Category Archives: Integrated Performance Assessments (IPA’s)

C’est quoi, une maison idéale? A Unit for Novice High French Students

This summer, as I worked on updating my curriculum for the upcoming school year, I knew that my “House Unit” needed a serious overhaul. While I had created several fun speaking activities for house vocabulary over the years, the unit lacked a meaningful context and provided very little cultural content. Clearly, I had never considered an essential question that would provide meaning and context to these lessons.  Therefore, before creating any of the lessons for the revised unit, I determined that I would focus on the question, “What is an ideal home?” as I planned to the unit. I then created a series of lessons that I hope will create opportunities for my students to consider this question as we learn about homes in various parts of the Francophone world. I have described each of the lessons I created below and you can click here for the unit agenda with the links to all the resources I have made.

Day 1: On the first day of the unit (which will fall on a 90-minute block day) I will show slides of various houses in France and describe them orally in order to present new vocabulary for describing the exterior of houses via comprehensible input. Following this presentation, the students will read an infographic about houses around the world and complete a comprehension guide. After a short online vocabulary activity (designed to keep my early finishers busy until their classmates finish the reading), the students will complete a pair matching activity (described in this previous post.) Lastly, we will listen to the song, Quatre murs et un toit by Benabar and complete both a cloze and comprehension activity.

Day 2:I will begin by presenting an infographic about ideal temperatures to introduce the vocabulary associated with rooms of a house. The students will then complete another matching activity, designed to allow them to describes houses in terms of the rooms that they have. I will formatively assess the students by orally describing a few of these pictures to the students who will write the letter or number of the house I’m describing. Finally, the students will complete an Edpuzzle for a house-related cartoon.

Day 3: I will use an infographic about home accidents to review the vocabulary for rooms before reading an article about the best placement of the rooms in a home. After filling in a graphic organizer with information from this article, the students will choose which of three floor plans would best suit their own family and explain why, in writing.  Finally, the students will complete an Edpuzzle for another house-related cartoon.

Day 4: The students will begin by watching Trotro joue à cache-cache and completing an Edpuzzle. I will then use a Google Presentation to review the cartoon before having the students complete a manipulative activity in which they will work in pairs to match screenshots from the cartoon to corresponding sentences. The students will then complete a cloze activity as a formative assessment on their comprehension of the (past tense) verbs used in the summary sentences. Lastly, the students will complete an Edpuzzle of a different Trotro video.

Day 5:  I will first project an infographic about the ideal French kitchen and discuss it to make it comprehensible to the students.  The students will then make cultural inferences about French cooking habits based on the infographic and complete a true/false with justification comprehension guide.  Next, they will discuss their own families’ kitchens and eating habits. Lastly they will complete a graphic organizer comparing what they learned about American and French kitchens/eating habits. If there is time remaining in this 90-minute block, the students will complete a pair activity in which they describe a series of kitchen pictures and determine whether they have the same or a different picture for each number.  

Day 6: The students will complete an Edpuzzle for an Ikea kitchen commercial and then write a message in which they describe a French person’s opinion of their own kitchen.

Day 7:  We will watch and discuss a video about kitchen remodeling.  The students will then read a slide presentation and complete a comprehension guide. Next the students will give their opinions of several kitchens and then play Quizlet Live.

Day 8: I will introduce vocabulary for living room furniture by discussing a series of photos. The students will then give their opinion of additional living rooms in the same slide show.  Finally they will read an article about

decorating living rooms and complete a comprehension guide.

Day 9: After discussing a few living room pictures as a class, the students will complete a matching activity with living room pictures. The students will then complete an Edpuzzle for a decorating video before writing a description of their preferred living room photo.

Day 10: I will introduce new vocabulary by describing photos of French bathrooms. The students will then describe additional photos for a few minutes before completing an interpretive activity for two infographics about bathrooms. Next the students will complete a same/different activity to compare images of bathrooms.

Day 11: The students will share opinions of several bathrooms, complete an Edpuzzle for a bathroom video and then orally describe the bathroom in the video.

Day 12:  I will introduce bedroom vocabulary by describing a series of slides showing French teen bedrooms. The students will then discute additional slides in small groups before reading a slide presentation and guessing the meanings of new words based on context clues. Finally, they will complete an Edpuzzle for a cartoon video.

Day 13: The students will complete the following three learning stations: 1)A pair matching activity with bedroom pictures, 2)A note describing items in a bedroom picture, 3)An Edpuzzle for a video in which a teen describes her room.

Day 14: I will use a slide presentation to present some different types of houses from Francophone regions. The students will then complete a comprehension guide for a reading about these types of houses and then an Edpuzzle for a video about “une maison troglodyte.”

Days 15 and 16:  the students will prepare for their IPA by 1)completing a practice reading, 2)describing photos of a home and whether it would be well-suited to their family 3)2 Edpuzzles for videos in which people present their homes/rooms, 4) writing a description of their own homes for a home exchange site and 5)receiving oral feedback on their written descriptions. (No one will be at this station during the first rotation.)

Days 17 and 18: The students will complete the IPA for this unit.

I hope that organizing this unit around an essential question will increase my students’ focus on cultural comparisons as they relate to homes and lifestyles around the world.

Image Credit: By Gachepi (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A Halloween mini-unit for Novice High French students

Wow, I can’t believe it’s October already!  I have spent the first several weeks of my school year implementing the lessons I created over the summer (many of which I have shared in earlier posts) and in general I have been pleased with how these lessons have gone.  I am really enjoying my second year at my current school–my relationships with my returning students have grown closer and I’m so proud of their progress toward proficiency. In addition, my new French 2 students (I don’t teach level 1) are fabulous. Their enthusiasm for French class makes teaching them so much fun!

Because of their dedication to French, I’m especially excited about our upcoming mini-unit on Halloween.  Following the lead of a fellow French teacher blogger in this post, I will repeat many activities that I’ve used in previous years.  However, as this agenda shows, I have also added a few new resources.  Perhaps most importantly, I’ve created several Edpuzzles for my favorite Halloween videos and an IPA.  I think most of these activities will be self-explanatory, but if you have any questions, please let me know!

La Famille dans le Monde Francophone: A Unit for Intermediate Learners

Like many of you, I teach a mixed level class that includes students in both French 4 and French 5, some of which are taking the course for college credit and/or in preparation for the IB exam.  While the brand-new French 4 students are understandably intimidated by being in class with the French 5 students, I have found that I provide the best learning environment for these students by keeping them all together for our class activities.  In fact, there is such a wide range of proficiency at this level that it is not always apparent to outside observers which students are in each class. So, while I assess the two groups differently, the activities for the following unit have been developed for a range of Intermediate learners. Here’s a link to the agenda to which all the documents are linked.  Each lesson is briefly described below.

Lesson 1: I will begin this lesson by eliciting student responses on their definition of family, after which we will watch a video in which French people respond to this same question.  The students will then complete an interpersonal activity in which they ask each other for information which is given on the other’s infographic.  The students will then discuss their own families, giving the same types of information that was included in the infographics. Students will spend any remaining class time discussing differences that they noted between their own families and what they read about French families. For homework they will add photos of four different “family” members to Google Slides for a short presentation they will later give.

Lesson 2: The students will begin this lesson by discussing a series of quotes about families in their small groups, explaining their understanding of the quote, whether they agree with it, and providing an example from their own lives or a text to support their opinion. Next, we will review object and disjunctive pronouns by completing a couple of interactive activities together and then individually. After this review, they will watch a video by the vlogger, Norman, and answer questions using these pronouns.  Because this lesson will fall on a 90-minute block day in my class, we will also study a family-related song before I give them 10-15 minutes for free voluntary reading.

Lesson 3: In this lesson the students will again exchange information from a section of an infographic, this time on families in Quebec. (Each member of the dyad will have a different section of the same infographic and will have to find out information from the other’s section.)  The students will then write the introduction to an essay comparing French and Quebecois families. (They will not write the entire essay, due to time constraints.) If there is time remaining in the class period, they will then begin reading an article about polygamy in Senegal.  Rather than preparing a comprehension guide for this text, I have assigned Cornell notes.  Although this is a new strategy for me, I think this activity will help prepare the students to discuss this text the following day.

Lesson 4: After discussing the polygamy text by asking and answering the questions they wrote during the Cornell note-taking, the students will take a short quiz to assess their comprehension of the article.  They will then listen to an interview about a legal case regarding a polygamist in France. Finally, they will write a hypothetical judgment given by the judge in the case outlined in the video.  

Lesson 5:  After these lessons on family structures in three different Francophone countries, the students will present four members of their own “family” by sharing pictures and information about each person they have chosen.  While I seldom assign class presentations in order to avoid undue anxiety among my students, I will ask students to speak to the class as a whole this time so that we can all get to know each other better.  I believe the topic will be quite low stress as the students will not need to memorize new information or use complicated vocabulary.  The students will then provide this same information in writing via an email to a prospective exchange student. Because some of these students will be taking the IB test in the spring, this assignment has been designed to practice the e-mail text type.

Lesson 6: This lesson, created by my fabulous colleague, Nicole, begins with the students creating sentences to describe what was happening in screenshots from the animated short, Au fil de l’age.  In addition to providing contextualized review of the imperfect tense, this activity will build interest and allow the students to make predictions before watching the video. After eliciting student responses on this activity while reviewing the slides, I will play the video, stopping frequently to discuss the story. Following the video, the students will complete an assessment in which they matching sentence starters to the appropriate completion, a common task on IB interpretive assessments.

Lesson 7: In this lesson, the students will discuss quotes about grandparents before creating Cornell notes for an article about grandparents’ rights in France. They will then discuss the article by asking the questions they created while note-taking.

Lesson 8: I will introduce the subtopic of same-sex message by having the students discuss a comic. They will then exchange information from infographics in order to compare same-sex marriage in France and Canada.  

Finally, they’ll watch a 1jour1info video about same-sex marriage and complete a comprehension guide.

Lesson 9: After another short discussion of a cartoon the students will read an article about same-sex marriage and complete an IB-style comprehension guide. Next, they’ll watch a Cyprien video on the same theme.  While Cyprien’s videos are not always appropriate for classroom use, I did not personally find anything objectionable about this one.  In fact, I found that his self-deprecating humor on this topic might spark some interesting discussion.Finally, the students will synthesize what they learned in the article and video by writing a “To Do” list for the mayor who married the couple in the article.

Lesson 10: In this lesson, we’ll address the next subtopic–adoption. The students will read an article and then take notes using a technique that I learned from a professional development opportunity on critical thinking. I will assign each student a colored “hat” (just a card with a picture) to wear as they read an article about adoption.  Based on the hat they are assigned, they will take notes on 1)the facts presented in the article, 2) their personal reactions, 3) the negative aspects of the ideas in the article, 4) the positive aspects of the ideas in the article, or 5) creative solutions to the problems discussed in the article. (I won’t be assigning the blue hat this time.) The students will then discuss the article according to the perspective of their hat, filling in the corresponding sections of their graphic organizers.This will be my first time implementing this strategy and I’m really excited to see how it goes! Finally, the students will watch a video about adoption and complete a comprehension guide.

Lesson 11: I’ll introduce our final subtopic, blended families, by leading a discussion of three comics on this subject.  Next the students will read the blog entry of a comic character who describes a conflict between a friend and her stepparent. The students will complete a graphic organizer with the causes and effects of this conflict and then discuss their ideas with a partner.  Finally, they will write a response to the blogger’s friend with advice to improve her relationship with her stepmother.

Lesson 12: The students will begin this lesson by completing an online questionnaire about what type of stepmother they would be. Next they will complete an Edpuzzle for a video about conflict between teens and stepparents. Finally they will synthesize this information by performing a role-play between a parent and therapist who gives him/her advice about improving the relationship between his/her teenager and spouse.

Lesson 13: In this lesson the students will prepare for their IPA on this unit by practicing the role play which will be performed for the interpersonal task and a draft for the presentational writing task. (In order to ensure spontaneous speech, the students will not know their role or their partner in advance of the assessment, but I do provide the prompt so that they can start formulating some ideas.)

Lesson 14: The students will prepare and record a picture description task designed to replicate the speaking task on the IB exam.  While the students are preparing for this assessment, I will provide individual feedback on the previous day’s written draft.

Lesson 15-16: The students will complete the interpretive reading task of the IPA while I call up random pairs for the role plays. They will then complete the presentational writing task.

Note: Because of the length of this unit and the fact that I was following it with a film that would have its own IPA, I did not end up administering an IPA at the end of the unit.  (I did, however, formally assess several of the tasks that the students completed throughout the unit.  You may click here for the link to the IPA that my colleague and I had developed for this unit.

I am hoping that this unit will provide ample opportunities for the students to get to know each other, develop confidence in their communicative abilities, and practice some of the skills they will need to be successful on the IB test.

Image Credit: https://pixabay.com/fr/famille-l-homme-femme-gar%C3%A7on-312018/

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/

Continuing Along the Path with a Novice High Mini-Unit and IPA on Leisure Activities

For the past few years, my life has been all about following paths.  For three weeks each summer I hike on the Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle/Camino de Santiago and during the rest of the year I plan how to lead my students on their own path to proficiency. Just as I find myself returning to Europe to discover new routes to the same destination, I continue to rework my lessons to more closely align with my current understandings of best practices.

This year I will once again start my French 2 classes with a unit on leisure activities.  This topic is well-suited to their proficiency level and the nature of the unit helps us all get to know each other. Rather than a lengthily, all-encompassing unit this year, however, I’ve created a short mini-unit. Last year’s more thorough unit presented a few unanticipated problems.  Due to the length of the unit, my students did not take a summative assessment/IPA for several weeks.  As a result, I did not have formal data on their level of proficiency for my own records or to share with them, until the end of our first 6-week grading period.  Because one of my goals for this year is to provide more targeted, proficiency-based feedback, I want to create earlier opportunities for this type of conversations with my students, especially those who may not have been exposed to the idea of proficiency during their first year of language study. When my colleague suggested we create a short mini-unit to introduce the topic of leisure activities (which will be followed with a longer unit that includes daily activities, weather and seasons), I thought it was a brilliant idea.  This 2-3-week unit will give us an opportunity to introduce our students to proficiency-based Can-Do statements, lessons designed around the three modes of communication and exposure to authentic resources.  Furthermore, the IPA will give us data on the proficiency level at which the students are able to perform.  Armed with this knowledge, we will be able to begin the process of providing the types of feedback that will help these students to progress throughout the year. Best of all, our conversations about how we spend our free time will help to create the types of relationships that will facilitate the warm and positive classroom environment that is so important to language learning.

Day 1: As this agenda shows, we’ll introduce the topic of leisure activities with a teacher-led discussion of a basic infographic on Sunday activities.This discussion will allow us to provide comprehensible input using some of the targeted structures. The students will then engage in a short pre-viewing conversation before listening (as a class) to a video in which a girl describes some of her leisure activities.  A teacher-led discussion during the viewing will help provide additional comprehensible input. Lastly, the students will begin reading a detailed infographic on leisure activities and completing an IPA-style comprehension guide.  (This interpretive activity will continue the following day.)

Day 2: The lesson will begin with a video and teacher-led discussion of the video as well as personalized questions.The students will then complete a heavily-scaffolded interpersonal activity in which they ask and answer questions about a partner’s leisure activities, and then fill in a graphic organizer comparing their pastimes. The rest of the class period will be used for finishing the infographic from the previous day.

Day 3: After another short teacher-directed discussion based on an infographic (with personalized questioning), the students will interview a new partner about the frequency with which s/he participates in various activities. The students will then participate in a matching “game” in which they take turns describing pictures in order to match each picture on their paper to the corresponding picture on their partner’s paper.  I often use this type of activity with my novice learners and have found it effective in engaging these students and encouraging their spontaneous speech. Time permitting, I may conduct a formative assessment in which I describe a few of the pictures and the students jot down the number/letter of the corresponding picture.  

Day 4: I will begin this lesson with another infographic-based discussion, which will be followed by an interpretive activity for an infographic on teens and sports.  In this case, I’ve created French comprehension questions in order to encourage target language use as the students work on the task.

Day 5: I will start this lesson by going over the correct answers on the previous day’s interpretive activity. This discussion will provide additional input that will prepare the students for the interpersonal and presentational activities that follow. Finally, the students will complete a series of Edpuzzle formative listening assessments for cartoon videos in which Trotro the donkey does various sports-related activities.

Day 6: This lesson, on the topic of music, will again begin with a teacher-led discussion of an infographic as well as personalized questions about music.  The students will then complete an interpretive activity about a music-themed infographic and a related conversation.

Day 7: This lesson will begin with a cloze activity for the current top-20 song Je joue de la musique. The students will then complete a presentational writing assignment designed to encourage them to synthesize what they learned about the listening habits of French teens and compare these practices to their own.  Finally, they will complete an Edpuzzle for a  music-based Trotro video.

Day 8: This class period will be spent preparing for the IPA. The students will both practice the conversation prompt and prepare a draft of the writing prompt.  I will divide the class into two separate groups, enabling me to provide feedback to those students who are speaking.  I will collect the written drafts at the end of the period and provide feedback using this document from my previous post.

Day 9: If all goes as planned, the students will take their IPA during this 90-minute block. (Otherwise, I will give it over the next two days.)  I will distribute the article and IPA packet to the class, and will call up pairs of students for the interpersonal task while the rest of the class is working on the reading.  As students finish the reading, they will begin the final draft of the writing, on which they will have access to their first draft as well as my feedback.  

Note: You should find each of the resources and materials linked to the agenda.  However, if anything is missing or not shared correctly, please let me know.  I encourage you to make a copy for your own use so that you can correct any errors you may find and make modifications based on your own students’ needs.  As an additional resource for my students, I prepared this document which includes the learning goals for the unit and some vocabulary and structures that the students can use on the learning activities throughout the unit (but not on their IPA).

Have a great rest of the summer!

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!

Le Gaspillage Alimentaire: A Mini-Unit for Intermediate Low French Students

Treasure_trove_of_wasted_food.JPG

One of the first units that I shared on this blog was a series of lessons on food waste.  When I found myself with a couple of available weeks with my French 3 students right before Thanksgiving this year, this topic seemed like a great fit.  Not only would we all be enjoying copious dinners, but the subject of food waste seems has begun to be addressed on American media.  Click here for the unit agenda, to which all materials have been linked.  Here’s a short explanation of each lesson.

#1: As an introduction to the topic, we watched and discussed a video about food waste as a class. The students were then given one of two infographics about food waste and a graphic organizer. The students read their infographic and filled in as much information as possible in the graphic organizer.  They then discussed their information with their partner (who had read the opposite graphic organizer) and wrote the additional information they gleaned from the conversation in the graphic organizer.

#2: As a hook to the second lesson we discussed a document with suggestions for avoiding food waste.  The students then interviewed a partner about his/her own habits.  Following this interview, the students wrote a message to their partners with suggestions for reducing the amount of food that they waste. Finally they completed an Edpuzzle for a video about food waste.

#3: I began this lesson by showing an anti-food waste announcement that we discussed as a class.  The students then completed an Edpuzzle for a video in which a character gives recipes using leftovers.  After completing the Edpuzzle, the students rewatched the video and wrote out the directions for each recipe.

#4: During this 90-minute class period, the students completed 3 different stations related to recipe preparation.  At the listening station, they completed four different Edpuzzles for videos about food waste. At the reading station, they completed an activity in which they matched pictures from a recipe to the written description of the step shown in the picture. (Due to the nature of this activity, I am not able to share the materials here.) At the third station, the students chose one of the three videos from the previous day’s lesson, and practiced presenting it orally, using only the pictures they were given.  After about 20 minutes of practice, they recorded themselves giving the recipe.

#5: This lesson began with a pre-reading discussion of doggy bags, which was following by an interpretive activity based on an infographic about this topic.  During the remaining class time, students completed online interactive exercises to review verb conjugations, as their written work had demonstrated many errors on these structures.

#6: In order to prepare for the interpersonal task on the IPA, the students participated in a Speed-friending activity by interviewing several classmates about their food waste habits and giving suggestions based on their partner’s responses.

#7: On our next block day the students completed the IPA for this mini-unit.

I was pleasantly surprised at the engagement level of many of my formerly reluctant learners during this mini-unit on a topic with important environmental implications.

Noël for Novices

christmas-1084884_960_720It’s hard to believe that this is the third year that I am posting a Christmas unit! This year’s plan, based on my current French 2 students’ needs, includes many resources that I have used in the past with either French 1 or French 2 classes.  However, I’ve added some new resources (some of which were created by an awesome new colleague!), and linked each resource to the corresponding lesson on the agenda.

Here’s the agenda and a quick summary.

Day 1: I’ll introduce some vocabulary by discussing pictures and then play a commercial Loto game. I’ll pass out this vocabulary packet as a reference during the unit.

Day 2: This lesson, which focuses on Saint Nicolas, includes an introductory video, short reading, Edpuzzle and pair activity in which students describe pictures in order to determine whether each one is the same or different.

Day 3: This lesson, on the topic of Santa, includes a reading and pair matching activity.  I didn’t have a great copy of the reading so it’s kind of blurry.  If anyone has a better link, I’d be very grateful for it!  After the pair matching activity, I’ll orally describe a few of the pictures and have the students write either the number or letter (depending on which they have) for a formative assessment.

Day 4: This lesson on Christmas traditions throughout the world includes a video from a family living in France, an infographic about international traditions, and an info gap activity in which students fill in an agenda of Christmas activities.  As a follow up assignment, the students will write a message describing their week’s activities. (This lesson will take place on a day on which we have 90-minute classes.)

Day 5: This lesson, which focuses on traditional Quebecois holiday activities, includes an introductory video and info gap activity.  I hope to add an Edpuzzle to this lesson, too!

Day 6: In this lesson we will watch a video from a site about decorating Christmas trees as a class before the students complete a series of interpretive activities for the text from the same site. The students will then practice explaining the steps to decorating a tree using pictures they have drawn.  Although I’ve included a pair matching activity here, it seems unlikely that we’ll have time for it.

Day 7: The students will interpret an infographic about Christmas eating habits in France, discuss their own eating habits, and then compare them by creating a Venn diagram.

Day 8 & 9: The students will complete a series of learning stations designed to prepare them for the summative assessment on this unit.  Each station is designed to be completed in about 30 minutes.  Because Day 8 is a 90-minute class, the students will have one station remaining for Day 9.

  • Listening Station: Christmas Edpuzzles
  • Reading station:  Story about Santa
  • Speaking station: Students will be given the role of either a French or Canadian student and will discuss their holiday pictures.  
  • Writing Station: Students will write a draft of their summative assessment.

Day 10: The students will complete the interpersonal speaking and presentational writing portions of their summative assessment. (Described on this IPA.) The interpretive portion of this assessment, their midterm, is still a work in progress as we are creating a multiple choice version to accommodate our school’s requirements.

Joyeux Noël!

Using Rubrics to Assess Interpretive Reading

rubricLast night’s #langchat was hopping!  One of the most lively discussions had to do with the topic of using rubrics to assess students’ communication in the interpretive mode.  So, at the request of @MmeBlouwolff, I’m sharing a few thoughts about how I use rubrics to assess reading in my classes.

Like many of my colleagues, I did not understand how I could use a rubric to assess reading comprehension when I first began using IPA’s.  It was not until I saw the ACTFL Interpretive template, that I realized I didn’t have to assess comprehension with discrete point measures.  After adopting the question types suggested by this guide, the switch to a more holistic grading system made perfect sense. A student’s comprehension is not adequately assessed by the number of questions they answered correctly, any more than their presentational writing can be evaluated by counting spelling errors. Furthermore, our current understanding of the interpretive mode of communication does not limit us to evaluating our students’ literal comprehension of a text.  Instead, we are encouraged to assess inferential strategies such as guessing meaning from context, making inferences, identifying the author’s perspective and making cultural connections.  Using a rubric to measure student growth on these skills allows me to show my students what they can do, as well as how they can improve their interpretive strategies.

Here’s a look at a sample of student work and how I used a rubric to assess both the student’s literal and interpretive comprehension. Please note that although I relied heavily on ACTFL’s Interpretive IPA Rubric, I changed the format to make it more similar to the Ohio proficiency rubrics that I use for the interpersonal and presentational modes.  In addition, I modified some of the wording to reflect my own practices and added a numerical score to each column.

As the completed rubric shows, I ask my students to assess themselves by circling the box which best reflects their own understanding of their performance on each section.  In addition to providing an opportunity for self-assessment, this step ensures that the students have a clear understanding of the expectations for the assessment and encourages goal-setting for future performances. This process also provides me with important information about the students’ metacognition. In this case, the student seemed to feel very confident about his/her responses to the Guessing Meaning from Context section, in spite of the fact that he only guessed one word correctly.

After collecting the assessments and student-marked rubrics, it’s my turn to assess the students.  The use of a rubric streamlines this process considerably, as I can quickly ascertain where each student’s performance falls without the laborious task of tallying each error.  I simply check the appropriate box on the rubric, and then project a key when I return the papers so that each student receives specific feedback on the correct responses for each item.  

When it comes to determining a score on the assessment, as a general rule I assign the score for which the student has met all, or nearly all of the descriptors. I do consider, however, how the class does as a whole when assigning numerical grades.  I am frequently unrealistic in my expectations for the Guessing Meaning from Context, for example, and as a result I do not weigh this category very heavily when assigning a final score.  In the case of this student’s work, I assigned a grade of 9.5/10 as s/he met many of the descriptors for Accomplished and demonstrated greater comprehension than the majority of his/her classmates.

While the use of rubrics for interpretive communication might not work for everyone, I have found that holistic grading provides better opportunities for self-assessment, encourages students by providing feedback on what they can do and saves me time on grading.  

As always, I look forward to your feedback, questions and suggestions!

Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rubric.jpg