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!

11 thoughts on “How a little bird helped me with a challenging Can-Do

  1. Jill

    Bonjour! Thank you so much for sharing all of your creative and wonderful ideas with us! Although it’s not as modern as Twitter, I used to teach this can-do statement with reading Green Eggs and Ham with the kids. It’s the best “would-ya, could-ya” book around. We were working with sports and hobbies in relation to the seasons and weather. The kids then created their own book inviting The Cat in the Hat to do things. “It’s winter. It’s snowing and it’s cold. Would you, could you want to ski? No, I would like to ice skate”. We went to the computer lab and printed out colorful pictures, made our books and then had a read aloud in small groups. While it was enjoyable (yes, Dr. Seuss rhymes even in French), I will have to modernize and try your Twitter lesson. Merci beaucoup!

    Reply
  2. Elizabeth J.

    What a neat idea! I have never thought about looking up specific chunks of voc this way. It is giving me lots of ideas, as your posts do! Thanks so much for sharing with us.
    Several years ago I discovered twitter and I started using it with my classes. I have my students establish a twitter account that they will use for only learning French. Each week we spend part of one class with twitter. They have about 5 accounts to follow and retweet. They have to make a tweet and respond to a classmate’s tweet. At the end of each grading period, I use a checklist to score their twitter account. I have an idea in mind for each week, but late-breaking events can quickly change things. I feel my students reinforce their lessons and stay in touch with the francophone world by using twitter.

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  3. Karen Oberlander

    Madame Shepard, you are prolific! Thank you for all you do and share. I started using Tweets after a a colleague of mine showed me what he was doing. My students “get” the small chunks of language when coupled with whatever target vocabulary or structures we are using. I put together a piece on “la Boum” and a couple on food. They also enjoy “text langauge” such as “MDR”. I had to explain “PTDR” Some teacher might not feel comfortable with but it’s is authentic and the kids love it. I’ll send you on the bit about la boum si ça te dit. : )

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thanks, Kara. That means a lot coming from you! I’ve been a loyal reader for years, and your blog was instrumental in helping me evolve towards a more proficiency-based methodology.

      Reply
  4. Cecile

    Dear Lisa, as you know I am a big fan of yours. 1) I love the idea of using Twitter to generate frequency on a particular structure. I have done the same with Pinterest to generate frequency on “etre”: https://cecilelaine.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/using-language-in-context-to-teach-grammar/ 2) May I suggest as a next step to have your students tweet with authentic partners? https://cecilelaine.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/my-8th-grade-class-tweets-with-french-olympic-athletes/
    Bonne chance et merci pout toutes tes bonnes idees!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thank you so much for sharing your links–I’ll look forward to reading them later today! As it turned out, my students took the initiative and did tweet some of the people whose tweets I used in this activity. (I started this lesson yesterday). By the end of the day several had stopped back in my room to show me the responses they got. They were so excited!

      Reply
  5. Kathy Zetts

    Thanks as always! A question–The packet begins with Lecon 3, was there something else you did as an intro? I’m going to use the tweets, I was just curious if you did something different. Merci!

    Reply

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