Monthly Archives: September 2014

Facebook is for fuddy-duddies: An Intermediate unit on social media

facebookI’m only a little bit embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t wait to plan this lesson. I’ve had so much fun pinning various infographics related to social media, but had never yet created a unit on this theme. Since I didn’t do much with technology in my combined 4/5 AP Class last year, I wanted to make sure I spent some time on it this year. Although my colleague and I plan to cover a few topics related to technology during this unit, I volunteered to develop the first lesson, which focused on social media.
As you’ll see in the document I uploaded below, I’ve included an interpretive reading task (an article about teens and social media) an interpretive listening task (two videos about teens and social media), an interpersonal task (discussion questions and role plays) and two presentational prompts.
I think this lesson will take about 4 days and this is how I have planned each day:
Day 1:
I will begin by projecting a few of the images on this google presentation:
I will project one, give the students 3 minutes to discuss it in their small groups, and then choose one student to talk about it for a couple of minutes for a formative assessment grade. When I have done similar activities in the past, I instruct the students to describe the image and then explain why it’s funny. After repeating this process with another image, I will pass out a copy of one of the social media infographics I have pinned (see my La Technologie Pinterest board) and have them discuss it in their groups for a few minutes. We will then discuss it as a class. I will ask them questions about what surprised them about the infographic, what their personal experiences were on the topic, and whether they thought there were cultural differences between the U.S. and France on the topic.
After this discussion time, I will have the students begin the interpretive tasks. Because I have 8 computers in my class, I will have all the students begin the reading, and then choose 8 at a time to do the listening. For homework the students will post a response to the first writing prompt on our Moodle site (Because they will comment on each others’ posts, this is actually an interpersonal writing task).
Day 2:
I will repeat the discussion activities by projecting a couple of more images and passing out another infographic. Then I will have the students complete whichever interpretive task they did not finish on Day 1. If any students finish both interpretive tasks, I will have them begin writing their response to the second presentational prompt. For homework I will assign them the task of reading their classmates’ posts from the previous evening and responding to at least two of them with both a comment and a question.
Day 3:
I will project a couple more images from the Google presentation and then have the students discuss the questions from the interpersonal task. I will then divide the class into two groups. One half of the class will work on the Interpersonal Tasks for the rest of the period and the other will complete their presentational writing (#2).
Day 4:
I will project a couple of more images and then divide them into the two groups and have them complete the opposite tasks. By having only half of the class speaking at a time, I am more able to provide feedback/formative assessment than I would be if I had to try and listen to 28 students speaking at the same time. For this evening’s homework assignment, I will have the reply to any comments they received on the interpersonal writing assignment.
I just hope the students have as much fun working on this unit as I did planning it!


Intouchables: A work in progress for Intermediate Students

IntouchablesI can think of no better way to expose my upper-level students to authentic language and culture than by showing a well chosen target language film. While my students don’t always appreciate French films in the same way that I do, Intouchables has proven to be just as popular with my students as it has been with the rest of the world. While the R-rating may make it impossible for some teachers to show this film, I included the parental advisory information from IMDB on my permission slip and all parents allowed their children to see the film.
Once I had their permission, second step was to design a unit that would ensure that the students were engaged in all modes of communication as we watched the film. I began this unit with both an Interpretive Reading and an Interpretive Listening task to familiarize the students with the film and the true story on which it is based. When designing the reading task, I did my best to model the types of questions that are used on the AP French Language exam. Thus, the questions are multiple choice and include main idea, supporting detail, contextualized vocabulary, and inference questions. Although I began incorporating these kinds of questions last year, I still struggle to write good questions of this type. Unfortunately, my students seem to have as much difficulty answering these questions as I do writing them and I did not end up counting this task as a grade. I did, however, learn a lot from this process. When I returned the papers to the students, I asked them to highlight the passage where they had (supposedly) found each answer. There were a lot of “Aha” moments during this activity as the students realized why they had made the mistakes they had when they were forced to justify their answers with proof from the text. I will continue to require students to highlight passages when answering multiple choice questions in order to ensure that they are making inferences rather than guesses. Here’s the task as I wrote it, with the caveat that I will make significant changes before using it again—all suggestions are welcome!!! intouchables_reading
Unfortunately, I was not any more successful in designing an Interpretive Listening task that was appropriate to the students at this level. While I wrote an open-ended task, rather than multiple choice, the videos were too difficult for the students to understand independently. After getting feedback to this effect from the first few students to attempt the task, I ended up showing the videos as a whole class activity and stopping to ask questions orally. This worked well, and I think it was valuable for the students to see the real life men behind the characters in the film. Here’s the task I originally designed, in case you’d like to see the videos I chose. (We only watched the first few minutes of the second video.) listening
After these introductory tasks, it was time to show the film. For the next four days, I showed about 30 minutes of the film each day and then gave the students time to discuss the tracks they had watched. Here’s a draft of the discussion questions I started with (film_guide), although I encourage them to use these questions as a springboard to a broader discussion which incorporated their own ideas. I was really happy with how these discussions went and the students seemed to feel good about their ability to engage in these discussions. I circulated among the groups each day, and was able to formatively assess each student by the final day.
When the film was over, I administered an IPA that a colleague and I wrote for the film. As this document shows (intouchables IPA), the IPA included another AP-style reading assessment (on a pair of reviews of the film) a multiple choice listening assessment (on a video in which passersby give their opinion of the film), a Presentational Writing (review of the film) and Interpersonal task (a role-play based on a scene in the film). The students practiced each of the role plays with a partner on the day before the IPA, but were not allowed to choose which role play they would perform or who their partner would be on the day of the assessment. While I don’t yet have all of the data (we began the IPA’s today), the students are demonstrating some improvement in their ability to answer multiple choice questions on the reading (most of which were written by my colleague). I am optimistic that both my ability to write these questions and their ability to answer them will improve with practice. The students were also able to demonstrate comprehension of the video, although there is still, of course, plenty of room for improvement.
I would be so grateful for any feedback and suggestions from those of you that teach AP level students. Do you write AP style multiple choice questions for your interpretive tasks, or more open-ended ones? Are your students generally successful on these questions?
Thanks in advance for your help!

Food for Thought

The title of this post comes not only from the fact that I have prepared a couple of food-related French 2 lessons to share, but because I have been doing a lot of reflecting on the changes that I have been making in order to focus more on increasing student proficiency. When a colleague asked me what I meant by proficiency-based teaching, I realized that I could not explain in only a sentence or two what this term meant to me. Since even a Google search did not identify a universal definition or specific methodology, I can only share what I have been doing and how the paradigm shift has worked in my classroom. To see specific examples of the types of lessons I’ve designed, please see my other posts on this blog.
Curriculum: The most important change that I have made is to develop a curriculum that is totally independent of any textbook series. In the absence of this resource to guide my instruction, I chose ten to twelve broad themes for each of the classes (Level 1-5) that I teach. I then follow the following steps to create a unit for these themes.
Step 1: Choosing the unit goals
In order to ensure that I’m choosing appropriate goals for each of these thematic units, I rely heavily on the ACTFL Can-Do Statements for the targeted proficiency level of the class. For French 1 I am beginning with Novice Low statements, but will transition into Novice Mid later in the year. In French 2 I use mainly Novice High statements, in French 3 I use Intermediate Low-Mid, and in AP I use Intermediate Mid-High. In many cases I can use an exact statement as a goal, but when necessary I modify a statement to reflect the content of the unit. In this way I am essentially filling in the blank line after the prepared statements.
Step 2: Choosing the authentic texts
In planning the learning activities for each unit, I have relied heavily on Amy Lenord’s description of the authentic lesson cycle ( Based on my understanding of her ideas, I select an authentic text for each lesson and then create interpretive, interpersonal, and presentation tasks related to the text. I have found that each lesson cycle takes about two to three class days, so I choose about four authentic texts for each unit. This enables me to cover a unit, including the IPA, in about three weeks.
I begin my search for authentic texts for these lessons by checking the Pinterest boards I have created for each theme. Relying on my colleagues to pre-select relevant, high-interest and appropriate texts has saved me countless hours of research. As described in my earlier posts, I rely heavily on infographics, especially for novice learners and to introduce a theme. Based on the proficiency level of the students, I also use children’s magazine articles, children’s stories, and lots of web-based materials.
In addition to these written texts, I also choose authentic recorded texts related to the theme of the unit. Usually videos, these texts might not be directly related to the written text, they do reflect the theme of the unit. In my lower level classes, I use lots of cartoons, because their visual nature provides important context for the novice learners. Some of my favorites are Trotro l’Ane, Petit Ours Brun, Caillou, and Tchoupi et Doudou. Youtube searches on each of these characters will reveal the titles of several different episodes, many of which complement commonly used themes. With my Intermediate students, I usually opt for news videos or other more formal recorded materials.
Step 3: Creating the learning activities
After choosing each text, I develop an interpretive reading task based on the template provided by ACTFL in Implementing Integrated Performance Assessment ( Based on the text I have chosen, I will use some or all of the sections on this template. I do not personally feel that this template works for well for listening, so I usually develop basic comprehension questions for the videos I use, although I try to include multi-level (main idea, supporting detail, inference) questions.
After preparing the comprehension guides for the interpretive tasks, I develop the interpersonal tasks that the students will complete after reading and listening. For my Novice learners, I usually provide personalized questions based on the reading that they will ask a partner. For the Intermediate students, I write more open-ended discussion questions related to the information in the text.
For the last step of each lesson, I design at least one presentational task. For this activity, I give the students some type of scenario related to the authentic text (usually the written one), and they respond in writing or orally.
Although I have been mostly pleased with these lessons, I’ve found that adding a vocabulary-building game or other not-quite-authentic activity here and there helps to add a little bit of variety while still increasing proficiency. As the year progresses I hope to find the right balance between these types of activities.
Step 4: Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA)
Since each lesson is essentially a “Mini IPA,” this type of assessment works well in my classes. In addition, my students are very comfortable with IPA’s, because I began implementing them last year, as a result of some professional development that I had done. Although I am describing the IPA as Step 4, it is actually the first step that I complete when designing the unit. By writing the IPA before creating any of the other lessons, I can ensure that each task prepares the students for what they will be expected to do on the IPA.
Before beginning an IPA, I give the students a day or two to prepare. During this stage, I give them time to practice the interpersonal task (although they will not be allowed to choose their partner on the actual IPA) and to write rough drafts of the presentational writing task. My interpersonal IPA tasks are less structured than the tasks that I assign for the individual lessons. For example, rather than a set of specific questions, I will give them only a general situation or theme and they will be required to ask the appropriate questions to develop the conversation. Based on the needs of the students, I might also give them time to practice some of the specific skills needed for the IPA during this time. For example, in a recent French 1 unit on school supplies, I gave the students time to complete interactive vocabulary activities on the computer in addition to the rough draft and interpersonal practice time.
When writing the IPA, I again begin by choosing both an authentic written and recorded text, and then creating a comprehension guide, based on the ACTFL template. The students usually complete these two tasks on the first day of the IPA. On Day 2, I assign the final draft of the presentational written task and then call up pairs of students to my desk for the interpersonal assessment.
While these steps seem to be working well for me so far, only time will tell whether they will enable my students to meet the proficiency goals I have set for them. I’d love to hear back from any of you that have developed other methods of increasing student proficiency in your classrooms!
In the meantime, here are a couple of examples of authentic lessons from my current French 2 unit on Mealtimes.
le temps de l’alimentation

Vacation all I ever wanted: a unit for Intermediate Mid students.

Since my French 3 students are coming to the end of their unit on Education in France, I’ve been working on their next unit—The French and Vacations. Although I was generally pleased with Unit 1, I’m making a few changes in the way that I structure the lessons based on what I learned from my first units.
Unit Design
This vacation unit is designed to address the following Intermediate Mid Can-Do Statements:
Interpretive Reading: I can understand basic information in ads, announcements, and other simple tasks.
• Students will read two infographics, an article about the history of vacations in France, and a web page about vacations in the world.
Interpersonal Communication: 1) I can start, maintain and end a conversation on a variety of familiar topics. Subtopic: I can ask for information, details and explanations during a conversation. 2) I can talk about my daily activities and personal preferences. Subtopic: I can give some information about activities that I did.
• Students will discuss pros/cons of vacation destinations/lodging, a vacation they have taken, their opinions about vacations and a vacation they would like to take.
Presentational Writing: 1) I can write messages and announcements.2) I can write short reports about something I have learned or researched.
• Students will write messages about real, imaginary, and ideal vacations and a report about the history of vacation in France.
Presentational Speaking: 1) I can make a presentation about my personal and social experiences. Subtopic: I can describe a childhood or past experience. 2) I can make a presentation on something I have learned or researched.
• Students will present photos of their actual (or imaginary) vacations, leave a message about an imaginary awful vacation, prepare a presentation about the history of vacation in France, and prepare a presentation about their ideal vacation.
Interpretive Listening: I can understand the main idea of what I listen to for personal enjoyment. Subtopic: I can understand a short YouTube clip.
• Students will watch several cartoon videos in which the characters go on various types of vacations. (These activities are found in a separate document. One will be chosen for each of the lessons and will be included in the lesson handout.)
Unit Plan
I anticipate that each of the four lessons in this unit will take 2-3 days. On the first day the students will complete the interpretive reading task. As they are reading, they will be taking turns using the 8 computers in my room to complete the listening activities. In Unit 1 I played the videos to the class as a whole, but found that this made my lessons too teacher-directed. Students were intimidated by answering my questions in front of their peers and/or struggled to understand what I was asking. I am hoping that by having the students work individually on these tasks they will have the opportunity to listen to the videos repeatedly, and improve their comprehension. In addition, I will be able to use these tasks as formative assessments and will be able to give individualized feedback on their performance. Students will spend any remaining class time working on the written presentational task, which will be finished for homework.
Students will begin the second day of each lesson by completing the interpersonal task. I will circulate among the students as they engage in the discussion, choosing some pairs to assess formatively. I will also call upon students to present the results of their discussions to the class. These students will also be assessed formatively, so that I will have provided specific feedback/a formative assessment for each student by the end of the unit. Students will spend the remaining part of the period preparing for the presentational speaking, and will continue this preparation for homework. On the third day I will randomly choose a few students to present what they have prepared to the class for a formative assessment. The rest of the students will present to a partner who will evaluate them using a peer assessment rubric.
After all of the lessons are completed, the students will complete their summative assessment, an Integrated Performance Assessment. This assessment will similar to each of the lessons, in that it will assess Interpretive Reading (an article about vacations) Interpretive Listening (another cartoon video), Interpersonal Communication (a vacation discussion), Presentational Speaking and a Presentational Writing. I am considering giving the students the opportunity to choose one of the Presentational Writing and Speaking Tasks from the unit and having them revise their original draft/practice their speaking and then using the same prompt for the Summative Assessment/IPA. In this way there would be an element of student choice in the assessment process.
Here is a copy of the documents that I prepared for this unit: vacation unit
Vacation Listening Activities
If you have any feedback for me on this unit, please post a comment above!