Building Confidence

When I was brainstorming my first HMW question a few years ago, one of my biggest frustrations was with hearing students constantly say “I can’t speak French”. Or even worse… “I don’t speak French so I don’t know how to do this”. Since my first year of teaching I have been working to build students’ second-language acquisition skills so that they could use little bits of words and sentences to communicate, even if it isn’t grammatically accurate. And I feel that the boys at my school have greatly increased their confidence in their abilities to use vocabulary and expressions to communicate; however, I remain faced with the challenge of helping insecure boys realize how much they can actually accomplish in the language.


So this year I would like to incorporate both student portfolios and the CEFR (The Common European Framework of Reference for Language Learning) to help boys better articulate the skills they do possess and their areas of improvement. One of the important elements of the CEFR is the “Can-Do Statements”, which clearly highlight what learners are able to do at each level of fluency. For example, in level A1, some statements include: “I can introduce myself”, “I can ask someone to repeat or speak slower”, “I can read brief text like a sign or poster”. As language learners check off these statements, they can see their progress through the levels of fluency from A1 to C2.


We are conducting our first ever Student-Led Conferences in February, with boys participating in activities for each subject area in addition to presenting their portfolios to their parents. My hope is that they will be able to use the Can-Do Statements of the CEFR to present their portfolios and give examples so that parents understand the abilities of their son. My original plan was to have boys research the CEFR and the Can-Do Statements in order to choose which statements they are working on in Grade 4, create anchor charts of the skills and statements with images and then start to use them more when giving feedback so they are familiar with the language. Since coming back from the break I have had the boys add work into their portfolios on Edsby (administration pushed to have every teacher add work for their students) and I noticed how difficult it is for them to describe their strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps that is because I haven’t taken the time to have them explore the CEFR!


To be continued…

  2 comments for “Building Confidence

  1. January 17, 2019 at 2:54 am

    Hi Mackenzie,

    One of my favourite things about my experience with Cohort 21 thus far is realizing that some of my questions are not math related but learning related. The current version of my HMW question is very similar to yours in having student’s reflect on their learning which would include identifying what they know and what they still need to practice.

    I can’t wait to hear more about your journey with portfolios and any strategies you have used to get your students to reflect.

  2. January 17, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    This is fantastic! The “I can’t”s in a French classroom are so common; it’s wonderful that you’re establishing this framework to help them focus on success. Will definitely be monitoring this as you go along…

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