Tuesday, 8 August 2017
There is a first time for everything, and for some of us, taking that first step is intimidating, especially if it is in front of a classroom of today’s tech-savvy students. To take “mes classes françaises” beyond the walls would require taking a step of faith. That’s where it was good to have a friend who could help on the other end for support. Of course, we did a Hangout a day or two in advance, “sans étudiants”, to ensure everything was set up properly. Also, we planned an easy activity to start.
On Nov.1, my first Hangout was with Jen Aston who was home on mat leave. My grade 4’s had learned their numbers to 39, and so we played a simple number guessing game that involved asking if the number was __, (Est-ce que ton numéro est?) and the person responding “oui/non”. Politeness being important, each student had to introduce him/herself and be sure to say thank you and good-bye at the end of the turn. (Later, we would add "Je regrette/Désolé".) My students had laminated number charts and dry erase pens to use so they could track the numbers chosen. It was also very important to the class that everyone had a turn, so each student had a straw on the desk, and only after all the straws were gone could someone go a second time. After we had played a couple of games, Jen and I had a short spontaneous conversation in French.
While the activity was fun, and it was very encouraging to see my first year French students bravely going up to the computer and taking their turn, it was what happened next that led to the understanding of the importance of participating in this type of activity.
First, I asked for feedback to which they said:
I am happy that I can speak French to someone outside of the classroom.
Everyone took a turn!
Everyone communicated and people were quiet so we could all hear.
She said new words and when I listened to you two talk, I learned new words that I can use.
We knew our numbers!
We need to learn to 50 for next time!
I could understand what she was saying.
This was so cool!
When I shared this with Jen, we talked about how this really sounded like metacognition, so I followed up the next day with the question “You said yesterday that you were able to understand what was being said to you. Why were you able to understand what Mme Aston said?” Their responses:
1) 5 people said: "The words she said are the words that you say to us so we knew them." (Les mots familiers)
2) Many agreed with this: "Because you do the gestures, when I hear the words, I see the gestures and it reminds me what is being said."
3) 3 said: "We practise so we know what is being said."
4) 3 said: "I listened attentively."
5) "It helped that I could see the person speaking."
6) Many agreed: " I love French and I want to learn."
7) 4 said: "I listened for words that sound like English, les mots amis."
From this simple activity, not only did the students tell me what we needed to do next (“learn to 50”), but they recognized strategies that they were using to communicate.
They went on to learn to 50, and then they charged forward to learning to 100 within a week, using 100 charts and expanding the game to adding “plus que/moins que”. (We played this together in large group and then in partners before the hangouts.)
I have since played a variety of games with various classes and a variety of schools (Guess Who - picture cards/own personal info cards, robots/elves, Battleship (see Bruce Emmerton’s blog), animal guessing game by asking about attributes of the animal. My students always have laminated cards and markers to use to keep everyone engaged, and I can easily walk around and verify understanding. (We scanned and sent copies of the robots/elves and personal info cards to each other which we copy on our end. The students have a set of the other class’ cards that they use in a group, and they just flip over the ones that don’t match the criteria of the question asked.) Each time, we end with a discussion of their feelings, what strategies they used and what they need to learn for the next time.
We love Google Hangouts, and I am happy that I took this first step to see my students grow in confidence and recognize that French isn’t just for inside the French classroom walls. Give the students a purpose, and they will learn what they need to in order to participate and be successful.
Upper left - Battleship; Upper right - Guess Who with pics; Lower left - Guess Who with personal info cards; Lower right - copy of Guess Who personal info card