I have blogger block - I think and think about what I should and want to write, but then I don't do it because I'm afraid it won't sound brilliant. I need to stop with that and just produce. In other words, I need to do what I teach my students - worry less about my form and more about my message.
I know there are many language teachers who start the year 90-100% target language (TL). I understand the reasoning, and I will never quarrel with them about it, because that's their prerogative to do what they feel serves their students best. For me and my students, the goal at the start of the year was to lower the level of affect and build a sense of trust in me as a teacher and the proficiency-oriented classroom.
In all my classes, French 1-3, we did a PearDeck - Notre salle de classe - so I could establish trust and norms - I want my students to feel safe and comfortable being human, having emotional needs, and knowing that I do not expect robotic compliance or plastic happiness. Judging from the verbal responses I heard, and the feedback in the PearDeck, this was a success. And since doing that, even the kids I had previously have been more open about sharing their moods and needs with me. This was a good thing, and I wish I would have done this previously. (I have always had them fill out a Who am I? activity, but this went deeper) You can find this PearDeck/Slides here. I also continued the use of my backchannel communication - just a simple "Tell Tatie" form that is always available by my desk - and it's already been used. Kids can let me know anything they don't feel comfortable telling me in person. I also prefer this to an online tool because it's untraceable and not on the district server. That form is here.
Language Learning by Level
French 1: We spent a bit of time learning about what proficiency is, what the state standards are for their level, and how that looks in assessment and grading. This is a monumental shift for students who came from other language classrooms that were hyperfocused on grammar and accuracy, and I wanted to erase any existing anxiety they had from those experiences. I used the same presentation with the students that I shared with parents. That is available here.
We began with giving basic personal information about ourselves (je m'appelle, je suis de), the alphabet and how letters sound in French, bearing in mind that developing phonemic awareness is fundamental in growing listening skills. Students recorded several Flipgrids to practice speaking - with no concerns about grades or being corrected on their pronunciation - and response was enthusiastic and engaged! We did 3 Flipgrids so far: Je me présente (Je m'appelle, je suis de); Je peux epeler mon nom (Je m'appelle, ça s'écrit); Folie Flipgrid (talk to 5 classmates, introduce each one and spell their first name). We wrapped up with examining the school schedule of the seconde year at a high school in France, Gimkitting school subject vocabulary, doing a dictée with the school subjects to reinforce letter/sound/spelling, and then writing/speaking their own school schedules from a template in Seesaw. The #authres based school schedule activity I wrote is here.
French 2: French 2 is my data class for the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES), so I had to do the pre-assessment IPA for those classes. That's not a great way to build emotional support - starting with a test - but I spent a lot of time reassuring them that this is zero stakes for them, and they seemed to buy in (for the most part). The speaking part of the test was the most anxiety-producing. I then started an IPA-a-day style review based on #authres - which by the way, is the EASIEST way to build instructional materials, and if you're not doing this, let me talk to you one-on-one to explain how to! We've reviewed giving personal identifying information by using CVs as the authentic resources, and we're looking at school subjects and materials using the model school supply lists and lycée scheduling documents on education.gouv.fr (this led to intercultural discussions as well). Using the IPA or partial IPA format as a daily instructional model greatly lowers the affective filter for students on actual test days, because they are so familiar with the format. I use InsertLearning for most of these since I'm 1-to-1 this year and all the kids can get on a computer. We did have one writing mini-assessment, the kids all did well (vive proficiency-oriented instruction and grading!), and I hope that builds their confidence as we continue. I'm so impressed with where they are coming off a 3 month break!
French 3: Pushing into the intermediate range, we have started with describing our academic load, our plan of studies, and what we did during summer vacation. Every starter involves writing about what they HAVE DONE the past few days since the last class (we are on an A/B day schedule). Tomorrow we will wrap that up with some interpersonal speaking and some presentational writing, and then discussing stereotypes about Americans and French. The students in the class came in ranging from Novice Mid through Intermediate Low, so I'm working on getting those kids who are still at NM to level up with lots of scaffolding - for example, I provided a Quizlet set with personal questions and the sentence starters for the responses to get them off to a solid start in their productive skills. This group is excited to be working in the target language - for the most part - and is mature enough to understand that is what it will take to grow. Beginning the year with talking about ourselves is helping to lower the affect level and increase their willingness to take risks with the language.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with the atmospheres we are creating in class, and I am excited to see my students grow over the next months. A suivre...@madamednmichael