Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Refugee Crisis: A mini-unit using political cartoons to address a Global Challenge

earth-160951_640

Although I hadn’t planned on addressing the “Défis Mondiaux” theme with my AP students until later in the year, I just felt this topic couldn’t wait.  Here’s a quick mini-unit I created to introduce the plight of the Syrian refugees to my French 4/5 students.

Day 1: In order to ensure that my students had adequate background knowledge on the basic facts regarding this crisis, I began the lesson by showing these two videos: 1) http://1jour1actu.com/info-animee/migrant-2/    2) http://1jour1actu.com/info-animee/pourquoi-les-syriens-fuient-ils-leur-pays/ . We watched them as a class, and I paused the videos frequently in order to ask questions to ensure comprehension. Following the video/discussion, I assigned this comprehension guide over this article to provide further information on the refugee crisis.

Day 2: I began the second day of this mini-unit by showing this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6rS6lCoTTk ), which depicts the conditions aboard one of the boats used to transport refugees from Turkey to Greece. Again, I used the video as a springboard to class discussion, rather than as a formal listening assessment.    It’s a powerful video and the students remained engaged throughout the viewing.  They used the remaining class time to finish the reading activity they began on Day 1.

Day 3-4: Now that my students have some basic information about the causes of the crisis, the challenges faced by the refugees, and how some European countries are reacting to the situation, I wanted to create an opportunity for my students to engage in some interpersonal communication related to the topic. Because I have a Syrian immigrant in one of my AP classes, I wanted to avoid any type of role play or debate that may have (even inadvertently) resulted in insensitive comments. Furthermore, due to the limited time I had for this unit, I did not want to assign a significant amount of reading, which would no doubt be somewhat laborious based on the topic. So, instead of assigning additional reading to provide stimulus for a discussion, I curated a series of political cartoons that the students will first discuss and then present orally to the class. Here are the steps to this part of the mini-unit:

  1. For homework on Day 2, I asked the students to look at this Google Presentation (https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ZjUdk-a9TqJTKv5rzRDROJ630F4i3S2MpNRsCe-Q29M/edit?usp=sharing )   containing 20 political cartoons related to the refugee crisis and to select the one they would be most interested in discussing. They then typed their name next to the corresponding slide number on a separate Google Doc I created to serve as a sign-up sheet. Note: I wrote my own name next to #1 and #2, as I will use them to the model the activities.
  2. On Day 3 (tomorrow), I will project the first cartoon and guide the students in a discussion, using the same questions included in the comprehension guide . Next, I will project the 2nd cartoon and have the students fill out a copy of the comprehension guide , which we will then discuss as a class. After this preparation, I will either pass out Ipads or a photocopy of his/her selected cartoon to each student. The students will then orally discuss their cartoons with a partner  (first one partner’s, and then the other’s) as they each complete the comprehension guide for both of the cartoons in their dyad. For homework, the students will practice presenting their cartoon to the class, giving the information they filled in on the comprehension guide.
  3. On Day 4, each student will present his/her cartoon (which I will project) to the class, who will fill in a note-taking guide with the types of information included in the comprehension guide. Students will earn a presentational speaking grade for this activity.

Day 5: On day 5, students will begin a short assessment over this topic. For the Interpretive reading, they will read this article (p. 1p. 2p. 3p. 4) and complete this interpretive reading assessment . In order to replicate the format of the AP test, the questions are multiple choice and require both literal and inferential comprehension. The students will also complete this listening assessment over two additional 1jour1actu videos. Although these videos are quite simple, the results on my first IPA demonstrated that my new level 4 students aren’t yet proficient enough to interpret specific details from more complex recordings.  I may add a short writing assessment, in which the students would present an unfamiliar political cartoon in writing, based on a prompt which includes the types of information included in the comprehension guide.

Although this topic isn’t “fun,” the interest my students have shown in the videos and their enthusiasm in choosing their cartoons lead me to believe that they will be engaged by this brief unit on an important current event.

Ce que j’aime – A unit and IPA for Novice Mid French Students

j'aime

Having spent the first few weeks of the school year addressing the NCSSFL-ACTFL Novice Low Can-Do Statements, I know that my students are ready to take their first big step on the proficiency path toward Novice Mid.  I’ve chosen to focus on the theme of expressing personal preferences in this unit, as this topic is mentioned for each mode in the examples given for the Can-Do Statements. Based on my prior experience, I’m sure that these students will be excited to start sharing their own opinions of various activities, sports, music and school subjects.  Here’s packet of activities that my students will complete during this unit (French-1-Unit-2-Packet (1)).

In the first lesson, they will read an infographic about French leisure time activities.  Click here for a Word document with the frames of the infographic.) This authentic text will introduce them to the important vocabulary that they will be using throughout this unit. After completing the comprehension guide, the students will interview several classmates by asking a series of yes/no questions incorporating vocabulary from the infographic. As a presentational writing task, they’ll write a letter to a prospective exchange student expressing their own preferences, as well as asking him/her some questions.

In the second lesson, the students will read a very simple online story about a girl playing basketball and complete a short comprehension guide.  They’ll also watch their first Trotro cartoon.  Although I’ve included the short answer questions I created in the packet, my students will instead take an online multiple choice quiz on Canvas, our learning management system.  At the time I originally wrote this comprehension guide, I hadn’t yet begun using Canvas, but I’ve since discovered that I really like using it for listening comprehension activities.  The multiple choice format provides valuable scaffolding and the program also provides immediate feedback to the students regarding the accuracy of their responses. For the interpersonal activity, the students will interview a partner about their preferences, and then complete a Venn diagram. They will then write 10 sentences comparing their preferences to their partner’s.

In the third lesson, the students will read another infographic and complete the corresponding comprehension guide as well as watch another Trotro cartoon. For the interpersonal task, they’ll play their first “Guess Who” game and then write sentences about one of the characters for their presentational writing task.

In the fourth lesson, the students will read an infographic about the Fete de la Musique. In addition to providing information about an important cultural event, this infographic will introduce the cognates used to describe different music genres. After another Trotro cartoon, they’ll ask a partner whether s/he likes a series of activities (represented by pictures). For this task, students will provide a more detailed response which includes a reason they like/dislike an activity.

In the fifth lesson, the students will read the first three pages of a document (originally found at: http://www4b.ac-lille.fr/~ecfg/download/questionnaire.pdf)  that gives the results of a survey about French students’ preferences regarding school subjects. Although I haven’t prepared a comprehension guide, we’ll listen to and discuss this video as a class: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi3xReaZlIQ .

In addition to the activities in this packet, I’ll project a few of the Tweets in this document at the beginning of each lesson to provide a hook.  Based on the discussion from last week’s #langchat, I am also toying with the idea of having the students respond to these Tweets (or others that I will curate at the time) in order to provide a more authentic context for their new language skills.

IPA

The context for the IPA in this unit is finding a keypal.  For the interpretive reading, the students will read posts to a keypal website. Although not closely integrated with the keypal theme, the students will watch an excerpt from the French film, Entre les Murs, for their interpretive listening task. The students will then write a post for the same website for their presentational writing task. (Students will be encouraged to actually post their response on the website.) The students will then interview a prospective keypal (classmate) about his/her preferences. Note: Due to logistics, I will be assessing the interpersonal task while the students are writing the presentational one.

Feel free to respond with any questions or comments you have about this unit!

Image Credit: https://sites.google.com/site/mesetnoslecons/home/classe-premiere/j-aime

Reflections on Interpersonal Writing

computer-313841_640This week was a particularly exciting one on #langchat.  The topic of Interpersonal Communication had everyone so engaged that I couldn’t keep up with the rapid-fire pace of the Tweets, especially given the free-for-all format.  In fact, Thursday evening’s chat left me wanting more—more insight, more opportunities to reflect, and more time with the amazing professionals that contribute each week to this amazing resource.  As a result, I logged on for Saturday morning’s session, too. The question/answer format of this session was a little easier for me to follow and also gave us an opportunity to begin a discussion on Interpersonal Writing—a topic which never came up on Thursday’s chat. While some contributors pondered whether written communication allows for the negotiation of meaning which takes place in face-to-face conversaton, the ACTFL description of the Interpersonal communicative mode clearly includes writing. In fact, as some users noted, #langchat is an excellent example of a forum in which there is an “active negotiation of meaning,” in which “Participants observe and monitor one another…” and “Adjustments and clarifications are made.”

As world language teachers, I think that it is vital that we provide our students with opportunities to engage in this same type of written interpersonal communication. After all, while some of our students may never have the opportunity to actually speak to a member of a target culture, but they can all follow native speakers on social media and comment on their Tweets, YouTube videos, Vines and Instagram photos.  In fact, many of my students have begun to do so on their own, without any prompting from me.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Fortunately, the prevalence of Learning Management Systems and Google applications makes it very easy for us to develop opportunities for our students to engage in this type of communication in a way that supports our curricular goals.  My own district has recently adapted Canvas and their discussion boards are easy to create and evaluate. Each student’s post and replies are grouped together in the “Speedgrader” and both a “Score” and “Comment” box are included so that I can quickly provide feedback and assess each student’s overall contribution.

Given the user-friendliness of this new system and my own reflection as a result of the #langchat discussion and this blog post, I’m planning on incorporating a lot more interpersonal writing into my curriculum this year.  In fact, I’ve included the frequent use of online discussion boards in my annual professional SMART goal. Not only will these assignments provide the students with an opportunity to practice a real-world skill, they also supply an audience for the students’ writing. When I assign a presentational writing task, I am usually the only one who reads their work. By assigning contributions to a discussion board, rather than a paper/pen writing assignment, I enable the students to receive feedback on the comprehensibility and quality of their messages from their classmates’ comments and questions. An additional advantage of these discussions is that they prepare the students for oral in-class discussions. Because the students have had an opportunity to look up important vocabulary and structures, formulate their opinions, and read others’ ideas, they are more confident in oral discussions on the same or similar topics.

My first two discussion boards for the year were assigned to my upper-level students who have been watching Entre les Murs.  In the first, the students discussed whether M. Marin was a good teacher.  Each student had to write one post in which she gave her opinion and then reply to two classmates’ posts, as well as to comments and questions on her original post. I used this rubric (Online discussion rubric – Intermediate), which I will no doubt modify for future discussions, to assess their contributions. While I was thrilled with the quality of the students’ responses, I wish I would have avoided assigning a due date that was before the end of the film.  I did so in order to be able to provide feedback before their summative writing assignment, but many students’ opinions evolved as the film progressed and they were a little frustrated that they couldn’t go back and add their new understandings on the discussion board. The second discussion board was created for the students to share their own “auto-portrait” using the questions provided by M. Marin in the film.  While I had originally intended that this be a paper/pen assignment in order to protect the students’ privacy, when I gave them a choice, the students preferred to use the online forum.  Their enthusiasm provides even further evidence of the value of this type of assignment!

As a result of the positive feedback I’ve received from these students, I’m planning on incorporating discussion boards with my other students, too.  This week my French 2 students will be discussing what they like to do when they get together with their friends and my French 3 students will be discussing how our educational system compares to what they have learned about the French educational system.  I’ve modified the rubric I created for the upper level students in consideration of the difference in proficiency and task-type. Although I will undoubtedly revise this rubric, this is my first draft: Online discussion rubric – Novice. I hope that these students will be as enthusiastic about sharing their ideas as the upper level students were!

I’d love to hear how you are incorporating interpersonal writing into your own classrooms.  Please share in the Comments box!

 

 

 

How a little bird helped me with a challenging Can-Do

twitter-312464_640Last summer, when I decided to ditch my textbooks and develop a proficiency-oriented curriculum, I didn’t know for sure exactly what themes I would end up including.   Like many of you, I teach one or more French 1, 2, 3, and 4/5/AP classes per day, so I had to be satisfied with creating one unit at a time during my first year with this new course design. At the beginning of the year, I knew only that I would be choosing a theme for each unit, and would then create learning activities around that theme that would address at least one NCSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statement for each mode of communication. While I was nervous about having enough time to curate the resources and develop the learning experiences that my students would need, I wasn’t overly concerned about “what” to teach.  By planning lessons that addressed each of the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements, I felt I would be providing my students with what they needed to reach their proficiency goals.  This allowed me to focus on choosing themes that would interest my students and for which I was able to find an adequate number of authentic written and recorded texts. Although it was a challenging year in terms of time management, it was a rewarding one as well.  The majority of my students demonstrated proficiency at the expected or higher level and seemed to enjoy the class.  In fact, there was a significant increase in enrollment (due, undoubtedly, to many different factors).

So, as I reflected on last year while preparing for this one, I was feeling pretty satisfied with the curricula I had developed. I was confident that the thematic units I had created had allowed my students to meet each of the Can-Do’s multiple times, so I just needed to do a quick double-check as I wrote out my outline for this year. Since they’re first in the Can-Do document, I started with Novice High Interpersonal Communication Can-Do’s when I was preparing my French 2 outline. I can exchange some personal information. Check—they’ve been doing that since French 1.  I can exchange information using texts, graphs, or pictures. No problem here.  Many of my lessons are organized around an infographic that the students interpret and then discuss.  We also read and discuss illustrated stories and the students do lots of picture-based interpersonal activities, like “Guess Who” games, “Same/Different” activities, “Matching Pictures,” and picture sequencing activities to review stories or videos. I’ve definitely got that one covered. Next came, I can ask for and give simple directions. Piece of cake, they learn how to give directions in French 1, and the picture description activities ensure that the students maintain this skill.  Only two more Interpersonal Can-Do’s and I could move on. I can make plans with others. What??? Hmmm. I must have done something last year that addressed this one. So I checked out the examples given, hoping they would jog my memory:

  • I can accept or reject an invitation to do something or go somewhere.
  • I can invite and make plans with someone to do something or go somewhere.
  • I can exchange information about where to go, such as to the store, the movie theatre, a concert, a restaurant, the lab, or when to meet.

Nope. I couldn’t think of a single learning activity I had created that would allow my students to meet this Can-Do.  So, I prayed that no one would alert the proficiency police and then started planning how I could make sure to include this Can-Do in this year’s curriculum. (Fortunately, I’d addressed the final Novice High Interpersonal Communication Can-Do, I can interact with others in everyday situations, in a unit on grocery shopping and another on health, so I didn’t have any other unfortunate surprises.)

Unfortunately, introducing the skill of inviting and accepting or rejecting invitations proved to be more challenging than I had expected.  I just couldn’t come up with an authentic resource that would give my students enough comprehensible input with the phrases that are typically used for these language functions.  Fortunately, around this same time I came across this great post  and as I surfed around their fabulous blog I saw several references to the use of Twitter as an authentic resource.  While many of you have no doubt been using Twitter with your students for ages, I only got my own account a couple of years ago in order to stay in touch with my son. In fact, I didn’t follow anyone else until I was introduced to #langchat a few months ago.  As a result of my own lack of experience with this particular social medium, I hadn’t yet explored Twitter as an authentic resource that could be used with my students. I wondered whether this medium might provide the type of comprehensible input I was looking for.

Since I wasn’t exactly sure where to begin in planning my first Twitter lesson, I simply logged into my Twitter account and typed in “Si tu veux, on peut” as I felt this would be a useful phrase for extending invitations.  Lo and behold, I immediately had dozens of recent tweets to choose from, each which contained this expression used in an authentic context.  I simply chose those tweets that were 1) comprehensible, 2) interesting, 3) culturally relevant, and 4) school-appropriate and then copied (using the snip tool) and pasted them into a Word document.  I then did additional searches for “Ca te dit de..” and “si on allait”” so that my students would become familiar with these expressions, too.  The students will read these tweets at the beginning of the lesson on invitations, and complete a simple interpretive activity.  I think this activity will be engaging to students due to its authenticity and connection with their own daily lives. They may or may not notice the lack of accuracy in the language used, but if they do I will use this teachable moment to discuss the register of language used in social media.

After reading these tweets, the students will then write tweets of their own to the other members of their group using these invitation expressions. I will provide them with an authentic resource which includes common texting abbreviations, so that the students can incorporate these abbreviations in their own tweets. Having practiced reading and writing invitations, I will then introduce the students to expressions used in accepting and rejecting invitations with another group of tweets. After reading these tweets, they will return to the tweets that were written to them by their classmates, and either accept or reject each one.

After this introduction to the language used in invitations, the students will complete an interpersonal speaking activity in which they extend several invitations to a partner who accepts or rejects each one as they fill out an agenda for a weekend together.  They will then complete a presentational writing activity in which they write a series of tweets between themselves and another student, inviting him/her to participate in the activities from the agenda.

Click here for the resource I created for this lesson: Twitter Invitation Lesson

Since developing this lesson, I’ve done several other Twitter searches for upcoming units and I’m really excited about how this authentic resource can be used with students.  I’d love to hear how any of you have incorporated Twitter into your classrooms!