Action Plan

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.

4 thoughts on “Action Plan

  1. Oh Hannah, you're the amazing one! I have stolen many great ideas from you. Noël Madness was a hit in my class! I love Pascal's youtube video. I discovered it last year, and I think the analogy is relatable for middle and high school students.

    I love your new question, and I think it's something that is relevant to any language teacher. I can't wait to se your classroom posters. I'll probably end up stealing them as well.

    Earlier this year, I created some Google Forms with A1, A2, and B1 level Can Do Statements. I used them to have students self-assess what they felt they can do (this helped students who feel they can't do anything, identify what they CAN do). And then I used a slightly modified version of the same Google Forms to get their input about what they'd like to learn. Then I took the most popular selections and have them at the forefront of my mind when I'm planning. I'll send you the links if you're interested.

    1. Post author

      Thanks for sharing @jbairos ! I was thinking about something along these lines and can't tell you how much I appreciate not having to find/make them! Also, a cool way to help more advanced students to focus on areas of growth, even when they think there might not be any!

  2. @hfransen,

    I believe you are doing everything you should be doing, including worrying if you're not doing enough. Innovation is its own reward for it renews your practice and creates an atmosphere of risk-taking in the classroom that you yourself are modelling. The resulting success is far less important.

    Keep it up. French is super challenging in regards to motivation. Also, I don't believe that French teachers are really teaching French, I believe you are teaching the love of language. Any language. And the importance bilingualism is for Canada, and the rest of the world. French class is one of the first peeks into greater perspective taking for adolescence.

    1. Post author

      I've actually been thinking a lot more this year, Eric about how French is an opportunity for students to learn more about themselves and how to approach challenges in life. Are you going to cave the moment something gets difficult? Or are you going to start thinking about and trying out possible solutions? I love the idea of language as a solvable puzzle and a way to explore places and peoples around the world!


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