Thursday, 11 June 2015

Read&Write for Google - en français!

Great news!  TextHelp has given FSL teachers an end-of-the-school-year present, releasing an update to Read&Write for Google Chrome extension that includes full French functionality.  Tools include text-to-speech, speech-to-text, predictive text, dictionary, visual dictionary, fact finder, translator, and highlighters.  It's a great literacy tool that our FSL students should find useful.  It works best in Google Docs and on websites - just look for the puzzle piece in the address bar.

For an overview of the different tools, this Google Presentation may be helpful.  If you are not a UGDSB teacher, ignore the UGDSB-specific log-on information - although the reasoning may apply to your domain, too.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Inquiry-Based Learning in #FSL

I'm still struggling a bit with the idea of inquiry-based learning in the high school Core French class. What does it look like? How do I ensure that my students have a common base of knowledge to drive their interactions? How do I make this time-efficient when there are ever increasing demands on what needs to be accomplished in the classroom?  And, more pragmatically, how do I make this manageable for me as a teacher while still making it valuable for the students?

One idea I tried this year in my Grade 9 Academic French class was to use inquiry to develop the students' vocabulary list for our unit on "Le week-end."  Our inquiry question was "What vocabulary do I need to talk about my favourite activity?"

A bit of background: when I got to the culminating conversations with my grade 9s last semester, I discovered that often times they did not have the specific vocabulary to talk about their activities and interests. For example, they could say "J'aime jouer au hockey" but didn't understand the question "Est-ce que tu joues pour une équipe?"  I was frustrated and disappointed with myself that my students didn't know as simple and necessary a word as "une équipe."  I swore that wouldn't happen again!

This semester I decided that students would create their own vocabulary lists, centred around their interests. A student who likes hockey had to create a list of 15 - 20 words needed to be able to talk about hockey. A student who likes to cook needed to come up with 15 - 20 words related to cooking. And so on.  Students created their list in a Google Sheet and included a URL to a picture that would represent the vocabulary word.

Once each student had submitted their Google Sheet through Google Classroom, I collated the lists to make one HUGE master list. We then as a class decided which words every student should know, with criteria being the importance of the word to the activity but also the applicability of the word in other situations. We were able to narrow down our master list to a list of about 55 words, many of which they already knew. I then used to create visual flashcards so students could learn and review their vocabulary.  (Check out our list here.)

I liked how students were able to focus on vocabulary that was of interest and use to them, but that we were also able to create a base of common knowledge so that when students are talking to each other, they can ask follow-up questions using specific vocabulary.

The next step for me is to create some sort of an assignment where students use their individualized list.  This picture just came up in my Facebook feed, courtesy of the J'aime le français Facebook community via the French Teachers in the US Facebook group - I think I might try something like this, at least as a starting point.  Students could then use their poster to do a presentation to the class about their favourite activity.