La vie en classe

Jen Bibby's thoughts on teaching French in the 21st Century

Heure de Génie: Reflection

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Bibby at 12:04 am on Saturday, June 6, 2015  Tagged , ,

Genius Hour presentation week is over!!!

I’ve had notes for a blog post on my phone to-do list for… weeks? months? Alas, the spring term strikes again. Why am I always surprised by how busy we are in the final months of the school year?

For what it’s worth, here are some reflections on the second half of the Genius Hour project in my Grade 10 French class.

One of my favourite GH classes this year was when Derek Doucet joined us via google hangout, and we had enough time for 3 of my students to engage with him while I was working on another task with a different group. Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 8.00.24 PMAlthough they were nervous at first, they were grateful for the experience and proud of their ability to describe their project to someone they hadn’t met! I would love to figure out how I can make this a more regular occurrence during Genius Hour, either by accessing more French speakers on campus or reaching out to the external community.

In the second half of my Genius Hour project, it became apparent that for some students, the fact that their blog posts would help them immensely in May did not provide enough incentive to complete the minimum number required, or with as much depth as the conversations we were having. In their feedback at the end of term, many students recommended that a mark be associated with this part of the Genius Hour project, which I had tried to avoid in the true spirit of metacognition / assessment as learning. Does anyone else struggle with this? I wonder if I need to expand how students process what they are learning, by encouraging them to post youtube (oral) reflections, or tweet smaller discoveries more frequently using a class Twitter hashtag. The students who made the most effort to record new vocabulary on their blog were noticeably more comfortable speaking to me about their projects 1-on-1, and presenting to their class at the end of the year. I definitely need to return to Sra Spanglish’s blog to re-read her tips on generating and recording vocabulary, and make this a priority next year. I would also like to have some of this year’s students visit my Grade 10’s next year to give them advice on how to be successful with their Genius Hour project.

My students presented their Genius Hour reflections last week. To give you an idea of how fun and diverse these presentations were, the following is a list of things they chose to learn about:

Write and publish a podcast about politics

How to cook the perfect steak

How to use Photoshop

Russian culture and how to speak a few key phrases

Make a silent film (learn about different shots, compose own music)

How to predict an NBA player’s best season

How to make a table (woodworking)

How to make an app

How to make a clock

How to beat one’s parents at tennis

Learn about the sources of conflict in the Middle East

How to play the guitar

How to program using Java script

How to create political cartoons

How to increase one’s running endurance

When they described their project and reflected on what they would change or do differently, my students incorporated many of the language structures we’ve reviewed all year in French class. Some highlights were a video clip showing a student’s mother giving a 9 (the highest) rating to his 3rd attempt at the perfect steak – the class erupted in cheers! Another student brought in the tabletable he had designed and built with his father for 4 months. I had a conversation prior to presentation day with a student who was anxious about not completing his Genius Hour goal. We talked about all the steps he had taken to make an app that didn’t work, and he believed he could have succeeded if he had more time (… and procrastinated less). Once he realized that his final evaluation wasn’t based on whether he had completed a project, but rather, all the learning he had done along the way, he went on to prepare an amazing presentation about what he learned from failure: a lesson in perseverance that I hope he and others in the class will take with them into future areas of study.

I had hoped that my students would enjoy this format as a conclusion to their projects and engage in discussion with their classmates following each presentation, and I’m happy to say that the class was quite similar to Pitch Day (i.e. a lot of presentational and interpersonal speaking in French, with very little prompting from me!)

I provided a survey following a written evaluation the next day, and the class agreed that this project should continue with next year’s Grade 10 class. design thinkingI’ve been learning about Design Thinking (thanks, Garth, Leslie and Beth) and the feedback I collected from my students will help (Empathize!) as I work to tweak the Genius Hour project for an even better experience next year.

I definitely plan to make Genius Hour part of my French classes next year. Are you blogging about Genius Hour or passion projects? Please send me the link. I have so much more to learn!

Pitch Day Results

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Bibby at 3:40 pm on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pitch Day has come and gone, and I would like to share some of the observations I made last class and about the Genius Hour project in general.

Authentic communication

My overall goal for this project is to provide opportunities for my students to write, present and converse spontaneously about something they’re interested in. Each student’s learning goal is different. For my French class, it doesn’t matter as much whether they achieve their goal as it does that they engage in our class blogging, conversation and presentational activities in French.

The fun “extra” that is coming out of offering a project which involves learning in multiple disciplines is that there are opportunities for students to seek out guidance from within our community and beyond, and dive into something that’s truly for the love of learning – because they chose what to learn about.

Pitch Day: a summary

I had 17 students presenting pitches during a 75 minute class. I told them in advance that they would have a maximum of 4 minutes to present and respond to questions and feedback. I supplied them with a google slides link so that they could include any visuals they wanted to aid their presentation and keep them on track with the 4 questions they were to answer during their presentation:

  1. What they are doing
  2. Why project is important to them
  3. How they are going to do it
  4. How will they measure success?

They could work from a blog post they had prepared at the end of the last class that looked like this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 4.54.38 PM

Here is a sample audio recording of a student presentation

to give you an idea of how Pitch Day went. I was really excited about how well he spoke about his project as a result of all of his preparation, and the level of engagement from his peers following his presentation. The class continued to ask good questions and provide encouragement to their peers throughout the hour. I would definitely encourage language teachers to incorporate Pitch Day into their Genius Hour plans! So many great modes of communication at play.

Some students were not as prepared on Pitch Day. One of my students posted great ideas on his blog but he needed to practice more for the oral presentation format and fielding questions afterwards. We had a follow-up discussion about what he could have done differently prior to his presentation, and how this experience was a good practice round for his final presentation in May.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 10.12.11 AM

Sample student interest blog

Another student’s goal and plan are not well aligned for the moment; right away I could see that we need to have further conversations about his project and I made him a priority the following class and got him thinking about re-working his goal over the weekend (I did not provide any solutions, but he has a better idea of the direction he needs to take).

Overall, even if some of their presentations required a bit more preparation, all of the students in my class have an idea of what they’d like to do and appear very motivated to accomplish their learning goals.

Moving Forward

At this point in our implementation of this project I’m feeling a bit sneaky. Three Genius Hour classes have happened and my students have written, conversed with me and each other, and presented formally about their passions, interests and learning goals. En français. Most have devoted time outside of class to work on their 20-Time project. This week, they will have their first chance to work on their project during class time. They will write a blog reflection following their work period, there will be one-on-one conversations with me, but mainly, they will have a chance to work on their own on a learning project for the sake of learning.

My next steps are to continue to engage in coaching conversations with my students and to reach out to our community when expert advice is needed that I can’t provide. Any input you have is welcome!

Genius Hour update: Countdown to Pitch Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Bibby at 11:38 pm on Sunday, February 1, 2015  Tagged , , ,

I’ve had two classes devoted to Genius Hour so far (see my previous post for details on how I’ve integrated Genius Hour into my course). There is a lot of buzz about this project, including students in other grades asking me about it! Without a doubt, one of the things students are excited about is the potential to replace their traditional final exam with a presentation and written reflection linked to their Genius Hour project. That motivational carrot aside, I think I’m onto something with the project itself.

Here are some of the things I am excited about:

I LOVE the Genius Hour timeframe so far.

The space between our initial sessions has allowed students to sit back and really think about what they’d like to take on as their project. Many of my students have approached me outside of class time to discuss a particular learning goal, and I can tell they are excited / motivated / grappling with their ideas.

The initial student blog posts highlighting their interests.

For many students, this is the most careful attention to written work I’ve seen all year. I enjoyed reading these posts as much as watching the videos my students made about themselves to send to their e-pals in France in September. They’re all so unique and special!

Here are some of the challenges I’ve experienced so far:

Balancing freedom with accountability.

Feb 2 SMART goalHow much structure should I provide for my students? So far, I’ve had a formative check in during class to go over what they’d been thinking about ahead of any formal goal setting. I’ve commented on everyone’s blog since then to give feedback or push students to complete a [SMART] goal setting activity that has them using specific language structures they’ve learned in class.

Students know what’s expected of them for this week’s Pitch Day (when they have 2 minutes to pitch their learning goal to the class and how they plan to achieve it for feedback), but will they be ready to present? How far should I go to make sure they are ready? Or is it a valuable lesson if they’re not prepared and they see to which lengths their peers have already gone? Perhaps I just feel nervous because I’ve invited our Head of Senior School and Instructional Leader (who both happen to speak French) to participate in our round table presentations and I’ve never done this before!

Making time to find my own inner genius.

I liked that Laura Sexton modeled Genius Hour to her students by setting her own learning goal to reach for. My students’ final evaluation for the year will involve listening to a reflection on my Genius Hour project, which is to learn how to do finger picking on the guitar and play one of my favourite songs. (Do you know how to say “finger picking” in French? So far all I’ve found is “le finger-picking”). I’m really excited to finally learn how to play the guitar! …but first I need to focus on report cards. And check in on those student blogs. And put my kids to bed. Wow, this is going to be a challenge.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about how Pitch Day goes, and all the ideas my students have come up with!

Cultivating Genius

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Bibby at 1:55 pm on Thursday, January 15, 2015  Tagged , , , ,

Cultivating Genius

When I began my Cohort 21 journey back in 2012, I was grappling with how much flexibility I had to allow students to determine the content they learned vs. the content I selected to develop their skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing in French.

I learned a lot from my research and the ensuing personalized unit of study I designed. A challenge for many of my students was that providing a short time frame to complete a project didn’t allow them to “dig in” as I hoped they would to achieve their learning goal. I needed to reconsider the roll-out of an inquiry-based unit of study for my students that provided enough time, structure and guidance to allow them to succeed at every step of the learning process.

I was introduced to Genius Hour for the language classroom when I attended a conference in November. I had done a bit of reading The-Beginners-Guide-to-on the topic that applied to teachers in all disciplines, but Laura Sexton’s presentation had me consider the idea through the lens of a World Language teacher, and got me really excited about the design of a new learning opportunity in my French classes. Finally, this is the framework that I’ve been looking for!

Many thanks to A. J. Juliani (@ajjuliani) and Laura Sexton (@SraSpanglish) for their generous online sharing which has helped me immensely in the initial launch of this project. I am in the process of introducing a Genius Hour (or Heure de Génie) project to my Grade 10 French class, which will run from January-May (every 5th class in a non-semestered timetable). I am fortunate to be collaborating with my Spanish colleague who is following a similar format with her Grade 11 & 12 students.

In the coming months, I will observe how well students use their time during Genius Hour classes, how motivated they are to complete Genius Hour tasks in the target language, and evaluate language gains in the Interpretive, Interpersonal and Presentational modes of communication (to borrow ACTFL-speak).

Has anyone tried Genius Hour in their classroom (French or other?) I’d love to hear your input on positive outcomes, challenges and any advice you’d like to share.

My ACTFL Takeaways

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Bibby at 6:12 pm on Saturday, November 29, 2014  Tagged , , , , ,

On November 20-23, I attended the ACTFL annual conference for World Language teachers. Here are some takeaways:

Attending a conference this big with a colleague makes a huge difference

rachelFellow French teacher Rachel and I had such a great time spending 24/4 together!! I haven’t been this blown away since my last Cohort 21 face to face session. We were able to attend twice as many sessions, check in with each other throughout the day, de-brief over dinner and cram twice as many goodies from the Exhibit Hall in our bags to take home. We even have a collaboration opportunity between our Grade 9 & 12 French classes in the works – stay tuned!


#langchat stars: they’re just like us!

I was so excited to see and meet some of my favourite #langchat personalities in person: Colleen Lee-Hayes (@CoLeeSensei), whose session I didn’t see but I made a point of meeting to thank her for all of her contributions on Twitter; Laura Sexton (@sraspanglish), whose session on Genius Hour projects was very inspirational and timely given that we have been discussing this type of idea as a whole school; Sara Elizabeth Cottrell (@musicuentos), who along with Laura and Bethany Drew (@lovemysummer) presented how they personalize homework tasks for their students. What a fantastic idea and resource they’ve shared! All of these twitter personalities and many more have inspired me to jump back into the Cohort 21 forum to share my adventures in French teaching on this blog.

Time to reflect on vision for my department 

Debbie Callihan-Dingle’s presentation on moving towards proficiency provided a template and a great opportunity to reflect on recent changes to our FSL curriculum and where we are going. Meeting like-minded teachers last weekend and seeing our new curriculum in print –  which brings intercultural competency to the forefront – has been a real affirmation for me after abandoning the textbook years ago in favour of authentic, real-world learning!


How to scaffold rich learning tasks for upper year students

I wanted to come away from ACTFL with some new strategies to provide rigorous, yet well-supported learning opportunities for my upper year students. For instance, how can I get my students to engage with one another about authentic texts they’ve researched according to their interests that are also linked to the AP themes? My AP students are working towards their first socratic seminar, linked to one of the AP themes but personalized to meet their interests. I attended two sessions on Socratic circles designed for second language learners, presented by Susan Menand (@menandteacher) and another pair whose presentation notes will hopefully be posted to the ACTFL site this weekend. Both provided great resources and steps for success.

New ideas I could implement right away

  1. One of the choose your own adventure homework tasks was to use twitter to reach out to the global Target Language community; another was to look up twitter hashtags in the target language and share what comes up – great authentic ways to access the target language.
  2. In his Enhancing Global Competency session, Paul Lange introduced me to, where I found posts by ACTFL TOY’s Nicole Naditz – this must be a great site for curating authentic listening material.
  3. Using Aurasma to post student presentations around the classroom and have students from other classes listen and respond (this is what I have in mind for my collaboration idea!)
  4. 20 Time/Genius Hour projects in Target Language: could this be the alternative I’ve been waiting for to the traditional end of year exam?
  5. Cultural do’s and dont’s: Get parents/school community involved and present a do’s and don’ts video to our e-pals in France; have them respond with their own cultural practices.

If you are or know a World Language teacher at your school, I’d highly recommend making a trip to ACTFL next November!

My Great Big Personalized PD Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Bibby at 8:19 pm on Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy summertime, everyone!

At the end of a busy school year, I like to take some time in June to relax and recharge, but it’s also a great time to reflect and learn something new without the daily distractions of school life. I didn’t jet off to any formal PD this June; I was lucky enough to choose my own destination (with a plethora of cafés and beautiful Toronto libraries with free Wi-Fi at my doorstep) and I hand picked from a huge range of options what I wanted to learn about.

I started with the following collection of articles and blog posts I had gathered this year (usually following a LangChat I had tuned in to late on a Thursday night!) Re-reading or seeing these resources for the first time helped me work through some big-ideas planning for next year (an FSL collaboration with interested teachers in my PLN, applying game-based learning to my Origines de Toronto unit, changes to my culminating activities for next year). I also trained myself in Kaizena, ThingLink and PixiClip in my quest to find tools that are easy for students or me to use and actually improve the learning experience (faster feedback, personalized vocabulary acquisition and tutorials for me to post to my course LMS pages respectively). I’m really excited about these tools and will likely be blogging about them as I use them next year (hiccups and all)!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get students to reflect on their learning and performance more often, and Colleen Lee-Haye’s blog post showed up in my twitter feed just in time! I loved the tone she set for reflection at the beginning of the year with her class FAQ’s and the questions she asked of her students to get them thinking about her class. By following through on several self-assessments and reflections throughout the year, @coleesensei is imparting a valuable learning strategy on her students from which they will benefit for years to come.

If you are on twitter, an interesting feed to follow is #ksi14. I was lucky enough to participate in the Klingenstein Summer Institute in 2007, and since I knew a few teachers going to this year’s session, I decided to follow along in their learning adventure. Tune in for some rich reflections on teaching philosophies, diversity and everything in between. @lesmcbeth and @AaronVigar are some great people to follow!

Coming up, I’m looking forward to a google hangout on Authentic Resources on July 18th with the LangCamp group I’ve joined (#LangChat for summer!) But first, I’m ready to enjoy a few weeks unplugged and on the dock at the cottage with my family. I look forward to catching up (virtually or in person) soon!

Final Reflection 2014

Filed under: google hangouts — Jennifer Bibby at 4:51 pm on Monday, April 21, 2014

Here is a link to a youtube video I created after presenting my final reflection in a google hangout. See you all on Friday!


Research into Action

Filed under: google hangouts — Jennifer Bibby at 12:31 pm on Wednesday, April 9, 2014  Tagged , , , , ,

Have you read those PLN promotion blogs? You know, the one where a science teacher whose students are learning about the atmosphere talks about how easy it is to reach out to her PLN to find an astronaut who can answer her students’ questions (LIVE!)  about her last trip to outer space?

Man, did those blogs ever make me overconfident, reaching out to a savvy crew of bloggers who have recently published articles about google hangouts in the classroom to see if they’d like to hang out with ME to talk some more about it… I didn’t hear back from anyone!

I’m happy to say that while my attempts at google hangouts have had mixed results (on a positive note – thanks to last night’s flipped learning crew who checked in about their action plans!) my students are participating in a greater variety of oral communication activities both in class and at home, through the use of the iPad, voicethread and audacity for oral production activities. I haven’t set up as many spontaneous oral communication opportunities outside of class, where google hangouts would be a natural fit. I didn’t want to use google hangout just for the sake of using google hangout, as per Garth’s advice. As mentioned in my last post, there are some amazing opportunities to connect students’ in-class learning with the outside world (i.e. the Centre Pompidou during our Modern Art unit, a volunteer translator who assists doctors with Médecins Sans Frontières to highlight global challenges), and now it’s a matter of setting up those opportunities in my future planning, when this is a great opportunity to enhance learning.

I’ve concluded that students need to feel comfortable using technology to facilitate spontaneous conversations in class before I send them off to use it on their own. So far, other forms of technology trump google hangouts to serve this purpose. For example, in my Grade 11 class students are in the assessment for learning stage of preparing for a final task which involves giving tours of nearby Toronto neighbourhoods to new francophone Canadians (and their classmates).

Students gave mini-tours of a specific part of the school campus, and I recorded them using an iPad and played some back for the class to review what their presentations sounded like with no, little or considerable preparation.

To research what an ideal tour of a Canadian city involves and practice spontaneous communication at the same time, I had students think of questions and participate in a live online chat with an operator from Bonjour Québec, a free online travel information service. First, a student volunteer typed their questions about visiting Montreal, which appeared on the Smartboard for the class to see, along with instant replies from an operator. Then, an even braver student volunteer called 1-877-BONJOUR to speak live with a representative about an ideal day in Québec City.

Eventually, I’d love to do a live stream of our Toronto tours (or have links to youTube videos of the tours) to increase our audience outreach, such as e-pal connections or other students from French-speaking countries. It would also be great to partner up with CIS language classes outside of Toronto who might enjoy collaborating on a community profile project. This is the kind of moonshot thinking I was hoping to achieve this year but feel I’m falling too far behind to implement something in a well thought-out, organized manner. I’m also worried that privacy concerns might limit my capacity in this regard.

Do you have any ideas about how a class outreach activity might help my students prepare for or de-brief their neighbourhood tours and/or make cultural comparisons using google hangouts or something similar to facilitate this collaboration? It would be great to hear someone else’s perspective!

Practical uses for google hangouts: the research

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Bibby at 6:50 pm on Tuesday, April 1, 2014  Tagged , , ,

When I established my action plan for this year, I wanted to it complement my department goal of increasing oral fluency in my French classes. Although I initially believed the answer lay in google hangouts, the path has not been as straightforward as I thought.

First, I set out to research what other teachers and ed tech experts were saying about using google hangouts in class.

Med Karbach posted a helpful intro and this tip sheet for first time google hangout users. A great starting point for everyone, as I discovered early on, as there can be some hiccups involved in setting up and hosting a hangout!

In her Edutopia post, Mary Beth Hertz discussed how hangouts could facilitate connected learning for students and got me thinking about authentic exchanges I could set up for my students in the “real world” beyond the classroom (also a great opportunity for personalization, depending on my students’ interests)

In Connecting Beyond the Classroom, Bill Krakower wrote about the benefits of collaborating on a google doc as a group, and being able to view a youTube video of the hangout at a later time. I really liked the idea of hosting a debate between two language classes within the CIS (RSGC vs SAC! Bring it on!)

In Google hangouts as Edtech: Connecting, Sharing and Learning, Andrew Marcinek shared how his students broadcast their TEDtalk research projects and tech-related instructional videos with a wider audience using hangouts.

In a post published on The JournalBridget McCrea further highlights Marcinek’s work with 6 ways students can use google hangouts , including the use of hangouts to archive students work in digital portfolios, as well as replacing Skype or FaceTime with a better tool for online collaboration.

I learned a lot from these posts, and hope to learn more as more teachers begin to use google hangouts in their classes. I loved Celeste’s idea of setting up a google hangout to discuss hangouts in the classroom with people who have practical experience. I made up a dream list of people I’d like to include in such a hangout… and then 2 months flew by! I promised myself I wouldn’t publish this post without setting it up. Our hangout is scheduled for this Thursday at 4pm. Let me know if you’d like to join!

iPads in the High School Classroom… Yes or No?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Bibby at 9:42 pm on Wednesday, February 12, 2014  Tagged , , , ,

Last weekend I attended an iPad workshop hosted by Joe Dale. In my exploration of how I can leverage technology to increase oral fluency in my classes, I thought it would be a good idea to learn from the most popular language teacher/iPad guru on my twitter feed. He promised to provide us with some hands-on experience with apps for the iPad that promote listening, speaking, pronunciation & confidence in French. I’m going to share a few of the apps I learned about that I believe would be useful to several subject areas.

Show Me – This is a free and simpler version of Explain Everything, for teachers who don’t want to spend their valuable class time teaching students how to make a presentation. Students can make backgrounds for their slides using the Camera Roll, then write/draw on the slide. There is a recording feature, which is easy to pause while making the presentation. This could be a great alternative to a traditional pen and paper test when asking students to “show what they know”. I can also easily make lessons to post online and have students watch for homework, so that we can put what they learn into practice during class time.

Decide NowPicture a Wheel of Fortune wheel, only you get to select the labels. Students spin the wheel and discuss that topic, or a question related to the label that you’ve prepared in advance.Here is something I made during the workshop for an upcoming chapter discussion on Le Petit prince:


Tap RouletteTo decide who speaks during a structured discussion, set up a group of 4-5 students around an iPad and have them place a finger on the screen. Tap Roulette selects one students’ finger and it’s their turn to speak. Yes, this is a 2.0 version of drawing straws 🙂

Book Creator – Unlike a blog, this app placed equal emphasis on the audio, visual, and written content you could upload to create an e-portfolio of student work. I really liked its simplicity and thought that the format would really appeal to the boys I teach. My AP students have been curating articles and various media linked to the 6 course themes and a francophone country they’ve chosen to learn more about. While they present this material every few weeks in an informal way, in April they will put it all together (possibly using Book Creator!) with the added task of an oral reflection comparing what they’ve learned about that country’s culture to Canadian culture.

QR Codes – We spent a long time looking at how you can make a QR code out of websites and audio files, and then how to scan them or transfer them to another device. I love the idea of coming up with a game or scavenger hunt that involves these codes, and maybe posting some popular reference websites around the classroom but I don’t see how they could (or should) be used often in class. Feel free to enlighten me with your ideas!

My conclusion at the end of the day was that many of the apps introduced accomplish things that could easily be done on a student’s laptop; unless we are replacing laptops with iPads in the senior school there is no point in introducing apps such as Voice Record Pro, Visio Prompt, or Photocard. There were other apps introduced, such as Tellagami and Puppet Pals, which appealed to junior school teachers in the room.

I was happy to learn about general iPad uses, such as sharing my iPad screen using Reflector, so that if I ever acquired a class set of iPads my students could follow my instructions using the SmartBoard. I will also be using to collect large student files. Their work is automatically transferred to my Drop Box account. This works as backup for files on the camera roll and allows me to delete those files and save space!

I’d like to know to which extent high school teachers are using iPads in your schools. If you’ve used them successfully or if you’ve seen a colleague demonstrate a great use for the iPad, or if you feel iPads don’t serve student needs in the senior school, I’d appreciate your thoughts!

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