Monthly Archives: October 2014

Monsieur Lazhar: An IPA for AP students


When a colleague told me that she thinks this is the hardest part of the school year, I readily agreed with her. As she said, all of the materials and lessons that we created over the summer have been implemented, and we don’t have nearly enough time to develop the ideas we have for our current units. With winter break still several weeks away, we’re forced to “fly by the seat of our pants” all too often.
For my Advanced French students (Level 4/5 combined, AP class), this meant that they watched Monsieur Lazhar with very little preparation. I had never taught the film before, and just didn’t have the time to prepare the introductory materials that would have enhanced their background knowledge of the film’s setting, themes, etc. However, they were very moved by the film and we had great discussions throughout the week we spend viewing it. After which I administered the following IPA: MLazhar
In the interpretive listening task, the students watched a video and completed the multiple choice assessment. I continue to be challenged by writing this type of assessment. While I don’t think this is the best way to assess listening comprehension, I feel compelled to prepare the students for the AP exam. As always, I would be grateful for any feedback that those more experienced with the AP test can provide. Because my students received dual enrollment credit from a local college, I have only had a couple of students who have taken the latest version of the AP test, so I have not spent nearly enough time looking at sample exams. While I have tried to replicate the types of questions that they might expect to see (main idea, inference, language in context, etc.), I am not confident that I am getting it right. My students continue to struggle, and I’m wondering whether my questions are too difficult or if they are just not yet proficient enough for the texts that I am choosing.
In the interpretive reading task, the students read an interview with the director of the film. Again, I did my best to write an AP-style multiple choice assessment. I actually had a student who achieved a perfect score on this one. Whoo-Hoo! He is, of course, a genius and probably one of the most gifted students I’ve ever taught. Many other students did very well, too, although I noticed that there were more errors at the end of the assessment. I’m not sure whether the questions were more difficult or if their brains were just exhausted and they started to shut down.
In the interpersonal communication task, the students practiced each of the role plays with a partner, and then I randomly chose pairs to present one or the other to me. (They did not have the same partner with whom they had practiced.) These went well, although I need to remind them to incorporate more detail from the film in their role plays.
In the presentational writing task, the students wrote a letter from M. Lazhar to the school board, asking for his job back. I chose this prompt in order to focus on the future tense after a few students requested specific review on “verbs.” Although I had not planned on focusing on specific grammatical structures in this course, I felt it was important to consider the students’ requests in this case. I can’t offer any information about how they performed on this task, as they wrote them with substitute teacher this week and the papers haven’t yet made it to the top of the “Grade me” folder, but there were no complaints upon my return. No news is good news!
I’d love to receive feedback on this work, please leave a comment!

Happy Halloween!

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

Six Reasons Why I Love Learning Stations

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

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

“Le Selfie:” an authentic lesson for Intermediate students

woman taking a selfie
This week I continued my unit on social media with my French 4/5 students with a lesson on “selfies.” The students are so enthusiastic about this unit that I hate to see it end! I actually had to ask them to discuss more quietly—and they were all staying in the target language! As an added bonus, the lower level students are seeing terms like “Selfie” on the French 4/5 agenda and I have been overhearing comments like “I can’t wait until I’m in French 4 so that I can do fun stuff like that!” What a great unintended consequence of writing my agenda on the board every day!
Here are the activities that I included in this lesson, which took about five days.
1. Selfie infographic: The students a) discussed a series of pre-reading questions in their small groups and took notes so that they could share their ideas with the class as a whole and b) completed a short interpretive activity about the infographic.
2. (Note: 1/5/2017.  This video is no longer available.) The students watched a YouTube video in which a young woman gives advice about taking selfies. Although the young woman spoke rather quickly, the students were successful in answering most of the (English) comprehension questions that I had prepared—I think the silliness of the video motivated them to rewatch the video until they were able to understand most of it!
3. The students read a simple article, “15 Astuces pour reussir un selfie” and completed a comprehension guide based on the template in ACTFL’s IPA manual. ( This article addressed many of the same topics that the video did, which made it very comprehensible to the students.
4. The students presented their own favorite selfie to the class. I created a Google Doc Presentation and shared it with the students in the class. Each student was responsible for adding his/her selfie to the document on the first day of the lesson. On the 4th day, each student spoke for a 1-2 minutes about his/her selfie. Students who do not take selfies or chose not to share a photo of their own were invited to find a selfie online and add it to the google doc. One student added a selfie taken by a macaque and a few others used celebrity selfies. The students were able to do these short presentations without much preparation and they all enjoyed seeing each others’ pictures.
5. After 3-4 days reading/listening to these relatively superficial texts, the students read a more profound article about selfies and teen girls. For this article I prepared multiple choice questions, but included main idea, author’s perspective, vocabulary in context, and inference questions in order to replicate the type of items they will see on the AP test.
6. The students wrote a persuasive text in which they incorporated ideas from the article they had read—another activity intended to practice the skills they will need on the AP test.
7. The students watched two videos, both of which were about the “Love without Locks” campaign in Paris.
Here’s a link to a document with the materials I used: Selfie-Unit
I’d love to hear about other AP teachers have addressed the technology AP theme. If you’re willing to share your materials (or if you have feedback regarding this lesson), please add a comment or send me an e-mail!