Re-thinking learning for the 21st Century

Increasing Student Confidence and Competence in FSL – An Action Plan

A few weeks ago, I had another powerful Face to Face session with my fellow Cohort 21 class. Our goal for the day was to think about our learners, their challenges, our challenges, and begin to create an action plan that connected to a How Might We…. goal/question.

This is certainly a lot to pack into one day, and now that I’ve had a few weeks to sit with it all, I think I have some ideas and next steps ready for action!

My goal for my students is this: How might we increase student confidence and competence with respect to oral communication in the classroom?

This sounds very lofty, but what I truly wish for my students is simple. I want them to build their oral language conversational skills and I want them to have confidence that they do know how to say things in French.  As a middle school French teacher, it’s not uncommon to hear, “I suck at French.”  Students at this age tend to see things in black and white. There are the students who can speak French and the students who can’t and there is no movement between those groups. I want them to see the whole grey space in the middle!

I think building a growth mindset around French in particular is challenging with middle school students. Many of them know they “just need to make it to Grade 9” and then they can drop French. I want them to see that we’re not biding our time here. We have lots to learn and lots we can learn. And it doesn’t have to be painful!

Some logistical background

We use AIM Language Learning as the main program in our FSL classes from SK – Grade 5. My students come to me after many years of storytelling and plays and choral speaking and song. It’s a wonderful program that works well for primary and junior grades.

By Grade 6, our students tend to get AIM fatigue, so we move into the C’est parti!/Odyssée programs as our jumping off points for language learning. The topics are engaging for our middle school students and the reading/writing components are quite strong.

My action plan!

One thing I’ve noticed about my students when we transitioned away from AIM in middle school is that while our new program had so many strengths, it didn’t have the same power as AIM in the area of oral communication. I want to bring this back, but at an age-appropriate level. So here’s my plan

December Goals:

  • Visit Richard Smith and watch him teach for a day (a fantastic Grade 7/8 teacher in Ottawa who focuses primarily on oral communication in his classes)
  • Revisit our old Grade 6, 7, and 8 level AIM teacher guides and tab all of the activities that I could still incorporate into my program. Try some out in class.
  • Watch this Ted Talk: Learning a language? Speak it like you’re playing a video game. Maybe show it to my students as well!
  • Try something on Flip Grid.
  • Speak only French in class myself!
  • Share my how might me question and action plan with my students.

January Goals:

  • Investigate Quizlet
  • Wonder about oral language portfolios. What tech could I use? How often do we revisit it? Try it!
  • Pick one idea from Richard Smith’s class and try it out.
  • Bring more songs and raps into Grade 6 and 7 French. Make lists for each grade. (They love DJ DELF!)
  • Try using the “On Bavarde” sections from the C’est Parti and Odyssée lessons (that we always skip because there’s never enough time at the end of class) as oral review at the beginning of the next class.


We’ll see how far I get on all of that, but I am hopeful that after I try all of these experiments, I’ll be able to see which ones work best for my learners and what we will move forward with long-term!


@sthompson @mneale @eimrie


  1. Leslie Farooq

    Hi Jennifer,
    I love your idea of a “grey space in the middle” for additional language learning. I have lived in it, albeit with Spanish, not French. Have you ever used Buncee? Its free plan is rather limiting, which is unfortunate, but maybe you have a budget? Buncee is a slide show maker, but with lots of extra bells and whistles. I like it for the free moving graphics, but also for the ability to hear the text on the page being spoken with a single click. Students could read the French out loud and then hear the computer’s interpretation of it as well. Just a thought I had. Good luck with your action plan!

    • Jennifer Bairos

      Thank you! I will check it out!

  2. Corinne Gazet

    Hi Jen,

    I just followed a training for oral communication in French.
    There are two tools that I found interesting for oral projects.

    Avec Voki, ils créent un avatar dans le premier, les élèves qui ont un peu de mal à s’exposer devant les autres, je trouve que c’est un bon choix pour eux.

    Bonne chance !


    • Jennifer Bairos

      Hi Corinne,
      What oral communication training did you recently do? Thank you for linking to Voki. I will check it out!

  3. Garth Nichols

    Hi Jennifer,

    When I read this, I immediately thought that you and @sthompson should connect! Check out my latest comment on her last post! Exciting possibilities for you two to connect on this.

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