Sunday, 10 June 2018

My TLLP Journey (FSL Beyond the Walls)

This past year, our TLLP* group received additional funding through the Provincial Knowledge Exchange to allow us to further share and enhance our learning, particularly with our respective boards of education.  This time has given me an ideal opportunity to reflect on my learning, identify my big “take-aways”, and to set a course for the next path of my journey in FSL teaching.

Perhaps the most important and meaningful part of my participation in this project has been the chance to meet, work, and collaborate with these wonderful people.  How wonderful that Twitter brought us together from four different school boards!  Cheers to Jen, Corrie, Bev and Maddie!

The TLLP Team!

Take-away 1: Outside Voices are Important
It continues to be a shared belief among many FSL educators; our students need to hear many sources of French (other than the teacher’s voice). It always amazes me how a guest in my classroom can ask the same questions that I ask of my students, and then the students look at me as if the guest is speaking an entirely different language! We owe it to our students to expose them to different dialects, accents, pronunciations, and ways of speaking French.

However – my observations from this project are that my students also benefit greatly hearing other people attempt and struggle to speak French.  The outside voice can be French second language learners too (see below, continuum). My students noted a boost to their own confidence levels when they were interacting with other students struggling with the same challenges as they face in their FSL learning.

Take-away 2: Interactions are on a Continuum
If we are to be successful in implementing interactive moments outside our classroom, we need to give ourselves permission to start at a place which makes sense for us and our students.  The figure below shows two continuums we need to consider: one speaks to the level of interaction, and the other speaks to the quality of French voices.

The initial stage of interaction is not really interaction at all – it could be simply listening to French music, a pre-recorded video, or someone delivering a speech. There is still a great benefit to this end of the continuum, do not discount it!  As we continue forward, students could be interacting to simple questions or statements, but they could be recorded and sent to the other students after production (not live).  The final stage is true interaction, live and (hopefully) unrehearsed.

The second continuum deals with the people with whom your students will interact. Will they be FSL second language learners, French immersion students, younger or older students, other educators, adult francophones, or perhaps a Francophone who cannot speak English at all?  Don’t undervalue the interactions which are possible all along this continuum – they all present our students with meaningful opportunities to *use* the French language!

Take-away 3: Take Advantage of Spontaneous Learning Moments
One spin-off benefit of asking my students to interact with others outside our school was some “run with it” learning moments which just…appeared!  During some simple games and competitions between our two classes, we noticed that the other classes were using some slightly different phrases or words to express the same things.  In others, we noticed “how polite the other class was, using merci and s’il vous plait a lot!”  What wonderful moments upon which to reflect with my students.  Did they still understand what was happening?  You bet – but it provided some simple catch-them-off-guard moments which are vital to action-oriented tasks.

Most meaningful were those times in which we had trouble communicating.  We didn’t hear them, we couldn’t understand them, they couldn’t understand us, or the background noise was too much.  I resisted the urge to step in and save my students.  Instead, it provided moments to use our listening and speaking strategies.  What do you do if you don’t understand?  How do you clarify someone’s ideas?  Our interactions provided wonderful opportunities to practice these important communication skills.

Take-away 4: Interacting “for real” Leads to Greater Metacognition
Asking students to reflect on their conversations in class (as learning opportunities) leads to limited results. To me, it sometimes feels too scripted. I often feel they are just telling me what I want to hear (eg. “I listened for words I recognized… blah blah blah”).   Once we have interacted with another class, the light suddenly comes on, and they see the experience as more “real”.   Students have commented on the struggle they faced to remember the words to use, but then finding alternate words or using gestures. They realized the importance of facial expressions, non-verbal cues and how clearly (or unclearly!) they communicate with others. Some spoke openly about the areas they felt they needed to improve, and those they were eager to practice further.  It was the by-product of their use of the language, it lead to real learning and meaningful practice.

I hope you will embark on your own journey to provide opportunities for your students to interact with others outside your classroom.  Share your learning with us on Twitter using #fslbeyond and #fslchat.

(*TLLP – Teacher Learning and Leadership Program.  For an overview of our project, watch this great Adobe Spark video by Jen Aston)

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Au Restaurant: Menus

Food-related topics in the FSL classroom always seem to be highly engaging with students, and certainly fit with our new focus on authentic and action-based tasks.

I have shared below some menus from restaurants in Quebec which are ideal for use with students in FSL programs.
  • Compréhension écrite: Making meaning, looking for mots connus, predicting, building the "need" of using vocabulary.
  • Production et intéraction orale: Ordering, expressing preferences, asking questions, discussing prices, changing orders, asking for substitutions, etc.
  • Intercultural:  A interesting idea is to use the Cantine Richard menu to discuss the use of 'franglais' et anglicismes.


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Whole-Class Guided Speaking

(yikes, a whole year since my last blog post!)

Over the past few years, I have found much success in a daily guided speaking activity with all of my classes (core French, grades 1-8). I have observed my students developing confidence in speaking, using whole sentences, "finding a way" to communicate their ideas, and enjoying their use of a second language. Most importantly, an informal survey of my intermediate students revealed their increased motivation to use French when they can speak to their peers in small groups.

In describing and sharing this success with some colleagues, I promised to write this blog to outline the steps that I have been using. So here it is (a bit late, I apologize).  It has been effective for my students, and perhaps it can be helpful for you too. This system is based on techniques and strategies from the On est Capable video series, and workshops I attended with FSL colleagues in Eastern Ontario.

Guided Speaking Activity: Whole Class

Prior to beginning, consider and plan for the following:
  • Decide the topic or subject you want students to discuss, and/or the language skills to be developed. These will vary based on the grade level, but also on what skills you have already covered. Here are some examples:
    • Grade 1: I can ask about and express an opinion on different fruits and vegetables (j'aime, je n'aime pas, j'adore, est-ce que tu aimes...).
    • Grade 4: I can ask about and describe a time in the past when I met a classmate (rencontré, en deuxième année, il y a quatre ans).
    • Grade 8: I can discuss the rationale my partner and I had for choosing one activity over another (on a decidé que, parce que, c'est plus amusant).
  • Decide how much visual support your students will need. When introducing a new expression or focusing on some new vocabulary, I will post explicit examples of the questions and answers on the Smart Board or a poster. Other times, I might have one or two words in order to emphasize effective listening. Most often, I will not have any visual reference. I feel that this activity is meant to develop speaking skills, so be careful that students don't focus on simply reading something out loud instead of engaging in a conversation.

Facilitating the Guided Speaking
  1. Introduce the phrase or topic you have chosen, by modelling the question and answer for the class. 
  2. Repeat and emphasize the key words to activate effective listening skills.
  3. Ask the question to 4-6 students in the class, insisting on and scaffolding full-sentence responses. 
  4. Repeat some of the students' answers in order to encourage all students to listen carefully to the words being used. 
  5. The next steps will depend on your students' grade level, skill level, and experience:
Early / beginning
  • Ask the class to repeat the question and (possible) answers with you.
  • Ask students to turn to a partner beside them and take turns asking and answering the question.
  • Circulate among the students and scaffold the full-sentence questions and answers.
  • Ask students to turn to a different partner and have the conversation.
  • If you feel the momentum of the activity is good, ask the students to find a third partner and converse. 
  • With the entire class, ask 2-3 students the question to emphasize the key words and phrases (different students from step 3 above).
Middle / intermediate
  • Ask one student to engage another student in the conversation, while the other students listen to the example. Repeat this step 2 or 3 times, scaffolding full sentences and correct pronunciation.
  • Ask students to find a partner at their table group or close to them, and take turns having the conversation.
  • Ask students to get up and find their second partner to engage in the conversation. Note: I almost always let the Smart Board assign random partners for this - it pays off in on-task behaviour.)
  • Ask students to find their third partner to engage in the conversation. 
  • With the entire class listening, ask one student the question. Once he/she has responded, pick another student and ask them how the first student answered.  (Eg. if the question is "En quel mois est ta fête?", then you would ask the second student, "En quel mois est sa fête?")  This is an important step in moving from je/tu phrases, and starting to use il/elle.
  • Repeat this last step a few times to consolidate the use of the phrase, and encourage active listening. 
Later / advanced
  • Ask one student to engage another student in the conversation, while the other students listen to the example. Repeat this step 2 or 3 times, scaffolding full sentences and correct pronunciation.
  • Ask students to get up and find a partner to engage in the conversation. Note: I almost always let the Smart Board assign random partners for this - it pays off in on-task behaviour.)
  • Circulate among the students and scaffold the full-sentence questions and answers.
  • Ask students to find their second and third partner to engage in the conversation.
  • With the entire class, ask 4-6 students to report back on what 1 or 2 of their speaking partners said. This is a key step to work toward as a class, and it pays off in spontaneous use of French!  You can begin with:
    • Marc, avec qui as-tu parlé?  (J'ai parlé avec Stéphanie, Charles et Hugo).
    • Qu'est-ce que Charles a dit? (Charles a dit que....) 
  • As your class becomes more experienced and comfortable, students can report on what all three of their partners said:
    • Marc, qu'est-ce que tu as découvert?
    • J'ai trouvé que Stéphanie..... mais Charles.... et Hugo.... 

Some other notes and tips:
  • Once you get to the "changing partners" stage, keep things moving.
  • Insist that students position themselves face to face (either sitting or standing) to encourage a conversation of listening and speaking.
  • If I allow my students to pick their own partners, the rule is that only 2 people can be together at a time - "no clumps!"
  • Insist on full sentence answers. 
  • This activity is an ideal way to introduce new vocabulary in context. For example, introduce your students to 4 new animals by facilitating a conversation about which one is most dangerous, the cutest, the most popular at a zoo, etc. 

Guided speaking is a part of every one of my classes, and I have observed very positive results from these activities. Students become more confident in speaking, they speak spontaneously, and they use the language structures we have practiced in other contexts. I hope you find similar success with your students!