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?
- 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.)
- 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.