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!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Getting Started with Twitter in the FSL Classroom

Recently, I had the privilege of facilitating a workshop for Core French teachers who were eager to start using Twitter in their classes and program.  Here are 7 quick ideas I have discovered thanks to many of my Twitter colleagues around the world:

Celebrate Learning
Tweet your learning activities, learning goals, successes, photos of student work, photos of students (speaking, reading, writing, listening). Show variety in FSL activities among grades. This simple task helps promote FSL at your school and keep parents in the loop.  #onaimeparler   #francaisenaction   #onparlefrancais

Word of the Day / Word of the Week
Share words or phrases in French and English to promote themes covered in class. Introduce common phrases used in everyday conversations, or differences in meaning based on regional contexts.  #motdujour  #motdelasemaine

Student Tweets
Set up a system to allow students to create a tweet about their learning, phrases they learned, new words, etc. You can also allow them create a new hashtag based on current learning activities. Many teachers will have a pre-cut strips of paper and a drop box for students to submit suggestions for tweets or hashtags.   #studenttweet   #hashtagdelasemaine

Chat with other Classes
Find other FSL classrooms around the world to routinely send tweet questions and answers to each other.  This is ideal for la compréhension et production écrite, as well as intercultural understanding.     #toutlemondeenparle

Follow Francophone News and Events
Follow and read tweets from French news services, celebrities, Olympians, authors, government agencies, etc. This is good for developing the “big picture” reading strategy, as well as bilingualism in Canada and around the world.  If they respond to tweets, it’s a bonus!

Book Recommendations
Tweet out a book cover and student voice about characters and contents. J’aime ce livre parce que….  Include the Twitter handle of the authors if possible.   #onaimelire

Promote at-home Learning
Tweet links for you students and parents of videos, games, article and other websites which provide at-home opportunities to hear, read and use French.  Add a question to engage students to follow-up with you at school about the sites they visited.  #jeparlefrancais 

A final note for French teachers - use the hashtag #fslchat to share and find great ideas about teaching French! It is a wonderful online professional network!