Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What's "Authentic" about tasks in French class?

I've seen many teachers around me struggling to shift their thinking as it relates to having students perform authentic tasks in a second language class.  Most clearly understand that having a student fill in a "Conjugate this verb" worksheet is not authentic, but beyond that, there are many shades of gray. I not an expert, but just an educator interested in supporting this conversation & further refinement by teachers as they find what will work best for their unique groups of learners.

It seems important to start with a look at Higher Order Thinking skills.

What are HOTS ?What are "HOTS"? (as I sometimes see them called in critical literacy, primary-junior circles) You already know what they are! They're the types of activities that ask our students to do deeper thinking.
Consider Bloom's taxomony. (Which, for the record, was revised at some point in the past decade... thanks to my school teacher-librarian & friend for sharing that information with our staff this year, as I think some of us might have assumed nothing changed as the terminology was still kind of the same!)

Think about those skills at the top of the hierarchy... evaluate, analyse, apply. Pay particular attention to APPLY for the FSL classroom.

Bloom's Taxonomy

And now, about that need to have students work on "authentic tasks" together. Authentic means something a learner might actually do, now or in the near future, in the real world, in French. Given the opportunity, of course, through access to francophones with whom they could interact.... but let's just suppose a new francophone family appeared in your anglo community next week.

Some assignments:
Giving students a dialogue so that they can pretend to have a conversation by repeating lines someone else has written for them - NOT authentic. Having students write their own lines for a dialogue, practice them at home and present in front of the class - NOT authentic. Putting on a play - NOT authentic (unless your group of students is specifically composed of future theatre folks!)

How about "tasks"?  We should be avoiding, to a great degree, the types of "tasks" that have sometimes existed in the Core French classroom in the past.  Copying a note. Conjugating a verb. Repeating phrases after the teacher. Finding vocabulary words in a word search.  Even larger projects that we assigned... things like making a promo video, writing a letter, creating a web page, ought to change quite a bit with the new curriculum.  Our students could not accomplish these tasks in French. The reality was, the industrious ones spent a week or more glued to a French-English dictionary trying to accomplish some "project-oriented" goal. The not-so-motivated did nothing, except complaining "this is stupid; French is stupid" (because they FELT stupid when we asked them to do something that was way beyond their comfort zone). And those in between often did bits and pieces in French, but mostly wrote drafts in English... and then used Google translate to come up with final text they could colour and add images to in order to make it their own. How were they supposed to see the educational value in that?

Now you're saying to yourself, "Ok, Mme Aiello, that's a fine bit of judging and nay-saying, but what really do you expect from us? We aren't miracle workers you know!"  My response to your imaginary statement is two things:  I'm not judging... I've been there and done that myself. But I'm also about ongoing learning, for adults as well as kids. The second part: Guess what? We just might be miracle workers. We do have a lot of control over how students view French, with our day to day choices and approach to teaching them!

Miracles crossed out with French Class written above it

Don't give up and fall into the slump of quieting students with worksheets, rote memorization and translation... just don't do it! Keep reaching out to colleagues, try new things together (and on your own when you have to!) and share your success stories! While I'm thinking of it, yes, share your materials too! If you want to open a TPT store, please use my referral link. It costs you absolutely nothing extra (There's a $60 annual fee if you want the best commission rates, but you can get started without paying a single thing, and there's no need to upgrade to a premium account if you prefer to keep it free.)

Here's what I suggest fits the bill, or "hits the mark" since I decide to use a target as my organizer. (Click the image to zoom in for a better look, and do please pin this image to share with others!)

Authentic Action oriented Tasks for French Class; three lists (best fits, so-so, and missing the mark)

In no way am I suggesting that we throw the baby out with the bath water, and that the activities I've indicated have no pedagogical value. Some are great for scaffolding. All I'm saying is let's not stop there, and call that a summative task (assessment of learning). Let's help our students to feel confident and capable in the real world, one step at a time!  I'm ready to take some flack over this... I'm working it out for myself too. So, please feel free to engage in professional dialogue in the Comments section below. Just please remain polite and constructive, to help us all to move forward. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

C'mon in & Celebrate the Holidays with us

A group of fabulous secondary sellers have decided to list our stores, all participating in the TPT site-wide sale December 1 & 2, in one convenient place for you. (We round up around here, to account for the fact that there are still fewer of us than primary stores... so that includes middle school & above.)

 Super Secondary TPT Cyber-Monday Sale

A HUGE thanks to Danielle (Study All Knight) for organizing us & making this great graphic with our store logos!

Up to 28% off the entire site (items marked down 20%
+ use Promo Code TPTCYBER at checkout for an additional 10%)
Monday, December 1st and Tuesday, December 2nd 

Participating Stores:
Teaching FSL
Danielle Knight
James Whitaker
Created by Mr.Hughes
Juggling ELA
Ruth S.
Miss Math Dork
The Creative Classroom
Kate’s Classroom Cafe 
Live Love Math
Darlene Anne 
Michele Luck’s Social Studies
Charlene Tess
Teaching Math By Hart
2 Peas and a Dog
Pamela Kranz
Kristin Lee
The Career Ready Teacher
All Things Algebra
The SuperHERO Teacher
Liz’s Lessons
For the Love of Teaching Math
Secondary Solutions
Teaching High School Math
A Space to Create
The Classroom Sparrow
Science Stuff
Addie Williams 
The Tutor House
Connie Casserly 
Tracee Orman 
FisherReyna Education
Lessons With Coffee 
Karol Steele
Margaret Whisnant

Mad Science Lessons
The Math Post
It's My Business
Room 213
Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bright Ideas "Best of" Round Up

For ten months now, Shelley Gray of Teaching in the Early Years has inspired a couple of hundred teacher-bloggers to share thousands of ad-free posts with great tips to our blog-reading audience once a month. She called this the "Bright Ideas blog hop" and then it became a link up. First, I want to thank Shelley for her organization, her initiative and - in case I haven't mentioned it before - being an awesome person!  We got to spend a little time poolside together last summer and she's so genuine and such a kind, warm person and educator!

This month, we're recapping our Bright Ideas posts in case you didn't get to read them all.

My first Bright Ideas post in April was to share an idea I had following a four-day PD experience through my school board, in which a group of French Immersion & Language teachers focused on building literacy through responding to students' learning needs in the moment.

Here's a possibly-too-frank moment: I initially found co-planning and co-teaching (under short time constraints, without being able to bring any resources with me, not knowing my co-teachers) quite stressful, and this tip was a way for me to cope with that discomfort. Feel free to revisit this by clicking the image from the original post.

For MFL teachers, in May I talked about a web site I'd discovered full of multilingual videos, and how it's connected to social activism in a way. Read more about Viki here.

Forming Literature Circle groups in a different way was my topic for June. Please read about the approach I used last year here.

In July, I told a personal story and encouraged you all to collaborate even more than you do now. It's funny how my PLN has continued to expand since then and I hope yours has as well. You can revisit that by clicking the image here.

August's Bright Idea was about what I use for Bingo chips in my class and some tips about how Bingo can continue to be used in French class. You can check it out below.

My most recent post is perhaps my favourite. It's a tip for using photos to help with field trip organization and gives students who are old enough to explore a bit on their own a little "social accountability". Check September's Bright Idea post out here.

I hope that you've enjoyed the useful tips I've shared in the Bright Ideas link up, and that you have found something that you can try yourself. This month's link up is below for tons more bright ideas from my international teaching friends! 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fall OMLTA Conference 2014

Well, it came and went...quick as lightning. The fall conference put on by the OMLTA each year in a different Ontarian community is just a single day, so it's a great single hit of PD and teaching energy. This year, the conference was in Cambridge, at a beautiful - absolutely stunning, really - historic school called Galt Collegiate Institute.


Somehow, I missed getting my standard issue bag for pamphlets, which turned out to contain a number for door prizes, but I still got to take away a couple of things. The mug was a thank you from the OMLTA for presenting a session. (Thank you, OMLTA organizers for the opportunity & the mug.) The cute canister was a door prize which I won the evening before, at a wine & cheese event at Cambridge city hall. It contained another mug & a spatula, donated by Chef à l'école.  (Thank you, chef Suzanne!)

My presentation was about using older materials that you have in new ways, and I promised attendees would walk away with six strategies to use with whatever their favourite older materials were. I hope I delivered on that!  I was a bit nervous, sharing that this was my first OMLTA presentation, but I think after a few minutes, I was "warmed up" and feeling a little better about how the session was going. If you weren't able to make it, you can still judge for yourself how well I hit my mark by checking out my presentation here.

I'd originally planned to share more take away items (create ones just for the presentation, as well as to share some I've used myself) but a few things led me away from that decision...

1) OMLTA requests to only send them material that abides by copyright (i.e. that we've created ourselves)
2) knowing all of our students have different experiences & needs
3) knowing that various teachers have access to various older materials, and how frustrating it is to find a great idea that you cannot use because you don't have the "right resources"
4) a belief that we really do have a lot more teaching tools at our disposal than we tend to think!

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and there were some great ideas shared by others. The sessions I attended were about Poetry In Voice, using Google Drive & Apps in French (core & immersion - high school), and about basing your entire French program for the year on exploring various authentic tasks linked to an imaginary trip to a francophone destination. I'm positive that I missed just as many fabulous sessions as I attended. Be sure to check out the OMLTA website in early November to access any handouts, files and other information presenters share there. You have to be a member to access it, but I highly recommend that. It's well worth the very small sum annually!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Giving thanks, with a sale

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian teaching friends. Joyeuse Action de Grâce à mes collègues canadiens. 

Some Canadian bloggers were chatting about how truly thankful we are for the opportunity to collaborate that TeachersPayTeachers has given us, and of course, how thankful we are to you, our readers, fans, friends and customers for inspiring us with your words of appreciation and gratitude when something you've found in our stores goes particularly well, helps you out of a challenging situation in the classroom, or just saves you a ton of time that you can then spend with your friends and family...or even recharging with some alone time.

To show our gratitude to you, the wonderful teacher stores you see in the graphic (or in the link up below) will be discounting their materials. You can also click the link to my store in the sidebar --->
If you have a few minutes, check to see if you'd like to clear our any items on your wish list, or peruse new things that might have been added to any of the stores that appeal to you.

Enjoy your long weekend, Canadian teaching families!

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