Friday, 26 August 2016

Instant Feedback for Students- Using Google Forms, Google Sheet and FormMule

Howdy mes amis!

I have been asked by a couple of teachers to share how I provide instant feedback to my students.  Its actually pretty easy with the right tools.  My school uses Google Apps for Education, but even if your school doesn't you can still use these Google applications to send results to your students instantly!

Because I find videos easier to follow when I'm learning something new, I recorded a short (under 5 mins!) screencast showing step-by-step how I install and set-up FormMule to send students results to them.

In this video I will be sending quiz results, but in the past I used it to send results of major projects and other assignments.  Its a handy tool to have in your kit.  I hope you find this video helpful!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

CEFR Practice Centres

I use the CEFR to guide my teaching practice, quite a bit.  And even though many of the elements included in the CEFR are practiced through my own lessons, sometimes students need some extra time to fine tune their confidence and abilities in these skills.  Most of my student fall into the level A1 category, a beginner speaker who needs highly structured interactions with a fair bit of support.

Some of my grade 8s are approaching a level A2, still a beginner, but with a little more skill and confidence to converse in French, still with some support and preparation.

In order to give them a little more independent practice, I created some practice centres using the amazing and free resource found here.  This document was created for FSL teachers in Ontario, when we were just beginning to use the CEFR to guide our practice in earnest.  Not only is the explanation of how and why using the CEFR is a great idea, there are resources for level A1 included in the doc.

I took the resource, and printed it out in color, and then created practice centres by separating the activities and housing them in page protectors in a box, so students can grab an activity and go somewhere to work on them.

Above is an example of a reading practice activity.  Students take the cards out of the bag and have to match them to a headline.  To assess this skill, I cut up a real French newspaper and magazine, and the students had to match the headline to the photo.   To make the centre, I printed out the descriptors from the online package, printed the graphics from the package, and I made a quick cover for the centre to show students the expectations of the activity.  I made the covers to help students choose centres at their level.  

Most of the activities are meant to be done in partners with and interviewer and an interviewee, so students got a chance to be both roles, but there are a few that can be done individually.

For the partner activities I created peer evaluation sheets, so that students could give constructive feedback to their partners.  Students kept that feedback to give to me when assessing them, and I could see if they used the feedback to improve.  It was a great tool.

For the writing activities, I laminated some postcards and greeting cards I bought that were in French.  Students then wrote their notes in wet erase marker, documented their writing in a photo and sent it to me and their partner for feedback.  Then they erased their card, and it was ready for another student.

The students enjoyed the activities, and got some good practice doing them!  I will be using them again this year!  (If you are interested in any of the handouts I created for this activity, contact me and I can post them. )

How are other ways you use the CEFR to guide your teaching practice?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Guided Inquiry Project: Using Music to Learn French- Part 3 (Sharing and Assessing)

For part 1- Provocation and Criteria,  click here.  
For part 2- Research and Writing, click here. 

For the last part of this blog-series, I will review how the students shared the information they found and how I assessed their projects.  As a bonus, I will include how I provided instant feedback by completing my assessments on an iPad, and then emailed the results to my students.  A major component of the inquiry process is the sharing and communication of the research, as well as any conclusions and further questions.  

To share the students research and work, we had a French Music Expo in our class.  The students were responsible for completing a presentation about their song, and they presented to the FSL students in our school.  

We are a dual track school, so we have French Immersion and Core French students that were happy to come and visit our expo.  I invited the other French teachers to bring their classes when they could accommodate a visit.  For sign-up, I used a Google Doc and table, and had a class sign-up for each block (so that the room would not be too crowded.)  Then throughout the day, each of my classes presented to another class.

I created a form for student visitors to complete:

Students presented and answered questions.  it was great to see the FI students and the Core students interacting in French.  My Core students were nervous about speaking with the FI classes, but they did a great job.  

Assessment- My assessment of this project was 2-fold; one mark for speaking, and one mark for writing.  The rubric the students got at the start of the project was this to guide their written component:

So this was the rubric I used when marking their written copies.  I marked them as the students finished them, the old-fashioned way with a rubric and a pen.

For the oral communication component, I marked the assignments as the expo occurred.  I took my OC rubric, I use the same ones depending on what part of the CEFR I'm focus on, and created a Google form to use as I walked around.  That was I could assess projects on my iPad.

All the components of the rubrics were typed out in the Google Form so all I had to do was check one for each focus.  In the form I added a section for the student's email so that the results would be emailed to the student as I submitted the results to my spreadsheet.

I added a script to my Google Sheet in order to have the students marks email directly to their email addresses.  You can see that my emails have been sent according to my spreadsheet.

There are many add-ons that you can use to do this.  I used Form-emailer which is not available as an add on (directly) anymore.  There are some other straight-forward mail merge programs for sheets though, and some great tutorial videos to guide you!  One great program is Autocrat- available as an add-on.  To add an add-on, click on "Add-ons" in the top menu, and you will get a screen like this:

Browse through and find which add-on will work for you.  Autocrat is the most popular with teachers, and has the most support.  Here's a great tutorial from Amy Mayer to show you how to use the Autocrat Add-on:

(If you want me to do a video on adding scripts to Google Docs, and using FormEmailer and Google sheets, let me know in the comments, and I will create a video tutorial.)  

Not only do I have a handy spreadsheet for my grades, but the feedback has been handed back promptly.  My students were able to look at my feedback on their phones.  On their end, their feedback looked like this:

Students get all my notes and their grade as a fraction, as well as a message for their next steps.  My students did appreciate getting their feedback right away.  I like that they get the feedback while their work is fresh in their minds.  


So there it is- Our latest Inquiry project from start to finish.  I'm sure that there are parts of these posts that may be unclear- or that I have overlooked, so please feel free to ask questions in the comments!  Hopefully I was able to demystify the process of this type of learning in FSL class.  

If you are interested in seeing a shorter Inquiry activity in FSL, click here.  Want the basics? Click here.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Guided Inquiry Project: Using Music to Learn French- Part 2 (Research and Writing)

Bienvenue to part 2 of my mini-series on Guided Inquiry for FSL- this project was focused on music. I wanted to write these posts to show how I developed and lead an inquiry exercise in FSL class.  After I spoke at the Spring OMLTA conference about inquiry in FSL classes, and the concerns that many teachers have, I got a few questions about how I lead inquiry for students in their second language.  So I thought that posting exactly how I use inquiry would be useful to teachers who are interested in learning more, and wanted to peek as to how I have done them.

Before I taught French, I laugh enrichment for grade 4 students in 2010, and we completed a term-long inquiry for geography, language and math about creating an environmentally friendly community that resulted in creating a green roof at our school in downtown Toronto.  That was the first inquiry-based learning I lead.  Disclaimer: I do like this approach.  I think that project-based learning is a great strategy or method to get kids making connections and thinking different ways; its not the only thing we can do in FSL class but it is useful to get kids invested in their own language learning.


Alright, onto part 2- how to get the students to research and write in the target language during their inquiry.  I will outline some strategies for getting the student to research in French, manage the class, and guide students writing in preparation for the sharing stage of the inquiry.

After developing the criteria with the class, students break off and work on their own to research different songs.  They choose the songs on which they want to focus based on taste, the criteria and their abilities.  There is differentiation built into this activity, because students choose what they can handle in terms of comprehension.  As this is a guided inquiry, students are guided in where they look for their music.

For this, I had to do a little leg-work before my students took over.  I did an internet search for blog posts that suggested music and songs for helping people learn French.  There are many posts about using music; all the posts I found said that pop music was a great strategy for language learning.  What was not the same in each post, was which songs were the best for FSL learning.  Every blog post I found had a different list of songs and strategies.  This was great for purposes of our inquiry-- we were looking for the best song.  To help the students start their search, I printed lists of URLs and QR codes for students to search and read some blog posts, and listen to examples of songs.

Students were also able to visit my YouTube channel, where I have playlists of French music videos that we have listened to in class, or that I had found online.  Students also could look at my Twitter (available on my class blog) where I retweeted a new song everyday from Tweeter Étudier le français.

In a guided inquiry, the teacher should provide guidance in the focus of the study, as well as the resources used for study.  This is especially important in FSL as students are expected to research in French.  For this project, students looked at both English and French sources, but all the songs they listened to were French.  Some of the sites that students explored were:

Once students found a song that they wanted to focus on, they signed up for the song using a Google form.  Then all the song choices were organized onto a neat spreadsheet for me to refer to.

For students to organize their research, they were given a project booklet to guide their research and writing.  (Click the link for the document.) Here are the guiding questions students followed:

Students used this page to focus their writing in French.  Since they were going to share their information in conversation, they were not expected to write too much,  just a short presentation to give a little information to their audience, after which they would answer questions.


My next blog post in this series will look at how the students shared the information they wrote about their songs, as well as how I assessed their reports and presentations.  If you would like to find all the documents that I created for this activity,  click here.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Guided Inquiry Project: Using Music to learn French- Part 1 (Provocation and Criteria)

I have probably said before that I use a lot of pop music in my FSL classes.  Because I do.  We have "mercredi musicale" once a week where we watch a music video in French and complete a short warm-u activity connected to that song.

So when I came across this blog post on FluentU:

I thought it would be a neat thing to try out in class.  This blog post has some great ideas on how to use French pop music as a learning tool for language studies.  

This blog post breaks down a simple method for incorporating music into you language study:
  1. Choose this right kind of songs.  The author notes that he likes rap-- but that French rap was not the best choice for learning.  The rhymes were to fast, which made listening for understanding difficult.  He notes listening to a song, and if you can't make out any words, that song is too difficult for you.  For my students, I made it even easier to choose songs- I adapted a reading strategy from when I taught grade 4; students listen to a verse and a chorus and if there was more than 10 words that they didn't know or recognize that song was too difficult to use as a learning tool.
  2. The blog post outlines a few methods for using music as a learning tool.  The most important method according to the blog post is repetition is the key for successful learning using music.  
  3. Last, the blog post recommends that you like the songs you choose!  If you have to listen to the songs over and over, it shouldn't be a chore.  
The post also includes a list of 7 songs that helped the author with his French along with an explanation as to why these songs were helpful.

I thought that this was a cool idea, so as a class we read this blog post without the song suggestions.  As a class we talked about why pop music would be a great learning tool for FSL students.  Students created graffiti charts with reasons why music could help one learn a language.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that activity-- but the students came up with some great reasons:
  • Good for listening for comprehension skills
  • Can learn slang to sound more like a natural speaker
  • learn about the French culture through the videos
  • Fun
  • more likely to listen to it over and over
  • tunes and words get stuck in your head
Because this blog post generated some great discussion, I thought it would be a neat inquiry project.  And that's how inquiry projects are born!  This activity was like a provocation-- it got the students thinking about music as more than solely an entertainment medium, and more as a piece of culture, and learning tool.  

The next step was to have the students think about our question:  Quelle est la meilleure chanson d'apprendre le français?  

This question is broad and unanswerable on purpose.  Students have to think of criteria of what makes a song useful for learning about another language; they have choose a song based on that criteria; and then they have to defend their choice of song.  Having to create, follow and defend criteria is HOT skills, and therefore an inquiry project.  

Our first class activity was to create the criteria on which we would base our choices.

We had a brain-storming session as a class, and the students copied notes into their own books as we discussed the criteria.  Students used a lot of circumlocution to come up with their ideas, but in the end, they were happy with the list of criteria we created.  For a copy of this worksheet (.doc) click here. 

This criteria gave students a framework from which to find a song that would be a good tool for FSL students.  The criteria also gave the students somewhere from which to create a defence for their choice.

 To be continued in part 2!


My next blog post in this series will look at how the students researched and found their songs, as well as how they recorded the information they found, and how they created their reports and presentations.  If you would like to find all the documents that I created for this activity,  click here.

Inquiry Activity: French Pop Music and French Language Learning

Phew!  What a term!  I know that it has been a long time between my blog posts, but I have been working on a HUGE project with my students that has taken a couple months- but it was worth it!

So I am breaking up my post on these projects into 3 parts: a blog mini-series of sort.  I'm going to go through the steps of our pop music inquiry project starting with the provocation activity in part one; the development and complete of the project in part 2; and the sharing of the work in part 3.

I will make sure to share any documents that I made and used to complete the inquiry project.  If you use them, please let me know, I love feedback!

Monday, 14 March 2016

Listening Activity: Lyrics Sort (Où vont les paroles?)

Our focus in class lately is "Pop Culture;" that is we have been talking about and looking at movies, music and culture (dance, art, etc.)  It has been very interesting and engaging for the students!  They have been able to talk about their preferences and opinions in French!  One thing that I noticed we were not doing as often was dedicated, and explicit listening activities.  Music is a great tool with which to do dedicated listening activities!

To continue our look (or listen) to "Soulman" by Ben L'Oncle Soul, I have my students complete 2 listening activities "Comment va la chanson?"
To prepare this activity, you will need to print out the lyrics of the song and cut each line into a strip, and mix them up.  You will need strips with lyrics for each group or student

1.  Give the students the strips, and have them read them in groups.  Before playing the song, have them predict how the song will go by placing the strips in certain order.  (I take a picture of the order for comparison later in the activity.

2. Play the song.  Have the student rearrange the strips as the song plays.

3. Compare their prediction to their ordering after they heard the song.  How did it change? (Sometimes I ask the students to try and sing their version of the song.  It gets pretty funny.)

To make this activity a little shorter (for time), I gave each group one verse or the bridge or chorus.  Students had to arrange the lyrics, and then tell me which part in the song it was.  The students were pretty good at listening and arranging the lyrics.  Some of the students arranged them, asked to hear the song a second time, and sang along to make sure it was write.  After students had the lyrics in order, they started trying to figure out the meaning of the lyrics they had while they waited for other groups.

It was a fantastic activity.  We have been working on this song for 3 classes now, and we haven't even started the culture part!  I'm looking forward to what they find out about the singer in our next lesson.

How do you use music in your class?  Want some more ideas for using music in FSL?  I have a post on using pop music in FSL right this way.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Using Pop Music to Teach French Culture: Introducing Active Listening

One topic that I notice FSL teachers sometime struggle with is ow to teach culture to their students.  This is one topic that I have challenges with-- because I want to make the subject engaging, but teenagers (I teach intermediates) are rarely interested in a history or culture lesson in French.

One way that I work around that is to teach culture through a format that is understood across all cultures, and that's the idea of music. Music is called the "international" language because all cultures have some form of music.  I especially love teaching FSL student about culture through music because I can look at several different cultures (and countries) that make up the Francophone world, and this opens itself to explorations and discussions about diversity.

In order to use music to teach both FSL Language and Culture, I focus on a set of skills to make sure that my students get the most out of the activities and work we do.  The first skill I teach is that of "Active Listening."  Often when we listen to something or someone, it is a passive activity-- we are doing or concentrating on something else.  For my generation (I was born at the very start of the millennial generation in the 80s), listening as a main activity is not something we have had to do.  We have always had the technology to add visual stimuli to whatever we were listening to.  We have always had TV, movies, computers, video games.  More, we grew up in a fast-paced, high- stressed, over-stimulated environment by having access to the technology.  So for kids who like me had and have an overabundance of stimulus in our world, focusing on one thing is considered "boring," or in actually, very challenging for us.  We need practice and training in this skill-- and using music in FSL is a great way to ensure that students focus on the language of the song-- as well as learn about the culture that the song exists in.

When we start looking at "l'ecoute actif" in class, I often give the students instructions for how to sit and act during a listening activity.  I instruct students to sit in their chairs with both feet flat on the ground in front of them.  I explain that this position is natural and comfortable, and will help them to breathe slowly and fully-- which is essential to making sure you don't fidget and move around-- because then the focus comes off listening and onto moving or someone else moving.

After they are sitting comfortably, I ask them to put their hands on their desk, or in their lap.  Last, I ask them to close their eyes-- We grasp for visuals as young people, and have eyes closed takes away that temptation to look around.

Most importantly, I let the students know that this is a challenging skill to learn.  Our culture here in the "West" does not necessarily value listening in this way, so its something that we have to concentrate on and relearn. During this conversation, on of my students who had gone to school in Beijing, noted that when they had to listen to anything, they were taught to listen in this style-- which was really cool for my students to hear!

Then we listen to the text-- in this case it was "Soulman" by Ben L'Oncle Soul.  They could only listen, no lyrics of video to support their listening this time.  It was interesting to see the challenges some of the students had, and it was interesting to see how well some students could focus their listening.  We listened to the song twice, once "passively" and once "actively" and several students noticed that they could pick out more words than when they were listening to music in the background.

Our next step was to think about what hinders our comprehension of a song in French.  To focus our thinking and conversation.  For this activity I used the "Cadrans de dificultés" from the Curriculum.Org website, which is from the new(ish) document "Listening to Learn."  I linked the short PDF above, because its a really good read with some great ideas!  The handout I made for my students was based on an example from the document.
Students listen to a aural text, and rate the difficulty according to vocal, complexity, pace, accent, point and supports in place.  Then, in the box to the right of the rating, they list strategies to help overcome those challenges.

I love this activity because it has the students listen for understanding, but has them problem solve strategies and potential solutions if the are challenged.  I guided the class as we looked at the first column of the page.  This was a very helpful activity!  It made the students' thinking about strategies explicit, and helped me to see if they knew which strategies to use, and when.

Overall, I think that this was an extremely useful lesson for my students.  Even though they complained about the song at first (as teenagers do), it was the first song they asked to listen to on our musique mercredi.