Making a Project a Task

Inspired by the book While we’re on the Topic by Bill Van Patten, I have been thinking about how tasks, as opposed to activities, fit into my teaching. And mostly recently, I have been exploring how a project in the World Language proficiency classroom can become a task. My most clear understanding of a task in this context is when students research, write up and present information, the class then does something with that information, like infer, rank, rate, group or compare.

In this example, students present information in a guessing game format and the rest of the students have to infer who the person is that is being described. Then, when students present a famous French-speaking person, the rest of the class listens to rate, rank, group and compare the people.

Please access documents from the folder or linked below.

  1. I begin with a pretest to see what famous French-speaking people the students know by asking the area of expertise of the person. I do this as a google form and after we share the answers in charts. (You can copy mine from the folder linked above and edit it.) Then we do a guessing game. The teacher reveals one by one twenty clues in French on slides about an American or internationally known celebrity. After each clue, the students write down a guess. They can change their mind as to who it is along the way, but at the end they have twenty guesses written down. The last slide is the picture and name of the person. To score, they tally how many times they wrote the correct answer.
  2. Students in pairs create their own guessing games about an American or internationally known celebrity. They use my presentation for some language and ideas on how to build clues from general to more specific. They are very quiet and secret about their person. I gave my students a template to fill out with clues and a template for the slides, which I shared with them online.
  3. The student-generated guessing games begin. In my class I had all the games submitted to me and was able to present them without the class knowing the authors. I read the clues. There are many surprises and laughs. Nobody shares how many points they got because that isn’t the point, but it makes it fun.
  4. Now for their individual projects students chose a famous French-speaking person from a list. I go over the project overview and some useful vocabulary. They fill out a note taking form about the person by researching them online. Then, their project is to make five slides about that person to present to the class or a poster with a crossword that asks for information on the person.
  5. Students finish their projects. As they finish, they get paired up and the students who are presenting practice with a partner. Students finish their work for homework.
  6. Student presentations. The other students fill out this organizer while listening to presentations. Then, students read the posters, take more notes and do the crossword puzzles.
  7. In a post-test in a Google form (found in the folder linked above) students rate the people they heard about for how interesting they were. The teacher then displays the ratings as graphs and the class discusses. The teacher shows the findings from another class or the year before and the class compares. Next, students group the people they heard about in terms of area of expertise with a handout. And then, students rank the people based on different criteria. The class, in an effort to use student opinion to inform instruction, then go back to the teacher’s original list of people to study and edit the document for the following year’s students, commenting on whether there are enough people listed for an area of expertise and whether the people listed are interesting enough to warrant researching. The class conversation is in French and the teacher jumps in to ask guiding questions, like “why do you feel that way?”, “what did that person achieve?” and “what was that person’s contribution to society?” The students refer to their notes as they discuss.

Proficiency-based Instruction: A thematic unit on bread and pastries

When I learn a new idea for an activity from another teacher, I am always interested in getting more context on how that teacher fits her activities into a whole unit. On these pages I have been posting activity ideas and so I now want to show you an example of what a whole unit would look like for me. This unit is on Le pain et la pâtisserie, a very delicious and accessible topic for students. Students are likely to encounter baguettes and croissants by the time they are in school. This unit will build on their understanding of French foods and will permit them talk about foods from France. All of the materials are in this resources folders and are also linked below.

The focus of my instruction is input. The students get input from teacher talk and from readings and videos; there is one almost daily. The reading input is accessible because I use picture books and infographics which both have limited text and lots of images. And the videos I use are short and straight forward. Accessible input is where the learning of the language happens. I make sure the there is repetition of content over the course of the unit and that lessons are structured around the can do’s and attempt to keep true to the vocabulary that will be needed to do the assessments at the end.

You will also notice that I like to have students start out the class in a circle. They get out from behind their desks to start with little warm up conversations. I have cued how I get those conversations started, but the teacher also keeps the conversation going by reacting to students and training students to ask follow up questions.

Day 1
To warm up, talk with students about what foods they eat and don’t eat, using foods that are cognates or otherwise familiar. Then play Four Corners asking students to move to a corner based on their opinion of the food you say, J’adore ça / J’aime bien ça / Ce n’est pas bon / Je n’aime pas du tout could be the names of each of the four corner.

Video Je teste la nourriture and Activity Je teste la nourriture

Show slides with different French foods and students ask each other in pairs what they think of those foods, using the vocabulary from the video. Activity with the slides 3-20 of presentation Le Pain Slides for Discussion

Day 2
Form a circle with the students for a warm up. Students ask their partner about their food preferences. They should be prepared to report to the class afterwards. Then, ask what fruits students eat, how often, what they like. Use cognates like les cerises, les kiwis, les bananes and les oranges, as well as others. Hand out Picture Dictionary.

Show the videos of the clip from the TV show Parents Mode d’Emploi and Le meilleur pâtissier band announce, using slides 21-25 of presentation Le Pain Slides for Discussion. Ask students the questions on the slides.

Reading Je mangerais bien un enfant Teacher reads the book aloud stopping the ask the class questions as she goes.
Demande à ton partenaire:
Pg. 9 Selon sa Maman, comment est Archille ?
Pg. 17 Nommez trois choses les parents d’Archille ont proposées.
Pg. 28 Pourquoi Archille veut manger des bananes maintenant ?

The questions Students asks the teacher the questions. Teacher answers to model how to answer. Students think ahead to their answers to the questions and ask for vocabulary that they need.

Les Devoirs: EdPuzzle Le Meilleur Pâtissier

Day 3
Form a circle with the students for a warm up. Have the students ask and answer with a partner: Qu’est-ce que tu aimes comme fruit ? Qu’est-ce que tu n’aimes pas comme fruit ? Ask students what they eat for breakfast. Introduce cognates les céréales, des crêpes and des croissants. (Point out that the French wouldn’t eat crêpes for breakfast, but for snack or dessert.) Refer to the slides 26-43 of presentation Le Pain Slides for Discussion as you go.

Video Petit Déjeuner and Activity Petit déjeuner.

Students turn to their partner and try to speak about bakeries for three minutes.

Game Pictionary

Exit ticket: Write a description of a brunch you would like to eat. The description should include the food and beverages served. Il y a… Then write how you liked the food. C’était…. Share with your group.

Day 4
In order for students to be successful at the Interpersonal Assessment at the end of the unit, ahead of time the students need to practice asking and answering questions with Question, Question, Exchange, an activity where students each have a card with a question. They ask each other the questions, answer, exchange questions and then go on to find a new partner. Find question cards on slides 44-48 of presentation Le Pain Slides for Discussion

Les petits déjeuners du monde web site. Ask students to read through the web site and find which country’s breakfast they would like to have and to explain why.

Day 5
Play Maître d’ which is an activity where the teacher asks a question and tells the students how many students to include in their discussion group. Students all answer the questions and discuss for as long as they can. Then, the teacher calls another round.

Reading Petit Déjeuner Équilibré and Activity Petit Déjeuner Équilibré
Put reading up on your school management system and print activity.

Using slides 49-51 of presentation Le Pain Slides for Discussion, show the videos and ask questions on the slides.
Le succès de la boulangerie française 0-0:43
Pâtisserie Gaston Bordeaux 0-0:44

Vinz et Lou Picture Talk— ask students to invite or predict a story with the pictures in the slide presentation. Ask students a lot of questions and offer some choices for them to decide between. After, show the students the Video Vinz et Lou and then have them read the next slides with the story printed on them. Finally, ask the students to write a retelling of the story.

Day 6
Videos Ca suffit le gaspillage

Slides on the three fold problem of waste

Circonlocution Slides 52-56 of the presentation Le Pain Slides for Discussion
This is a variation of Taboo, played as teams. In the teams, choose a describer and the rest of the group guesses. Only the describer is allowed to look at the list of words on the board. They use circumlocution and gestures if necessary to get the group to guess the list of words. First team to finish the whole list wins that round. Rotate roles and play again.

Play Kahoot

Les devoirs: Study using the Can Do’s on the Picture Dictionary

Day 7
Interpersonal Assessment
Presentational Writing Assessment

The 10 Best French Short Videos for Picture Talk or Movie Talk

Picture Talk, or Movie Talk, is gaining momentum in our World Language community. I have blogged on this technique that is an extension of TPRS storytelling, or in my layman’s terms a great way to deliver language input in the novice high to intermediate low classroom. I like that the teacher uses pictures to show the students what she is talking about. For me, it is a great way to present interesting language input and to get the class talking as they predict or create a story together.

Cupidon Movie Talk
Cupidon — ESMA Movies

I am slowly building a library of short videos connected to themes that are frequently taught in beginning French. Here are some videos to add to your collection, with their corresponding themes:

Rhapsodie pour un pot-au-feu— Les activités
Simon, Je veux pas aller à l’école— L’école
Les Sisters, Doudou La Chance— La maison idéale
SamSam, Une journée crocochemardesque— La routine de la journée
Les Sisters, Telle soeur, telle soeur— Qu’est-ce que les jeunes font en été?
Lait Drôle de la Vie— La rentrée
Cupidon— Ma ville
L’or bleu— L’environnement
Au fil de l’âge— La famille
Le cadeau— Les animaux domestiques

When you first get started with Picture Talk, it helps to use the videos and resources that more experienced teachers have found. It saves you a lot of time and you can get right to using them in the classroom. IFprofs is a platform for sharing French education resources and there is a page on movie talks that has linked videos and other resources, like the slides. You will have to sign in to access it. I especially liked two videos that I found on IFProfs and am now using them, so you will notice I left two for others to use. I always consider giving back to others by sharing!

Music to share with students

We are back to school and I am trying to connect with my students and one way is through music. I play music for them because I believe it is a way to understand culture better, but even without that I would share music because I think it is powerful to use the arts in teaching.

Here are some relatively new songs that I will be sharing with my 8th graders this year:

Soprano – À la vie à l’amour
Bénabar – Feu de joie
Bigflo et Oli – Dommage
OrelSan – La pluie (avec Stromae)
Lou – A mon âge
Nassi – Rêves de Gamin
Keen’ V – Tu Réalises
Angèle – La Loi de Murphy

There are other songs that I incorporate in teaching for language input. These songs here, on the other hand, I will use for the class to listen to and comment on. I am hoping that students can talk about their opinion of the music, message and the video. If you are looking for ideas on how to do that, a great resource is the files from Mercredi Musique on Facebook, especially the one that is called the same name “Musique Mercredi”.

 

A roadmap for a proficiency-based unit: My go-to activities

Five months ago a teacher I am continuously inspired by named Rebecca Blouwolff asked for our top-ten go-tos in a proficiency-based lesson. I am finally ready to answer on behalf of me and my colleagues, Jess Levasseur and Heather Pineault. Here are our favorite activities that we use in our thematic units. For me, this is a timely post because I have been asked by a couple first-year teachers who are starting next week what exactly happens in a proficiency-based classroom.

You can find all of the resources in this folder as well as linked below. As Rebecca asked for in her post and subsequent Twitter challenge, these activities give students repetition without the activities being repetitive, get them moving, and push them to use language motivated by a strong intent.

  1. We usually start the unit with a hook video. With this video we are asking students to activate prior knowledge on a topic and to get excited about the theme. For all of my examples, I am going to use the theme of the environment. This video is the trailer for a movie called Demain. I first saw the video on the site TV5 Monde.
  2. The next activity we got from Rebecca and we call it Partner Vocabulary Definitions. Students memorize their word or definition, and leave it at their seat.
    green grass field under white clouds
    Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

    They then look for the partner who has the corresponding word or definition by discussing theirs with their classmates. I am happy for another activity that gets students moving and interacting.

  3. I use a multi-column chart to have students think about the vocabulary and sort it. Have the students brainstorm anything they can in French to fit into the categories.
    This is one of many chances to interact with the terms of the unit. Another way to use a chart is when reading an article in order to pull out vocabulary on the theme, like this one here that works this article.
  4. The bulk of the input happens through authentic documents. Students read infographics and articles, watch videos, read picture books and listen to songs. Students do a comprehension guide for these, like the one I made for the song. (The infographic I linked leads to the interview interpersonal activity in number five.) I feel like we are creating a great collection of accessible readings and videos for our students and can post them to our school management system so students can take a second look outside of class.
  5. Students are asked to do interpersonal activities using the input from the authentic documents. I always rely on Lisa Shepard’s blog for interpersonal activities. This time I made two my own based on her work. One is an interview and the other is a graphic organizer to compare partners’ habits. We are always trying to get students to communicate with a purpose.
  6. We first learned Question – Question – Exchange from Creative Language Class and ever since it has been a pillar of our units as it is the moment where my students get the most chances to speak from their own point of view.
  7. I have my colleague Jess Levasseur to thank for the game Spoons. Students sit facing each other with a Spoon between them. If the teacher reads a statement that is true, the students compete to be the first to grab the spoon and win a point.
  8. And I am equally appreciative to my colleague Heather Pineault who has us playing Circonlocution every unit. In this game students use circonlocution and gestures to get the group to guess the list of words.
  9. This next one goes under repetition without being repetitive. In every unit we play a Kahoot game, which really just takes ten minutes. It is yet another way to see the material again.
  10. And I will finish with yet another way to spiral back on the material a final time, a Jeopardy game made on the Factile site.

I leave you with my top-ten go-to activities.

Jeopardy: Large-group Games using Technology

As I have come to understand proficiency-based instruction, my games have become so much more interesting for students. In my current Jeopardy games, students are doing a guessing game from a clue. My clues use circumlocution to talk around the terms and lead students to the answer.

There are a few choices for large-group games on the Internet and Jeopardy is the one I like best. When students tell me they love Quizlet Live and Kahoot they aren’t expressing interest in the content of the game, they just like pushing the buttons. Quizlet Live is most often played as an identification game. The students give the term to name what they see. I know it can be played with a clue and an answer, but the site is set up in a way that promotes an identification game. Kahoot, while sometimes used in the same way, is conceived to be a game where students pick the right answer to a question. As an example, here is my best attempt on the theme of Daily Routine. An ok game, but still like a language exercise.

So where am I going with this? The game Jeopardy offers a format which is more of a guessing game, and, there is a great online technology tool to make these games.

coconut tree
Photo by Steshka Willems on Pexels.com

With the platform Fractile, I am able to make a true guessing game. See my game on Tourism in Martinique linked at the bottom of this page.

Factile has options that make Jeopardy better than the versions I have created in the past. You can have multiple teams playing, not just two, which keeps students more engaged. Also, there is a flashcard mode that I like to use to review material with my students before we play which seems to get them to pay close attention.

As you can tell, I have enjoyed playing Jeopardy with my students. I find that it can be a true guessing game that engages students, as opposed to a stilted language-learning game. And, with the technology tool Fractile, I can have students play in small teams and we can review before the game using the flash card feature. Another feature that you may enjoy from Fractile is that you can play my games as they are for free or you can make a copy if you join the site and edit my games to make them work for your class.

Tourisme en Martinique

Ma Ville

L’Environnement

Teaching Film in the proficiency-based classroom: Belle et Sébastien

When I teach students French through film, I follow my regular World Language teaching rules: make the task accessible, limit the length of video clips, and everything we do prioritizes speaking and leads to discussion. I am going to walk you through how I do this referring to the film Belle et Sébastien. You will find all of my resources in this folder.

I have come to learn that when the language in the dialogue of a film is difficult, I can have students comment on the action and this works particularly well if you chose a film with a lot of action. While students are watching the film, they respond to statements as true or false and they have questions to guide their comprehension. See the handouts for during the film: 1 2 3 4 5

Using only short segments of a movie at a time allows me to use the rest of the class to explain culture, the historical setting of the film or to have the students do activities that help them understand the film. You will see how I did this in the teaching slides that go with the film.

As I said above, everything we do in French class prioritizes speaking and leads to a class discussion. After each segment, students respond to questions in pairs doing a Partner Turn and Talk. Students get many chances to speak each class because they are put into pairs for conversations. And, when doing this work in pairs, they prepare their thoughts for the class discussion that follows.

As a last point, I wanted to share that we studied this film after my students had already done a unit on World War II in their Social Studies class. It felt good to me to be able to reinforce what they had already learned.

It is my hope that through the examples that I have offered you can see some news ideas on how to use film to teach in the Proficiency-Based classroom. Please respond in a comment to tell me what parts of this lesson work for you or what you would include in a lesson on film. It would make me so happy to hear from each person who gets something out of this post.