When I have time to reflect on teaching and pull back to the big picture, I like to work on unit plans. For different teachers this takes different forms. I favor unit plans that are visual and show how the components work together for student learning. Leslie Grahn offers on her website my favorite unit plan template as well as great resources for activities that promote student learning. I want to make sure that teachers flood the Internet with examples that can inspire other teachers, so in this post I am offering a sample unit plan, this one is on expressing your opinion on meals at the school cafeteria.
Images can be rich and compelling. Looking at them, language learners are encouraged to speak. When discussing images, you can employ Visual Thinking Strategy. Here are some questions to ask students to get you started (and if you want you can research the method further). – What is going on in this picture? – What do you see that makes you say that? – What more can you find? Validate student interpretations as they go. Every comment is an important addition. Point at what students mention as they say it. Repeat back to students their comments.
Where can you find rich and compelling photos? A resource that will be invaluable to you is the collection of photographs for educators to use for Visual Thinking Strategy from the New York Times. You can start with this slide show of 40 photographs.
For this discussion, I am going to use three photos from that collection to review some ideas for how to choose a photo that can be most useful for conversation. Here are three ideas to keep in mind: Choose a photo that expresses multiple ideas. For example, don’t choose a photo that is a close up of one being. In this photo there is a parade, house, car and motorcycle. There is a girl in a dress and the color of that dress is compelling. There is emotion expressed in this photo.
Choose a photo that lends itself to discussion using vocabulary that your students already have. This photo takes place in a classroom. There are students, a teacher, tables, chairs and they are looking at something. There is vocabulary that students have even at the novice level.
Choose a photo that shows an aspect of culture or that lends itself to a social justice commentary. The last two photos showed two different themes for cultural commentary. The first was the celebration of a quinceañera and the second was a view into the setting of a school. Here is a photo of a human living in an exhibit in a zoo. This photo lends itself to a social justice commentary on habitats in zoos.
Here are slides with the images I found so that you can easily copy the slide and use them in your classroom. You may want to use a chat mat to help your students. Here is a lesson using photographs to teach about Identity from Learning for Justice. It is from an excellent set of lessons on their site. Let me know in the comments what you keep in mind when choosing a photo for discussion in class and how you use images in class.
I am always trying to plug into topics that interest my Middle School students. My latest attempt is the twin topics of Heroes, meaning people we admire, and Super Heroes. I found excellent materials on a blog Les Crayons de Delf and modified the activities to create some lessons for Novices.
Here is a mini-unit to address heroes.
Essential questions: Who is a hero? What are their accomplishments?
Can do statements
I can understand descriptions of people and their accomplishments.
I can read about changemakers to inspire me to reflect on and take action to make my community and world a better place.
I can name a hero and what they do.
I can identify who is left out of the discussion of heroes.
Have students do the reading on changemakers. Have students look for words for professions. Show slide with all of their pictures and say their nationality / occupation / un fait divers and students say who it is.
Akinator: We are going to play the reverse guessing game Akinator, trying to get the Akinator to guess a Super Hero. We use the readings about the Super Hero for background information to help us answer questions.
Students in groups talk about their super heroes. Show students sentence starters on the slides to help them share the information from their charts.
Reading: Noms de rue Teacher reads out loud the excerpts on the slides. “Can anyone give a summary in English, not a translation?” Ask the class to share five facts in French with their discussion groups. Share out to the class. Then, ask students to put the reading away.
Show students the pictures from the reading on the slide. Have a class conversation where they say as much as they can about the picture. “What do you see? What do you know about that?” Ask yes and no questions to help them along. Lead the class to what would make sense for them to talk about and what they have the vocabulary to talk about.
Shared Writing: Ask students to give sentences about what we discussed together. Teacher writes them down.
Shared Reading: Teacher reads the finished paragraph back to the students.
Put the paragraph away. Have students write sentences from what they remember of the group writing. Then have them write one sentence of their own.
One of my favorites is Jeopardy on Factile. Here is a beginner’s version that I call Les Premiers Mois.
A Kahoot game is a way to circumlocute and ask students to guess from four options or it can be a regular trivia game. Here is a game for La Famille and another for Ma Journée and then a trivia game for Les Super Héros.
And finally, have students read in French about some super heros such as Superman, Spiderman, Wolverine, Hulk, La femme invisible and Wonderwoman. Then play the reverse guessing game Akinator and see if the Akinator can guess the super hero.
This year, in 2021, our state finally updated the World Language standards. You may be thinking about how you can align your teaching to these standards. If you were already following ACTFL’s World-Readiness Standards, you will find this document very familiar. But for some of us, the framework will mean changes in the way we teach. How to get started? Here is a short list of essential hints on implementing the new Massachusetts 2021 World Language Curriculum Framework.
The World Language Framework is online. You will want to bookmark it for easy reference. The framework was written by teachers here in our state. You probably know some of them, at school or personally. There are many voices who represent you in this framework, teachers who have classroom experience with real kids locally.
Where to start? When you are having an inclination toward big-picture thinking, read only the guiding principles. Think about what you are already doing. Don’t concentrate on how much road you have in front of you. You have already put some of these guiding principles into action.
A highlight from the Guiding Principles section is, “Students become proficient in a language by using it.” This simple idea can be a guide for your classroom. Measure activities not by what vocabulary they practice, but by whether or not students are negotiating meaning through communication.
My favorite highlight from the Guiding Principles section is, “In effective programs, students use the target language to tell their own stories and to examine their own identities.” Intercultural understanding starts with understanding one’s own culture and talking about oneself.
A good start as you ease into or dive deeper into teaching for proficiency is to commit to teaching in a more interesting and effective way through using Can Do statements based on the Standards.
The Framework was written for each level to stand alone as a two-sided handout. Think about printing the level you are teaching (the one you are aiming for) and have it out at your workspace as you plan.
Pay close attention to the verbs in the Standards. They were used very intentionally to progress from level to level. You will recognize the verbs from Blooms.
To understand how to bring students one level up, look at the level they are at in a specific mode and then look at the level you are aiming for. You will learn what you need to do to extend their skills.
Consider printing out these pointers as a handout for you or your teachers and use it like a progressive checklist.
While we are teaching students to communicate in another language we are also teaching them intercultural competency, so that students can learn to interact in other cultures. As I am currently planning lessons I feel fortunate that there has been a lot written on teaching culture and some of the guidance is available for free on the Internet. In this blog post, I will show you free materials that I borrowed from to build my toolbox to teach intercultural connections.
My favorite three activities from: Intercultural Learning Toolbox of Classroom Activities
2 visions for 1 reality
60 seconds = 1 minute, or does it?
Drawing with 2 hands
Build rapport between the members of your class by having them divide into groups to prepare to teach the whole class playground games from around the world. Or, ask students to read about food from different cultures and comment on what they would like to try, as a means to develop cultural curiosity.
I truly benefitted from some language to explain different cultural concepts. While I find that I am able to describe these concepts to adults, the simpler versions written for students were a true help.
Along the way, students reflect by writing in their in-class journals. In addition, when we look at specific cultures, they write their thoughts. For some ideas of prompts, here is an ACTFL document.
Though all of these resources are in English, many of them are straight-forward enough for students to navigate in the language they are learning. I wish you great luck with the teaching of culture to your students. A deep understanding of culture promotes tolerance and justice. This is truly important work.
What are the resources you have found to teach Intercultural Competence? Please add to this post with a comment so that we can start a conversation.
“People in other cultures are often portrayed as scary or exotic,” says Anna Rosling Rönnlund, the inventor of Dollar Street. “This has to change. We want to show how people really live. It seemed natural to use photos as data so people can see for themselves what life looks like on different income levels. Dollar Street lets you visit many, many homes all over the world. Without traveling.”
In a unit on families, the images from Dollar Sense can give students information to answer the question “What is a family?” To get to that answer, students can observe families from different countries around the world.
To start, preview the site with your students. Then give them an assignment where they read about different families, think about the information and do some writing for themselves. The sample assignment that I linked here is for Novice level students.
How have you used Dollar Street in your class?
P.S. Thanks to the comments by readers, I was able to make a second activity that is similar using the site Là où je dors
When a person has told us that they are gender non-binary, we refer to them with language that is not gendered. In addition, when we are speaking to people who have not specified their gender or to all people, we can use inclusive terms that aren’t gendered, we can use traditional language that is gender neutral or we can alternate between feminine and masculine forms.
In the French language there isn’t an official way to use gender neutral language. We have to go looking for examples in newspapers and explanations online for ideas of how to do this. While there are ideas for making language gender neutral, I need to clearly state there are no official rules and not everyone will accept these options.
Here is a slide deck to use in your teaching. Of course, these additions are not static nor are they finalized. As the will evolve and change, keep in touch with others about the latest accepted versions of non-gendered speech.
This is my third entry on traveling like a teacher. When teachers travel, we seek out reasonably priced activities with great value and we especially like the outdoors. I have been observing for years that when I talk to other hikers, bikers or tourists on my travels, many of the people I encounter are teachers. It must be that we seek out the same activities.
This post is about Bethel, Maine, one of my favorite places, and is about traveling with preteens and teens. I am going to highlight outdoor activities that are pandemic-safe and I am publishing this now hoping that my readers might be able to make the trip for Fall foliage season in September and October, though Bethel is also beautiful in the summer for swimming and in the winter for skiing.
Bethel is a small New England town in Western Maine that hosts skiers who ski Sunday River in nearby Newry, Maine. It is a spectacular spot for viewing the mountains and valleys and has beautiful light that makes the mountains look blue and purple as you look at them in the distance. In the Fall the trees show off the foliage colors and the palette of colors is further extended.
Consider staying at the Bethel Inn in a condo so that you will have a bit of independence and space. The Bethel Inn offers good amenities too. In the summer you can swim at their Lake House, a short drive away. In the winter there are show shoeing and fat mountain biking trails that depart from the Inn. And for a Fall trip you can take advantage of other activities like tennis, golf and mountain biking. The easiest place in town for an outdoor meal is at the Millbrook Tavern at the Inn, just make sure to reserve ahead. The view is stunning.
The mountain biking trails, the Bethel Village Trails, that leave from the resort are an activity that I want to highlight and they are available for all, whether or not you are staying at the Inn. I am not a particularly adventurous athlete and yet I found these trails very accessible as they are beginning mountain biking trails. You can rent bikes or get repairs and parts from Barker Mountain Bikes. For more advanced trail riding, there are other trails around town, so there is opportunity for all levels. In addition, at Mount Abraham, a short drive away, you can ride the lift up and bike the trails with berms and jumps. The two youngest members of our family love the thrill of downhill mountain biking. Fortunately, there are picnic tables for the older, tired out members of the family.
Equally fun as trail riding is hiking in the area and the reward is always a great view. For provisions, the Good Food Store will make sandwiches to order and they have trail mix and other snacks. In Bethel you have great options for a hike. One great one is Long Mountain Trail where you walk along a stream for part of it and have a nice view at the end. There is good shade on this path for a hot day. Another is Mount Will, which our family likes during foliage season. It is steep enough to interest my kids and yet has a moderate rating. In the evening you could return to the Good Food Store for their Smokin’ Good BBQ and the picnic tables where you can eat outside.
Bethel is on the Androscoggin River and so you can kayak or even float down the river. Sport Thoma, our favorite ski shop, will rent you kayaks and shuttle you up the river so that you can paddle back to town. Whether you trail ride, hike or kayak, consider going with a guide from Bethel Adventure Tours. We have worked with their guide Alex twice, once for a ride and another time for a hike. Alex talked about hiking safety, packing for a day trip and orienteering with our kids and led a great hike for us. After your adventure, you can have dinner from the LeMuEats Food Truck and eat outside under the tent at Steam Mill Brewing. And, there is an outdoor window for ice cream at the Bethel Sugar Shack.
If your kids need more than hiking, biking and kayaking, Bethel has some other options too. While the Bethel Pathway is only 1.7 milnes long, it is great for a stroll, young kids on training wheels or roller blades. From one of the two parking lots you are steps from the Davis Park Skatepark. My kids think it’s the best planned skatepark they know. From the other parking lot you are close to the basketball courts. While the paved path of the Bethel Pathway ends at North Road, you can keep walking on to Valentine Farm. Valentine Farm is a wooded path worth visiting on its own if you want to take young children for a walk. They may delight in the Pollinator Garden.
If you come for the weekend and the weather doesn’t cooperate, and if you are a person who feels safe inside during this pandemic, there are a few indoor activities. The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum will teach you about gems from this region and has interactive displays. Visit River Lanes for bowling and the arcade, a very family-friendly experience. And, The Gem is the local movie theater which has great popcorn and a couple movies at a time. Main Street has stores that you could pop into, such as Toys and Trendz and Elements Art Gallery, both located in the Philbrook Place. The not to be missed shopping opportunity is Middle Intervale Farm, either at the Saturday morning farmers’ market or at their self-serve farm stand.
Let me know if you think that you travel like a teacher.
Every year I get a few requests for materials to use with a film. I always direct teachers to this excellent packet to be used with the film Une vie de chat.
This is a film that I can recommend because teachers can buy it on Amazon Prime with the audio in French and show it in their classroom from their own computer. Teachers aren’t always able to buy DVDs in French in this country and even if they already own a film, many schools no longer have the ability to show DVDs. An additional problem is that some of the French movies that appear on Amazon Prime and Netflix don’t have the audio in French. You will see on this blog materials for Belle et Sebastien and the French audio isn’t available on Amazon Prime. So given all this, I figure Une vie de chat is a good film to share with teachers seeing that all teachers can access it.
Please find below sample activities from the packet to do with your students in order to use this film to teach language and culture. Depending on the level of your students, they might have trouble understanding the film. For example, my students who are Novices can’t understand the dialogue of this film. I was able to show it when I had students who were Intermediate Low.
If you do rent or buy the movie on Amazon Prime, you will have it on your own account and won’t be able to leave the movie for a substitute teacher without sharing your login information. I don’t see films as a very good activity without the teacher seeing that while your students watch the movie you will probably need to repeat lines for them and stop periodically to explain in simplified French what is happening. My suggestion for this film is to watch it with your students, to comment frequently in simple French as the action is happening and to repeat important lines a few times.
I love sharing a film with a class. The shared experience is very rich as you share the emotions you feel with others. Enjoy!
Preview the film Show the poster Here are some questions to explore the imagery and design: a. Qui vois-tu sur l ́affiche du film? b. Qui est le personnage principal? c. Quand est-ce que la scène a lieu? d. Quelles impressions as-tu? Est-ce que ça fait peur ? Est-ce que c ́est menaçant? Mystérieux? Pourquoi ? e. Dans quel pays/ dans quelle ville est-ce que le chat vit? Trouve une preuve.
Show two posters Compare the English version of the poster with the French one and spot the differences: a. Quels sont les 4 personnages qui apparaissent sur l ́affiche anglaise? b. Compare le titre français et le titre anglais du film. Pourquoi sont-ils différents? c. Quel titre te semble le plus accrocheur? Pourquoi? d. Quelle version de l ́affiche (anglaise ou française) préfères-tu? Pourquoi? e. Imagine, en quelques phrases, l ́histoire du film. f. Fais une liste de thèmes et de mots-clés liés au film. g. De quel genre de film s’agit-il d’après toi? un film d ‘horreur, une comédie, un film policier, un film d ́amour