Technology Like in the Real World

This past February, I was honoured to be asked to present at ETFO’s Technology Conference for French as a Second Language(FSL). It was a great day of hands-on learning with educators across the province sharing ways in which to engage FSL students in learning the language, using technology, whether in the classroom or online. My presentation was geared towards providing teachers with ideas to support students in moving from consumers of tech to creators. During this session, I shared a variety of ideas that were shared with me over the years and that I found engaging for students. In this post, I’ll share 3 Google Tools that you might be able to incorporate in your FSL Classrooms. 

Jamboard

The Google Jamboard app is a digital whiteboard that offers a rich collaborative experience for students. I’ve used Jamboard for check-ins, brainstorming, listening and drawing activities, and more. One example of a listening and drawing activity comes from Chrystal Hoe who is an educator in the United States. Given their own frame in the Jam, students listen to instructions on how to draw their own monster and use the tools in Jamboard to draw. Through labeling the parts of the body, students are also able to demonstrate understanding of new and familiar vocabulary as well as spelling. When finished, each student has the opportunity to view the work of their peers, revealing that even though the instructions may have been the same, drawings may vary.  

Slides

Google Slides is an online presentation app that lets you create and format presentations and work with others in real-time. With creative templates from Slidesmania and Slides Carnival, the possibilities are endless when creating exciting presentations. During my session, I shared the template for Sylvia Duckworth’s Choose Your Own Adventure Stories. Not only does Sylvia offer an example of a story, but she also gives a template to help writers organize the choices readers can make and how to include them on the correct slide in the Google Slides Template. Sylvia’s layout of the planner is clear and easy to follow. In my morning session, one participant completed their outline and was excited to share their story with the rest of us and the potential to share the activity with her students. 

Drawings

Google Drawings is the ultimate blank canvas. I’ve used it with students to create images, posters, infographics, timelines, and bioglyphs.  Simply put, bioglyphs are a symbolic representation of something in your life. Your collection of bioglyphs tells your life’s story without words. During our session, participants had the opportunity to use Google Drawings to complete their own bioglyph using instructions

Technology is an incredible tool that can be used to increase engagement while learning. These tools can be used in a variety of ways and I hope that this post helped spark some ideas of how you might be able to help students create, using tech.

Report Cards – FSL Comments

To date, I’ve written two posts (here and here) with sample comments for the Learning Skills section of the Ontario report card. Those are arguably the most difficult comments to write, but I’ve also found French language comments to be challenging. I change my style and choices every year, it feels like, so these are by no means perfect, but I thought some of you may like to see some of the comments I use for reporting on French Immersion and Core French. Use bits of these, adapt them, share them – these are here for your reference and to help you out!

 

Program: Middle French Immersion (year 2) – Term: Progress Reports – Profile: Progressing With Difficulty (D-level)

(NAME) is making some progress in the grade 5 Middle French Immersion program, although she requires considerable encouragement to engage with the class during instructional time. With frequent support, she is beginning to speak in French with her teacher and peers. She should strive to make use of in-class supports (e.g., anchor charts, notes, word wall) to assist her with her learning. Continued reading at home (preferably aloud) will help her to develop stronger reading skills.

In subjects where the language of instruction is French, (NAME) consistently needs one-on-one assistance to understand the material being taught and complete her work. Going forward, she would benefit from developing listening strategies to help her understand what is being taught (such as listening for key words, watching the speaker, using visual supports).

 

Program: Middle French Immersion (year 2) – Term: Progress Reports – Profile: Progressing Well (C-level)

(NAME) is progressing well overall in the grade 5 Middle French Immersion program. With one-on-one or small group assistance, he is usually able to demonstrate an understanding of the material discussed in class. He makes good connections between what he is learning in class and his personal experiences. Oral communication is an area of need for (NAME) as he requires frequent support when speaking spontaneously. He would benefit from using a variety of speaking strategies (e.g., hand gestures, visual supports, rephrasing) to communicate his ideas without substituting English words. (NAME)’s writing strategies are developing well, and he makes good use of classroom resources (e.g., Word Reference, anchor charts, notes) to complete his work.

 

Program: Middle French Immersion (year 2) – Term: Progress Reports – Profile: Progressing Well (B-level)

(NAME) is progressing well so far in the Middle French Immersion program. He is beginning to speak with more confidence in rehearsed situations, such as prepared presentations. When speaking, he is usually able to communicate his thoughts and ideas effectively, although he sometimes needs encouragement to persevere in French when the vocabulary is less familiar. He can work on improving his communication skills by using speaking strategies (e.g., using gestures, finding another way to say a word, using anchor charts) to avoid resorting to using English in class.

 

Program: Middle French Immersion (year 3) – Term: Progress Reports – Profile: Progressing Very Well

(NAME) is progressing very well so far in the Middle French Immersion program. She is a highly effective communicator and speaks with confidence in both spontaneous and rehearsed situations. When writing, she is able to use the self-revision checklist (POMMES) to correct any errors in her text. She can work to improve her speaking skills by striving to speak only in French during class time.

 

Program: Middle French Immersion (year 3) – Term: 2 – Profile: Significant difficulty, little progress

(NAME) continues to demonstrate significant difficulty in French-language subjects. She has missed a large amount of French instruction time this term due to late arrivals and absences, which has hindered her development as she has missed many opportunities to practice her French skills in class discussions and group work. (NAME) is reluctant to speak French in class, rarely even using common phrases such as asking to use the washroom, though with encouragement she will sometimes form short sentences when speaking to teachers. She consistently requires one-on-one support to understand lessons. When reading, she shows surface-level understanding of texts at the Grade 6 level when supported by the teacher or her peers. Engaging (NAME) in French subjects has been a challenge this term, as she often needs reminders to stay on task. (NAME) will need to put much more effort into French subjects next year in order to catch up to where she should be. Her immediate focus should be on developing her oral communication skills, particularly speaking.

 

Program: MFI (year 3) – Term: 2 – Profile: B level

(NAME) demonstrates a high degree of comprehension during listening activities and discussions. She is able to follow complex instructions without assistance from her teachers.  When speaking, (NAME) usually communicates her thoughts and ideas clearly. She is developing a good accent and pronounces most familiar words correctly. Overall, she speaks with some ease in spontaneous and rehearsed contexts. Going forward, she would benefit from building her confidence when speaking, which would help to develop her intonation and fluency.  (NAME) is developing good writing skills. She has a wide vocabulary and is able to apply most conventions with success when creating written texts. When given feedback, she is generally able to apply that feedback and make revisions to her writing. When reading, (NAME)’s decoding and comprehension skills consistently meet the grade 6 expectations. She generally identifies the main idea and important details in a text, though at times she requires some encouragement to provide evidence from the text to support her ideas. (NAME)  is encouraged to continue reading French books at her level over the summer to continue developing her reading skills.

 

Program: MFI (year 3) – Term: 2 – Profile: A level (shockingly similar to the B level comment… to show you how I adapt it but don’t overdo workload by completely changing wording)

(NAME) participates actively in all aspects of the French program. She demonstrates a high degree of comprehension during listening activities and discussions. She is able to follow complex instructions without assistance from her teachers.  When speaking, (NAME) nearly always communicates her thoughts and ideas clearly. Her confidence allows her to speak with considerable fluency in both spontaneous and rehearsed contexts. She is developing a good accent when speaking and pronounces most familiar words correctly.  (NAME) is a strong writer. She makes great use of a wide vocabulary and a good understanding of French conventions to create a variety of written texts. When given feedback, she is able to apply that feedback and successfully make revisions to her writing.  Overall, (NAME) is a strong reader in French. When reading independently, her decoding and comprehension skills exceed the grade 6 expectations. She identifies the main idea and important details in texts with ease. (NAME) is encouraged to continue reading French books over the summer to continue developing her reading skills.

 

Program: Core French – Term: 1 – Profile: Strong academics, good engagement

(NAME) participates actively in all aspects of the Core French program. She has strong communication skills and consistently speaks in French during class activities. She has demonstrated leadership in the classroom by helping her peers when she is able to. When writing, (NAME) makes good use of classroom resources (e.g., dictionaries, models, anchor charts) to complete tasks independently. Going forward, she is encouraged to speak in French with her peers during class time to further develop her skills.

 

Program: Core French – Term: 1 – Profile: Good academics overall, solid B-level achievement

(NAME) is an active and enthusiastic participant in Core French activities. She uses many comprehension strategies (e.g., context clues, mots amis) to help her understand what she is hearing and reading. Using models, she can produce a variety of text types with familiar vocabulary and sentence structure. She often tries to use new vocabulary in her writing and enjoys finding new ways to say something. Overall, her oral communication skills are developing well, though she would benefit from making more of an effort to only speak in French during class activities. When speaking spontaneously, she can usually communicate her thoughts and ideas clearly. That said, she has a tendency to switch to English if she is not certain how to say something. For next term, she is encouraged to persevere and try to finish her thoughts in French without reverting to English.

 

Program: Core French – Term: 2 – Profile: Good effort but lower achievement, C/D level

It has been a pleasure to teach (NAME) this year. She is always ready to learn and approaches Core French activities with enthusiasm. She has made some progress with her communication skills in French this year, although she continues to need considerable assistance to complete reading and writing tasks in particular. She is starting to make good use of listening strategies to follow along with lessons and complete tasks using simple French vocabulary. (NAME) typically needs reminders to use classroom resources to help her complete her work, such as word walls and models. For next year, she is encouraged to work toward participating more frequently in class discussions and striving to use what she has learned in the classroom on a more consistent basis.

 

Program: Core French – Term: 2 – Profile: Limited French exposure before this year, good progress, B level

It has been a pleasure to teach (NAME) this year. He is always ready to learn and approaches Core French activities with enthusiasm most of the time. He has learned many useful listening strategies which have helped him tremendously in the class. With some assistance, he is able to understand lessons, follow instructions, and complete tasks using simple French vocabulary. He is learning quickly and puts great effort into using the language skills he has learned on a daily basis. He makes good use of classroom resources such as word walls and dictionaries, although he occasionally needs help finding the correct words to put his ideas into writing. For next year, he is encouraged to work on adding expression to his French reading now that he recognizes most common spelling patterns.

Motivational Mornings

One of the most frustrating parts of my morning used to be the first ten minutes after the bell. My school, like many others, uses an online attendance tracking system which requires  us to log in and complete attendance within the first fifteen minutes of the day. It takes time to check whether all of my students are present as they put away their backpacks and outdoor gear. It also takes time to start up the computer, load the attendance app, and complete the attendance (twice, because we do both morning and afternoon attendance at the same time, don’t ask).

Without direction, my students take advantage of the time to get off-task and chatty right from the beginning of the day. Bell work isn’t ideal either, as it quickly becomes a chore to plan and even more things to mark. It’s difficult to plan meaningful, engaging tasks that my students can do with limited instruction or supervision.

This year, I tried something new: a question of the day written on the whiteboard before they come in, with markers in a variety of colours available for them to use to add their response to the board. The questions vary from simple questions about student preferences to deeper questions about overcoming personal challenges. Sometimes students are asked to write a message to a peer – something to brighten their day, or motivate them, or give them a confidence boost.

At first, only a few students came up to the board and added their responses. It didn’t take more than a day or two for more to start taking part, however, and now the board is usually so full that the last few students have trouble finding space to write their thoughts down. The first week or two, they were determined to find a way to work Fortnite into every answer as a joke, but now they’re more interested in meaningful answers with reflection and real thought.

Sometimes, the morning question has led to a longer discussion about current events, or a frank discussion about challenging topics like mental health, or a silly debate over whether chocolate or candy is better. As an FSL teacher, it’s also a great opportunity to challenge my students to speak spontaneously in French. It’s informal, relaxed, and about personal topics, so I’ve found that even my more reluctant speakers will take part. Overall, it’s been a highly rewarding routine to put in place.

If you’re looking for question ideas to do something like this in your class, check out the hashtag #miss5thswhiteboard on Instagram. She has many wonderful ideas!

Global Read Aloud – Join In!

Over the past few weeks, my class has been participating in the FSL-centric version of the Global Read Aloud, an international event where classes all around the world read the same books and share their learning over social media. Some teachers choose to connect directly with other classes, some simply share their activities online for others to see, but all are engaging with the digital community in some way.

My class has really enjoyed participating in this event. It was entirely teacher led, initiated by Tammy Aiello of Teaching FSL. The official iterations of the GRA are designed for either English programs or French-first-language programs, making it challenging to engage with the event if you teach an FSL program of some kind. Thankfully, there were enough of us interested in working out the details that Tammy was able to coordinate book lists for all ages (based on teacher input!).

If you haven’t participated in the GRA before, I strongly recommend it. While my teaching assignment and personal life meant that I couldn’t delve as deeply into it as I would have liked, even the small taste my students had of engaging with the online world had them eager to do more. More importantly, though, we chose books with deep meaning and strong curriculum connections. For my age range (Junior French Immersion), the books were about Indigenous issues, LGBTQIA issues, infertility, immigration. We had many valuable conversations in the class about history, human rights, and moving forward with a more open mind. These are not easy issues to tackle, by any stretch, but the books served as rich starting points for these topics of incredible importance.

I spoke so animatedly about what my class was doing that another teacher joined in. This gave us the opportunity to share resources and ideas, compare student engagement, and co-plan. We both realized that we really loved the format of diving deep into one picture book a week, as it opened a lot of cross-curricular doors and made for great teaching. It’s changed my teaching for the last six weeks – and may well change my teaching for the rest of the year.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Global Read Aloud, you can check out the website here. If you’re an FSL teacher, our Facebook group is here. The event is officially over for the year, but you can always start it up in your school and go through the book(s) a few weeks late! Otherwise, see you in September 2019!

Welcome Boozhoo ᐊᕆᐅᙵᐃᐹ Bienvenue

front-entrance-v2Welcome Boozhoo  ᐊᕆᐅᙵᐃᐹ  Bienvenue مرحبا بكم  בברכה  欢迎  환영  स्वागत

It’s been over a year since Canada opened its doors and hearts to thousands of Syrian refugees. They, along with countless others from nearly every country, chose to make Canada their new home.

Along with the joy, angst, and tumult of moving must also come stress and bit of culture shock from so many new routines, signs, systems, official languages, and day to day decisions. Each of these are indeed daunting to any new arrival at our border including my own. Here’s my story.

In this post I wanted to parallel some of the memories, experiences, and feelings. Since the PM’s name hasn’t changed, I wondered if there were other things that still mirror the experience of moving to Canada nearly 40 years later. As the expression goes, “plus ça change plus c’est la même chose”. However, this time I’m not the nervous student stepping across the threshold of the unknown and into a new classroom. I am the smiling face that greets them on the other side. Here are three tips that help out in my learning space.

Firstly, remember immigration to Canada is nothing new. This can be a great chance for students to learn more about one another in the context that almost all of us have an arrival story to be discovered. That’s how my ancestors got here in the early 1900s.

Our nation was able to flourish because of the generosity of our its First Nations People, it is our privilege to continue making it greater by making room in our hearts and neighbourhoods for newcomers. This is not different in our classrooms whether it is by providing time to learn about a new arrival’s country, culture, and customs or a little extra ELL support. In doing so, teachers can plant seeds of cultural literacy in the classroom and foster an inclusive environment around everything we have in common.

Secondly, not everyone is equipped or able to embrace each new member to the community, but as a family of learners we can always be respectful, polite, and supportive. Whether it is having students initiate a brief conversation, offer help navigating the halls at school, or an invitation to play at recess – a bit of kindness goes a long way to making someone feel welcome. With a little time and encouragement, educators can turn this into an incredible mentorship opportunity that develops and empowers students into school ambassadors.

Thirdly, have students share classroom norms and expectations, not you. Instead, why not build in time for whole-class inclusion activities and ice breakers when new students arrive? Whether it is a game of OctopusHoedown tag(Chain tag), or Electricity students get to interact with one another through movement instead.

Over the past 4 decades, I have come to love our move back to Canada in 1978. Reflecting on this is what got me thinking about my own quasi-immigrant (repatriation actually) experience that prompted this post in the first place.* The lessons and lenses gained from all of this now guide my instructional practice and ensure that there is room in our hearts, minds, and classroom to welcome and support new citizens to Canada.

*It’s been a while since I’ve hauled these memories out of the vault – my first through the lens of an educator rather than student.