It’s time to dust off this old blog and get some ideas flowing again. When I think about all that has happened since my last blog, it kind of blows my mind. I have a second prototype for my Au Bear app, an app that gets strapped to your child’s favourite stuffed toy that is geared toward creating a foreign language environment you child so they can learn a language naturally yet not be glued to a screen.
My partner @echellew and I embarked on a two-year renovation of our home, and did a lot of the work ourselves. We gutted out house which was built in 1875 and was the barrel makers cottage and added a two-storey addition. We learned a lot throughout the design and building processes and in all of this the idea of feedback was front and centre. I joke that we might have actually rebuild our house twice because of all the mistakes made along the way.
And then the pandemic hit and my role at Program Area Leader of Communications (English and Modern Languages) blew up as we scrambled to make the most of a terrible situation… what I’m called making #lemonade.
I teach French with a focus on interaction and listening skills, which requires students to work together and help one another. Here is how I’m making #lemonade
We start every class with Temps pour jaser (Time to chat) which is a time to share something interesting, ask questions, and as they chat or listen, they are writing words they want to use but yet know. Afterwards, they have time to ask friends for vocab, or look it up. Sometimes this leads to a 7 minute grammar on demand lesson or time to make a quizlet based on the week’s individualized vocabulary.
I have made use of Jamboard and Google Docs for visible thinking and dialogue prep and use FlipGrid regularly to offer asynchronous conversations about student-led themes or authentic situations.
So this is nothing new, however given that I have some remote students who can make class and another who doesn’t always, it proved to be tricky. I have to say that I am very lucky and I have access to an Ipad as well as a laptop and here is how I ensure collaboration and time to chat with a group of remote students.
As a French student, headphones are a natural part of their kit as they have a lot of choice of what they listen to or read. So we create breakout rooms for all students, whether they are in class or remote. Once in the breakout rooms, they connect their headphones which eliminates background noise and allows them to focus in on their group. This is how we do Jamboard and Google Doc work as well and it seems to be going well.
I have connected with my remote students every week to discuss the work (synchronous is a little different than asynchronous) and I ask for feedback on making their experience better. They like PearDeck – particularly the student-paced selection. They feel as though they’re a part of the class, and they love the speaking and listening focus. If students can’t be involved in the lesson, I make a video via Loom to walk them through the week’s work.
Another #lemonade trick with the grammar on demand is having the Ipad signed into the Zoom (The best flow is muted mic on the Ipad, volume turned to lowest setting. Then mic activated at the computer, and volume at a reasonable level. ) I have tried two tricks – first – set the iPad to show the board (this is a student’s role – monitor the chat, make sure the viewing is good, pointing at the person who is speaking), and go through it with a marker and whiteboard. I then take a picture with the Ipad or phone and add it to the Google Slides presentation in real-time. Or I use the Share Whiteboard feature under Screen Share on the Ipad and use the Stylus – students in class can see via the projector and students at home can see the whiteboard.
The feedback on this is positive and according to the class, they don’t have a preference over how it’s shared. They say my stylus notes are messier but legible but that the picture creates something they can go back to. Often they are taking the note by hand in a cahier where they keep their personalized vocab lists.
This was meant to be a way shorter post and something I will continue to work on. “Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.” Blaise Pascal.
How are you making #lemonade while teaching through a pandemic?