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.

How to lead students to think further

How do teachers revisit content without being repetitive? How can we encourage students middle-school-motivators-464x600to spend more time and delve deeper? How can students interact positively with other students and get up out of their seats? In the book Middle School Motivators! 22 Interactive Learning Structures by Responsive Classroom there are explanations for activities that engage students in thinking, interacting with their peers and moving around the classroom. Here I am going to explain three Interactive Learning Structures that work in the Middle School language classroom and to further paint a picture for you of how to use them, I will give examples for each. 

Maîre d’ Call out, “Table for [a number from 2 through 4]”. Students quickly assemble in small groups with that number of members. Ask a question for students to answer in their group or give a topic for them to discuss. After all students have had time to share in their small groups, debrief in the large group asking what students heard from each other. Call out another table number and students form new small groups based on the new number and answer a new question or discuss a new topic.

As an example, when I did a unit on healthy lifestyles and the Interpersonal Assessment at the end of the unit had a prompt to discuss suggestions for a healthy lifestyle, I had students practice for that exam by doing a Maître d’ Interactive Learning Structure with four questions that break down the topic and ask students to revisit the material:

Table for three, What can a person your age do to reduce stress?

Table for two, What are the good outcomes of getting exercise?

Table for five, What actions can you take daily to get exercise?

Table for four, What changes can you make in your eating to improve health?

Prior to this activity the students had done a reading on each topic and this was a way to synthesize the vocabulary and ideas in preparation for the over-arching question of how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Venn-ting After students complete a Venn diagram to compare and contrast two topics, assign one student to be the reporter and the other to be the presenter. The reporter roams the room looking for ideas from others. The presenter stays put and explains the pair’s work to the roaming reporters. Allow reporters to visit 2-3 other groups for 1-2 minutes each. Reporters return to their original partner, discuss what they have learned and add to or revise their original diagram.

As an example, when I did a unit on stories, I had the students analyze using a graphic organizer each story based on a common set of the elements of a story. Then at the end we compared two stories using a Venn diagram and the students did a Venn-ting before passing in their final draft to make it delve deeper.

Four corners Students choose a response to a teacher-posed question that best reflects their thinking or interests. They move to the corner representing that response and discuss it in small groups then share what they have learned with the whole class.

As an example, for a unit on Family and Friends, the essential framing question is, How are we connected to others? We did a reading on what it meant to be a good friend. To encourage students to use the vocabulary and ideas from the reading and further explain their own ideas, I used the Interactive Learning Structure to have them separate into four corners to further examine which statement they agreed with most:

What makes a good friend?

  1. A person you can tell everything to, but you also don’t have to
  2. A person who doesn’t ask anything in exchange for friendship
  3. A person who respects your choices, even if he or she doesn’t agree
  4. A person who stays with you silently when you have a worry

And when we shared what we learned from others, everyone in the room received additional ideas on all four points of view.

These Interactive Learning Structures increase student interest in the content, motivate students, lead them to engage positively with the content and with each other and show students how to think more deeply about the topic.

A refreshing new idea: Organic World Language

Jacqueline from Organic World Languages came to our K-12 World Language department today to teach how to do a language circle. I was very excited for the session as my interest in OWL has been building since I attended a short workshop by them at ACTFL. I find their approach to be a good new tool for my teaching seeing that it focuses on community building, staying in the target language and making language learning engaging.

What is a language circle? I am nowhere near an expert on the topic after an hour long training, but I am intrigued to learn more. OWL offers full sessions on the topic. You can learn more via at owlanguage.com, which was my first step and how I decided that I wanted to incorporate the language circle into my teaching. The language circle is getting students into a circle to communicate with each other. Students are given a few chunks of language and then are asked in pairs to express their own meaning with the new language. This was a very freeing step for me. I quickly found once students are out from behind their desks and looking each other in the eye, there is increased communication. We were getting in more pair work more quickly and the number of times each student speaks has skyrocketed.

Classroom management is a strong component of OWL. Much like the clap echoing back and forth that we all learned from Responsive Classroom, OWL employs physical movement to refocus students when they first come to the circle and at other transition points. For example, after students communicate in pairs, the teacher says “un, deux, trois” and then claps and the students clap with her. Or, students are asked to touch their nose, touch their toes and touch their shoulders. The class comes back together to listen to the teacher without the teacher raising her voice.

In OWL Gestures are used to convey meaning. The teacher enthusiastically over-acts the gesture and repeats many times to express the new words. Words are made understandable through acting and then students use the new chunks of language right away. I need to spend more time learning about this approach in order to understand if the input is quite as rich as language learners need. Right now it seems that the teacher gives the input and attaches meaning to it through gesture or picture and I didn’t hear anything about the interpretive mode through reading or listening today, but again, I haven’t received the full training. Currently, with my limited exposure, this seems like another strategy for my toolbox and then I can use authentic documents and TPRS for further input.

In conclusion, an interesting approach to explore. The best new idea I have discovered in a while. I would recommend that you check out OWL.

Who to see @ACTFL 2016

ACTFL 2016, the national conference on language teaching, is taking place in Boston this weekend. It is an opportunity to hear about current trends in language education. Last year when I attended the conference in San Diego, it took a lot of time on Twitter to prioritize which presenters’ sessions to attend. I took interest in the teachers who were active on #langchat, the ones who were making comments that showed the merit of their practice. In addition, I relied on the list of ACTFL Teachers of the Year as they are all excellent professionals.

In case you don’t have the time to do your own research, I want to share with you a handful of excellent presenters that you can catch this year.

  • Catherine Ousselin is a Digital Literacy Coach and French teacher. She has attended MaFLA in the past, so maybe you have already heard her speak. She is a leader in the area of technology. When the site Photo de Classe came online recently, its merits were obvious to French teachers and so I am intrigued to find out how Catherine uses it. Photo de Classe: Connecting Origins, Family and Identity Using Global Units. Friday 11am-12pm
  • Amy Lenord is a Spanish teacher and is the #langchat moderator. Here she will be addressing whether or not vocabulary lists hold us back. Liberation from the Lists: Vocabulary Instruction without Limits. Friday 3:45-4:45pm
  • Nicole Naditz is a French teacher and was ACTFL teacher of the year in 2015. I blogged about her tips after ACTFL 2015 and can’t wait to hear what she has to say about Interpersonal communication for novice students. Breaking Through: Building Up to Spontaneous Communication from Year 1. Friday 3:45-4:45pm
  • Noah Geisel is a Spanish teacher and was ACTFL teacher of the year in 2013. The description of the sessions states that, “Mobile Storytelling… facilitates reciprocal communication with authentic audiences” I will get out of bed early Saturday morning and leave my husband with the kids to find out what “authentic audiences” means. When Digital isn’t Enough: The Magic of Mobile Storytelling. Saturday 8-9am
  • Sara-E. Cottrell is the Spanish teacher who is responsible for Musicuentos.com. Here she is addressing a very timely subject for me and my colleagues, how to use a text book. Textbook as Aid: Adapt, Incorporate and Ditch. Saturday 5:15-6:15pm

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Ready-made IPAs

Novice and Intermediate French IPAs from Lisa Shepard, Cécile Lainé and Rebecca Blouwolff
As you create your own IPAs, it is helpful to take a look at examples on the web. Let me walk you through three sources. You may want to use some of these examples as they are or you may want to learn from them to write your own. All three authors, who are teachers too, have different strengths and will benefit your practice in different ways.
Context
Begin with Lisa Shepard’s site as she has paved the way for how to use IPA assessments with beginning students on themes such as Ce que j’aime, La Famille and Le Petit Déjeuner. Her work is ambitious but not only because she can write IPAs for beginning students. What can be learned from her goes deeper. Shepard is striving to move away from giving an over-riding theme to the IPA to creating a context for the IPA, i.e. a real-world reason for language students to engage in the task. In Shepard’s Intermediate IPA on the environment, where the reading and the video is about what French students are doing for the environment, Shepard managed to enter her language students into the context by giving them the role of an exchange student going to the school where the initial students were interviewed. As a result of reading Shepard’s examples, when I write an IPA I am more intentional about context.
Integration
Continue with Cécile Lainé’s site, looking at her IPAs on free time, immigration, food, activities, family and school. And for more by Lainé and her colleagues, refer to the Ohio Foreign Language Association Site, especially the sample found here on Neighborhood. Lainé was my original go-to person as there is a huge lesson to be learned from both how she integrates the three components of an IPA as well as how she encourages truly spontaneous speech in the Interpersonal Tasks. 12823378_10153455706573786_7128171800067206099_oWhen I write my own, I look at her language to guide me. Regarding integration, Lainé uses one task to inform the next, for example, in the Le temps libre IPA students learn about the free time activities that young French people prefer by reading the results of a survey, then use the same vocabulary to talk about their own leisure activities. It doesn’t stop there. Next the students use what they read about and what they discussed as material to do a presentation on leisure activities, comparing leisure for French and American young people. Regarding spontaneous speech, in her Interpersonal Tasks Lainé always has the students talking about themselves in relation to what they read about French young people. Even though comparing is a difficult skill, with such strong scaffolding, novice students can work towards making comparisons.
Feedback
And finish up your tour of IPAs that are available on the web with Rebecca Blouwolff’s site where you will find IPAs on la ville, la maison, les vêtements, les loisirs and la nourriture. Of note here is that Rebecca Blouwolff has an effective system for teaching students how to prepare for interpersonal tasks and for giving students feedback on interpersonal tasks. I wrote about how she sets up an interpersonal task in an earlier post; the point I want to make here is how she expertly incorporates a system using the TALK rubric, originally from The Keys to Planning for Learning by Clementi and Terrill. In this handout she explains her approach to the students and gives them pointers on how to prepare for evaluations. I commend her for the scaffolding she is building for students. She is showing them how to study for and approach these speaking assessments. This explanation really gets at what a successful speaker needs to do.
It is my hope that by drawing your attention to these three sources, you will have new IPAs to use in your instruction as well as greater ease in employing context, integration and feedback. Please share IPAs as you create them as they benefit us all.
Photo by Alexandra Lecomte

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.

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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.