Wednesday, June 26, 2013

YouTube's Auto-Captions

This year, while I was showing a short video resource on Confederation with my French Immersion class during a History period, my efforts to expose my students to a variety of different voices (not just mine and each others') was met with a certain... dubiousness.

"What?!? How are we supposed to understand THAT? They talk so fast!"
or in French, as far as they got was "Madame!!?!!  On ne comprend pas!  Peux-tu le passer en anglais?"

Since this was my first year of teaching FI, I really felt that I was doing the right thing, and yet I was seeing them struggle, so the video I had selected was part of a greater plan.  (I'll share that in another blog post... soon, I promise!  Check back if you're teaching Canadian history at the intermediate level for a good, free online resource!)

So, while we were watching displaying YouTube on the projector, a teachable moment occurred in my classroom.  A student called out "turn on the captions"! And my slightly shocked response was "Comment? Comment sais-tu qu'il y en a? Moi, je ne vois rien!"  So this fine young man stood up, walked over to the computer, and turned on Google's auto-captions for us. And a light bulb went on. And I thought "Well look at that!  Isn't technology WONDERFUL?" And then I tried to follow the captions. While some parts of the narration stood out a little more clearly with some vocabulary appearing at the bottom of the screen, other phrasings seemed ...awkward, at best. So I turned the captions back off and returned to my original goal, which was to have them practice listening.

But I tucked my new little nugget of information away for the future. How interesting that my students knew that this feature existed while I had no idea. It made me wonder how long it's been around and for what kind of things these L2 learners have been using it. Since then, I've turned on auto-captions a few times to check it out, but have decided this is NOT a tool I want my students to use.

Here's why. This video is a clip I linked to as a resource for a blended learning financial literacy lesson for elementary Core French.

This is a transcription of the first couple of sentences.

"Coucou les filles! Donc, viens pour faire une vidéo sur mes achats vêtements
et en même temps faire un bon plan pour vous faites...faire économiser quelques sous sous."

(Thanks to Eveline for filling in the one word I couldn't hear properly, along with my misheard "cher"!) Compare this to the auto-captions shown below of the same two sentences.

At about the one minute mark, she says "ceinture" and You-Tube's autocaptions state "femme" instead. Not even the same number of syllables, or similar initial or ending sounds. Hmm. OK, then.  Morale of the story... So I guess I really do need to learn a language if I want to understand it being spoken, right? Can't count on technology just yet to do our thinking for us.

Still not convinced? Check out this fun Spanish example... a Caillou episode, in Spanish, where the words of the theme song are already on the screen highlighted, and then auto captions works its "magic".

As a second language teacher, I'm secretly pleased that this tool is so ineffective! However, the intended usage - for those with auditory challenges - has a long way to go before this YouTube feature can be useful to anyone.

{Read this Scientific American article for further information, if you are interested.}

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Sunday, June 09, 2013

Chanson de dimanche - Volume #5

Something cool and hip this week... it's a groove-inspiring, fun number that the kids are SURE to get stuck in their heads!

logo for Chanson de dimanche, a weekly blog feature at Teaching FSL
Lynda Thalie who sings Dance your pain away (la tête haute ) is of Algerian descent, and I love taking lots of opportunities to show students that French exists outside of:
1) the classroom walls
2) Québec (even though she really is Québecoise) and
3) France.
This song should go over particularly well if you have students of middle eastern or northern African descent in your classes, and for those who love a catchy tune... the phrase "ear worm" comes to mind.

This site has a great biography of the artist, if you or your students are interested in learning more about her. In fact, I love this description of Lynda taken from this page...
image of quote about Lynda Thalie taken from her biography on her official website
There's also a really cool real life connection to be made if there is any chance of your school having a year end overnight trip in the Ottawa area... browse the "Spectacles" page of her web site and you will see that she's playing in Ottawa in June! Or what about students whose families are taking their own vacations around that time?  What a fantastic chance to have a real life franco-cultural experience!

Here is the official video, and here's a karaoke version that shows the lyrics so that students can sing along or just better understand the lyrics as they hear them by focusing on one line at a time - although they WILL find it a little fast-paced, I'm sure.

I also found this clip on Youtube where Lynda introduces her "new single" for a radio station.  It's a great extended listening opportunity!

Je l'aime à cause des rythmes et car c'est amusant! The title is in English, but that's the only line that is, so I feel like it allows an opportunity for the students to connect to the song in their first language.

This week's free downloadable volume of Chanson de dimanche contains:

  1. Full lyrics
  2. Ready to print activity for students to place the lyrics in order (fairly challenging level)
  3. Lexique to use when discussing and studying the song lyrics 
  4. A cloze passage with 13 simple science-related words removed (wind, earth, pain, day, etc..) - I thought this one might be fun as a change of pace in a lower grade French first language class even! This includes an answer key
  5. Four discussion questions to spark some conversation in the classroom about the song, as well as to practice some critical thinking skills.

    If you'd like me to add further teacher notes around this aspect, please let me know... I've listened to the song so many times by now that it's all pretty clear in my head what I would say to my class and how I'd approach these questions, but sometimes telepathy isn't all it's cracked up to be! LOL
Other suggestions: If you are looking for grammar connections, this song contains lots of examples of the futur simple, inpératif, and several verbes réfléchis.  Another thought I had was that it would be great to have students choreograph a dance with a group to show their comprehension of the song, (or maybe just a part of the song) as a cool reading/listening comprehension activity that integrates the arts into your FSL class.

I'm not generally a fan of lyrics peppered with English words... call me stuffy, but I just feel like it cheapens the effect in the classroom and reinforces the "Why should I learn to speak French? Everyone knows that English will one day rule the world" argument that I inevitably hear at LEAST once annually.  What do you think about lyrics that mix languages together? Share your opinion & thoughts in the comments section below.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Chanson de dimanche ... Volume #4

After a couple of weeks of older (but great!) songs, I figured it was time to highlight something current.  We certainly don't want to give kids the impression that "no one sings in French any more". So I took a peek at CKOI's francophone hit list this week for inspiration.  I would encourage you to do the same from time to time. It does take a bit of exploring, as some songs just aren't appropriate, and others you might decide really won't appeal to your students at all.

I settled on Le monde à mes yeux by the Québecois group Kaïn.  It has nice lyrics, with a balance between familiar vocabulary and language structures (for my students) and some new terms. And I like the way it sounds - a pretty song with country-pop-alt tones.  I'm finding that is very important because most of the songs I play for my students they WILL ask to hear again, or they WILL start randomly singing in class.  No joke, they think La Seine from A Monster in Paris's soundtrack is THEIR theme song (and they much prefer the French version to the English, I assume because they heard it several times in French first!)

If the album interests you, visit iTunes and purchase it there. Each song costs just $1.29, or you can buy the whole album for a pretty fair price!
Image of Le Monde à mes yeux by Kain French activities at Teaching FSL

This week's download includes a link to the "video" (just the album cover as the song plays) on YouTube and a Groveshark link so you can use less bandwidth with pretty much the same effect. You'll also find in the document:
  • the full lyrics, along with 3 reflection and discussion questions (which could also be writing prompts if you prefer)
      • identifying and analysing literary devices
      • respond to oral texts and connect to personal experience
      • making inferences
  • A cloze passage version with fairly simple French vocabulary to fill in (great for Core French, grades 7-12)
  • The missing words attractively displayed (to show on a projector while students listen, if desired, or to print out to differentiate the activity for certain learners)
  • A simple listening activity to place six "chunks" of the song in order while listening.
  • A metacognition printable page for students to reflect on which listening strategies worked best for them
To close, here's a great resource for explicitly teaching listening skills in the second language class. It was produced a few years ago by the Ontario Government for educators. Students may need to be familiar with some of these activities, or to refer to anchor charts in the classroom when examining what skills they do know how to successfully use.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Canadian Lit? Mais, oui!

I'm excited to be part of a long-awaited blog hop arranged by Reading with Mrs D. Check out the backstory... she's been trying to put this together for months, and finally we're going ahead although sadly without having certain territories represented.  If you know of a great ... or blooming...educational blogger in one of the missing regions, please leave the URL in the comments below this post so we can check them out and include them in future collaborative projects!

Check out the amazing articles (and free items for you to download!) which span lots of grade levels and disciplines at the bottom of my blog post!

My class is reading the French translation of an Eric Walters novel. Branded, called Au pas, camarade in French is written as a high interest reader for youth.  It's about a high school where the principal announces that uniforms will be introduced at the beginning of the next semester. You can check out a couple of chapters online for free, to see if it's right for your FSL students. One of my boys (whose parent works in the local elementary school) told me that the original English novel is being used in grade 5 there, and that tells you the level of vocabulary and writing. It fits the ability of my grade 8 French Immersion classes quite well.  For some, it's still a bit of a stretch, but much better suited to their proximal zone of development than the last novel we explored together, which was written by a Quebecoise author. Others are finding it quite easy, but not insultingly so.

The author lives in our Ontario school district, and actually used to teach in my board, although I don't know him; we are a large district. He started writing for his own relectant readers in class, and has become really quite prolific!  I don't think he teaches currently. The beauty of Walters having so many books to offer is that if a student enjoys one novel, they are more likely to go on and read others.  In fact, I already let my students know that Ed Spécial and A fond la planche! are also available in French, since a couple of students are already hooked on Walters and asked where they could find more.

It has great curricular tie-ins to industrialization in social studies (history and geography) and economic systems in the current grade 8 geography curriculum.  In fact, this leads me to my freebie for you.  I found an article online (Yes! Authentic text!) about clothing factories in Bangladesh for which I created some questions and we used that as a "minds on" pre-reading activity. Here's the original article, and I have a version for you that I tweaked a little bit to bold some vocabulary terms, to be more easily printable and to remove the date references. This download also includes the questions we used, plus an answer key. My class did it as a shared reading but discussed very little as we were reading the two pages together.  I didn't want to deliberately mislead the students, yet they were already drawing their 
own conclusions, which was what I had hoped!  

What made this novel particularly attractive to me was the opportunity for practice in critical thinking and media literacy as well as social justice and digital citizenship connections. The opening line of the novel, which is also featured on the back cover:
makes for a great introduction, in my opinion. It served as a solid "point de départ" for personal and somewhat passionate discussions in my classroom.

The novel has a twist when the main character discovers that the uniforms were made in a sweatshop and considers whether to protest based on the ethical dilemma this poses for him, rather than just because he finds it "unfair" to introduce a uniform policy in the first place. I love this!  I get so excited over the real life connections that can be made to the factory collapse tragedy about a month ago in Bangladesh, and the subsequent push for ethical labour practices globally, as well as the recent media attention given to some of Abercrombie & Fitch's policies.  

Look for another pre-reading activity an anticipatory set survey which can be used in a variety of ways, not just this novel, in my TPT store for just a dollar. Also, I'll be posting the entire novel unit within the next week if you'd like to give this book a try with your own French class but are a little leery of starting without resources in place.

Here are some links to some other participants. Check out Mrs D's list for the complete set:
Nova Scotia (Mrs D herself)
(There are a lot of us, being the province with the highest population!)
Sara Kerr
Dawn @ Apples, Owls, and Peppermint Mochas
Miss L @ Miss L's Whole Brain Teaching

British Columbia (another popular teacher-blogger home, it seems)

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