Last 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!