Re-thinking learning for the 21st Century

Category: Teaching French as a Second Language (Page 1 of 2)

Dipping My Toes Into Equitable Classrooms and Social Justice Education in FSL

Like many of us, I am taking a hard, uncomfortable look at my curriculum and the resources in my classroom. What is missing?  What needs to be removed? What work do I still need to do?

In an effort to begin learning what I need to learn, I took two courses over the summer: Designing for Equity from the Global Online Academy and Social Justice from the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages.

GOA states that they are “deliberate amateurs” in this work, and I feel similarly.  I am trying to be intentional, but I am a beginner, and I am making mistakes.

I’m a list person. Lists help me think clearly. I know the deep DEIJ work in our classrooms is messy and very un-list like, but, as a beginning place, I would like to share affirmations I learned about the work I already am doing and new ideas that have me thinking about my next steps.

Designing for Equity (GOA)

Affirmations:

  • Relationship matter. Getting to know your students each year is essential. Tell your students you love them. Make it weird.
  • Teach students to love themselves.  As yourself, “How does our curriculum and instruction help students to learn about themselves or others?”
  • Help students identify what they can do in our subject areas.
  • Project Zero Thinking Routines
  • How can we use assessments to empower learners to see/choose their next steps?
  • Include student interests in assessments as much as possible.
  • Stop assessing for deficit.
  • Check in with students regularly. (What did you learn? How did you know? Include a spot for students to identify an actionable next step.)
  • Replacing the term “exceeding expectations” with something else. Try exemplary, exceptional, distinguished. The article Why The Label Exceeds Standards Doesn’t Work helped me solidify my thinking with this idea.
  • What is the power dynamic in your classroom and in what capacity are you willing to share that power with your students? Students deserve great teaching no matter what.

New ideas:

  • What stereotypes exist about French culture? How might we explore these?
  • Look for more opportunities for guest speakers.
  • Reflect on our resources. Who is missing? What new resources do we need to find?
  • What can we do to reduce a student’s cognitive load?
    • Formatting notes: .gifs can be harmful to learners with photosensitivities, italics can be harder to read, highlighted text can be missed by colourblind students (try a call out box instead or use bold text.)
    • Link notes: Try to make links more descriptive. Instead of “click here”, try Video or Resource.
  • Is your physical space welcoming? What classroom decor can you bring into the space? Is there room for student thinking? Is there something that represents your school?
  • Creating a “playlist” as an introduction to a new unit. Example of a Grade 8 French playlist.
  • When preparing for an assessment and a student is feeling anxious or low try, “This is not a quiz about you. This is a quiz about __________ French skill.”
  • The power of specific peer feedback!

Social Justice in the Language Classroom (ACTFL)

Affirmations

  • Language teaching is linked to colonialism. It makes claims about where a language is spoken and is not spoken. It sets the rules for “correct” use of language. We need to eliminate the idea that language learning is an exotic journey.
  • The most important thing we can do is let students express their ideas and engage with each other organically and spontaneously in the target language without fear of attention to their mistakes.

New ideas

  • Global competence: the ability to communicate with someone with respect and cultural understanding in more than one language.
  • Where are the opportunities for action. What can we empower students do, even in the act of reflection:
    • What did you think about ___________?
    • If you have experience with ____________, describe your own perspective.
    • If you don’t have experience with _____________, what do you think would be rewarding about it? Challenging?
    • When did you have to ______________? Why was it important to you?
  • Examining vocabulary lists: Are there stereotypes? Are there assumptions? What is missing? How is this list teaching more than just words?
  • Learning facts and content is essential but not sufficient. Having diverse resources in the room is not sufficient. What will the student action be:
    • Express empathy
    • Recognize their responsibility
    • Make decisions
    • Speak with courage
  • Where are there opportunities to introduce students to more #ownvoices French speakers when discussing a particular topic? For example, the Belgian singer Stromae has spoken about his struggles with anxiety.
  • Classroom decor matters: introduce non-binary French pronouns.
  • For current events, find a newspaper front page in the target language.
  • When thinking of essential questions and final tasks, ask yourself, “What are the important understandings related to social justice that I want students to be able to take with them as they continue their study of this language and culture?”
  • When examining classroom resources:
    • Who benefits from this resource?
    • Who wrote/created this? Why?
    • Who is included/excluded?
    • What is another perspective?
    • Why is this relevant?
    • What are the assumptions?
    • Do students see themselves?
  • Ideas for the language classroom:
    • When discussing hobbies and sports. look at access to sports in Haïti.
    • When exploring the home, compare bedrooms around the world. Là où je dors is great for this.
    • When describing people, teach hair texture and skin colour.
    • When teaching music, explore how it can represent oppression.
    • When discussing family, choose instead to have students share their Circle of Care (French version) .
    • Rather than focusing on “famous people who speak French”, might you include French speakers who are advocates for different social justice issues?
  • When you are showing the target culture, make sure you aren’t always showing it as deficient.  Can you connect a global issue such as environmentalism?

Whew! So much to think about! My head has been swimming all summer. This year, I am able to have a French classroom again, so I started with classroom decor.

One of my main challenges, particularly with social justice teachings in the language classroom, is to be able to dive into these topics at the correct language level for my students. I primarily teach learners who are still novices, and, with limited time to see them, I want to maximize the use of French as much as possible in class. Some teachers give themselves permission to address these topics in English in their classroom, and that doesn’t feel like the right path for me. Others maintain that these issues are too pressing, and we can’t wait for their proficiency level to always match the material available, and that doesn’t feel quite right either. I am hoping to find my own path this year. I want to keep in mind the importance of curriculum and meeting students where they are at and find the opportunities for cultural and social justice learning within that space.

On y va,

Jenn

I Didn’t Want Any Professional Growth This Year But It Happened Anyways

I sit at my remote teaching space at home. My husband is working in the room beside mine. My son is doing remote learning down the hall. In many ways, it feels like time is frozen in April 2020, but in so many other ways, it has been the longest year of our lives.

When I was asked in September to think of a How Might We question/professional development goal for the year, I struggled to settle on one. I still struggle. Part of me was instantly resentful at the question to begin with. How can anyone think we need so much structure around professional growth this year? Why all the check-ins? How can one possibly be a teacher in 2020 and not be growing every single minute of every single day?  Can everyone please just honour this and leave me alone? Am I an awful teacher for even thinking this?

Yet, I know there is benefit to goal-setting and especially to connecting with others who may share points of your journey.  This is what kept me going on my meandering path.

What learning did I want to accomplish this year?

My number one goal for the past year was explore strategies to connect with and engage remote and in-person learners simultaneously.  This goal was very much about surviving this school year. And it came with so. many. questions.

How might we build relationships with remote learners?

How might we engage students in meaningful French language instruction with limited opportunities for authentic oral communication?

I also wondered how my language program was going to be affected by a significant cut the hours of instruction and mask-wearing. How would not being able to see my mouth and facial expressions affect my students’ comprehension?  What could I do to support them with this? How do I decide what curriculum is most important when I have less time to teach it? What gets cut? What needs to be developed? And especially, how to I make sure my students are mentally well while we are managing all of this together? How do they see themselves in my classroom? Is there space for them? Do they feel safe?

See what I mean? So many questions.

Bitmoji Image

 

What did I learn in the process? 

Good enough is good enough. Be okay with letting things go. Celebrate what worked well. Here are a few tools that were big wins in my French classroom this year:

  1. Nearpod: There is a playful PearDeck vs Nearpod rivalry out there, and I landed on the side of Nearpod this year. I loved this tool as a way to engage my roomies and my zoomies at the same time. Sometimes we did lessons live, and sometimes I assigned student-paced lessons. There is a lot here to play with. For example, in one lesson I asked my students to use the Nearpod Draw It feature to highlight all of the examples of the passé composé in a short article.
  2. Hyperdocs: @estewart introduced me to Hyperdocs this year, and I found that my students really loved them. Basically, it’s a thoughtfully curated Slide Deck that students work through for their learning with a certain topic. Hyperdocs are a ton of front-loaded teacher work, but the payoff is totally worth it. Instead of so much direct instruction, students can work at their own pace through their learning, and I can devote my time to supporting students along the way. These are by no means perfect, but this year we made hypderdocs for le passé composé, Exploring France and Belgium, and Exploring Haïti, Martinique and Louisiana.
  3. Flipgrid continued to be a lifesaver, especially for language learning. I posted about my love for that platform here a few years ago.
  4. Independent Reading: Typically, I start each of my classes with high energy chatting and music and some kind of oral communication activity. I noticed early on that this routine wasn’t going to work. I needed a few minutes to get set up in each room, and my students needed a few minutes to mentally transition from their previous class to French. So, to help with this, we began starting class with five minutes of independent reading. I use the AIM digital readers. The language levels work well for my students, and they sometimes lead to fun vocabulary discoveries like this 🙂

There are a few others. Jamboard and Blooket have also been essential tools I know I will continue to use moving forward.

I also can’t talk about my learning this year without talking about how I learned to care for my own mental health. Last summer I started seeing a therapist for anxiety, and it has been immeasurably helpful.  I don’t know that I would have made it through the year without her. Here are a few new routines that have been helping me:

  1. Going for a 10 minute walk during the work day. A year ago, if you had told me that 10 minutes would make a difference, I would have laughed at you. Now, a 10 minute walk is my go to strategy to reset. I really like listening to Morgan Harper Nichols’ podcast as I walk.
  2. Find what went well. I started keeping a journal and every day I write down three things that went well at work to remind me that there is alway something good that came out of the day.

Shout out to Greenspace Health for finding me a great therapist match. If you live in the GTA, they are a free matching service to hook you up with a therapist that will match your insurance and your specific needs. Like a dating service, but for therapy 😂.

What is my big take-away?

There are some days where I’m certain, if my students learned anything, it was entirely by accident. But, I showed up every class. I tried to be present for them, listen to them, and encourage them. I can confidently say that I tried my best and did my not-worst during the most challenging year of my professional career.

As I mentioned above, there are some tech pieces and personal routines that I will carry forward in my teaching practice. I know that I want next to explore more deeply the role of comprehensible input in the language classroom, as well as how I can meaningfully create more opportunities for cultural learning and integrate more BIPOC resources without falling into the second-language classroom traps of stereotyping different groups of people.

I read somewhere last year that enough is a decision, not an amount. And honestly, I think that’s my big takeaway. It’s not easy to explain or describe, but it’s a huge thought-shift for me. The pressure and judgement I have put on myself in the past has no place in a pandemic. It makes me emotional to think about this because I have been so hard on myself this year. There have been many tears. I don’t think you can work in a helping profession without a certain level of emotional investment in your work.  But I try to surround myself with messages and people that remind me that I’m not alone. That this is hard.

Ultimately, I believe that educators in 2020 and 2021 have grown in so many ways. Some of them are clearly evident in the classroom and can be written in a list or checked off in a PD chart. Others are unseen because they are deeply rooted in who we are, what we value, and frankly, how we process trauma while helping others to do the same. And I suppose that’s what made me feel so unsettled about professional growth this year. Because not all of it is visible to the outside world. But I know that work matters just as much.

Jenn

I Cried During P.D. Week

I cried during PD week this year.

You see, as our school continues to strive for excellence in creating a caring and nurturing environment for our students, we devoted much of our P.D. week before school began talking about relationships. We looked at Dr. Tranter’s philosophy of The Third Path and the 8 conditions necessary to teach through a strong student-teacher relationship.

According to this perspective on education, the first condition necessary is safety. “Students need to feel emotionally safe in order to explore and learn.” (www.thirdpath.ca) . Afterwards comes regulation, belonging, positivity, engagement, identity, mastery, and meaning.

Of course, I want my students to feel safe in my classroom, but part of me is already questioning whether, even after 15 years of teaching, I can even truly say I have figured out step 1 of 8 on this path. I teach French to middle school students. I love it, and I love them; however, I know this subject is a tough sell to many. My students take risks every single time they speak in my class. How do I make sure they know it’s safe to try? That no one is judging what they can and cannot say in French. How do I make sure that’s true?

I also know this means my relationships with my students matters even more.

But this only brings me more questions. How do I get across to my students that I value who they are and what they think? How do I build my relationships with my students in a more meaningful way? And, most importantly, how do I do this all in a second language?

Last year, I used my Cohort 21 action plan to dive deep into encouraging and supporting more interactive oral communication in the classroom. I was (and continue to be) so excited about what I learned, and the new routines and learning activities I brought into my classroom. Speaking in French became our number 1 priority, and I spent many hours thinking and rethinking lessons and learning activities to encourage my students to speak more. And they did it. It was a great year.

As I embark on my next step growing as an educator, am I going to lose what I have gained? How do I strengthen my relationships with my students without feeling like I’ll have to do this in English, and therefore give up some of the progress we made last year? What does meaningful relationship building look like in a second language?

And, as I talked this all out with a colleague in the middle of our gymnasium, I cried. I was overwhelmed with these questions and the feeling that I am in front of a battle I may not win. And I was scared. Anytime we open ourselves up to relationships, the possibility for rejection exists. Then what?

All of this sets the stage for what I’m hoping to think about this year in C21. I have honestly no idea in which direction my action plan will go, but I’m looking forward to seeing both familiar and new faces at our first Face to Face session this Saturday. I’ll be the one carrying the Kleenex.

xo

Jenn

Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart – A Second Language Teacher’s Perspective

Sometimes I find reading educational books as a French teacher to be challenging. There are always so many wonderful, inspiring ideas, but how do I harness them in a second language and remain true to prioritizing use of the target language in my classroom?

The language barrier is a big area of tension for me. How do I engage high-level thinking using a beginner/intermediate-level of vocabulary while also keeping our learning meaningful and engaging for young teenagers? It’s a lot to hold at once!

I haven’t found the magic answers yet; however, Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart gave some ideas to mull over. The sections on prioritizing what is absolutely the most important in our classrooms resonated with me the most. I loved his question, “If you had your students for only six weeks, what would be the single most important thing you would want them to understand? ” (Ritchhart, Creating Cultures of Thinking, p.100.)

My answer would certainly be that I’d want my students to understand how to communicate orally for a purpose, which reaffirms much of the work I’ve been exploring over the past year.

The other idea I really loved was about how teachers, “have to weigh the importance of accuracy against the goal of developing independence.” (Ritchhart, Creating Cultures of Thinking, p. 209.) This is something I’ve been thinking about for the past few years in my teaching, especially with written tasks my students complete.

I used to spend ages giving feedback on every single grammatical error, but I’ve learned that I need to shift my thinking around written feedback. I do not need to edit all of these errors. The students do not need to correct all of these errors. Not only is it, I’m sure, discouraging to see such a high volume of edits on  your work as a student, but perfection is not actually our goal. I want to assess students not for the number of mistakes they make but, rather, for the clarity of their ideas. This idea is certainly still a work in progress in my classroom and in my teaching, but it’s where I’m hoping to move more and more in my assessments.

There were plenty of other great ideas in his book as well. I’d recommend any teacher pick it up!

Jenn

Where I’ve Come From and Where I’m Going Next

It feels strange to reflect on the end of Cohort 21 while I am on March Break and still feel squarely in the middle of my action plan; however, the school calendar waits for no one, so here we are.

Cohort 21 became part of my teaching journey at the exact moment when I most needed it. I was beginning to feel disheartened, fearful of change, and generally a bit down on myself as a teacher. This year, I’ve learned that I’m probably doing better than I think I am. This feels ridiculous to type, but I believe it’s an important lesson. I’ve learned that there is power when diverse educators come together, reflect deeply, and open their doors. The support I’ve sought and the encouragement I’ve received from C21, my administration, my colleagues, and even teachers outside of CIS has been invaluable in helping me rediscover my love for teaching French as a second language. I feel inspired, excited, and grateful to have discovered an experience and group of people so positive and so action-driven to best support educators, students, and our shared future learning.

Below is a slide deck that illustrates my action plan story, as it stands right now. I now truly understand the term “the end of the beginning.” I’m excited about the new energy in my classroom, and I can’t wait to experiment further with these ideas.

Additionally, you can hear me “thinking out loud” about my How Might We question and action plan on @ckirsh‘s Teaching Tomorrow podcast here.

As for Cohort 21, this is not goodbye. I am looking forward to our fourth Face to Face session in a few weeks, and I’m hopeful to continue working with Cohort 21 next year (even if I have to sneak in!)

Jenn

 

Interactive Oral Communication in the FSL Classroom

When I was reflecting on what I learned during Cohort 21 this year, the number 1 answer I have is that I learned so much about interactive oral communication.

I have spent a good amount of time reflecting on when my students speak French in class and when they don’t. I realized that they speak with me in French a great deal, and they find success in orally presenting projects they’ve completed. What were missing were opportunities for my students to speak French to each other.

 

With this realization in mind, I redirected my how might we question to focus on how I can support and encourage my students to build this skill.

What’s exciting about this realization is that it falls entirely in line with the trend in second language education in Ontario towards the CEFR (Common European Framework for Reference). In its simplest form, the CEFR encourages language learning via authentic situations vs grammatical drills and vocabulary lists. Interactive communication thrives in the CEFR.

Instead of worrying about what my students know about a language, I needed ask myself what can they do with a language. (source) And this meant that I had to increase my expectations of my students.

To help me with this, I spent the day with a teacher whom I know is rocking interactive oral communication. Richard Smith teaches Grade 7 and 8 Core French in Ottawa and is passionate about getting middle school students to speak in French.

He reminded me that we are the model for our students. We need to be excited about speaking French in class, and speak French as much as possible.

As I watched him teach and thought about my own lessons, I realized that I often structured my lesson as:

1. a teacher-directed thing – 30 mins

2. time for individual or partner work/discussions (the latter which often shifted into English) – 20 mins

I was asking my students to do the hardest part at the end of the lesson.

French is not easy. It’s a tough subject and a tough sell for a lot of middle school students. But they can do it. And we can sometimes forget that most of them want to do well and enjoy it.

However, we have to structure our lessons for success. I needed to move the hardest part of their 50 minute period to the beginning. If they are going to be speaking to each other, I need to get to them while their momentum for the class is still high.

Now my lessons look like this:

1. 2 or 3 grammar raps and a handful of oral review questions connected to the raps to warm everyone up. (see www.aimlanguagelearning.com and www.educorock.com for the best grammar raps) – 5 mins

2. Interactive oral communication activity or oral discussion. (Language teachers in the house – bookmark this Google Slide presentation. It’s Richard’s bank of communication learning activities and on its way to being my most visited website of the year.) – 15-20 mins

3. a teacher-directed thing either from CEC or AIM  (often, but not every day) – 15 mins

4. individual or partner work time (usually reading/writing) 10-15 mins

So far, it’s going well. There is still lots of room to grow. There are moments when we still need to use some English in the classroom; however, my students are all generally pretty excited about the new energy and new learning activities in the classroom. For example, my grade 7 students love the “Last Letter, First Letter” challenge with teams creating lists of 30, 40, and up to 46 words in 7 minutes!)

It has meant I’ve had to say au revoir to other pieces of our program (some of which I love so hard), but I know what we’re doing now is important and what my students most need at this time.

Jenn

I feel like my teaching life is a hot mess right now, but I kind of love it

If my professional learning has done anything this year, it has turned me into a hot mess. A good hot mess. But a hot mess just the same.

Last year I was organized. I knew what lesson came next in my unit. I knew which Google Docs to use and when to use them. I knew which resources to have at the tips of my fingers in my classroom. I had my timing for lessons, learning activities, and projects down to the minute.

This year, while I’m keeping many of the overall learning goals for my classroom the same, the path to which we achieve these learning goals is changing.  And I don’t always know my next step.

Which leads me to this…

I feel like a hot mess teacher this year, but I believe my students are better off for it.

In December and January, my Cohort 21 Action Plan had very clear goals. I generated a meaningful list of items I could check off a to do list.

And check them off I did.

You see, I’m really good at organization.

I surveyed my students. I visited and observed a teacher I admired in Ottawa. I reviewed some old materials I want to start using again. I read a book. I started making changes in my classroom with new technology.

But I’ve finished all of the “things” on my list and now I’m testing out what I’ve learned. I’m living in a phase of experimentation, and it’s messy. It’s absolutely not organized.

Initially, I had this great idea that I would give myself permission to only experiment with one class. If I’m only playing around with one grade, I’d save myself from this exact feeling of hot mess-ness everywhere in my day.

But (unfortunately? fortunately?) I kept learning new ideas that were perfect for each of my different classes, and I was too excited to wait. I wanted to test them all, so I decided if I was going to play with my program and my teaching practice, I’m going all in.

It’s exciting and fun, and I kind of love it. It’s make me more flexible as a person, that’s for sure.

However, my Cohort 21 Action plan for February to April has pretty much two things on it. Try out new interactive oral communication learning activites in the classroom. Decide which ones work and do them again.

This is not what I thought the end of my Cohort 21 year would look like. I’m sure by April, I’ll still be in this experimentation phase: Discover/Create new ways to get my students speaking to each other in French. Try them out. Repeat.

In a future post, I plan to share exactly what I’ve learned about interactive oral communication in the FSL  classroom and what learning activities have, so far, been successful in my classes.

For now, it’s been a learning curve for me, a person who craves a plan, to live in this space of the unknown. This phase of testing things out. It’s ironic that while I feel a bit less certain of what we’re doing, because much of it is new to me, my students are building their confidence with language.

I can already tell some of our experiments are working. Many of my students are speaking more French in class than they have in a long while.  We moved into a new classroom a few weeks ago, and I think that has helped as well. It was a fresh start in a different, new space with different, new expectations.

I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to try out so many new things in my classroom all at once if I didn’t have such wonderful support from my Cohort 21 team, my Montcrest colleagues, and our school administration. Their encouragement that I’m on the right track definitely keeps me going on days where I’m feeling particularly hot mess-y.

Jenn

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back, Then One Step Forward Again


One thing I’ve learned so far though the Cohort 21 process is that design thinking is not easy. It’s messy, there are inspiring and unique ideas coming at you from everywhere, and sometimes you can even lose sight of your initial goals.

At our last Face to Face session, while I was chatting with my group about building student confidence in my class, I brought up language portfolios. I’ve dabbled with them in the past, but they always fall to the wayside because there never seems to be time to maintain them. Someone in my group brought up trying oral portfolios. I loved this idea! I’d never heard of it before, and since our school is relatively tech-savy, I thought this could be something I might really  like to dive into.

So, at the end of the day, I landed on this How Might We…..? question:

How might we increase student confidence and competence with respect to oral communication in the classroom?

What I especially loved about the oral language portfolio ideas is that it would be an excellent “thing” to show everyone (and I don’t even know what I mean by everyone) at the end.

I had this idea in my head that I needed to have a “thing” when I finish this year with Cohort 21. No one has ever said this to me. It was an expectation I made for myself, so I could prove that this year was worthwhile.

Which led me to head down a rabbit hole about digital language portfolios. Not that digital/oral language portfolios are a bad idea. I still think having students go back and listen to themselves from months or years past might be a powerful tool in helping middle school students recognize the skills they do have and identify their areas of growth. But what I realized was that I simply don’t have the time to investigate them and still focus on increasing the actual oral communication in my classroom at the same time. And what I really want for my students right now, what my students really need right now, is to be speaking more in French. To me and to each other.

I looked at my HMW question and decided it’s too big. I needed to make my focus smaller. One thing at a time, right? @lmustard answered my call for help on Twitter, and chatting with her this week was so helpful. I wanted to refocus my efforts and time back to finding ways to help students speak more French in class, but I was worried that if I took a showable “thing” off the table that maybe I’m not doing enough? Would I still be getting everything out of Cohort 21 that I could? She reassured me that going through the design thinking process, following our action plans, and trying new ideas out in the classroom is absolutely enough. That Cohort 21 will bring us to the end of the beginning, but there is still so much more that can follow.

So, I’ve changed my HMW question, and I’m much happier with it.

How might we support our students while increasing interactive oral communication in the FSL classroom?

I feel like this is exactly what I want to think about and tackle right now, and my action plan from the fall still fits.

Thanks again to @lmustard for the holiday coaching session!

Jenn

The Best PD I’ve Done In Ages (other than C21 obvs)

Every fall, I meet with my assistant head to discuss my own professional learning goals for the year. This year, I’d like to shift my classroom routines and lessons to focus more on oral communication. During our discussion, I told her about a teacher I know of, Richard Smith, who took the potentially drastic step of removing desks his Grade 7 and 8 core French classroom because his focus is so high on oral communication that he doesn’t feel he needs permanent desks. (He uses whiteboards around the room and clipboards for each student when they do writing activities and assessments.)

Since my school operates with a 1:1 laptop program in its middle school, which I love, I don’t know that I’d ever remove desks entirely, but my questions were these: What oral communication learning activities is he doing with his 7s and 8s each day? How can I incorporate some of them into my own classroom?

In my chat with my assistant head, she encouraged me to plan a visit to see him teach. I’d seen Richard speak at various conferences in the past; however, being able to spend time observing him directly would be even more meaningful. Richard was graciously open to having me visit for the day; however, he is in Ottawa, and I’m in Toronto. Not exactly a day trip. To make this work, my husband and I booked a family trip to Ottawa one weekend in December, and we planned to stay an extra day, so I could see Richard teach.

To say my day with Richard was valuable would be an enormous understatement. He was so passionate, thoughtful, and generous that I spent the whole day furiously taking pages of notes. He made sure that each lesson he taught that day was unique, so I could see as many different activities as possible. He also shared many of his resources with me (yeah for the ease of Google Drive!)

Richard reminded me that I am the model for my students. They will mimic the energy for and use of French that they see.

He also said to me that his goal is for 80-90% of each class to be in the target language. This was actually a relief to hear because I’d seen Richard speak so many times that I’d built up in my head that he was conducting all of his Grade 7 and 8 core French classes in the target language 120% of the time, and that seemed like such a mountain to climb from where I feel some days. Knowing that, even with the best teachers, there is wiggle room is comforting.

I’m so grateful to Richard for sharing his classroom with me, and I strongly encourage you to find another teacher in your field and check out what they’re doing. It’s so energizing! As Seth Godin  says, “Most of the time, we adopt the scarcity model of pizza. ‘I don’t have that much, and if I share it with you, I won’t have any left…’ But in fact, the useful parts of our life are better characterized as, ‘If I share it with you, we’ll both have it.’ An idea shared is more powerful than one that’s hidden.” 

Jenn

Quiet by Susan Cain

On the first day we met Face to Face as a cohort, I was in the initial phases of formulating the questions and challenges I wanted to take on this year. I knew I wanted my focus to be somehow connected to oral communication.  As a second language teacher, I spend a good part of my day encouraging people to speak. To take risks. To make mistakes in front of their peers. For my students, I recognize that this is not easy and it is not for everyone. So, how do we do it anyways?

My coach, @acampbellrogers, told me I’d probably be interested in reading Quiet by Susan Cain. This book describes what life is like for introverts and how we can harness the power of those who aren’t often the loudest speakers in the room.

I consider myself a velocireader, so I’m always happy to take on new book recommendations. I immediately borrowed a copy from a co-worker and started reading.

Quiet really has me asking myself what speaking fluidly means and has shifted my perspective. Speaking slowly doesn’t mean that a student is not speaking fluidly. Additionally, the medium is not always the message. If the message is thoughtful, there is room in second-language education to acknowledge this, even if it is “easier” to evaluate errors that are right and wrong. And my students who are fluent and don’t speak extensively in class are still fluent. As I enter report card season, this is something I am keeping in my mind much more than I ever have before.

Another interesting point is that the rise of social media and the Internet has given introverts a “voice”, especially with writing. My question is, “How can I transfer this to oral communication?” Flipgrid is a start.

Being mindful of seating was something else that I had never thought of before. Don’t seat quiet students in “high-traffic or high-interaction” areas. It will increase anxiety, decrease concentration, and they won’t actually speak more.

And finally, never underestimate the power of empathy. I’d like to find more opportunities to check in with my introverted students before presentations. To encourage them. To tell them that I also get nervous, but it does get easier with time. I loved reading how we should teach our students the importance of rehearsal and practice. This is a concept I’ve been hammering home with my students more recently, and it’s validating to read that I’m on the right track with this one.

I’d definitely say that Quiet is a  must-read for second-language teachers. It certainly gave me quite a bit to think about!

Jenn

« Older posts

© 2021 Jennifer Bairos

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑