Separation Anxiety: Planning a Novice Low unit without even looking at the textbook.

With less than two weeks before school starts I’m trying to get my first couple of units planned for each of the four courses that I teach.  As I continue on my journey to leave the textbook behind in favor of a proficiency-based approach, I find the beginners (French 1) the most challenging group.  There’s something a little scary about being solely responsible for deciding what they need to know at each step along the way!

As I planned their curriculum for the year, I decided that after a week or so spent on greetings, I would begin by teaching them the vocabulary and structures they would need to talk about school supplies.  It seemed to me that if they successfully acquired this vocabulary, it would be an important first step in my maintaining a 90% target language classroom.

I began the process of planning this unit by choosing the authentic materials that I would use to introduce the vocabulary to the students. As you can see by downloading the link below, I came up with an office supply website, two YouTube videos where teens presented their new school supplies, and a school supply list from a French middle school.

For each of these resources I developed both Interpersonal and Presentational tasks to reinforce the vocabulary from the Interpretive activity.  Each of these tasks will result in a formative assessment, as I will collect and assess the Interpretive tasks (Reading/Listening), assess some of dyads for the Interpersonal tasks (by spending a few minutes with various pairs as they complete the task), randomly select pairs to orally present the information gleaned from the interpersonal task (Presentational-Speaking), and collect and assess the Presentational Writing task.

Although I did not have a specific grammatical/structural goal for this unit, I found that I was incorporating the verb avoir into most of the interpersonal activities that I developed– an important novice level structure.  While I haven’t yet written the Integrated Performance Assessment for this unit, I feel comfortable that I can expect the students to use this structure (at least the first and second person singular forms) on the interpersonal task on this evaluation.

If you are looking for proficiency-based activities to teach school supply vocabulary to French 1 students, feel free to use any of these activities—and make sure to let me know how it goes!

Here’s the document with the activities: schoolsupplieslessons

For those of you who are farther along in the process of proficiency-based teaching, please consider sharing the process you use to plan a unit without relying on the vocabulary/structures presented in the textbook.

I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

10 thoughts on “Separation Anxiety: Planning a Novice Low unit without even looking at the textbook.

  1. Kimberly Gaiswinkler

    PS I have been textbookless for a year now and love the freedom. And my students actually comment on how much more French they are learning!

  2. madameshepard Post author

    Thanks so much for your kind comments! It’s good to know that your students are realizing the benefits of your teaching methodology. I have been moving in this direction for a couple of years–I switched to Integrated Proficiency Assessments for all units in all classes last year, but I still have a lot to learn. I’d sure appreciate any feedback you have as I blog about my journey!

  3. Angelika Koerner

    Chère Madame,
    Thank you so much for your blog, it is helping me a lot in getting my head around IPA and the use of authentic resources!

    As I look over the units you created, I am wondering how you share them with your students: do you give them access to the whole document at once (via e-mail or posted on a website or moodle), so they work through it at their own pace?

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Angelika! At this point, I am just photocopying everything and passing out hard copies, because not all of my students have their own devices. While they do work at their own pace, to some extent, I generally keep their packets. In other words, I don’t grade anything that has left my classroom. If a student finishes his/her work early, I have supplementary assignments and if s/he needs extra time, I have him/her come in at lunch, study hall, or before/after school. The IPA is the major grade for each unit, but I also grade some of the practice activities. It would be impossible, however, for me to grade all of them!

  4. Rob

    The first video in this packet says it’s no longer available. Just thought I’d let you know. Is there a similar one? What was the title…perhaps there is another posted that wasn’t removed?

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Yes, due to the nature of these amateur videos, they seem to come and go pretty quickly. I’ve downloaded some of the more recent videos I’ve used to avoid this problem, but had not yet begun doing so when I created this work. I think you might be able to find a similar video, but you would of course have to create your own questions. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

  5. Sharon

    Hi Lisa,
    Thank you so much for sharing your incredible resources! I am a new French teacher this fall and really want to embrace using IPAs and proficiency grading. Your work has inspired me and given me an excellent model.

    Reading above, you said your students go at their own pace to some extent. I am wondering how do you give feedback on the work students have done in the packet? Above, you said you grade some activities in the packet, but do you also review activities as a whole class or just with small groups/individuals as students work and have questions? Do you ever give them a written answer key? Thank you for your thoughts! I am still trying to get a feel for how best to use the time I have with students in class.


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