Ready, Set…Action!

I’ve thought about what it is I want to accomplish, and at times, it seems insurmountable. For me, it’s getting my students to use their own abilities to communicate in French.

Their reality is much different than mine was at their age. With technology at their fingertips, students no longer have to spend time thumbing through massive dictionaries. It’s hard to believe I actually packed a not-so-Petit Robert into my suitcase for my studies abroad in France! The traditional green ‘Bescherelle’ has been replaced by any number of any websites, and/or merely typing in the verb into a Google search. SpellCheck quickly helps them identify all the difficult accents. These resources are a boon to students, and admittedly, I appreciate their handiness as well.

But what really, really, really gets me is the use of online translators – the blatant practice of using GoogleTranslate, the student’s expectation being that they should be able to write in English and then magically transform it into French with the touch of a button, and that these written words can be a jumping off point for oral work as well. And the technology is getting good! Years ago it was easier to spot the student who heavily relied on an online translator with its choppy nonsensical phrases. Yet today, with a 1:1 laptop program, who could possibly resist the insta-translator’s allure?

So…how might I get students to perform regularly in an authentic manner?

I have a very simple idea. I’m pretty embarrassed to admit that I don’t do this (yet), because it seems so obvious. Each day, a student will be responsible for leading a discussion for the first five minutes of class. A warm-up if you will. Voilà – c’est tout.

Here are my immediate misgivings:

  • How will I assess this?
  • Will this become boring?
  • Could I make this ‘count’ (i.e. assessment of learning), even though it wasn’t in my course outline?
  • Why isn’t this in my course outline?
  • Could I test students new vocabulary from this?
  • Will my classes buy into this?
  • Do the students need to have structures in place to make this work?
  • When will I find the time?

I’ve given myself a deadline of trying this out a week today. I’m eager to see how it goes.

> Do you use student-led warm-ups in your classes? How so?


5 thoughts on “Ready, Set…Action!

  1. Vivienne,
    What a great design statement! Fortunately, you have such great human resources in @ddoucet and @jbibby to support you…and Paola of course 🙂

  2. Yes! It’s all about authentic language! We always start with a discussion and it’s student led questions but I give them 5 minutes after the discussion to write in any words they had wanted to use in French but couldn’t. They keep this in their cahier so that they always have access and they can always add to their lexique…

    I hope you’ve signed up to the DELF 1/2 day workshop at RSGC – we’ll be looking at portfolios and implementing the DELF in your classes. Here is a link to discussion topics & practice tests -they are good for things to talk about and role play. Duolingo is also a decent app that kids can use to improve their learning which meets them where they are based on a competency test at the beginning.

    Let me know if you want to chat more about this and we can G Hangout or take some time at the next face to face.

  3. Hi Vivienne,

    Nice “how might I”! I, too, immediately barrage myself with lists of misgivings when I think of a new idea, but props to you for going ahead and trying it anyway. It’s the only way forward! I’ve found a lot of my misgivings fall away once I try something, or are replaced with completely new problems I couldn’t have anticipated.

    Nice work and looking forward to hearing about your progress!


  4. Here are a few more questions…..

    What can you “let go of” to make room for this?
    How can students be a part of this design process?
    How would you teach and build assessments differently if embraced Google Translate as a formal learning tool?

    Love where this is going!!!

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