Teaching Film in the proficiency-based classroom: Belle et Sébastien

When I teach students French through film, I follow my regular World Language teaching rules: make the task accessible, limit the length of video clips, and everything we do prioritizes speaking and leads to discussion. I am going to walk you through how I do this referring to the film Belle et Sébastien. You will find all of my resources in this folder.

I have come to learn that when the language in the dialogue of a film is difficult, I can have students comment on the action and this works particularly well if you chose a film with a lot of action. While students are watching the film, they respond to statements as true or false and they have questions to guide their comprehension. See the handouts for during the film: 1 2 3 4 5

Using only short segments of a movie at a time allows me to use the rest of the class to explain culture, the historical setting of the film or to have the students do activities that help them understand the film. You will see how I did this in the teaching slides that go with the film.

As I said above, everything we do in French class prioritizes speaking and leads to a class discussion. After each segment, students respond to questions in pairs doing a Partner Turn and Talk. Students get many chances to speak each class because they are put into pairs for conversations. And, when doing this work in pairs, they prepare their thoughts for the class discussion that follows.

As a last point, I wanted to share that we studied this film after my students had already done a unit on World War II in their Social Studies class. It felt good to me to be able to reinforce what they had already learned.

It is my hope that through the examples that I have offered you can see some news ideas on how to use film to teach in the Proficiency-Based classroom. Please respond in a comment to tell me what parts of this lesson work for you or what you would include in a lesson on film. It would make me so happy to hear from each person who gets something out of this post.

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Mini-Unit: Coupe du Monde 2018

Would you like to join my students and me for a mini-unit on the World Cup? I am planning to start one day ahead of the first game which is on Thursday, June 14th. This folder has all the resources.

Start with a video to pull the students into the excitement. Here is an ad Fiers d’être bleus for the World Cup. This isn’t about language input, but instead about setting up the big idea for these lessons. Later in the unit keep the excitement going with this Coca-Cola ad.

And, here are the Can Do’s:

  • I can talk about an individual’s country of origin and nationality.
  • I can talk about who is the best athlete and why.
  • I can give details about the 2018 World Cup.
  • I can understand the lyrics of a World Cup song.
  • I can talk about the social responsibility of sports.

Now let’s get started with activities for novice high to intermediate low students. My students will choose one of the teams and work in groups to make a slide with a picture of the team, name of the country and the nationality of the players and highlight a top player, describing him. From the site Livre de Sepienta you will find the following handouts for each team:

  • Présentation pays coupe du monde (1-4)
  • Carte nomenclature équipes foot coupe du monde 2018

Print each of these in color, cut and distribute to groups. And here are some good photos of the teams for students to include in their slides. When students have completed their slides they can present them to the class. This is an opportunity for students to talk about countries and nationalities and top athletes.

At this point you may want to have students practice the names of the countries who participate in the World Cup with this Quizlet Coupe du monde 2018– pays.  Ask students to begin by using the flashcards and then playing Match as homework. Next class students can compete at Quizlet Live. Later in the unit students can do the same with another Quizlet called Coupe du Monde. Before they play, pass out to them the Picture Dictionary Coupe du Monde.

Then, starting on June 15th, the day after the first game, students will fill out the table with scores as games are played and discussed in class. Here is the schedule to print and hang in the room. How many games you discuss depends on how long into June your school goes. We go late!

On the Enseignons.be site I found a good reading called Coupe du monde 2018 that includes two activities. Students will write in names of countries under the heading of the correct continent and will match descriptions of mascots with the pictures. From this reading students have the content to give details about the World Cup. This will be, in my classroom, the opportunity to practice questions and answers with students.

Who are the famous people who will play? Who would you give the best player prize to? I chose a few videos of some of the famous players. Students discuss the one they would choose as the best player and explain why. I used this article as my resource and made this slide show.

While you are viewing the slide show linked above, take note that I have included two activities, Circonlocution and Maître d’. Use these as ten minute warm ups in class to get students speaking. Also to start class, note that I have slides with the latest scores and pictures in Actualités de la Coupe du Monde. Use the scores to discuss and fill out the Tableau Mondial. Use the pictures for partner turn and talk discussions.

The singer Tal has a song for the World Cup called Mondial. Find the video here. And, Black M has made the official video for Senegal. Students are asked to read the lyrics in pairs and watch the video and complete a Song Analysis, from Mercredi Musique. Or, here is an activity to do with Gainde.

For homework during this unit, I have a Google Form Coupe du Monde reading that I made with an infographic from 1jour1actu. And, I found an EdPuzzle made by another teacher, Quels pays participent à la coupe du monde. You may consider assigning either of the Quizlet sets for homework too. I ask students to do the Learn game until they reach 100%.

Our next activity is a competition in teams to solve math word problems about soccer in French. The questions are in this document Défi Foot. Cut out the questions and stack in the middle of the team. They turn one over and start and as they finish each question, they pick a new one and continue. Answers are submitted to the teacher to determine who has the most number right in the quickest amount of time.

And finally I will have the students make a Coupe du Monde Review Game to review vocabulary and I will discuss with the students Inequality and the World Cup. Here is a Slide Presentation (that I edited from Oxfam and translated) which pairs well with readings on soccer players who have acted for change called Foot rebelle— in my class we will read about Drogba and Socrates. In order to talk about what regular citizens like our students can do for change, you may want to talk about Malala and have students do this reading or you can have them view this video.

If you get a chance to go outside with your students, here are some community building games to play outside in the target language. At my school the last few days start to feel more casual as many students go off to camp. These games are a way to enjoy ourselves when we aren’t really doing curriculum any longer:

1. Le Beret Two teams of an equal number of players line up facing each other about ten meters apart. Give each player a number on one team and then repeat the same number to give each player a number on the other team. A ball (the béret) is placed in the middle. The teacher calls out two numbers and the students with those numbers race to grab the béret and run back to their own line without being tagged by the player from the opposite team. If they are tagged they join the other team.

2. Les nations (also known as Spud) Each player decides what country to be. We go around the group with the players sharing what country they are. One person starts with the ball in the center of the bunch. At the beginning of each round, the person with the ball (who is in the center of the bunch) throws the ball upwards to the sky while yelling a country. Everyone disperses and runs in all different directions away from the bunch except for the person who was called. That person catches the ball and then yells “Stop” (in the target language.) When he or she yells this, everyone must freeze. The person with the ball then is allowed to take three giant steps toward any player. He or she throws the ball and tries to hit someone. To dodge, players are allowed to move all parts of their body except they may not move their feet at all. If a player is hit for the first time, he or she loses the right to one of the three steps. The person who was hit becomes the new thrower; otherwise, the thrower who missed loses the right to a step. The next round begins and play continues.

3. Avez-vous vu mon extraterrestre? (A variation on Duck, Duck Goose) Students are seated in a circle sitting down. One player walks along the outside of the circle asking, Have you seen my extraterrestrial? That player describes one of the sitting students by the color of his hair or eyes, clothes, physical or personality characteristics or what he likes. Once the player recognizes that he is being described, he must run after the player who described him until he gets back to his place. If he is tagged, he must sit in the center of the circle.

And you can end the instruction with a Kahoot quiz Coupe du Monde 2018. As for assessment, I like to record students using Voicethread. I don’t know if you will be able to access the one I made here, please let me know if it works. If not, I used the picture below and gave a prompt for the students to record:

“This is a picture of the French goalie saving a goal in the game against Australia. In French, say as much as you can about the World Cup. Consider including:

  • The name of the event, the World Cup, and details you know about it.
  • Who the teams are who are playing. What the nickname is for the French team.
  • What group they are in.
  • Who you see in the photo, i.e. players and a goalie.
  • What they are doing.
  • Invent details you don’t know. The score of the game, who won and who played well.
  • Talk about a famous French player on the team.”

Lloris

I hope you will have fun with your students with this end of the year mini-unit!

Building Relationships between language teachers

Some language teachers are the only one or one of a few in their building. Other language teachers have a department to rely on, but may be in a different place in their professional development than their colleagues. I have a great colleague who I talk to every day and in years past I planned with a colleague on a regular basis. Whatever your situation, we can all benefit from building relationships with other language teachers. I am going to address building relationships outside of your own district by joining your state’s professional development organization, forming a professional learning group and creating an online presence.

I hope you have already joined your state’s professional development organization. In Massachusetts ours is Massachusetts Foreign Language Association and like most of them nationally, we have a newsletter, online site, workshops and annual conference. Over the years of attending the annual conference, I have come to know other language teachers who I have interacted with outside of the conference from time to time.

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Vegetable in the médina in Rabat, Alexndra LeComte

But for me the best thing to happen was that I joined the board of directors last year. Serving on the board, volunteering at the conference and presenting at the conference have put me in touch with dynamic teachers across the state. You can volunteer and present at the annual conference without joining the board yet consider applying to get to know other language teachers and administrators.

It is important to realize that sometimes you need to take the first step to bring people together instead of waiting for others to contact you. Be confident. Even those teachers who in your eyes may be stronger or further on the journey most likely would appreciate joining a professional learning group. My experience was that all I had to do was ask and a group of talented educators was happy to come together once every two months to discuss new strategies, articles, adopting a standards-based grading system and discuss chapters of a useful book. In my group there is a French teacher who presents nationally, a department head and other teachers like me who are still finding their way.

If you are reading this blog, you are seeing me model a strategy that I would advise to other teachers, create an online presence. There is an online community who is out there gathering ideas from blogs. I have only 23 followers. Some of my posts have been read by over three hundred people, but not all. The most popular are the ones that are ready-to-use ideas. I am not bothered that my circle isn’t large as I am continuing to build it. The easiest way to start an online presence is on Twitter. I retweet authentic documents that can be useful in instruction and on occasion take a picture of something my students produced and post it. I also use Twitter to encourage others to read my latest blog posts. I have only two hundred followers, so I use hashtags to widen my audience, like #langchat, #fle and #authres. Online relationships have served me well. I have asked for help on Twitter and received it. I even had a teacher I never met revise my presentation for a conference. There is a Facebook page called Musique Mercredi where I have received new ideas and activities as well as posted some of my own. I may never meet in person any of the members of my online community, but relationships with them have been valuable.

We are social beings and learn great things from others. I encourage you to build relationships with other language teachers.

Picture Talk: how to get students talking through stories

What I am trying to make happen in the proficiency-based classroom is to create opportunities for communication. Some teachers do this talking with students about the basketball game last night or the dance on Friday evening. Unfortunately talking about our students’ lives doesn’t get you through the year and I have realized that I can create communicative contexts through stories found in picture books and cartoons.

TPRS has modeled a way to generate communication around a story. Over the years I have appreciated the “circling” that happens as a story is created, i.e. “Is there a girl or a boy?”, “Oh, a boy. What is his name, Patrick or Julius?” “Ok, Julius. What is he like, serious or funny?” In this way the teacher develops a story with the class. I enjoyed teaching like that, but recently I have adopted authentic stories and put aside TPRS. As much as I loved them, after years of teaching stories written intentionally for language learners I was bored.

When using stories, I create the communicative context through a version of Movie Talk, a TPRS technique that employs circling while playing a video without sound. Lisa Shepard spells this technique out on her blog Madame’s Musings and thanks to her I had a eureka moment. She has some excellent resources with children’s cartoons that I have added to my curriculum. Then, I read online about how some teachers do the same technique with pictures instead of video and have called it Picture Talk. Soon I was taking short cartoons and picture books and doing screenshots of what was happening in the story and introducing vocabulary by talking about the pictures, circling as I asked students to predict what the story would be about.

In the unit I am currently developing on “What do young people do in summer?” I am going to use a video from the television show Les Sisters. The episode is about the younger sister wanting to do everything the older sister does, but I am not going to ask questions about the themes that are presented in the show. Instead I am going to use the show’s setting by having students comment on what is happening when the girls go to a pool. The input they will receive will be the vocabulary I want to include about how students feel about their summer plans.

Here are my steps, following Lisa Shepard’s lead, but making the technique my own:

  • Take screen shots to do a picture talk
  • Show the video
  • Have students match the pictures with sentences describing them
  • Go back to the slides and do a choral retell of the story with the pictures
  • Students watch the video and answer questions on EdPuzzle.
  • Have students do a group retell of the story

For novices, frequently for this technique the input is not the words in the video, but a description of what is happening in the video. For example, with the Les Sisters video it is at the point in the unit “What do young people do in summer?” where I want students to learn words for saying how they feel about their summer plans. So while the video does not have our vocabulary words, in the activity I ask the student how the girl in the video feels using the vocabulary we want to teach.

You will see in my stories resources folder another video and two sets of slides from pictures books. You can access the picture books for free through an educator’s account on Epic Books. This new-to-me technique has created a communicative context where my class makes up silly possibilities of what the story is going to be about. As we predict the story, we communicate and I introduce students to new vocabulary for the unit.

Sitcoms: Making the task accessible

You will find the resources for the post in this folder.

Television is a very compelling medium. Even taken in small doses of less than fifteen minutes, a segment of a sitcom can show us the products, practices and perspectives of a culture. TV shows are a mostly unexploited resource in the World Language Classroom even though fictional stories are central to the ACTFL Can Do’s. I have found clips from Les Sisters, En famille and Parents Mode d’Emploi that can be accessible in a beginning class if the activity is carefully planned.

Les Sisters is a realistic cartoon about two sisters. The elder sister is always getting annoyed by her little sister. Fortunately for me, I was able to find a clip where the action happens in different rooms of the house when I was working on a unit about La maison idéale. I made statements about what happens in the show and the students put them in order, then they retell the story themselves. This activity is accessible because while the dialogue in the show is pretty advanced, my students were instead decoding the accessible langauge in the statements I wrote.

En famille and Parents Mode d’Emploi are sitcoms about the members of a family, much like Parenthood or Black-ish. I decided to use the clips to work on the key language function of describing, so the task would be accessible for Novice and Intermediate Low students. To encourage more complex thinking, I also ask students to explain why the clip is funny. Again, these tasks are accessible because students don’t need to understand all the dialogue in the clip. If they are able to get the gist, then they can rely on beginning language to explain what they see is happening in the clip.

I included with the other resources two extra shows, a reality competition show called Le Meilleur Pâtissier and a version of Parents Mode d’Emploi from Gabon. For Le Meilleur Pâtissier I made an EdPuzzle for the first segment of the show, then we watched another few minutes together and discussed. The show is a lot of fun to watch with students. While watching this episode my students saw how a French pastry chef is very exact in the decoration of a dessert. Another good reality television show for French class is Recerche Appartement ou Maison and though I didn’t share a task for that show with you, you can find one by searching the show’s name in EdPuzzle. What I did share with you are some clips from the African version of Parents Mode d’Emploi that appeared on TV5 Monde. I have included those clips with the student activities also made by TV5 Monde.

I believe your students will find these television clips compelling and they will also find the tasks accessible.

Teaching language through songs: Reacting to the music

Current practice for teaching language using songs seems to be word clouds and cloze activities. A word cloud is a jumble of words and the student circles the words that are heard in the song. This is a solid listening activity as are cloze activities, where the students fill in the missing words in the song lyrics. I have used both strategies to help give my students something to support them as they listen to songs that otherwise might be overwhelming. I also see teachers use a song to give students examples of grammar to then have an indirect lesson on grammar. I am also a fan of this approach where you guide students to examples of the grammar structure, have them deduce the rules then ask them to do a writing assignment that has students using the grammar without implicitly asking for it, perhaps in the form of an Exit ticket.

For me yet a new way of teaching using songs is emerging. As I’ve mentioned on these pages before, TV5 Monde’s Paroles des clips is an excellent source for activities to use with songs in the classroom. Two of my favorite examples are On écrit sur les murs by Kids United and Cette Anée là by M. Pokora. As these are activities that are pushing into new territory, let’s see what we can gather from them. In Cette Année Là, students are asked to react to the song by giving their opinion, which is spot on for the proficiency-based classroom. I decided to adopt this kind of activity and use it for other songs, like Frérot and Le Plus Fort du Monde both by Black M.. I wrote the linked handouts with the help of my colleague Heather Pineault. We still use cloze activities as well and we like to incorporate checklists of what the students see. Another technique we incorporate to use songs to further communication is to have students understand a structure in a song and then make it their own by doing a short writing assignment about something personal to them using the structure. You see an example of that in the activity for Le Plus Fort du Monde where students then write about their own family members.

Activities that ask students to identify words, while a good way to have them focus their listening, don’t give a chance for the same level of communication as activities that ask students to react to the song, give one’s opinion and write about oneself.

Les jeux olympiques

Creative Language Class did a one day training in my district last year and it has changed how we think about Interpretive Activities. Until then I was making Interpretive tasks that asked for students to find words or to mark statements as true or false. Creative Language Class explained, as you can read for yourself in this blog post from Kara Parker, how to include higher order thinking skills by encouraging students to react to what they hear and see in videos. Kara’s idea is that it is real world communication to have students tell someone else about the video or give their opinion about it.

You will see in the slide presentation that I am following the Creative Language Class lead. I show a video and then ask real questions that while they are accessible to beginning language learners, they get students to think and express themselves. At the end of the slide show there is a slide with many athletes on it. The teacher describes an athlete and the students say which one it is. For students who have learned ages, nationalities, sports and physical descriptions, this is a chance for a lot of repetition in communication. Students can then do the guessing game with each other.

My students yesterday got especially excited about the Olympic Games. Students couldn’t wait to talk, so I thought I’d share what we did so that you can introduce some Francophone athletes to your students before the games begin and you could see how I have tried to make our tasks use higher order thinking skills. You will find my materials here.

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