Conversations & Interpersonal Communication

Questions: Practicing questioning

One problem for novice to intermediate-low speakers is creating questions. Question structure is hard because it isn’t something you can just memorize…there are a million ways to ask things!

To work specifically on this skill, I play a game that’s essentially “What’s in my bag?” or as the students call it “Le sac”.

My predecessor played this game every day as a warm up and it was a quick game. I found that it’s better and a deeper more frustrating/fun experience to play when we have late-start days every other week. This forces them to get out of their comfort zones and ask other questions or repeat previous questions to get to a more precise meaning.

Materials

You’ll need a bag large enough to fit most objects in and students can’t see what the object is.

OR you can use a box with a lid and pass this around the room. I teach high schoolers, so I don’t let them touch it. However, I’ve seen pre-schoolers and elementary students play this and not peak inside.

An item to hide in the bag/box. This can be from home, an item related to your unit of study, something they really should know about, etc. Be creative!

How to Play “Le Sac”

I get ready at the beginning of the day and put all the objects in my bag ahead of time.

I hold up the bag and ask the class “What’s in my bag?”

Students can only ask questions in the target language.

I give them a “core vocabulary” sheet with questions on it at the beginning of the year, but they are free to build upon it. I let them use Wordreference.com with their Chromebooks to look up new words.

You can play this one of two ways yourself:

  • Answer their questions with exactly what it is and does. This is how my predecessor did it. It goes much quicker this way.
  • Answer their questions with more difficult vocabulary – use synonyms. I start very general and move to more specific as the questions are asked. This is how I play it and it gets them really thinking.

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For instance – a passport is used to:

  • transport
  • regulate
  • enter
  • document
  • impede travel
  • protect people
  • get places
  • travel

And a passport is made of paper and cardstock. It has a photograph and plastic or tape on it to protect it. There are stamps inside. It’s thin and light. It cost $80. It came from Seattle (for me). It’s blue and gold.

If you want to use wikipedia or wiktionary to look up words, it can be helpful to get a full explanation of a thing: how it’s made, what it’s made of, what it’s used for, etc.

Variations

I let students choose an object while I leave the room and wait in the hallway. I then ask the questions. They love to stump me. This works well for modeling the questions themselves for first year students.

Students can find something in their own backpacks and play with partners.

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Conversations & Interpersonal Communication, French Fourth Year, French Third Year, Uncategorized

Impressionism: Monet Conversation

Building off of Madame Shepard’s Impressionism Unit, (see her first unit here, her post-impressionists update here, and her most recent version here).

I created one for Degas and now I’ve got a conversation for Monet. I switched it up and have the same/different activity first.

Note: you can download and manipulate the files from my dropbox by clicking the “Download” button in the upper right hand corner.

Introduction

You will have a conversation where you describe different artwork by Claude Monet.

Objectives

I can…

  • describe what I see
  • use information to negotiate meaning

Leçon

Make a copy of the table to work through while you discuss.

Look at either Partenaire A or Partenaire B and your partner will look at the opposite. (Note: I made the images clickable so you can view them larger, simply click on the image to enlarge in a new tab)

Activité 1

  1. Discuss your pictures in order to decide if each one is the same (même) or different (différent).
  2. Fill in the table on your google doc with either an “M” (même) or “D” (différent).

Activité 2

  1. Take turns describing your pictures.
  2. The numbers on the form represent your copy. Fill in the table on your google doc with your partner’s  number that corresponds to your number.

Activité 3

  1. Take turns describing your pictures.
  2. The numbers on the form represent your copy. Fill in the table on your google doc with your partner’s  number that corresponds to your number.
Conversations & Interpersonal Communication, French Fourth Year, French Third Year

Impressionism: Degas Conversation

Building off of Madame Shepard’s Impressionism Unit, (see her first unit here, her post-impressionists update here, and her most recent version here).

She uses images she’s gathered throughout her career to build her conversation manipulatives in class. I have some, but not near enough to build the conversation manipulatives.

Here’s my contribution using Degas. Note: you can download and manipulate the files from my dropbox by clicking the “Download” button in the upper right hand corner.

 

Introduction

You will have a conversation where you describe different artwork by Edgar Degas.

Objectives

I can…

  • describe what I see
  • use information to negotiate meaning

Leçon

Make a copy of the table to work through while you discuss.

Look at either Partenaire A or Partenaire B and your partner will look at the opposite. (Note: I made the images clickable so you can view them larger, simply click on the image to enlarge in a new tab)

Activité 1

  1. Take turns describing your pictures.
  2. The numbers on the form represent your copy. Fill in the table below with your partner’s  number that corresponds to your number

Activité 2

  1. Take turns describing your pictures.
  2. The numbers on the form represent your copy. Fill in the table below with your partner’s  number that corresponds to your number.

Activité 3

  1. Discuss your pictures in order to decide if each one is the same (même) or different (différent).
  2. Fill in the table on your google doc with either an “M” (même) or “D” (différent).

 

French, French Fourth Year, French Third Year, Instructional Design, Teaching Online

France: Regions, History, Famous People

I’m creating a unit through my course about the regions of France, the symbols of the French Republic, famous French people and French speakers, and basic French history.

This unit is intended for Intermediate-Low students and designed for online instruction but my plan is to use it in my face-to-face class as well.

So far, I’ve worked on it through backwards design: I’ve created objectives and aligned course and lesson objectives. I’ve mapped out what the lessons will be. I’ve described what sort of assessments I’ll be using and created the assessment rubrics for them.

Upon successful completion of this course, students will understand the basic geography of France and its overseas regions; basic historic events and people of historical importance, as well as identify French symbols.

Please let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions or activities that would go along with this! I’ll update when I’ve got more!

France_base_map_18_regions
Image source: By Chessrat at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50060468

Module 1: Les symboles de la République

Objectives

  • Following the completion of the first module, the learner will be able to identify symbols of France with 80% accuracy in 30 minutes or less.
  • Following the completion of the first module, the learner will be able to describe the symbols of France in French using a series of connected sentences.

Description

Module 1 will consist of readings and listenings which will help students understand the iconography of the French Republic.

Students will play a drill-and-practice game where they use explanations in French to match to the French symbol described and play a game outside of the course to review what they know about French symbols. They’ll take an assessment that focuses on identifying the French symbols.

Students will explain the different symbols used in art and everyday objects. In a writing assignment, they’ll describe the symbols of the French Republic and what they represent. They’ll share their own artwork utilizing French symbols.

Finally, they’ll share out their feelings about French symbols and American symbols. They’ll compare and contrast the two cultures in a discussion post.

Project Plan - Module 1

Activities

Absorb-type

  • Readings: learners read information from various websites/readings about French symbols.
  • Presentations: learners watch instructional videos about French symbols.

Do-Type

  • Game from Logicieleducatif.fr on the symbols of the French Republic. There are 10 questions in French, true/false, fill in the blank, multiple choice that learners must answer.
  • Drill-and-practice: learners drill the symbol with the explanation in French.

Connect-Type

  • Scavenger hunt: find information from a series of websites/readings for the explanations or images of the French symbols.
  • Original work: learners draw or create a symbol
  • Ponder: Students make connections between France’s symbols and the United States symbols in an online discussion board.

Module 2: Les régions françaises

Objectives

  • Following the completion of the second module, the learner will be able to identify key words, supporting details, main ideas, and organizational features in French geography and history readings and videos with 85% accuracy in 50 minutes or less.
  • Following the completion of the second module, the learner will be able to infer the author’s perspective, the meaning of words in context, and cultural perspectives in French geography and history readings and videos with 85% accuracy in 50 minutes or less.
  • Following the completion of the second module, the learner will be able to compare and contrast a French region with where the learner lives in French in clear, organized connected sentences generally understood by those accustomed to the writing of non-natives with 85% accuracy in 50 minutes or less.
  • Following the completion of the second module, the learner will be able to describe what the learner will do in a region in French in clear, organized connected sentences generally understood by those accustomed to the writing of non-natives with 85% accuracy in 50 minutes or less.
  • Following the completion of the second module, the learner will be able to identify geographical French regions with 85% accuracy in 30 minutes or less.

Description

Module 2 will consist of readings and listenings which will help students understand the regions of France and over-seas France. They’ll take notes and answer comprehension questions. There will be a reading and listening comprehension assessment given after they’ve finished with the readings and listenings.

They’ll play games reviewing the French regions on a map and the most recognizable features of the region. They’ll take an assessment identifying the French regions.

Students will take notes about where they live now and they’ll write a composition comparing where they live with a selected French region. In a conversation with a peer, compare where they live with a given French region.

Project Plan - Module 2

Activities

Absorb-type

  • Readings: learners read information from various websites/readings about French regions.
  • Presentations: learners watch instructional videos about French regions.

Do-Type

  • Game: correctly place the regions on the map.

Connect-Type

  • Original work: the learner compares and contrasts a French region with where they live in French.
  • Original work: the learner describes what they will do when they will visit a French region.

Module 3: Les célèbres francophones

Objectives

  • Following the completion of the third module, the learner will be able to describe a current French celebrity and explain what made them important and how they will be important in the future in clear, organized connected sentences generally understood by those accustomed to the writing of non-natives with 85% accuracy in 1 week or less.
  • Following the completion of the third module, the learner will be able to discuss who is the most important or influential French person from history in easily understandable French using new vocabulary words and relevant information about the target culture with 80% accuracy in 30 minutes or less.
  • Following the completion of the third module, the learner will be able to identify French symbols, geographical French regions, historical events, and people of historic importance with 85% accuracy in 50 minutes or less.
  • Following the completion of the third module, the learner will be able to discuss what groups are most valued by the French and compare that to the learners’ culture in easily in standard American English with relevant information about the target culture with 80% accuracy in 1 week or less.

Description

Module 3 will consist of readings and listenings which will help students understand the regions of France and over-seas France. They’ll take notes on who is the most important French person from history. They’ll play games to match the historical person with the historical event. They’ll take a quiz to identify the French historical person and/or event. They’ll have a conversation about who the most influential person from French history is, defending their opinion with evidence. Finally, they’ll make inferences about what group is most important for French society and compare that to America’s famous historic people.

Students will research someone who is currently alive. They’ll review their future lesson and add future perfect. They’ll review past and imperfect tenses and write a composition describing why their celebrity will be important for the French.

Students wrap up the unit with a unit assessment.

Project Plan - Module 3

Activities

Absorb-type

  • Readings: learners read information from various websites/readings about historic people of France and the regions.
  • Presentations: learners watch instructional videos about historic people of France and the regions.

Do-Type

  • Game: match the historical person with a description of what they did/contributed to history
  • Discovery: scavenger activity where learners must find information to discover who were the most influential people from French history. Learners will infer who the French value the most by grouping them based on their contributions (presidents, war heroes, scientists, etc.)

Connect-Type

  • Ponder: learners discuss who is the most important French person from history using examples from their readings/videos.
Assessment, French, French Second Year, French Third Year, IPA - Integrated Performance Assessment

Impressionism Culminating Unit Activity

I happen to teach at a school which is close to Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago. It has a large collection of impressionist and post-impressionist work.

Impressionism_monetI’ll be trying out Madame Shepard’s Impressionism Unit this year with my students. I have taught an impressionism unit before, but the focus wasn’t on the French, it was on the culture. This time, I’m very excited to be teaching in French and incorporating the cultural components.

The culminating activity, which I have used before, for this unit is a field trip into Chicago to visit the impressionist and post-impressionist works in person. Students will record themselves talking about a painting of their choice…in French. In public. With other francophones around!  In the past, the students have loved the challenge and struck up a few conversations with others around. That was before I moved to integrated performance assessments (IPA) in my classes and the increased focus on proficiency. I’m hopeful that students will feel emboldened!

I’ve used this resource to help my students out with questions and potential responses. After working through Madame Shepard’s conversations, they’ll be very prepared to do this activity. I will have students practice one or two paintings before we go to the museum too!

Image credit: Wikimedia.org

Assessment, Instructional Design, IPA - Integrated Performance Assessment, Learning Management Systems (LMS), Student Learning Objectives (SLO)

Manageable assessments

I use ACTFL’s Integrated Performance Assessments (IPA) in all levels of my classes. One of the benefits for students is that they get to see the richness of the language and use structures straight from how Francophones read and talk.

Learning how to assess students has been a bit of trial and error. ACTFL has published some great resources on assessments using IPA, but while they are handy, I found them not entirely practical for how to make it actually work in the “real world.” This is a tenant of Constructivst Theory.

Homework

Following Constructivist Theory, one thing I did is move away from assigning homework. I did this to cut back on the load I was grading and to put more of the ball in the court for the students to take control of their learning. This allows me to have more conversations where I help them with their life-long learning goals related to French-language learning.

Organization & Studying

Most students I’ve had do not have study techniques that are successful for them. Many just have non-existent study techniques. While the data is self-reported, I know this because I’ve been assessing them on these questions for several years, and the students are surprisingly candid about their lack of study habits.

I’m having a conversation with each student one time a month to check how organized their binder is and what their “proof” of studying is. I’ll be using Canvas (or Instructure) to have students submit their proof. I plan to use this rubric, but since I haven’t ever used it, it may undergo some modifications! I will be following up to see what their issues may be, if we need to brainstorm a new study technique, and answer questions they may have.

Growth Mindset

I’ve designed most of the assessments with growth in mind. I want to see students steadily improving throughout the year and years I have them. Since I changed to this mindset and assessment system, I’ve seen student conversations change from talking about grades to talking about how complex their writing is or what they need to work on to improve and get better.

This was instigated by the move toward Student Learning Objectives (SLO), but has worked out well in my classroom.

Presentational Speaking & Writing

Simplified Assessments

I have a personal conversation with them, when I can, about how they did on the writing or the speaking. Per unit, I tend to have around 2-3 writing and speaking assessments, but the number varies by how busy or bogged down I am. There are many more informal (non-assessed) presentational prompts than that!

I take “snapshot” grades in the presentational mode which are a quick indication of how they’re doing. These snapshots are 10 points and I use a rubric.

Writing
Presentational Writing – Simplified Rubric. Laura Terrill modified the ACTFL rubric for this with ICTFL when Illinois moved to SLOs.
Speaking1
Presentational Speaking – Simplified Rubric. Laura Terrill modified the ACTFL rubric for this with ICTFL when Illinois moved to SLOs.

I convert the student rubric scores to a grade by using the conversion listed in the rubric document. I have them broken down by semester, so each semester advances closer to the goal of ACTFL’s Intermediate-High by their last semester (end of French 4).

Conversion grid for taking simplified ACTFL Presentational Speaking and Writing and turning it into a grade for the gradebook.
Notice that students get grades for being above their “meets” areas. They’re encouraged to go above and beyond.

Advanced Assessments

For end of unit and/or mid-term and semester writings, I take a more comprehensive grade for their writing. I used Ohio’s guide for assessing speaking and writing and broke them out to use a bit more of an advanced rubric. I’m using vocabulary, mechanics, language interference and cultural competence in a rubric in Canvas.

Nothing about this is easy for describing to you for multiple levels. So here’s the messy messy rubrics (editable) that I use in my learning management system. These come directly from the ACTFL Implementing Performance Assessment Appendix rubrics and are made so they work the whole range. I have a variety of skills in every year of my classes.

These rubrics are placed into Canvas so they’re Outcomes. This tracks their growth throughout the semester/year on the particular skill. Canvas treats them like a rubric and gives students a grade based on it. So as not to penalize and to differentiate between the levels, I use tenths of a point to help the system communicate which part of the rubric I used.

So I have a comprehensive rubric that both measures their outcomes in class (what I want them working toward in the long run) and their ability within the particular prompt I gave them. This is a mix of the performance and proficiency. 2017-2018 is the first year that I’m mixing the proficiency and performance together. We’ll see how it goes!

My comprehensive rubrics are 100 points. These are done more infrequently and are “high stakes” so it makes sense to have them be worth more.

Conversations

I randomly assign students a partner the day of the conversation assessment. They also are assigned a random conversation prompt. I give out the potential prompts a day before, but honestly, the prompts are not a surprise. They’re everything we’ve been working on the entire unit! This is where good instructional design comes into play. If you’ve gotten to an assessment and realized that your students cannot perform on one of them, that means you didn’t build the necessary skills before hand! But I digress…

Laura Terrill designed the original rubric, but I can’t find any documentation of it (I did my training in 2015) so here’s an editable copy of what I use. Here’s Laura’s current version of the rubric.

I can only get in about two conversations or discussion observations per unit. A large class takes me about a week to get through all the students. They have the conversation in front of me. I have the other students work on “station” work so they’re independently learning. These assessments are for 100 points.

TALK Scores

When I’m circulating in the room, I use TALK to take a quick “snapshot” of the conversations and participation I hear.

  • Talking
    • talking in the target language
    • trying to communicate
    • talk is relevant to the task
  • Accuracy
    • Acceptable level of accuracy
    • Meets objective of the lesson
  • Listening
    • listening to partner
    • on task
  • Kind/Cooperative
    • does not kill the task
    • works with group/partner

This is a quick grade that can go in for a particular day or week. Here’s an editable version of my rubric that I use to quickly assess using TALK.

My TALK grades are worth 10 points.

Reading & Listening

I use ACTFL’s interpretive rubric to assess students’ reading and listening skills. I have a copy of an editable (word document) that I’ve modified slightly to use with the two categories that have an OR in them.

For end of unit work, I make these 100 points by making the rubric components out of 12.5 points. Before the end of the unit, I have students respond to discussion posts about some of the inference questions, sometimes I give quizzes just on key word recognition, on the main ideas or just on supporting details. If I want a full assessment to get a whole idea of their performance, I make it out of 50.

Teaching Online

Making Online Instruction Manageable

One of the problems new instructors face when moving to an online platform is how to manage time, still “meet” with the students, and juggle the new expectations.

I find that I’ve had really rewarding relationships with students online, even though I may have actually spoken to them once. I’m able to give very detailed feedback, engage them in conversations and discussions about the content and also learn about their hobbies and things that drive them.

Here are some tips if you’re thinking of making the jump to online teaching:

Communicate early and often

You should look into contacting the student and parent early with a welcome email. Spell out what you need them to do and follow up with a phone call. The phone call is both a reminder that the course starts and personalizes you a bit. I had to invest in an auto-calling system for the welcome phone calls due to the enrollment jumping in the summer months. (See Useful Things for links)

How easy is  it for an email to get buried? Very easy. If you don’t see the student in the course, follow up. Call and/or send an email to them and their parent (if you’re in K-12) to see what’s happening!

Communicate clearly

Think how much information we get daily. It’s overwhelming. Be succinct and clear about what you want students to do. Break tasks into chunks and make those chunks bullet points.

  • Break down tasks
  • Create bullet points
  • Communicate with students

Longer paragraph-style text is harder to read on screens (ironic, since this is a screen) and people are more likely to skim the reading. [For more information, there’s an increasing amount of research being done on this, get started with Scientific American’s article].

Don’t overwhelm with too many things

If your students are learning how to be online students and learning too many instructional technologies (apps, websites, activities, etc.), you will overwhelm them. You want them to be successful, so wade into the most important technologies a bit later in the course.

If you can’t wait, then make it a mandatory training. Create a video and a quiz, or have them explore a dummy assignment. Follow up with a phone call to make sure you can answer any questions they have!

Set realistic goals

Develop a “pacing guide” or “pacing chart” with all the work assigned a due date. You can do by week, by unit, or by day. I personally assign by day. This pacing chart is:

  • is a PDF
  • attached in my welcome email
  • turned into a google calendar
    • embedded in my course home page
    • shows up on my master “teacher” calendar with all my calendars on my course home page
  • linked on my course home page

Part of the goals is to communicate when and how you’ll grade. I highly recommend having a grace period and communicating that. Things happen, and online education can lead to some hiccups. So prevent disaster by having a grace period. I use two weeks. After that, the grade becomes a permanent 0.

Grade things within three days of it being submitted. And give specific feedback that is designed to help the student succeed. You may need to follow up and help them when you see they’re not applying things correctly.

Be flexible

Of course I bend my own rules. If a student has been struggling but is now going to pull their weight, I’ll offer the incentive to let them go back and make up some points they lost. But don’t expect miracles. Just because you offered the incentive, doesn’t mean the student will follow through.

No one can learn an entire semester’s worth of content in a week or two. A month is about as tight as it can get. Don’t be so flexible that you’re doing yourself and the student a disservice by allowing sub-par work and an unrealistic