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I feel a little bit like my Cohort21 experience is just me fangirling over @jbairos. I sat down to tackle my 2nd F2F session homework today feeling pretty frustrated with my question from last session. I felt disappointed that my Action Plan Question Placemat had not resulted in suggestions that sparked ideas or joy and, additionally, my grade 8 classes since the F2F have been a hard slog. Even lessons that I thought were interesting were met with tepid engagement and only about 1/3 class active participation. I've started wondering if motivation is a greater challenge than having diverse learning levels. Feeling, frankly, a little threadbare, I turned to other Cohort21 blogs to shore me up. I enjoyed @sthompson's thoughts about Harkness discussions and 

One link led me to Marianna Pascal's Tedtalk "Learning a language? Speak it like you're playing a video game", where she asks, if we should be teaching French like it is "a tool to play with."  Pascal speaks about the different ways that language learners approach decoding a foreign language. Option 1 is the person who is so focused on doing it correctly that they are afraid to take the risk of "just going for it" and possibly getting it wrong. Option 2 is the person who dives in, embracing their level, no matter what it is, and focusing on communicating meaning above all else.  It would take a very self-aware student to identify this attitude in themselves, but it is so easy to see as the teacher. This feeling of inadequacy translates into French being "too hard" and "making no sense," not because either of these are true, but because students do not feel like they can communicate in a way that feels comfortable to them. When my students come to me in grade 8, they have already had years of feeling like they either get French or don't get French. Often, the only students who contribute to class discussions are those who have had some French immersion exposure or tutoring or those few who genuinely love the language and have that inner confidence. How can I help my students to transform their "can't do" attitude into a willingness to just "give it a shot"?  

My new (for now!) question: How might we help students to develop a growth mindset, particularly in regards to risk taking in the FSL classroom?

December Goals:

  • Are students more willing to take risks when they have a partner in crime? Introduce gr 8 advertising project with choice: individual or partner. *update, they were thrilled to have the choice and most selected working with a partner
  • Explain my project to my students and collect feedback (While my grade 8s are my biggest challenge my grade 10s are the most supportive and so I tried it on them first. While they agreed with me that it was hard to take risks and they felt it held them back. Like Esther Lee mentioned, they struggled to identify ways to remedy the situation.)

January Goals:

  • Create list of pairings for students with similar abilities (students have expressed concerns that it is intimidating to speak to those at a much higher level than their own).
  • Do some more research to prepare for next F2F: Read  Risk Taking and Language Learning Article  and Carol Dweck's Mindset
  • Start list of ideas: classroom posters, "I'm stuck, what now?" ideas, activities, etc.

1 Comment

I feel a little bit like my Cohort21 experience is just me fangirling over @jbairos. I sat down to tackle my 2nd F2F session homework today feeling pretty frustrated with my question from last session. I felt disappointed that my Action Plan Question Placemat had not resulted in suggestions that sparked ideas or joy and, additionally, my grade 8 classes since the F2F have been a hard slog. Even lessons that I thought were interesting were met with tepid engagement and only about 1/3 class active participation. I've started wondering if motivation is a greater challenge than having diverse learning levels. Feeling, frankly, a little threadbare, I turned to other Cohort21 blogs to shore me up. I enjoyed @sthompson's thoughts about Harkness discussions and @apetrolito's musings on the need to integrate his native and second language learners in the same class. But the blog that always has me coming back for inspiration is Jenn's. This time, I figured I'd take a look at her action plan. A super blogger, her action plan was full of links and so, stalling on starting this blog, I decided to check them ALL out.

One link led me to Marianna Pascal's Tedtalk "Learning a language? Speak it like you're playing a video game", where she asks, if we should be teaching French like it is "a tool to play with." Pascal speaks about the different ways that language learners approach decoding a foreign language. Option 1 is the person who is so focused on doing it correctly that they are afraid to take the risk of "just going for it" and possibly getting it wrong. Option 2 is the person who dives in, embracing their level, no matter what it is, and focusing on communicating meaning above all else.  It would take a very self-aware student to identify this attitude in themselves, but it is so easy to see as the teacher. This feeling of inadequacy translates into French being "too hard" and "making no sense," not because either of these are true, but because students do not feel like they can communicate in a way that feels comfortable to them. When my students come to me in grade 8, they have already had years of feeling like they either get French or don't get French. Often, the only students who contribute to class discussions are those who have had some French immersion exposure or tutoring or those few who genuinely love the language and have that inner confidence. How can I help my students to transform their "can't do" attitude into a willingness to just "give it a shot"?

My new (for now!) question:

How might we help students to develop a growth mindset, particularly in regards to risk taking in the FSL classroom?

Action Plan

December Goals:

  • Are students more willing to take risks when they have a partner in crime? Introduce gr 8 advertising project with choice: individual or partner. Update: almost all were excited to work with a partner
  • Explain my project to my students and collect feedback (While my grade 8s are my biggest challenge my grade 10s are the most supportive and so I tried it on them first. While they agreed with me that it was hard to take risks and they felt it held them back. Like @elee  mentioned, they struggled to identify ways to remedy the situation.)

January Goals:

  • Create list of pairings for students with similar abilities (students have expressed concerns that it is intimidating to speak to those at a much higher level than their own).
  • Do some more research to prepare for next F2F: Read  Risk Taking and Language Learning Article  and Carol Dweck's Mindset
  • Start list of ideas: classroom posters, "I'm stuck, what now?" ideas, activities, etc.

4 Comments

We start in on a new activity, I say "stand up and form a circle" waving my arms like a mime and no-one moves. Or we are talking about a reading and I am asking for some input about their understanding, but I stand before my board thinking "Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?"  Sometimes I feel like I am talking to a wall.

When I speak to my 3 year old in French, she responds: she nods her head, asks follow up questions, puts her shoes on, etc.. With each interaction, I am reasonably certain of her understanding.  When I speak to my classes, some students behave like my daughter: they nod and make eye contact, turn to their partner and discuss the conversation prompt, etc.. Let's call them group A. Many of my students, however, do not show signs of understanding. About a quarter of them, aren't even looking in my direction. They are daydreaming, doodling, trying to fly a paper airplane … you get the picture. Let's call them group B. Another quarter are giving the appearance of listening, turned towards me and hands free of distractions, but they do not move to start the conversation with their partner or open their book as instructed. Let's call them group C. The numbers vary in every class and with every activity, but I think the problem is the same. Group A understands the instructions and implements them. Group B and C do not.

In every class, across all subjects, I think it's safe to say that there are learners who are bored or disengaged. Who among us can say they have never been disengaged during a PD session or meeting? But I don't think boredom alone can account for my inability to connect with a greater percentage of my students. So what is the explanation?

My hypothesis is that some students in Group B and C feel overwhelmed by the speed of delivery and complexity of the message in a foreign language. But I also think that some of Group B are also a bit bored because they easily understand what I am saying and don't feel the need to pay attention fully.  So this leads me to my first question:

How do I engage learners at different proficiency levels?

I don't think this tells the full story, however, because when I speak with students 1-1, I often feel far more confident in their level of understanding. They pay attention and I speak to them about more concrete parts of what they are working on. I also frequently give them instructions one at a time and wait until they have responded to the prompt before moving on.

How do I replicate/scale up the level of engagement and comprehension that I achieve with students 1-1?

As I move into interviewing my students, I'd really appreciate any suggestions you may have as to how to phrase questions in a way that will get me some useful answers. I've used the ones on the placemat, but student answers tend to be surface level ("I felt excited/engaged during Bingo") thinking back to whatever most recent game we played.

 

 

P.S. I've been dabbling with something called  Comprehensive Input (tldr: mostly understandable texts, videos, listening activities with a lot of repetition at a level only slightly above the student's level). Doing some planning, I came across this quote and it really resonated with me, "Many times, when students seem disengaged, and when we feel the need to hurtle on to a new activity, it is because our pace is too fast, or because we are not using enough visual support, and the language is not comprehensible to the students." (ANATTY p74)

1 Comment

How wonderful it was to finally meet all my fellow educators in this year's Cohort21. The best part of the day was hearing about your journey's and the challenges you face. I was awestruck by the amount of experience we were bringing to the table as a group and the very obvious love of learning in that room was invigorating.

Starting to talk about the issues I wanted to address felt more daunting however. Whenever I reflect on my teaching practice, I feel slightly overcome by the sheer number of issues I want to address.

  • I want to be more focused on skills development and less on grammar.
  • I want students to be able to speak more confidently and more fluently.
  • I want my classes to be more student-centred
  • I want more differentation (I typically have very weak and very strong)
  • I want more diversity in my resources
  • I want to do more active lessons, hands-on-activities, outdoor education lessons…
  • I want..

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. The end of the day on our first F2F felt a bit overwhelming because I started to experience "tornado reflection". There are just so many things that I think I could improve for my students and ways that French class could be EVEN MORE AWESOME! I am grateful to coach @jbairos who listened to my string of consciousness brain dump and helped calm the winds a little.

Looking forward to seeing you again in a few weeks!

8 Comments

c21_logo_mediumWelcome to you Cohort 21 Blog. This journal is an integral part of your Cohort 21 experience. Here you will reflect, share , collaborate  and converse as you move through the C21 Action Plan process. 

This is your first post and an opportunity to share a little bit about yourself as a learner and leader. Please respond the to the following prompts below:

1) Reflect on your own personal learning journey and K-12 education. Identify one learning experience that you can point to as having made a significant impact on some element of your own growth and development. It could be that teacher and subject that really sparked significant growth or a trip that opened your eyes to a whole new world or way of thinking or a non-catastrophic failure that you learned so much from.  Briefly describe the learning experience and identify the various supports, structures, mindsets and relational ingredients that were put in place by the teacher or facilitator that directly contributed to your growth and success. 

I started late extended French in grade 7, but it wasn't until high school that I really started to love French. In grade 9, Mme D. gave us fantastic projects where we could create strange, hilarious videos and in grade 10 Mme G. let us watch Degrassi in French every Friday. I will never forget the Friday that I was the only one who showed up for class 4th period right before a long weekend. I couldn't understand why she wouldn't let me watch Degrassi. What did I care that the other kids would miss it? I wanted to see what happened!

When I plan my classes now, I try to recreate the opportunities to have fun, to connect, to listen to and read interesting stories, those activities that fueled my learning without me ever thinking about the learning itself. Mme G. had it figured out with the "cool", albeit 10 years out of date, comprehensive input as a driver for her lesson. But perhaps it was Mme D that made the bigger impact on me. She was a role model for us all; she hadn't done French Immersion (phew, maybe one day we too could speak fluently like her!) , didn't have a perfect accent, she spoke slowly and clearly and she really looked at you when you spoke with her. To this day, I still remember her name and what she looked like when my brain has washed away so many other teachers. Learning a second language as a teenager in school can be a place of discomfort and vulnerability. Mme D.'s growth mindset, her warm character, approachability, and personal connections were instrumental to my increasing comfort in high school French class.  

2) What is the one Learning skill (MOE) or Approach to Learning (IB ATL) that you feel is MOST important in this day and age? How do you intentionally build it into your curriculum and develop it in your students throughout the year?

In my opinion, Initiative is the most important learning skill in our 21st century learners. This is where they go from "bored" to "intrigued", "tired" to "invigorated". In my example above, I mentioned fun partner or group projects. The reason that these were so enjoyable was that we were able to work within a clear framework, but completely with our own ideas (differentiated content). We were also given fairly free reign with how we communicated our presentation to the class (differentiated product). This meant that we also enjoyed seeing what everyone else had done because it was so fresh and different from our own offering.

Some students are natural explorers, always asking why and how. In attempt to build this into our grade 10 French class last year, we tried doing our own Genius Hour. Students explored online to find *something* French - a person, an invention, an event, an award, a book, etc - that piqued their interest. Then, we worked through a process. What did they wonder about? Could they ask a "big question"? What research could they find to answer their own question? What other questions did they discover? By documenting and conferencing throughout the process, the students were supported in the development of their curiousity. They were also encouraged to share their newly discovered subject or passion with their peers in an intriguing way. The products weren't as diverse as I would have liked and improving this element is a focus this year.

3) Insert an image below that best captures the essence of that Learning Skill or ATL.

Photographer: Hannah Fransen May 10, 2019