Unpacking the new Ohio Scoring Guides for World Languages


Although it may seem unfathomable to some of the younger teachers out there, I still remember the first time I saw the word “rubric” in the title of a session at a foreign language conference years ago. At the time, I had no idea what a rubric was or how it related to assessing language learners. Needless to say, that session forever changed the way that I evaluated student learning in my classroom.  I was so excited about this new way of assessing students that I started creating rubrics for everything.  At first I preferred analytic rubrics—assigning separate scores to each aspect of a written or oral product just seemed more objective.  However, I eventually realized that the quality of a performance could not necessarily be calculated by adding up the separate parts of a whole, so I switched to a holistic rubric that I tweaked periodically over the years.  I have realized this year, however, that I needed to do some major revising to reflect my current proficiency-based methodology. The descriptors I was using didn’t adequately reflect the elements of proficiency as described by ACTFL. Since my own performance is now being evaluated according to my students’ proficiency, it is important that I am methodical in providing feedback to my students that is clearly related to their progress in proficiency.  Fortunately for me, the state of Ohio has recently published a series of scoring guidelines that will help me do just that!

You can find the rubrics in their entirety here and my comments below.



  1. Performance Evaluation. These are the rubrics designed to use with end of unit assessments. There are three separate rubrics—Presentational Speaking, Presentational Writing, and Interpersonal Communication. I think that these scoring guidelines will be an invaluable asset in my assessment practices for the following reasons:
  • The heading of the rubric provides a means for the teacher to indicate the targeted performance level of the assessment. As a Level 1-5 teacher, it may be helpful for me to have one set of guidelines to use with all students, rather than a series of level-specific rubrics.   The wording in the descriptors allows the teacher to adjust for the unit content and proficiency level with phrases such as, “appropriate vocabulary,” “practiced structures,” “communicative goal,” and “targeted level.” The Interpersonal Communication rubric even includes specific descriptors for both Novice and Intermediate interaction.
  • Each rubric includes a page designed for either student self-assessment and/or teacher feedback for each section of the rubric. The overall descriptors are given for each criteria, along with separate columns for strengths and areas of improvement.  I think this format will allow me to provide specific, targeted feedback to my students.  They will know exactly what they need to do in order to progress in their performance. As a result, I anticipate using this page alone to provide feedback on formative assessments.
  • The wording in these rubrics is well-suited to Integrated Performance Assessments. All three guidelines include a descriptor about whether the student’s response was supported with an authentic resource (or detail.)
  • These rubrics convey the vital role that cultural content must play in all performances with a criteria devoted entirely to “Cultural Competence.” The presence of this descriptor will serve as an important reminder to the teacher that s/he must include a cultural component when developing assessments and to the student who must demonstrate that this knowledge has been attained.
  1. Proficiency Evaluation. These are the rubrics designed to assess the students’ overall proficiency level in Presentational Speaking, Presentational Writing and Interpersonal Communication. Therefore, a separate rubric is included for each proficiency level that is targeted in a secondary program (Novice Mid-Intermediate Mid). The design of these rubrics will enable me to clearly identify my students’ proficiency for the following reasons:
  • Each rubric is aligned to the ACTFL descriptors for the targeted proficiency level. I will no longer have to page through the ACTFL documents to find the descriptors that I need for each level.
  • Each rubric also contains Interculturality descriptors, based on the NCSSFL Interculturality Can-Do statements.
  • Each rubric contains descriptors for three sub-levels of the targeted proficiency level. This is vital for those of us who are required to measure growth over less than a year’s time.  In my district, for example, our proficiency post-test must be given in March, before many students are able to demonstrate progress to the next full proficiency level.
  • Although my current understanding is that proficiency can only be measured by unrehearsed tasks that are not related to a recent unit of study, teachers who use proficiency-based grading might use these rubrics throughout the academic year.

Because Ohio has deferred to the ACTFL rubrics for assessing Interpretive Reading and Listening, I’ll look forward to addressing these guidelines in a further post.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear others’ opinions of these new rubrics.





Implementing a Passion Project with Intermediate Learners

Untitled-1For the first 90% of the school year I planned units that I thought would be relevant and interesting to most of my students. I was thrilled with the progress they made in their proficiency and for the most part they remained engaged throughout the year.  As a result, I’ve decided to try something new with my Intermediate learners. For the last two weeks of the semester (and as their final exam grade), I’m going to put each of my Intermediate learners in charge of designing his or her own curriculum. Each of my French 3, 4 and 5 students will research a topic of their choice and then present what they have learned to their classmates.  Their presentations, as well as the journal entries they will write to document their research, will determine their final exam grade.

Never having implemented this type of project, I did some quick research on Genius Hour and Passion Project ideas.  There are so many great ideas out there!  Based on what I found out, I’ve developed these guidelines: passionprojectdirections

The students will first complete a Google Doc with general questions about their topic, how it relates to a Francophone culture, their big idea question, some beginning research questions, and how they will share what they learn. ( Here’s a Word version of the document that I made:googledoc ) Afterward, they will have 5 class periods to research their topic in class.  I have encouraged each student to considering bringing in a device for this research and I have 8 classroom computers for those without a smart phone/tablet/laptop etc. They will only be permitted to read/listen about their topic in French while in class.  During the last 10-15 minutes of each class period (or at home), they will complete a blog entry (on the same Google Doc).  As indicated on the project guide, I will randomly select one or more blog entries to grade for each student.  For the second week, the students will create the visual aid for their presentation, create index cards, and practice their presentations.  Finally, they will present their projects to the class.  While I think many of the students will choose a Powerpoint/Google Presentation, I’d also accept videos or possible other formats that they suggest.

Although we won’t begin researching until this week, most of my students are excited about being able to study “anything they want.”  While I’m thrilled that they’re engaged by this project, I’m also more than a little nervous about putting them in the driver’s seat.  Like many teachers, I might have just a tiny bit of a control issue!  As a result, I’ve decided to assign a daily participation/interpersonal speaking grade. Although I don’t normally grade participation, I wanted to make sure to have some documentation about their work on this project. In order to justify this grade to the “proficiency voice inside my head,” I added a descriptor about discussing their research with Madame.  As I circulate among the students as they work, I plan on conducting quick interviews to gauge their progress, as well as make them accountable for staying on task. Even though I’m a little nervous, I can’t wait to see what these students come up with!

If you’ve implemented a Passion Project or Genius Hour, I’d love to hear your words of wisdom!


Everybody loves Stromae!

stromaeThis week I needed a quick lesson for my French 4/5 class.  I was being observed by the professor from the college from which my students earn dual enrollment credit, so I wanted to create a lesson that allowed my students to show their communicative abilities in a subject that would be of high interest to them.  Because they were familiar with Stromae and the animated video for Carmen had recently been released, I decided to develop a lesson around this song. Here’s the document that contains the materials for this lesson: Carmen

I introduced the lesson by projecting this infographic which explains various social media in terms of hamburgers.


After a quick discussion of the image, I had the students discuss their experience with various social media in small groups, taking notes so that we could then have a short whole class discussion.   Next, I passed out three different infographics showing the role of these social media, especially Twitter, in France.  I designed a task in which the students would discuss similarities and differences between French and American culture in regards to Twitter, but this was difficult, as the students didn’t have the same type of statistical information for their own culture.  I would amend this part of the lesson by either providing some American statistics or changing the task completely.  I do think, however, that it is important that the students have some background knowledge about the use of Twitter in France in order to understand the theme of the song.  In addition, this information was a good resource for the upcoming AP test.  At the end of the period we had just enough time to watch the video.

When I continue this lesson tomorrow, I’ll begin by playing the second video so that the students can see Stromae singing the song.  As they listen, they’ll fill in the graphic organizer with their thoughts and reactions to the song.  Then I’ll pass out the lyrics and have them discuss the vocabulary, key verses and theme of the song.  Lastly, they’ll write additional verses for the song.

A Novice High IPA on “Les Loisirs”


This week my students will be completing their IPA on Les Loisirs.  I’ve been really pleased with their work throughout this unit, and I’m looking forward to seeing their results on this IPA.  While I began my journey into proficiency-based/non-textbook/non-explicit grammar lesson teaching with a significant trepidation, I am thrilled with the results of my new methodologies.  These students are now writing comprehensible connected paragraphs about how they spend their free time and using a variety of present-time verbs with some accuracy.  They are able to discuss these activities with their peers and they can understand some details given by native speakers on these topics.  While their writing and speech are not grammar-free, I did not produce perfect speakers and writers when I taught using more traditional methods either.  What I know for sure is that this year was the most satisfying of my 26-year career.  My students, many of whom have diagnosed learning and behavioral disabilities, are experiencing academic success and feeling proud of their achievements.  I couldn’t be happier for them!

So, here it is, my penultimate French I IPA:  loisirs_ipa

For the interpretive reading task, they will read an infographic about French opinions of an ideal weekend and complete interpretive tasks based on the ACTFL template.  I have designed this assessment based on the ACTFL Can-Do “I can sometimes understand short, simple descriptions with the help of pictures or graphs.” My students have been reading increasingly complex infographics all year, and I know that they will be able to accomplish this task without much difficulty.

For the interpretive listening task, they will listen to two different news reports about leisure activities that are of interest to these students. The first is about technology-related leisure activities, and the second about sports and exercise. These resources will be significantly more difficult than previous videos, many of which have been cartoons, but I chose them because of their relevance to the topics we covered in class. The fact that many of the requested details are numbers, a notoriously difficult linguistic concept, will further challenge these students. Because this task is closer to what would be expected of an Intermediate Low-Mid learner, I will score it accordingly.

For the interpersonal task, the students  will discuss their leisure activities with a partner.  While I have not always written an interpretive task that is clearly dependent on the interpretive one, it is my goal to do so as I evolve in my understanding of evaluating students’ language performance and proficiency. Therefore, I have included a requirement that they discuss how their leisure activities compare to those that are listed in the infographic. Therefore, this this task will address the Novice High Can-Do “I can exchange information using texts, graphs, or pictures.”

For the presentational writing task, the students will write an e-mail to a hypothetical exchange student about their leisure activities, therefore addressing the Novice High Can-Do “I can write information about my daily life in a letter, blog, discussion board, or email message.”  After receiving feedback on similar messages that they wrote throughout the unit, I think the students will be prepared for this task.

While my district and state have established the expectation that students will reach the Novice Mid level of proficiency by the end of French 1, it is my opinion that this Novice-High assessment is appropriate for these learners.  Because each task is based on the theme we have been studying, I have higher expectations of this performance-based assessment, than I would for an unrehearsed assessment of overall proficiency.

Les Loisirs: A Novice Mid unit on leisure activities

browsing-15824_640As I began planning my French 1 units for fourth quarter, I took a fresh look at the ACTFL Can-Do Statements for the Novice Mid proficiency level. This is where I expect my French 1 students to be by the end of the year and I wanted to make sure that I addressed any areas in which they needed additional preparation. As I looked at the Interpersonal Communication Can-Do’s, I realized that I definitely had some work to do. The statement “I can ask some simple questions” jumped out at me. Many of my Level 1 students rely heavily on yes/no questions in their interpersonal communication. Although they have recently begun using qu’est-ce que and qui, I have not adequately prepared them to be able to ask and answer when and where questions as mentioned in the example Can Do statement. I also realized that they need a lot more vocabulary in order to adequately address the statement “I can communicate same basic information about my everyday life.” While they learned how to talk about what they like to do, I have not spent nearly enough time on activities that would teach them to talk about what they do/are doing. With these goals in mind, I began developing this unit on Les Loisirs .

Lesson 1: The students will begin by reading an infographic on French leisure activities and completing an interpretive task. They will then interview a partner about his/her leisure activities and the frequency with which s/he does each one. Next, the students will write a short paragraph about their own leisure activities.

Lesson 2: The input for this lesson comes from a video about French leisure activities. I will play the video as a whole-class activity, pausing when necessary to ask questions. While students at this proficiency level cannot be expected to independently interpret many details on a video like this, they can pick out key words. After the video, the students will complete an interpretive task in which they fill in a Venn diagram comparing their preferred leisure activities with those of a partner. They will then write a paragraph about whether they have much in common with their partner, based on what they learned when completing the Venn diagram. I have recently seen a new venn diagram maker for computers, so I may get them to try using this as it will help with learning how to transfer and represent data using different methods, e.g. written and digital.

Lesson 3: The input for this lesson will also be a video, in this case it is about video games. I think this will be a high interest topic for these students and will provide a good hook to the lesson. Following the video, the students will interview a partner about his/her leisure activities and complete a table with details that s/he finds out by asking information questions. The final task of the lesson will be a paragraph in which the students describe what they do during their ideal Saturday.

Lesson 4: As with the previous two lessons, this one will begin with a video. I should note that the reasons I have chosen to introduce these lessons with videos are a) My students always struggle with listening and b) Video interpretive tasks (as I use them during instruction) are less time consuming than reading tasks. Since I control how often I stop the video, rewind it, etc., I can spend as little or as much time as I need. On a reading task, I feel it’s important to give the students as much time as they need. Because of the diversity in reading proficiency in my class, reading activities often take an entire class period. Because I’m specifically addressing interpersonal communication in this unit, I want to make sure my students have enough time to adequately complete these tasks. In this lesson, the students will complete a “speed-friending” conversational activity. As a follow up presentational activity, they will write a note about which friend they had the most in common with.

In addition to these activities, I will spend lots of time asking personalized questions regarding my students’ leisure activities so that they are able to correctly answer information questions by the end of the unit. My IPA is still a work in progress, but I’ll make sure to include it in my next post!

For those of you that are assessing your students on the ACTFL Can Do statements, I’d love to know how they’re doing!

Once upon a time: A fairy tale unit without any fairy tales

cinderellaNow that my French 2 students have been introduced to both the passé composé and the imparfait, I wanted to introduce them to the idea of using these tenses to tell a story.  Although I will not expect them to be able to correctly narrate past events consistently for some time, I did feel they were ready to be exposed to this challenging concept.  Unfortunately, developing this unit was much more difficult than I had imagined!  I had originally planned on using fairy tales to introduce the use of these tenses together.  Although I realized that classic fairy tales are usually narrated using passé simple and imparfait, I naively thought that I would be able to find authentic simplified or modernized versions that were written in the passé composé.  In spite several hours combing the Internet, as well consulting my virtual colleagues, I was not able to find what I was looking for.  Even when I widened my search for other types of stories, most of the examples I found were narrated in either the passé simple or present tense.  While I could have simply rewritten one of these stories using the two tenses, it was important to me that my students read an authentic text for input.  As a result, I ended up choosing a blog entry by the imaginary character, Lulu, from Astrapi magazine to provide an authentic context in which the two tenses are used to narrate a story. I had used a couple of her entries in a school unit with these same students so they were familiar with the character. As described below, I used this text to provide an authentic model for the use of the two tenses, and then provided a series of teacher-created activities in which the students would use them to narrate/summarize a series of authentic texts.

« J’ai encore un doudou! » (Lulu/Trotro packet )

I began the introductory part of this unit by give the students a copy of one Lulu’s blog posts, in which she describes an event from a recent class trip.  Due to the nature of this lesson, I did not prepare an IPA-style interpretive task like I usually do.  Instead, I gave the students pictures of a few vocabulary words that they would need to understand the gist of the story and a list of details to fill out in French. While I usually ask interpretive questions in English with students at this level, I wanted them to start to get a feel for the way the two tenses are used in this lesson. Preparing French statements allowed me to present additional examples of the tenses used in context and presented opportunities for the students to use the tenses in a controlled way in their written responses.   To further call the students’ attention to how the imparfait and passé composé are used to narrate past events, I then gave the students a series of statements and asked them to choose whether each sentence referred to background information or an event that happened.  While I had originally planned on this being a manipulative activity (I was going to make cards with the sentences and place them in two separate columns) time did not allow me to do so this time, so it was a pencil/paper activity.  To my surprise, most of the students correctly identified the type of sentence, but seemed to do so without paying any attention to the tense of the verb.  In fact, when I asked which of the two tenses were used for background information and which was used for events that happened, I got lots of blank stares even from the students had correctly completed the table. As a follow-up activity, I had the students number the events, in order to reinforce that idea that the passé composé is used for events that move the action of a story along. Following these input activities, I divided the students into pairs and gave each pair a set of pictures (lulu-doudou pics – printed on cardstock) which represented different aspects of the story.  The students spoke in French to put the pictures in order and then I called on randomly-chosen pairs to orally summarize the story using their picture cards. The nature of the cards required that the students use both tenses and they did so quite well.  For homework, the students wrote about this event from another character’s point of view. I felt this activity would allow them to rely heavily on the phrases they had seen, while still creating their own sentences. As a final step to this lesson, I asked the students to write their own blog entry for an experience similar to Lulu’s.

Trotro et le cerf-volant (same packet as Lulu)

While I wanted the students to have additional experience seeing the two past tenses in context, I did not have enough class time to devote to another written text.  Instead, I decided to show the students a short video about one of their favorite cartoon characters, Trotro l’ane.  I first gave them a handout with pictures representing some key vocabulary and then played the video, stopping occasionally to ask questions using the appropriate past tense.  To provide further examples of the verbs used in context I gave the students a question/answer matching activity based on the video.  Lastly, the students discussed a series of screenshots from the video in order to put them in chronological order by writing #1 under the first, #2 under the second and so on.

Rafara (rafara worksheets) 

The main focus of this lesson on story-telling is the authentic book, Rafara.  It is a text that is used by many French elementary teachers and I liked the idea of incorporating Francophone literature with these students, especially because this unit will be followed by a study of the film, Kirikou et la Sorciere. While the passé simple is used in the narration of Rafara, the activities I developed will allow the students to see the passé composé and imparfait in context. The original text will be quite difficult for these students, but I think the nature of the story makes it appropriate for practicing summary and narration.  Although I purchased a copy of the hardcover book through amazon.com, I will give the students a packet with this pdf: http://laclassedecharlotte.eklablog.com/rafara-a58890841 (rafara ) The text is the same as the book, but the format is more practical as it has fewer pages. This teacher divided the book into 5 “textes” and I will use her same divisions.  Each of the first four sections will form the basis of a one day’s lesson, and the fifth will be used on the assessment for the unit.  For each lesson I have developed the following activities:

#1: An interpretive task in which the students identify key words, fill in supporting details, and guess the meanings of new words using context clues.

#2: A manipulative activity in which the students work with a partner to match questions and answers about the text.  (I have included the questions/answers in the document, but I will make a larger font and print this page on cardstock for the manipulative activity.)

#3: A series of pictures that the students will use to practice retelling the section. (Coming soon!)

#4: A true/false formative assessment to be used at the end of the lesson.

(Note: Before beginning these lessons, I will show this video to provide some necessary background knowledge to the students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJQyNWhrHUQ )


As a summative assessment the students will complete an IPA with the following sections:

Interpretive Reading: An IPA-style interpretive task. (Rafara ipa )

Presentational Writing: The students will summarize the entire story using the pictures.

Interpersonal Speaking: Students will retell the story with a partner.




La Préhistoire: A project-based unit for Intermediate Low French students

prehistory My French 3 students will spend 4th quarter learning about a few different eras in French history.  I haven’t taught this content for a few years, but when I did so my students were engaged by the project-oriented approach to the mini-units.  In most cases my students know little about early man’s way of life and are naturally interested in it.  In addition, the numerous prehistoric caves in France make this content-based unit culturally relevant.

In order to provide the students with important background knowledge about prehistoric humans, I will begin with an interpretive task in which the students will read an article about two prehistoric people—Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal (p.1p. 2). Because it is my intention to provide content knowledge, rather than assess in-depth comprehension, I am providing only a supporting-detail task for this article.  The students will respond in French in order to prepare them for next year’s assessments which will all be in French, as well as to enable my recent non-English-speaking new student to fully participate in the lesson. After the reading activity, I will play part of a Ce n’est pas Sorcier video about Neanderthals. Here’s the document with these activities (prehistoryunit)  In order to familiarize the vocabulary for this unit (vocabulary pics), we will play Password.  I have also chosen to insert a quick lesson on relative pronouns here.  I have done very little direct instruction of grammatical structures this year, and most of my students are correctly using qui/que, but I wanted to do a brief presentation to reinforce their understanding. I will also introduce dont, which they will most likely not be able to use correctly for some time, but might at least recognize after this lesson.

After these activities to develop the students’ background knowledge and vocabulary for this content, I will move onto the project portion of the unit. As the packet (prehistory project ) explains, I will give each pair of students a photograph of a prehistoric artifact used by either Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon people. This Google Presentation contains the photographs I will use:  https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1aVwVV-KUvlAmI5kMQvIb8K0l4l9jIJPRZzZvUI8cy2Y/edit?usp=sharing and this document (slide links) lists the sites where I found the pictures, to serve as a key.  The students will begin by filling in a graphic organizer with their hypotheses regarding the object. The students will first jot their own ideas in the graphic organizer, and then discuss their ideas with their partner, adding his/her ideas to the table.  On the following day, the students will read articles about various aspects of prehistoric life in order to support or refute their hypotheses.  Because I have a collection of children’s books about prehistory, I will photocopy relevant pages and make them available to the students.  While scanning all of the pages I will use is time-prohibitive at this point, this step could easily be completed using online resources. As the students research, they will fill in the graphic organizer with information that either supports or refutes their hypotheses about the objects. They will then share their information, so that each has a completed graphic organizer with both of their research findings.  The students will then use the information they have recorded to write a letter to a prehistoric art dealer to whom they would like to sell their artifact.  They will then present their information orally to the art dealer (me), answering any questions that “I” may have.  As a final assessment the students will complete these IPA-style interpretive tasks on an article and video about Lascaux (Lascaux IPA).  While I have included pdf’s for the relevant pages of the article (p. 10p. 11p.12p. 13p. 14p. 15), you will also find a link to a site that will enable you to buy a copy of the article in its entirety.  I was thrilled to find the video that I have used here.  Not only does it include wonderful images of Lascaux, but it is narrated by elementary children which will make it comprehensible for my students.


Spring Cleaning?: A Novice Mid unit on household chores

cleaningAlthough I had intended to include vocabulary and structures related to chores in my French 1 unit on the house, I ended up having to abbreviate the unit in order to administer the IPA before Spring Break.  I didn’t want to totally omit this part of the unit, however, so I’m incorporating this vocabulary and structures into a mini-unit that we will do when we come back to school.  I thought this unit was especially important because the house unit was very heavy on vocabulary and very light on sentence structures.  Although I was happy with my students’ performance on the IPA, they were able to complete those tasks by relying primarily on structures such as “Il y a” and “est.”  As we begin the fourth quarter, I want to make sure that my students are able to use a variety of verbs with different subjects.  While I won’t expect total accuracy at this point, I want to make sure that they’re beginning to develop an understanding of the idea of verb conjugation.

Click here (Chores unit) for the packet of activities that I will give to my students in this unit.

Lesson 1 (2 days) On the first day of this lesson students will begin by reading an infographic about how much time French people spend on household tasks and will complete an IPA-style interpretive task.  Next, they will play a Guess Who game (Guess Who ) to reinforce the vocabulary related to household chores.  Following this pair activity, they will write a paragraph about their personal responsibilities around the house. I will begin the second day of this lesson by playing the video and having the students complete the comprehension questions.  Following this interpretive activity, they will interview a partner about his/her chores and complete a Venn diagram comparing their responsibilities. Note: This activity is not included in the packet, I just have them do it on loose-leaf.  I like using Venn diagrams because they provide a context for practicing both first and third person verb forms in written form, while orally practicing the second person.

Lesson 2 (2 days) The students will also begin this lesson with an IPA-style interpretive task in which they read two different infographics about gender differences as they relate to household tasks.  Next, they will interview a partner about who does various tasks in his/her family, after which they will write sentences telling what chores various members of their family do.  Lastly we will listen to a video in which discusses chores and gender.

Lesson 3 (2 days) The students will begin this lesson by reading a comic about two brothers and how each one clears the table (PicPik) .  They will then watch a children’s video about a creative way that one girl clears the table.  This video will be very difficult for them, so I’ll provide lots of scaffolding as we listen as a class.  Next they’ll do an information gap activity (Chores Matching) to practice the vocabulary, followed by a writing activity in which they write a note to a sibling in which they explain how to do the dishes.

Click here for the IPA on this mini-unit. (chores_ipa-2015 )  Here’s a quick description of the tasks:

Interpretive Listening: Trotro range sa chambre cartoon video.

Interpretive Reading: Article about the types of chores that children can do at various ages.  All of the tasks can be completed by reading only the sections associated with the age groups.

Interpersonal Speaking: Students discuss their which members of their families do various chores.

Presentational Writing: Students write an e-mail complaining about the chores they have to do while staying with a host family.

I’ll be doing some traveling over break, so if it takes me a little longer than usual to reply to your comments, please know that I’ll look forward to hearing from you when I’m back home!


Maison Sweet Maison

Anonymous-my-houseIn between the standardized testing and weather days that have plagued my schedule over the past few weeks, my French 1 students have been learning the vocabulary and structures they need to both talk about their homes and understand authentic resources about French homes.  Although I would have preferred to introduce this vocabulary in a more contextualized way, I found myself relying on a more traditional format for this unit due to the limited time frame that I had and the amount of vocabulary I wanted to introduce.  Because these students had done so much reading throughout their previous unit on food, I wanted to focus on oral activities rather than written texts to reinforce this vocabulary.  As a result, I provided the students with a visual vocabulary list of rooms and furnishings (House packet) and then devoted one to two (shortened) class periods reviewing each room’s vocabulary using a variety of (mostly) communicative activities. For each room, I included some or all of the following activities:

  1. A short educational video to present the vocabulary for the furnishings in the room being studied. Because I prepared my list before choosing the videos, the words are not identical. If I teach this unit next year, I may modify my list to mirror the words in the videos, although I do feel the students can benefit from the exposure to additional vocabulary.
  2. A Google Presentation featuring two to three photographs of the “room of the day.” I would project the first room and ask students questions about what they saw in the picture: Il y a un lit? De quelle couleur est le couvre-lit? Qu’est-ce qu’il y a sur la table de chevet? Est-ce qu’il y a un tapis sous le lit ? I would then project the second picture and give the students five minutes to practice describing the room to a partner.  I then called on two to three randomly-selected students and asked them to describe the room to the class.  I assigned a formative assessment grade and written feedback to the students who were chosen for this informal presentation. Note: I will modify this presentation to include photographs of rooms in French homes, rather than randomly selecting Google Images if I teach this unit again.
  3. After these presentations, the students completed an information gap with a partner to further reinforce their vocabulary acquisition and oral fluency. I used the following three types of information gap activities in this unit:A) Matching: Student A and Student B each have a paper with the same pictures (labeled with either numbers or letters), but in a different order. Students will take turns describing their pictures and sharing the corresponding numbers/letters until they each have a list (on a separate paper) of all of the number/letter matches.B) Same/Different: Student A and Student B each have a paper with several numbered pictures. They discuss each one in order to determine whether it is the same or different on their papers. They then write either “M” for Même or “D” for Différent (on a separate paper) for each item.C) What’s missing: Student A and Student B each have a picture from which some items have been whited out. The students discuss their pictures in order to determine which items are missing from each one.
  4. After the information gap partner activity, I projected a short authentic video which featured the “room of the day.” Due to the difficulty of the videos, I paused them frequently to ask questions using the new vocabulary, but did not expect the majority of the students to understand more than the main idea of the video.
  5. Lastly, I projected an additional room photograph and required the students to write a paragraph describing the room. This paragraph provided an additional formative assessment/opportunity for feedback for these students.

Note: Although I had intended to include household chores in this unit (and this vocabulary is included in the packet), I will not be able to do so before our quarter ends next week.  Therefore, I will do a mini-unit on this topic after our Spring Break.

Here’s a link to Google Presentation with the photographs and videos I used in this unit: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1I_vShMkd6RbGkhej8ltMAny-QNnpAb5b6vmpbVeNKc0/edit?usp=sharing

Here’s a document with some of the information gap activities that I used in this unit: Pair Comm. Activities 

After these introductory vocabulary activities, the students completed the following learning stations (House Unit Learning Stations):

Computer Station: Students completed a series of interactive activities designed to reinforce the vocabulary for the unit.

Reading Station: Students completed an IPA-style interpretive task based on an authentic blog post comparing French and American houses.

Speaking Station: Students completed two different pair activities at this station.  In one, they discussed the respective house pictures in order to identify differences.  In the second, they took turns placing the magnets in the rooms on a commercial game and described their arrangement to a partner who placed his/her magnets in the same location. I listened to the students and provided feedback and a formative assessment grade at this station.

Writing Station: Students wrote a written description of their (real or imaginary) homes for a home exchange website. This assignment will serve as the rough draft/formative assessment for the presentational writing portion of their IPA.

After the students have rotated through these stations, they will take an IPA based on the topic of a home exchange: House-Unit-IPA , House IPA Reading

Interpretive Listening: The students will watch a short video—“La maison préférée des Français” and answer English comprehension questions.

Interpretive Reading: The students will read three different descriptions of homes currently listed on a home exchange website and complete an IPA-style interpretive task.

Interpersonal Speaking: Students will discuss the photographs of the homes whose descriptions they read and discuss whether or not they would like to stay in each one and why.

Presentational Writing: Students will write a description of their own home that could be posted on the home exchange website. Students are given the option of describing either their actual or an imaginary home for this task.

Although this unit does not rely exclusively on authentic materials to introduce and practice vocabulary, I think these activities will help the students memorize a significant number of high-frequency vocabulary items.  I will be curious to see how the more traditional vocabulary introduction will influence the students’ success on the IPA.


Jour de la Terre (2): Les Espèces Menacées

environment 2In between the endless hours of standardized testing and weather delays, my French 3 students have been working on a unit on the environment. (If you missed the first half of this unit, see this post) While this topic might not be as engaging as others we have studied this year, I think it was important to develop the students’ vocabulary on this subject, as many of them will be enrolled in AP French next year. As those of you who teach AP already know, the environment is an important subtopic for the “Defis Mondiaux” theme that is part of the AP curriculum.

Having completed lessons on global warming, pollution, and preservation, we were ready to move onto the most interesting part of the unit- a series of lessons on endangered animals. I have included a unit about animals in my French 3 curriculum for the past several years and have found that my students, like me, are especially engaged by this topic. While my treatment of the topic was quite simplistic in past years (students chose an animal from Francophone Africa, researched it, and presented it to the class), I wanted to kick it up a notch this year by focusing more on how global perspectives relate to the problem of endangered species.

Here’s the packet of activities that I prepared:Environment Unit – Pt 2

For the first lesson, we watched a Brainpop video about endangered species. I projected the video and played it to the whole class, using the French subtitles for additional scaffolding. I stopped the video frequently to check for understanding and give the students time to answer the written comprehension questions. Although I have previously used English for these questions, we have recently welcomed a new student into our French 3 class who speaks very little English. Having been educated in Rwanda, she is a fluent speaker of French so I am using as much target language questioning as possible. Following the video, the students took the quiz that is included with the video as a formative assessment. The following day, the students read an infographic about poaching and rhinos and completed an IPA-style interpretive task. They incorporated the information in this article into a letter to the government of the Ivory Coast.

After this introduction to some of the causes of animal endangerment, I began preparing the students for an individual research project/presentation on an endangered species. Although I do very little direct vocabulary instruction at this level, I felt that these students would need to develop a bank of shared vocabulary for their upcoming presentations, so I devoted the next couple of days on activities designed to build this vocabulary. On the first day, I gave the students this illustrated vocabulary list:Animal Unit Vocab . I then placed my collection of Beanie Babies on the chalkboard ledge and asked various questions, using the new vocabulary. (Quel animal a une corne? Combien de pattes a l’autruche? Quels animaux ont des griffes? etc.) Next, I divided the class into pairs and gave each pair a Beanie Baby. (If you don’t have a collection of Beanie Babies, pictures of animals would, of course, work just as well.) The students practiced describing their Beanie Baby with their partner for a few minutes, after which I randomly selected students to present their animal to the class for a formative assessment. I concluded this lesson by showing the class the ever-popular Capucine video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RQMVKcNgFw .

I began Day 2 of vocabulary instruction by again placing the Beanie Babies on the chalkboard ledge. This time the students played 20 questions. (Students picked an animal and their partner asked yes/no questions in order to guess which animal they had chosen.) Next, the students completed a pair crossword puzzle communicative activity. For this activity, student A is given a puzzle in which the horizontal answers have been filled in [Pair XW (A)] and Student B is given the same puzzle, but with the vertical answers filled in[ Pair XW (B) ]. (Neither partner has any clues, just a puzzle grid.) The students use circumlocution to provide clues to each other until both students have a completed puzzle. As a follow up to this activity, we played a round of $100,000 Pyramid. For this game I project a Google Presentation on which I have typed four vocabulary words per slide. I divide the class into two teams, and then choose two players from Team 1 to begin. Player A is facing the screen and Player B has his/her back to it. Player A uses circumlocution to give clues to Player B, who earns one point per correct guess in the 60-second time limit.

Now that the students had become familiar with some of the vocabulary they would need to discuss various endangered animals species, it was time to begin preparation for their individual research projects. In order to provide an element of student choice, I downloaded this sign-up sheet (Sign-up Sheet) into a Google Doc that I shared with the class. For homework the students typed their name next to the endangered animal they wanted to research and present. I then gave them one class period to complete the research guide on the front page of this document:Endangered Animal Project. We used the department Ipads for our research, and I circulated among the students to make sure that they were using only French resources. The students will then use this information for the written and oral presentational tasks that are described on the second page of the project document. In order to use my eight classroom computers effectively, the students will be divided into groups and will rotate among these three stations as they prepare for the summative assessments for this unit. Station 1: Students write the rough draft of the written presentational task. Station 2: Students watch a series of videos about endangered animals, which will serve as their interpretive listening grade for the unit (Endangered Animal Videos). Station 3: Students read a series of children’s books about animals. At this station, students choose from several children’s books about animals and complete short interpretive activities designed to further develop their reading proficiency. After each group has circulated among these three stations, they will present the animal they have researched to the class. Lastly, the students will read an article about an endangered animal and complete an IPA-style interpretive task for their unit assessment.

It’s nice to see how much the students have been affected by learning about endangered animals. The decreasing numbers of many of the species really shocked a lot of them and there were plenty who asked about what they could do to help. I felt it was my duty to provide them with resources like the GoFundMe blog which would give them further information on that.

Although the students won’t be presenting for a few more days (more standardized testing!), they’re excited about their work and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with!