Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Teachers Are Heroes - who deserve a sale!

TeachersPayTeachers is recognizing the hard work that teachers do with a site-wide sale later this week. The theme is - Teachers are Heroes!

This Wednesday, use the promo code "heroes" to save an extra 10% off the sale price as determined by individual sellers for their TPT products. I'll be discounting most of my store the full 20%. When you add them together, then that equals 28% off, because the 10% is applied to an already reduced price.

Be sure to check out some of the other incredible Secondary Teacher stores included in the graphic above, or the list below.

Danielle Knight (Study All Knight) 
The Classroom Sparrow
Michele Luck's Social Studies 
Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy

Mad Science Lessons 
Juggling ELA
Krystal Mills - Lessons From The Middle 
Teaching High School Math 
To the square inch- Kate Bing Coners 
Charlene Tess 
Pamela Kranz
The Creative Classroom

Kristin Lee 
Mrs. Brosseau's Binder 
James Whitaker's SophistThoughts

Darlene Anne
ELA Everyday 
Lessons With Coffee
Teaching FSL
Room 213
Lindsay Perro 
Liz's Lessons 
21st Century Math Projects

The SuperHERO Teacher
Science Stuff 
Kate's Classroom Cafe 
A Space to Create

Addie Williams 
Created by MrHughes

Leah Cleary
Secondary Solutions
All Things Algebra
Tracee Orman
Live Love Math

Ruth S.

2 Peas and a Dog 
FisherReyna Education
Rachel Friedrich
Linda Jennifer 
For the Love of Teaching Math
The Career Ready Teacher 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pre-Reading Activity for "Enfants de la rébellion"

I realized I had an old blog post that somehow got corrupted or deactivated - or maybe I just never published it properly. Although I'm not totally sure what happened with the original, a buyer just asked me about the pre-reading minds-on activity I mentioned in my unit for the novel Enfants de la Rébellion. You can check out the novel study guide that I created to use in my class a couple of years ago in my TPT store.

Although the pre-reading activity can be easily adapted to suit individual classrooms, changing the focus to correspond with your long-term teaching goals, here is the set of quotes that I used as an anticipation guide-type activity.

Students love a chance to move around the classroom, even when there is still a learning purpose, so I used this along with some upbeat francophone music to encourage students to speak to various classmates. It's a great opportunity to mix students up in ways they might not be normally grouped within the classroom, with a very low risk factor. The structure I used is "Tea Party" and you can read more about that strategy here. (To me, it actually seems like more of a "cocktail party" strategy... picture people circulating around and chatting, rather than sitting down with pinkies in the air... but I guess we're keeping it PG by avoiding the potential alcohol reference.)

So, if you're exploring this novel in your class, feel free to avail yourself of the quotes that I selected from various parts of the novel, to give an idea about the characters, the setting, the genre and certain aspects of the plot (without giving too much away, of course! No outright spoilers.)

I've included the 25 quotes I used in my classroom, and there are a couple of blanks at the end, in case you need to hand-write a few more, for a larger class. I've also provided a PowerPoint file, into which you can type your own quotes if you're a fan of consistency in appearance & have messy handwriting (like me!). The PowerPoint is not fully editable, to protect the graphics I used and honour their terms of use. But there are text boxes within which you can customize or personalize the text.

Thanks for stopping by! (Et merci beaucoup, Shannon, for letting me know that this element was missing!)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Bright Idea for BYOD Classroom Management

I'm so excited to be participating in February's fabulous blog hop, a monthly event dreamed up by fellow Canadian edublogger Shelley Gray at Teaching in the Early Years

Here's my "bright idea" which relates to technology this month. In my school district, students are invited, even encouraged to bring... I'd say even strongly encouraged to provide their own technology to class. Of course the school board sees this as a win-win, because many students DO already have technology that would be appropriate for educational use and one would assume that if it's the learner's own tablet, laptop or smart phone, then they would already be comfortable using it. A lot of flexibility, open-mindedness about process, and planning around alternative methods to achieve the same outcomes are needed in this situation, I've found.

I'm getting accustomed to that aspect, but I still find starting up a new project or assignment can be a little hectic, as multiple sets of instructions - or overly vague "one size fits all" instructions have to be given. So, I was thinking... what if, for the purposes of such work, my student groupings were temporarily rearranged to suit me? I believe in flexible groupings, with different sizes and various compositions based on the activity at hand. So this is really just adding one more possibility to my procedures.

If all the students with android phones are sitting in one area, and all the iPad users in another, with our laptop owners at a third group of desks, then they can more easily help one another through any tricky app downloading or sign-in processes that may vary by platform.  What about the kids who don't have a device? Either they can use a school supplied one that fits into the established groups, or there can be a section of the class for those using low-tech options. In case you're thinking that sounds a little bit uncomfortable, segregating students by the "brand" of technology they can bring themselves, let me just add that I wouldn't keep student groups like this for long. Maybe just a period or for short activities that already involve students moving about the learning space, it could be an even more brief time frame. Possibly just the first 5 or 10 minutes of an activity. 

If you like to use multiple groupings like me, you could even have little table signs ready or posted lists of seating with some of your most used arrangements ready for students or even a supply teacher to use as a handy reference.

I hope you liked this idea! If so, be sure to follow me on Pinterest, Twitter and TpT for lots of other great stuff! I love to share! Also, check out some of the other awesome promo-free blog posts linked up below.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Storyboarding for French Class

Happy new year... it's still January, so I can say that, right? In any case, this crazy balloon is still floating in my son's bedroom, so I feel I'm justified!

We're in the midst of report card preparations, and I'm working on differentiation-overload, it feels like, so just a short and sweet blog post today. This has been sitting in my drafts folder forever!

On the website "Printable Paper" there's a whole section with free storyboard templates.  Pick whatever format you'd like your students to use, download and print. That's all there is to it! Storyboards can be great for planning comics, such as Bitstrips, and film projects.

Or consider letting students decide for themselves. I'm all about personalized educational experiences over here! I find giving students this type of choice is useful sometimes as it allows us to dialogue about why they made the decision they did and how different layouts might be more appropriate for certain sets of circumstances. This stretches their critical thinking and metacognitive abilities.

You'll also find other potentially useful printables on this site. The graphing paper options I've found handy a few times, and the "shooting targets" might have a place in the classroom, just as target images. Please, don't shoot. Unless it's some kind of a kinesthetic throwing game. Then, be my guest.

Have fun browsing the options!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What's "Authentic" about tasks in French class?

I've seen many teachers around me struggling to shift their thinking as it relates to having students perform authentic tasks in a second language class.  Most clearly understand that having a student fill in a "Conjugate this verb" worksheet is not authentic, but beyond that, there are many shades of gray. I not an expert, but just an educator interested in supporting this conversation & further refinement by teachers as they find what will work best for their unique groups of learners.

It seems important to start with a look at Higher Order Thinking skills.

What are HOTS ?What are "HOTS"? (as I sometimes see them called in critical literacy, primary-junior circles) You already know what they are! They're the types of activities that ask our students to do deeper thinking.
Consider Bloom's taxomony. (Which, for the record, was revised at some point in the past decade... thanks to my school teacher-librarian & friend for sharing that information with our staff this year, as I think some of us might have assumed nothing changed as the terminology was still kind of the same!)

Think about those skills at the top of the hierarchy... evaluate, analyse, apply. Pay particular attention to APPLY for the FSL classroom.

Bloom's Taxonomy

And now, about that need to have students work on "authentic tasks" together. Authentic means something a learner might actually do, now or in the near future, in the real world, in French. Given the opportunity, of course, through access to francophones with whom they could interact.... but let's just suppose a new francophone family appeared in your anglo community next week.

Some assignments:
Giving students a dialogue so that they can pretend to have a conversation by repeating lines someone else has written for them - NOT authentic. Having students write their own lines for a dialogue, practice them at home and present in front of the class - NOT authentic. Putting on a play - NOT authentic (unless your group of students is specifically composed of future theatre folks!)

How about "tasks"?  We should be avoiding, to a great degree, the types of "tasks" that have sometimes existed in the Core French classroom in the past.  Copying a note. Conjugating a verb. Repeating phrases after the teacher. Finding vocabulary words in a word search.  Even larger projects that we assigned... things like making a promo video, writing a letter, creating a web page, ought to change quite a bit with the new curriculum.  Our students could not accomplish these tasks in French. The reality was, the industrious ones spent a week or more glued to a French-English dictionary trying to accomplish some "project-oriented" goal. The not-so-motivated did nothing, except complaining "this is stupid; French is stupid" (because they FELT stupid when we asked them to do something that was way beyond their comfort zone). And those in between often did bits and pieces in French, but mostly wrote drafts in English... and then used Google translate to come up with final text they could colour and add images to in order to make it their own. How were they supposed to see the educational value in that?

Now you're saying to yourself, "Ok, Mme Aiello, that's a fine bit of judging and nay-saying, but what really do you expect from us? We aren't miracle workers you know!"  My response to your imaginary statement is two things:  I'm not judging... I've been there and done that myself. But I'm also about ongoing learning, for adults as well as kids. The second part: Guess what? We just might be miracle workers. We do have a lot of control over how students view French, with our day to day choices and approach to teaching them!

Miracles crossed out with French Class written above it

Don't give up and fall into the slump of quieting students with worksheets, rote memorization and translation... just don't do it! Keep reaching out to colleagues, try new things together (and on your own when you have to!) and share your success stories! While I'm thinking of it, yes, share your materials too! If you want to open a TPT store, please use my referral link. It costs you absolutely nothing extra (There's a $60 annual fee if you want the best commission rates, but you can get started without paying a single thing, and there's no need to upgrade to a premium account if you prefer to keep it free.)

Here's what I suggest fits the bill, or "hits the mark" since I decide to use a target as my organizer. (Click the image to zoom in for a better look, and do please pin this image to share with others!)

Authentic Action oriented Tasks for French Class; three lists (best fits, so-so, and missing the mark)

In no way am I suggesting that we throw the baby out with the bath water, and that the activities I've indicated have no pedagogical value. Some are great for scaffolding. All I'm saying is let's not stop there, and call that a summative task (assessment of learning). Let's help our students to feel confident and capable in the real world, one step at a time!  I'm ready to take some flack over this... I'm working it out for myself too. So, please feel free to engage in professional dialogue in the Comments section below. Just please remain polite and constructive, to help us all to move forward. 

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