon?

Partner A: Oui, il mange son crayon.

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

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

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

Partner A: Tu prends le petit déjeuner?

Partner B: Oui, je prends le petit déjeuner.

Partner A: Tu te lèves?

Partner B: Non, je ne me lève pas.

Partner A: Tu t’habilles?

Partner B: Non, je ne m’habille pas.

Partner A: Tu te réveilles?

Partner B: Oui, je me réveille.

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

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

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

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

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

Partner B: J’ai 10 chauve-souris.

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

Suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Intermediate Activities

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

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

Musings on Unit Planning: Designing the Interpretive Tasks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a Nutshell: 5 Steps to Designing a Thematic Unit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

Closing the Feedback Loop: An Action Plan

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

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

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

Interpretive Communication

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

Interpersonal and Presentational Communication

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

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

Note about the rubrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mon Look: A Mini-unit and IPA for Novice High French Students.

clothes-311745_960_720In order to implement the curriculum in my new school, I developed a short unit on clothing for my French 2 students.  Because time did not allow me to address this topic as globally as I would have liked, (See this post by Rebecca Blouwolff for some great ideas!) I thought I’d share the lessons I created, as well as the IPA I will use to assess the students.

Day 1: As my agenda shows, I used a cartoon, Trotro s’habille, to introduce some common clothing words. I first had the students watch the video and complete an Edpuzzle on their own. Following this individual interpretive activity, I played the video to the class with frequent pauses for questioning.  My questions addressed both comprehension of the video, as well as personalized questions about the students. After watching the video as a class, the students worked with a partner to put screenshots from the video in order and then match the appropriate caption to each picture. (I print the files on cardstock and then cut apart the squares, making enough copies for each pair.) Although I originally planned to have the students doing a story retelling as a formative assessment, time didn’t permit me to do so.  Instead, I made eight statements about the video and the students indicated whether each one was vrai or faux on a sheet of looseleaf.

Day 2: On the second day, I choose an infographic, “Etes-vous un hipster?” as a hook for the lesson. The students then used H & M’s website to fill in the name of various articles of clothing on a handout that would become their vocabulary sheet for this mini-unit.  They then completed a pair matching activity.  I formatively assessed this lesson by orally describing several of the pictures from the pair activity and having the students write either the number or letter from their pair worksheet.

Day 3: The students began by reviewing clothing vocabulary with a series of web-based activities and then completed an interpretive reading activity based on an infographic about Barney from How I met your mother.  Lastly, they completed an Edpuzzle for Petit Ours veut s’habiller tout seul.

Day 4: In this lesson the students completed the same activities for Petit Ours veut s’habiller tout seul as they had done for Trotro s’habille.

Day 5: Students completed a series of learning stations that allowed them to communicate about clothing in each mode.

Day 6: As a hook to this lesson I played a Cyprien video.  I then modeled some new phrases by giving my opinion of the articles of clothing on a Google Slides presentation.  I then gave the students a handout with these expressions and had them practice giving their opinions of additional slides in small groups. To further reinforce this vocabulary, we did an inside/outside circle activity with magazine pictures of various outfits.

Day 7: In this lesson each student was assigned to one of the slides on the Google Presentation of pictures of outfits.  The students wrote a paragraph describing the articles of clothing and giving their opinions of each one.  They then exchanged papers with a partner and read their partner’s paper and chose which slide s/he had described.

Days 8 and 9: IPA

Although I think this mini-unit would be improved by including a stronger cultural component, these activities did allow the students to increase their ability to communicate using high-frequency clothing vocabulary.

Give Me Five

handAs I was reading this month’s Okapi magazine I came across an ad for a free new app from Bayard press called Give Me Five by Phosphore. This app sends five short news stories to your device every day at 5:05 p.m. (French time).  While I hope to eventually have the students read the articles outside of class, I’ve begun implementing this resource by choosing an article and projecting it for the class. (Note: there’s a website with that provides the same articles.) After simply discussing a couple of the articles this week, I created this document which I will copy and give out at the beginning of each week (I see each class 4x a week). I’ll then project the article I’ve chosen for the day and give the students a few minutes to complete the comprehension guide, after which we’ll discuss their responses as a class.  Although the articles are difficult, I think that with the appropriate resources (wordreference.com), my students in Level 3 and above will be able to get some meaning from the articles. While I might not have time to implement this activity every day, I think that this resource will be a great way to introduce my students to current events and high-interest cultural topics.

Musique Mercredi à la Madame

songUnlike many of you, I have done very little to incorporate music into my curriculum in past years.  Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’m just not a very musical person myself.  I was familiar with only a few current French artists and seldom listen to music for personal enjoyment (Yes, I know this how weird this sounds!). As a Type A over-planner, I also felt uncomfortable spending class time on a song that didn’t relate to the thematic lesson objectives I had established. Of course, I did realize that music could be a great way to engage my students, especially after participating in #maniemusicale last year (Thanks @MmeFarab!) As a result, one of my goals for this year has been to work with one song a week this year.  Because I have one long block each week (a 90-minute, rather than 48-minute class period), working with a song seemed a great way to provide a brain break from the more communicative activities that we spend most of our time on.  Our 15-minute song activity, along with a 15 minutes of “Lecture Libre,” helps to keep these students engaged and motivated during these longer days.  

Although I’m hoping to come up with some more creative ideas in the future, this is the process I’ve used so far:

  1. I pass out a word cloud with the words that the students will later fill in during the cloze activity, along with other words that will not be used.  With my lower levels, I explain any words that they don’t know.
  2. I play the song once, and the students highlight or circle any words in the word cloud that they heard.
  3. The students then check with their work with their table groups.
  4. I then pass out the cloze activity, and play the song again during which time the students fill in the missing words, using the word cloud as a word bank. (Although the majority of the missing words are in the word clouds, a few are missing due to a computer glitch or user error.)
  5. I give the students a few minutes to try and fill in those blanks they didn’t fill with words that make sense.
  6. I play the song a third time, stopping after each verse to check comprehension.

I have been pleasantly surprised by how well even my French 2 students have done on these tasks, as well as how the students have been able to use the vocabulary they have learned from these songs on tasks related to our current unit of study.  Even better, many of my students have mentioned playing the songs for their friends and families and looking up other songs by the same artists.  

Here are the songs I’ve used so far and links to the materials I created for each one.

  1. Sur Ma Route by Black M. I was more ambitious on my first song, creating one word cloud for my French 2 and French 3 students (first page) , and a different one for my French 4/5 classes (second page).  Likewise, there are separate documents for the French 2/3 cloze activity and the one I used in French ⅘ (which also has a short comprehension section).
  2. Marcher au Soleil by Tal. I skipped the word cloud with this one, but did create separate cloze activities for French 2 and 3 and French 4/5.
  3. Tu vas me manquer by Maitre Gims. Click here for the word cloud and here for the cloze.
  4. On dirait by Amir. Click here for the document which contains both the cloze activity and the word cloud.

Note: In order to save time, I use lyrics that I find online to create these activities.  As a result there are often errors that I don’t catch right away and don’t always get corrected on the original document. Please proofread and edit before using!

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 (Note: 7/10/17. This video is no longer available.) 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!