Category Archives: Musings

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

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 [updated 6/30/18) 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. 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!

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  (Updated agenda: 6/30/18) 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 (Edit 7/27/2019: While this blog is no longer available, a Google search of “Tag: Ma vie en 20 questions will yield many similar blogs that could be used for this activity.) and complete this comprehension guide.  Then they will answer the same questions in the space provided.  Finally, they will circulate among their classmates, asking questions in order to find a classmate who has the same answer for each question.  

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

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

Day 1 The students will listen to this video and fill in this comprehension guide. I’ll then play the video and discuss it so that students have feedback on their comprehension. (7/28/19: This document has a hastily typed up partial key for the activity.)

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!

Taking the plunge into proficiency-based grading

grade-28199_960_720A couple of years ago when I decided to drastically change what I taught (cultural content instead of vocabulary and structures) and how I taught it (by using authentic resources instead of textbook exercises), I took a close look at my assessment practices.  While I embraced the concept of IPA’s, I struggled a bit on how to assign a grade to these assessments.  In the beginning I used my own holistic rubrics and later adopted the Ohio Department of Education’s Performance Scoring Guides for World Languages. Being a rule follower, I chose the Performance rubrics because that’s what ODE’s website said that teachers should use for IPA’s.  Although I knew that some teachers were linking students’ grades to their proficiency level this practice didn’t fit with my understanding of proficiency, which I’ve been taught can only be measured by an OPI.  Because I understood that my classroom assessments were clearly performances (measurements of what my students had learned as a result of my instruction), I used the Performance rubrics.  While these are great rubrics, as I continue to adapt my instruction, I find that I will need to make some changes to my assessment practices in order to meet my goals for this year.  Specifically, I want my students to be more involved in their own learning. Rather than passively waiting for me to assign a numerical score to all of their performances, I want my students to understand their proficiency level, set their own proficiency goals, understand how to meet those goals, and self-assess their progress in reaching these goals. Because the descriptors in ODE’s Performance Rubrics do not reflect different proficiency levels (There is only one scoring guide for each skill/mode.), my students were not able to determine their current level of proficiency based on my completing this rubric.  Furthermore, they were not able to determine exactly what they needed to do to improve their proficiency (or grade). In the absence of clear descriptors for each level of proficiency, the students were faced with trying to hit a moving target.  As my performance assessments required increasingly greater levels of proficiency, a similar score on a string of assessments did not allow the students to see the progress that they were making.

In order to remedy this situation, I’ve decided to use ODE’s Proficiency Scoring Guides this year. Based on my current understanding of the common language of world language educators, I will be able to describe my students’ performances as exhibiting characteristics of a proficiency level, without implying that I am able to assign a specific proficiency level to an individual student.  But most importantly, because these rubrics contain separate descriptors for each proficiency level, they will enable my students to define their performances as exemplifying a targeted proficiency level.  Not only will my feedback allow them to identify their current level of performance, they will know exactly what they need to do to achieve the next level.  I especially love that these rubrics include three levels for each proficiency level (NH1, NH2, NH3, for example).  As a result, I hope to be able to measure each increment of progress in my students’ path to proficiency.

For many of us, of course, it is not enough to only identify a student’s proficiency level, we must also assign a numerical (or letter) grade for each performance.  After reading many outstanding teachers’ methodology for doing so, I’ve determined the following guidelines for implementing my proficiency-based grading system.

  1. Students who reach  ACTFL Proficiency Target will earn an 85% (B).  Because it seems unfair and unrealistic for the students to reach an end of course target first semester, I have (somewhat arbitrarily) determined that the first semester goal will be two sublevels below the end of the course target.  For example, since Novice High 2 is the targeted proficiency level for the end of French 2, Novice Mid 3 is the targeted level for first semester.   This table shows what score a student will earn for each proficiency level. (The numerical scores reflect my preferred maximum score of 10 rather than 100 [a percentage].)
  2. In order to more easily implement this system, I have prepared a first semester and a second semester rubric for each course. As indicated on the rubrics, the language is taken directly from the ODE scoring guides for each skill/mode. I simply chose which 5 columns I felt would be the most likely to cover the range of levels for a particular course and typed them on a single page, with an additional column for comments. I also took the liberty of creating a separate rubric for each Presentational skill and removed the comments about pronunciation from the Writing rubric in order to streamline the feedback process. I can easily use a lower level rubric (changing the scores accordingly) for those students who are unable to meet the lowest level on the rubric for his/her course.  Note: I have not included a 2nd semester rubric for French 4, as the ODE rubrics stopt Intermediate Mid 3. I’ll use my own judgment in assigning a score for any students who exceed this level.
  3. Because ODE does not have an Interpretive rubric (They provide only a link to the ACTFL IPA Interpretive Rubric), I will use the ACTFL rubric for interpretive reading tasks at each level. Because it is the task, rather than level of performance which demonstrates a student’s proficiency in interpretive assessments, the same rubric is appropriate for all levels. I will assign the following numerical scores to each level on the rubric: Limited Comprehension (7), Minimal Comprehension (8), Strong Comprehension (9) and Accomplished Comprehension (10).  A student who does not meet the descriptors for Limited Comprehension will earn a 6.

I’m sure that I’ll make modifications to these guidelines as I implement proficiency-based grading, so if you’re assessing according to proficiency, I’d love to know how it’s working in your classes!

From Completed Template to Unit Plan: Implementing The Keys to Planning for Learning for a Novice High Unit on Leisure Activities

220px-Group_at_Piazza_del_Popolo2C_RomeAs I discussed in my previous post, I have spent some time this summer reading The Keys to Planning for Learning: Effective Curriculum, Unit, and Lesson Design by Donna Clementi and Laura Terrill. After completing a template (see this post), I turned to creating the actual lessons that will enable my students to meet the learning goals that I have established for the unit. While I have included many previously-used authentic resources and corresponding comprehension guides in this unit, I have incorporated many new ideas that I gleaned from The Keys to Planning for Learning when designing these lessons. As a result of my reading, I have included one or more daily objectives for each lesson, a hook for most of the lessons, a formative assessment for each objective, and have been more intentional in addressing the primacy-recency cycle. This aspect of planning continues to be challenging for me, as it is difficult to gauge exactly how long my students will need to complete the activities I have designed. In addition, at my new school I will have longer blocks with each class on one day per week. While I have designed each of these lessons to correspond to a traditional 50-minute class period, I will make changes as I implement this unit for my own non-traditional schedule.
Here’s a link (Updated link: 7/1/18) to a Google Presentation that includes a slide for each lesson with links to all the resources required to implement the unit, which is briefly described below.

Lesson 1: I’m starting this unit with a short oral presentation on my own preferred leisure activities. While I usually begin with an authentic resource, I thought this would be a way for my brand-new students to get to know me a little bit. I’ll ask various students whether they do any of the same activities as I do, in order to start to get to know them.Next, the students will look at an infographic showing the popularity of various French leisure activities and respond to questions that I ask. These questions will be about the information in the infographic, “Combien de Français regardent la télé?” I’ll also ask personalized questions such as, ”Tu regardes la télé?” Tous les jours? Une fois par semaine?”As a formative assessment, the students will be given a list of pictures showing various leisure activities and will put them in order according to their popularity in France. (They’ll be allowed to look at the infographic, as I’m not assessing their memory, just whether or not they are able to read the infographic–the objective for this lesson.) For the second part of the lesson (which I hope will address the primacy-recency learning cycle), the students will interview each other and fill in a Venn diagram comparing their leisure activities. In order to scaffold this task, I’ve asked the students to circle the sentences which describe their activities, rather than expecting them to create their own sentences.
Lesson 2: As a hook to this lesson, I’ll play a video in which a young girl describes what she does when she’s bored. Although this video will not be comprehensible to these students, I’ll pause it frequently to check for understanding of some key words. After discussing a new infographic as a class, the students will then complete an IPA-style comprehension guide. These students may not have much experience with this type of assessment, so I want them to have lots of practice/formative assessments before the IPA at the end of the unit. After completing the comprehension guide, the students will use evidence from this text(or others we have discussed) to support/negate statements about French cultural values. I will encourage the students to work with a partner to add an interpersonal aspect to this task, which is also a key step in helping the students be able to begin addressing one of the essential questions of the unit.
Lesson 3: After another child-produced video hook, the students will look at an additional infographic. This time, rather than participating in a class discussion, the students will complete a short writing task in which they write 2 true and 1 false sentence based on the information presented in the infographic. I’ll circulate to check for accuracy and then the students will exchange papers and write true/false on their partner’s “quiz.”
For the second primacy-recency learning cycle, the students will complete a speed-friending activity in which they interview several classmates about their leisure activities.
Lesson 4: Once again the hook to this lesson will be an authentic video. This will be followed by a movie-talk style activity based on a Trotro video. I’ll first play the video without sound, providing comprehensible input in my narration and question-asking. Then I’ll play the video with sound, again pausing to ask questions. As a formative assessment, I’ll have the students listen to a similar video and respond to embedded questions on Edpuzzle.
Lesson 5: This lesson’s hook will be a short discussion of an infographic from Switzerland in order to introduce another Francophone culture. My questions this time will include those which encourage the students to compare and contrast the leisure activities of the two cultures. The students will then write sentences based on the information found in the infographic. In the second learning cycle of the class period the students will survey their classmates and then present a graph showing how often their classmates participate in the activity which they were assigned.
Lesson 6: In this lesson, the students will present a short presentation about their preferred leisure activities, why they do them and how often to their small groups. The other members of their group will provide written feedback on the presentations. In the second learning cycle, I will introduce the students to a children’s book about seasons by providing lots of input about the pictures. The students will then read the book and complete a comprehension guide.
Lesson 7: This lesson is designed for the students to work independently to learn vocabulary associated with the weather. They will first watch an educational/non-authentic video to reinforce the video and then complete a series of interactive, online review activities. I will then assess the students by presenting a series of photographs from Francophone cities and asking true/false question for each picture.
Lesson 8: This is the first of four lessons in which the students will listen to a song, complete a cloze activity, engage in a discussion and then complete an IPA-style comprehension guide for an article about the season. While I have included the comprehension guides I had developed for these resources, I hope to make modifications to these lessons in order to add more interpersonal communication and avoid repetitive tasks.
Lesson 9: This is one of two lessons in which I will present a movie-talk style introduction to a cartoon and then have the students discuss the story in order to put screenshot pictures in order. They will then practice presenting a summary of the story before presenting it to me as a formative assessment. While the unit goal “ Learners will be able to summarize a cartoon video about a character’s leisure activities” is not clearly related to the Essential Questions of this unit, I included it because I wanted the students to begin working on the Intermediate Low Can Do statement “I can retell a children’s story.” These Trotro videos have been of high-interest to previous students and are mostly comprehensible to these Novice Mid students so I find great value in including them in the curriculum. The interpersonal ordering activity could be completed using manipulatives (by printing the pictures on cardstock and cutting out a set for each small group) or by having each group make a copy of the Google Doc and then moving the pictures around on the document.
Lesson 10: As with Lesson 8, the students will listen to a song and then read an article about a season.

Lesson 11: In this lesson the students will use some of the vocabulary they learned in the previous day’s lesson to discuss their own summer activities and then compare them to what people do in France. They will then complete an Edpuzzle comprehension activity for a Trotro video that takes place in the summer.
Lesson 12: In this lesson the students will once again listen to a song and then read an article–this time about the fall.
Lesson 13:This is the second lesson for which the goal is for the students to summarize a cartoon story. Because there is a lot of new vocabulary in this story, I am giving the students some vocabulary in advance and will used personalized questioning to preteach the vocabulary. The students will then write a short summary of what they think the story is about, using the new vocabulary. I will then present the cartoon in a movie talk style before having the students discuss the story in order to put screen shots in order.
Lesson 14: In this lesson, the students will summarize the previous day’s cartoon for a summative assessment on this learning goal (both orally and in writing). They will also complete an Edpuzzle comprehension activity for a video about the fall.
Lesson 15: In this lesson the students will again listen to a song and read an article about wintertime in Canada.
Lesson 16: In this lesson the students will complete a speed friending activity in which they interview classmates regarding their wintertime activities. The students will then complete an Edpuzzle activity for a Trotro cartoon which takes place in the winter.
Lesson 17: In this lesson the students will begin the IPA by completing the interpretive tasks. As they are working individually, I will call small groups to my desk for the interpersonal task.
Lesson 18: In this lesson the students will continue working on their IPA by completing the presentational writing task and working on their video presentation, which will be submitted electronically.

As always, I’m grateful for your feedback on these lessons!

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/3074859774/