Resources for Novices for Black History Month

Before I begin, here is the lesson I ultimately ended up with and here is the reading.

In celebration of Black History Month I went looking for relevant resources that would interest my novice students. I came up with three different inspirations and want to share them with you to show you how I decided to proceed. A good source for help with evaluating the different possibilities is this resource on teaching Black History from the Anti-Defamation League.

I thought about taking a picture book and pulling out the themes that are relevant to the black experience in our country. I found the beautiful book Toc Toc Toc Papa où es-tu? The language is simple and the themes are of interest to my students. Watch the video of a reading of the book and I promise you will feel deep emotion. Ultimately, I shied away from this idea because I couldn’t find the right approach to addressing the stereotype of missing black fathers. I didn’t feel like I had the authority to bring that up with a group of students. And, I thought in my majority-white classroom, the stereotype of the missing black father would be hard to unravel in a way that did not make my few black students uncomfortable.

I then wanted to discuss racism with this video as a starting point and present a person who fought against racism. I could think of no one better than Aimé Césaire, who is presented in this brochure and this video. I thought I would also be able to share some of his poems. This felt like a better fit for my expertise but try as I may, I couldn’t make the level of language work for my students, it was just too advanced

Along the way I found this excellent and accessible video about the importance of Africa telling its own story, but then couldn’t connect that to what I wanted to teach.

At this point I realized I needed a text that was truly accessible to Novice-Mid students and I found it in this comic strip. Unfortunately, pieces of the comic strip were problematic. I didn’t love the idea of trying to present Toussaint Louverture as “the black version of Napoleon” or “the first black hero” and wasn’t willing to show an image of a hanging man. But, I liked the idea of discussing the slave trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas and to concentrate on Toussaint Louverture’s heroic actions. My solution was to shorten the reading for my students and take out an image of a person hanging.

Allow me to address the point that we don’t want to teach and reteach slavery as the only theme of Black History that we address. I hear you. I will need to expand my repertoire of resources to include other themes. I am just getting started and don’t have many models to rely on. The reason why I chose this reading is that Toussaint Louverture responded to slavery in Haiti by rising up and it is that act that I am concentrating on in this reading.

Next, I had the problem of making the language and the concepts in the comic strip accessible to my students. I realized that I needed to explain in simple language some of the background information, so I set out to make some slides in simple language with key words bolded. Then I glossed some of the words from the comic strip. With the shortened reading that is linked above and with these slides, you can recreate my lesson if you wish.

Along the way, I spoke with my French colleagues and asked them to read the comic strip. We worked together to understand what would be the best fit for students. And, I listened to their advice on how to precede. I am pretty confident that the resulting lesson isn’t the best out there, but it is a start for me, in teaching Black History. Please let me know if any of the steps I took sound familiar to you.

P.S. If your students are progressing towards Intermediate, don’t miss this post on Black History Month from La Libre Language Learning. And if you use CI resources (which I incorporate too!) here is an outstanding idea for Novices from Toward Proficiency.

Current Events in the World Language Classroom

I wanted to share with you three different ideas of how to address current events in the World Language Classroom to encourage students to interact with the news. I hope that in modeling the activities you might want to make your own resources and if so, you can find articles and videos to make your own lessons from these sources:

Image from 1jour1actu. Download their free bi-weekly edition.

1jour1actu and Mon Quotidien are both free current events sites for French young people. In contrast, Petit Journal is a paid resource and it is written for French language learners. You can consider the advantages of each one for your students’ needs and interests. 

One way to jump into using current events is to ask students to match headlines or short descriptions with pictures as I did in this example using materials from 1jour1actu. I like to do this at the start of class. When I ask students to work in pairs they discuss their understanding of the words in French and collaborate to further their understanding.

Or, to employ a different idea you could choose a comic strip and video on the same topic from 1jour1actu. As an example, at the beginning of this year my students read a comic strip (on the third page) on Covid-19 and watched the accompanying video. As they read I asked them to look up words on the wordreference.com site. We watched the video together as a class and I paused the video and asked questions. You could put your questions into an EdPuzzle instead, if you wanted to hold each student accountable.

A third idea is to have the students work in pairs, each reading one of two articles. I used this one from 1jour1actu on Macron’s announcement for quarantine with one from the Petit Journal Francophone. There is also an Mon Quotidien article on the same subject that you could use instead. Then, they have to complete this graphic organizer in English together, identifying the information that was in the first or the second article or both. I like that they have to use higher order thinking in order to classify the information.

I hope that you will find an idea here to inspire you. Please leave a comment if you find anything you can use! In conclusion I want to leave you with one more resource. Here is a form I have been using for years when I ask a class to read a current events article, especially the “l’info en grande” articles from 1jour1actu like this one on Mars, (on the 4th page). It has gotten a lot of use and I hope it can be useful in your class.

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.

Sitcoms: Making the task accessible

You will find the resources for the post in this folder.

Television is a very compelling medium. Even taken in small doses of less than fifteen minutes, a segment of a sitcom can show us the products, practices and perspectives of a culture. TV shows are a mostly unexploited resource in the World Language Classroom even though fictional stories are central to the ACTFL Can Do’s. I have found clips from Les Sisters, En famille and Parents Mode d’Emploi that can be accessible in a beginning class if the activity is carefully planned.

Les Sisters is a realistic cartoon about two sisters. The elder sister is always getting annoyed by her little sister. Fortunately for me, I was able to find a clip where the action happens in different rooms of the house when I was working on a unit about La maison idéale. I made statements about what happens in the show and the students put them in order, then they retell the story themselves. This activity is accessible because while the dialogue in the show is pretty advanced, my students were instead decoding the accessible langauge in the statements I wrote.

En famille and Parents Mode d’Emploi are sitcoms about the members of a family, much like Parenthood or Black-ish. I decided to use the clips to work on the key language function of describing, so the task would be accessible for Novice and Intermediate Low students. To encourage more complex thinking, I also ask students to explain why the clip is funny. Again, these tasks are accessible because students don’t need to understand all the dialogue in the clip. If they are able to get the gist, then they can rely on beginning language to explain what they see is happening in the clip.

I included with the other resources two extra shows, a reality competition show called Le Meilleur Pâtissier and a version of Parents Mode d’Emploi from Gabon. For Le Meilleur Pâtissier I made an EdPuzzle for the first segment of the show, then we watched another few minutes together and discussed. The show is a lot of fun to watch with students. While watching this episode my students saw how a French pastry chef is very exact in the decoration of a dessert. Another good reality television show for French class is Recerche Appartement ou Maison and though I didn’t share a task for that show with you, you can find one by searching the show’s name in EdPuzzle. What I did share with you are some clips from the African version of Parents Mode d’Emploi that appeared on TV5 Monde. I have included those clips with the student activities also made by TV5 Monde.

I believe your students will find these television clips compelling and they will also find the tasks accessible.

Novices reading current events

1jour1actu is a French periodical about current events which is written for young people 8 to 12 years old. I find their website, videos, print copy newspaper and eMag great for keeping my students up to date on current events in France. My 8th grade students have subscriptions to the eMag and like the variety of articles and being able to independently navigate them, each student on a computer. Though the subscription is expensive, I am a believer in the quality of paid content. The 1jour1actu eMag has been a great addition to my 8th grade classroom because it allows for student-centered instruction and it shows American students what is of interest to young people in France.logo

Most importantly, student-centered tasks increase motivation at the middle school level. When we are working with 1jour1actu I try as much as possible to get out of the students’ way. This means keeping my role simple, for example I don’t supply vocabulary lists and I try to make extension activities where students can pick the content that they want to read. Here is an example of an activity that I used with my students when they were reading about what it means to be a good community member for an issue that was called Bien Vivre Ensemble. While I can’t share the paid content from the eMag, for this particular issue, there was some free-content released that you can find here. With that pdf, you have the materials at your hands to have your students read and do the activity I shared above. This could be a good way to try out 1jour1actu for the first time with your own students.

In addition, I love that a French publisher with an eye for what interests young people curates the news. Through the eMag we have been able to discover the French point of view on the US presidential election as well as find out more about the music group Kids United. Without subscribing to paid content, my students are subjected to the articles that I choose to download. What I share with them, by definition as I have chosen it for the students of my French class, is filtered through the lens of an American language teacher and is much less authentic than what they will experience when they read content selected by a French editor.

After the students do the reading, using the activity sheet, I have them participate in a class discussion on the topic and each student much speak once. The students stand up their notebooks and then put them down once they have contributed to the conversation. Students try not to repeat what others have said. We did one recently on the simple topic of Les français aiment-ils le chocolat ?, after we read a multiple page infographic about chocolate consumption in France, called Les Francais, fondus de chocolat. That day twenty-three students spoke about French consumption of chocolate, each one adding in a detail that was at his or her own level of difficulty. The reading we had done together was so rich in details that it gave us excellent material for a class conversation.

As we get more and more used to using this bi-weekly periodical, I hope that my instruction could follow the content of the eMag. We could use the articles for our content and vocabulary and I could assess the students’ reading and listening skills through Interpretive Assessments seeing that there are articles, videos and sound clips from young journalists who interview specialists in their field. Then, my students could discuss the content for our Interpersonal Assessments. And, finally my students could write and speak about the content for our Presentational Assessments. I am not there yet, but this is what I would like to build towards, with the help of this exceptional resource.

The daunting task of collecting authentic materials

My district’s curriculum coordinator is encouraging language teachers to find their own authentic materials instead of using ones from a publisher that are written for the second language audience. Authentic materials are culturally rich and tend to rely less on stereotypes than textbooks. The task of collecting them is made a little bit easier because I have been working at it for the last four years, but I still find it daunting. In this post I would like to share what I’ve learned so that others can collect authentic resources more quickly than I did and get on to the next step of using them.

My goal has been to find authentic videos and texts that are of high interest level to my pre-teen students and are accessible at the novice level. These materials also need to fit into the themes that are taught in the first years of French class and need to be geared toward social justice, as per my district. Where do I go to find such texts and video clips?

I will start with my favorites. My best resource is TV5Monde. Click here to see my blog post about this gold mine of a resource. In addition, I have found some individuals who collect authentic resources. There is a new site called Le vrai de vrai that has just come online in the last month and is a game changer for French teachers. It is a collection of authentic materials leveled for novice and intermediate students. Another great collector, Catherine Ousselin, on behalf of AATF has created a You Tube channel called AAT French that is a rich source for videos. The materials from these three sources figure prominently in my instruction.

Beyond these sites, I rely heavily on materials other French teachers have posted to Pinterest and Twitter. On Pinterest, French teachers have adopted FLE, Français Langue Étrangère, as their designation for French materials. Do a search with the terms “FLE” and the theme that you are searching for, such as “FLE nourriture”, then click on “boards” to find boards with multiple pins on the topic. You will be led to many short video clips, info-graphs and articles. Not all of them will be authentic, appropriate, interesting and accessible so you will need to sort through with a critical eye. You can check out my boards here, as a starting point. Pinterest is, by the way, a great place to store for future use the authentic documents you gather. On Twitter, the shortcut to authentic documents is #authres and if you add in #french you will see the latest tweets for authentic French resources.

Media outlets from France that write content for children are a great resource as well. Best would be to subscribe to magazines like GéoAdo and Okapi, but online you can get some good resources from these magazines as well as from 1jour1actu and P’tit Libé, which have both been excellent for me.

What to do with the clips and readings you have found? Once I have found a video clip, I want to be able to call it up quickly when I am using it with my students, so I want to take out the hassle of unreliable wifi and advertisements. Also, I frequently want to use just a segment. So, I use a clip converter to download the segment. And I store both the clips and the readings that I have found in my Google Docs, which seems to have enough space for all my content.

These hints have taken me four years to assemble. I wish you happy collecting. May you move more quickly than I did.

The Gold Mine : TV5 Monde

Looking for relevant video clips to use in teaching language takes time. I have been wishing for one site where video clips would be curated, labeled by topic and proficiency level and presented with activities. TV5Monde does all that. Allow me to give you a tour of this resource and pass on to you what I have learned about finding novice level authentic videos and rewriting the activities to make the clips even more useful.

There are three programs within TV5Monde that I have found especially useful: Première Classe, Paroles des clips and Parlons français, c’est facile! All three products use authentic clips with leveled activities to teach language. Of course you can use just the clip and make your own activity too.

I use each program differently. For Première Classe I use the videos and the activities just as they are presented. As the Première Classe activities allow students to work independently at their own pace, I have my students do them when we go together to the computer lab or borrow the computer cart. I find that there are enough activities per theme that the students can spend 30 minutes in the computer lab working independently on the topic of our current unit. I make a sheet to guide students to the activities I want them to try. As the program offers them feedback, I don’t have them record anything specifically about the exercises they have done, instead I have them keep a list of vocabulary words and phrases they learn while doing the activities.

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The music videos that are presented in program Paroles des clips are useful for whole group activities and I can often use the activities that are presented with the video by printing them as is. The class watches the clips together and each student does his or her own work on the worksheet. Then we come together as a class to discuss what we have understood. The music videos are invaluable because without them my collection of songs would be quickly out dated. Paroles des clips introduces me to new artists and saves me time by guiding me directly to songs that are slow enough for novice speakers and have vocabulary useful to the topics that I teach at the novice level.

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My approach to the program Parlons français, c’est facile is different yet again. For the clips I discover through this program, when I show a clip from the collection to the whole class, I have the class do an activity while I walk them through it. To this end, I look at the online exercises that are presented with the clip and rewrite them as an activity that I initiate with the whole class. These are the clips I can most often use for straight Interpretive Mode activities to evaluate students, often with the Interpretive Mode activity template from ACTFL.

logo_parlonsfrancais

TV5 Monde has supplied me with authentic videos to teach novice students. These videos bring French culture into my classroom in a way that the text book videos didn’t. The authentic clips give me a lot of cultural material to discuss with my students. It is truly a gold mine.

Interactive Read Alouds and Partner Turn and Talks

Elementary classroom teachers read to their students in the whole group setting, either with a book they hold or one they project.  As the students work to understand the book, students get the support of the teacher.  When asked to discuss with partners, they get help from their peers and have time to process their thoughts as they aid their partner.  Reading aloud in the large group is an excellent method for beginning language students who are learning to read in the target language.

In Interactive Read Alouds, teachers read a book out loud and then ask students questions on the topic, but about themselves.  My class has enjoyed the book Mon Pull.  Click here Mon Pull for a PDF of the book.  I project the book and read it to the students stopping to ask them questions.  Click here to download the Lesson Plan Mon Pull.  The drawings are engaging and the questions are of interest to adolescents as they are personalized.  In addition the comprehensible input is accessible but a little challenging.  We read this book during the unit on clothing.

In Partner Turn and Talks, teachers have students turn to a partner and answer questions about the content book, then a few volunteers are called on to report to the large group.  My Middle School students were charmed by the picture book Je mangerais bien un enfant.  Click here Je mangerais bien un enfant to go a PDF of the book.  Click here Je mangerais bien un enfant for the lesson.  I project the book on the board and read.  At different points I ask the students to turn to their partner and discuss while I circulate to hear answers.  This picture book is accessible yet challenging during a unit on foood.

What if you have one copy of a range of French children’s books?  Students like to chose their own book and read it with the help of a French-English dictionary.  I have an Interpretive Reading Task Lecture de livre d’enfants for students when reading picture books.  I like to have them read individually because they go at their own pace.  Reading on their own I see students laugh and smile.  In addition they ask about French culture from something they read, i.e. “Do French moms talk very directly and not gently to their kids?  Is it different than in the US?”, which I love.

These techniques have been a great addition to my class.

More Interactive Read Alouds: Le chien de Lapin and the Lesson, Mon hamster est un gangster and the Lesson