Showing posts with label French. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French. Show all posts

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Learning Communities Support Oral Communication Skills

With three breakout rooms, soft seating and lots of space to move around, our ground-floor
Learning Community offers plenty of possibilities for both individual and group work.

More and more research has shown that there is an important connection between where we learn and how we learn. Being in a spacious, well-lit room with a comfortable, flexible seating environment supports the development of oral communication skills, which are a vital component of learning a second language.

With three breakout rooms, soft seating and lots of space to move around, our ground-floor Learning Community offers students plenty of possibilities for both individual and group work. French teachers Emily Borden and Heather Maxted recently used every corner of this Learning Community for a Grade 10 French lesson. 

Students had lots of room to spread out and practice for their oral interview.

Working in pairs and small groups, students were practicing for an oral interview that would take place during the following period. With oral practice, the ability to clearly hear what your partner is saying is critical. The size of the room and variety of furnishings encouraged the groups to spread out, giving each the space they needed to practice effectively.

Being in a spacious, well-lit room with comfortable furnishings supports the
development of oral communication skills.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

More Oral Communication in the Flex Classroom

With the new French curriculum, there is a significant  emphasis on the authentic use of oral communication. With the two teachers in the flex classroom, we have been able to provide considerably  more opportunity for teacher observed peer-to-peer conversation and student-teacher conversation.

The flexible space allows for a variety of groupings.  A strategy we have found most effective is to have ‘home groups’ where students start (and often end) each class.  These home groups are given a name according the the theme of the unit in order to build group identity (for example, this unit each group is named after a French invention) so we can boost opportunities for collaboration and meaningful teamwork in the target language. Often a warm-up will include questions that the students need to discuss and explore aloud with their home group. As the class progresses, students can move easily between individual activities, pair-groupings, or small teacher-led groups depending on need and interest.

Learning Through Instant Feedback


Because there are two teachers in the room, we have been able to significantly increase the amount of feedback students receive on their oral communication. We will frequently have students work with a partner to practice a spontaneous dialogue (for example, how to navigate an incorrect order at Starbucks). When students feel they have met the learning goal and are ready, they can present the dialogue to a teacher, receiving instant specific feedback about their task and discuss ‘next steps’ to improve for the assessment of learning.  Since there is always at least one teacher available for individual and small-group feedback, the students learn and grow notably from one class to the next.

Heather Maxted
French Subject Team Leader

Emma Pickard
French Teacher


Thursday, 4 February 2016

Grade 10 French: Reading and Google Forms in the Learn Lab

The learn lab classroom allows
teachers to offer students different
different approaches to understanding
a graphic novel like Persepolis.
As the Grade 10s finish up the second unit, L’enfance et l’adolescence (Childhood and Adolescence), we look at how personalization continues to be offered in the learn lab.

In this unit, students:

  • Interviewed a peer and wrote a biography based on taken notes;
  • Read and reflected on the graphic novel Persepolis;
  • Interacted in small-group literature circles;
  • Spoke in a conversation assessment about their goals, preferred strategies and impressions from the childhood experiences depicted in the novel; and
  • Compared and contrasted how youth in different countries express themselves informally, with their friends and on social media.

Reading an authentic graphic novel is a challenging task, so having two teachers in the learn lab classroom allows us to offer students different approaches to understanding the novel.

  • Some students may prefer a more structured reading environment: where they are coached on specific strategies and discuss with the teacher as they read.
  • Other students may work independently: with a set of guiding questions and a teacher available if they encounter a stumbling block.
  • Still others prefer to read aloud to a peer and create their own summaries and notes.

The flexible nature of the learn lab allows students to move between these methods easily and often (for example, they may prefer teacher guidance on a particularly difficult passage but prefer to read independently on another).  


Thinking About Thinking


Metacognition (thinking about thinking) remains a focus in this course.  Students continue to set specific goals and spend time considering their progress towards each of the overall expectations for the course.  Students can explain in detail what needs to be done in order for them to improve in each strand (reading, writing, listening, speaking).

Students use Google forms to give immediate feedback on their progress, allowing us to focus on areas of particular challenge for each student.  For example, many students identified that although they could listen and understand conversation effectively, they were less confident when hearing new accents in a variety of French media.  Based on this feedback, we could immediately incorporate more authentic media into the upcoming lessons to help the students progress toward their individual goals.

Figure 1

Figure 2


Figures 1 & 2: Google form results showing how well students feel they understand French when spoken by others vs. how well they understand French in media sources allows teachers to instantly adapt for future lessons 

The use of authentic media was also emphasized in the French-teaching workshop attended by both teachers in the previous term.  Here we learned to further integrate the Common European Framework of Reference into our day-to-day teaching. This internationally recognized framework is used to objectively place the students on a language continuum (from A1 - beginner, to C2 - mastery) and helps to identify concrete pathways by which language learners can improve.

Emma Pickard
French Teacher

Heather Maxted
French Subject Team Leader



Friday, 27 November 2015

Grade 10 French: How is our new approach working in the classroom?

Unit 1 - La Rentrée (back to school) has wrapped up in Grade 10 French. Throughout the unit students: 
  • Read about the contrasts and similarities between schooling in France (through various readings for different levels of comprehension) and discussed them in a formal debate, through small-group conversation and one-on-one discussions with teachers;
  • Wrote a personal email to a friend about the start of the school year; and
  • Listened to several types of media (again at different levels) related to schooling and responded and analyzed the learning through oral conversations.
Students worked diligently at using new vocabulary and specific scenario-appropriate grammar when speaking about their involvement in school and their goals for the year, both in French class and at Greenwood in general. 

The final assessment was an Action Task. Students were given the profile of a new student from a French-speaking community in northern Ontario who will be transferring to Greenwood. The class was asked to read a profile about the student and read through the school’s website (online in French) to gather information about this student. They then wrote a welcome email (focus on proper email format) and made a voice recording (using specific grammar and vocabulary) answering questions the new student had about coming to Toronto and Greenwood.

As mentioned in the last post, there is a strong focus on students becoming responsible for their own learning by increasing their metacognitive capacities (the ability to think about thinking). Throughout Unit 1, students monitored progress by setting goals and referring back to those goals frequently. They were asked to make adjustments as necessary by using teacher feedback to improve learning.  In particular, they focused on communicating with peers and classroom teachers using explicit scenario grammar and vocabulary. 

As teachers we have observed that students have become more responsible for their learning and much more aware of their individual capabilities and where they need to go to improve. Unit 1 wrapped up with a written reflection in which students contemplated their progress through the first part of the course followed by an individual conference with classroom teachers to set new objectives for further improvement as we move through Unit 2.

Heather Maxted
French Subject Team Leader

Emma Pickard
French Teacher

Friday, 16 October 2015

Planning for Authentic Experiences in Grade 10 French

With the exciting changes in Ontario’s French as a Second Language curriculum, we engaged in the August Summer Institute week to rework the Grade 10 Core French (FSF2D) course.

The biggest changes in the Core French program are:

  • Decreased emphasis on grammar; and
  • Increased emphasis on authentic oral communication.

There is also a strong focus on students becoming responsible for their own learning by increasing their metacognitive capacities (their ability to "think about thinking"). 

In our classes, we often have a wide range in the amount that students have been exposed to the French language. Some students have been learning French all their lives, while others only started learning the language in Grade 7. We kept this in mind while planning the FSF2D course to allow for choice and variation depending on the learner.

A New Approach to Student Assessments


During the Summer Institute week we spent the majority of the time focusing on student assessments. Each unit will comprise an action-oriented task in which students use the skills gained throughout the unit to read, write, and interact in an authentic manner. The action-oriented approach encompasses not only communication but other important general competencies and skills such as critical thinking and decision making. 

Each task will offer choice and steps for students to complete, so that we, as teachers, will also be able to tailor the assessment to individual student ability levels - pushing those who need it, while supporting those who have more difficulty with French language acquisition.

In our next blog post we will further examine the changes to the French curriculum and the Grade 10 syllabus. We are thrilled to implement this redesigned course that will embrace a more dynamic and rewarding way of learning a second language.

Heather Maxted and Emma Pickard
French Teachers

Friday, 12 December 2014

Using Songs to Enrich Learning and Engage Students

Learning a second language like French is an area of great vulnerability for some students. Trying to keep track of nouns, verbs, adjectives and other elements of a sentence or idea can be overwhelming, even though those concepts are essential. The risk is that a student can feel lost in the details and lose some of their motivation to persevere.

To prevent this potential roadblock, students in Grade 7 and 8 French are enriching their learning and creating a personal connection to the language and culture through song. Songs are not just learning tools for small children; on the contrary, since music plays a major role in the teenage experience, connecting curriculum to music increases student engagement, as well.

Here are some reasons why songs are effective enrichment tools.

Learning songs builds listening skills

When a new song is introduced, students are asked to listen and try to imitate the pronunciation without seeing lyrics. In order to do so, they need to actively listen and try to distinguish the sounds and words they are hearing. This builds practical skills, because real-life encounters with the French language rarely come with a written script.

Learning songs exposes students to culture

Growing up in Canada, almost every child is exposed to a common repertoire of songs that are used and referred to for the rest of their lives. Think of songs like "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." When students are learning French, they are rarely equipped with this background knowledge of culturally common songs. By teaching them simple children's songs, they are learning what it is like to grow up in that culture. It also equips them to interact with French-speaking children should they have the opportunity. Nothing bridges a language gap like being able to sing a song together. Some songs for children that students have learned so far include "L'arbre est dans ses feuilles, "Dansons la capucine" (Grade 7) and "Je m'en vais chasser le lion" (Grade 8)


Students remember songs

Long after a teacher's lessons, handouts and drills are forgotten, the songs they use still stick in students' minds. Songs don't teach grammar explicitly, but they are models of correct sentences and vocabulary in a context that the students are much more likely to remember.

Alyssa LaRoque
French Teacher

Monday, 30 September 2013

Personalizing Grammar Lessons in Grade 10 French

This is the first in our series of posts with examples of personalized learning in action. Greenwood's French Instructional Leader, Heather Maxted, explains how she personalizes her French lessons to help students grasp tough grammar concepts.

On the first day of Grade 10 French, I tell my students that I am very proud of them for pushing themselves to continue pursuing French. The Ontario Curriculum FSF2D – Grade 10 Core French course is very grammar-heavy, and students are expected to identify and use a multitude of grammar concepts orally and in writing, and to have the ability to identify their use in print material.

The most challenging of the grammatical concepts is the use of the passé composé and imparfait (past tenses) together. Often the students who have been in French Immersion or who have had extensive French experience are able to use the imparfait tense along with the passé compose orally with ease; however, when it comes to using these tenses in writing they often struggle.


Personalizing Grammar Acquisition


Because of a wide range of abilities in the classroom, especially with regard to this particular grammatical concept, I have personalized the students’ grammar acquisition in Grade 10 French. I have created several lesson cycles that students will progress through at their own pace, as they are ready.

The way these cycles work is that students are pre-assessed both orally and in writing to gauge their strengths with regard to the two tenses. Some students need to start at the basic question, “What is the passé compose?” while other students are able to jump right to the level where they compare the use of the two tenses, while others are able to move straight to narrating stories using the concepts.

Lesson Cycle Structure


Each lesson cycle will ask students to:
  • Complete an oral and written pre-assessment;
  • Complete guided practice (often with an instructional video or a personal/small group lesson);
  • Complete independent practice; and
  • Complete another assessment to ensure they have learned the material prior to moving onto next steps.

Not all students make it through all of the cycles, and that is completely okay. Some of the cycles push students beyond the course expectations, so I ensure that students complete the cycles that are required for the course. Timing and pacing are personalized so that students never feel rushed or hurried before they completely understand the material. 

Heather Maxted
French Instructional Leader