Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Friendly Conversations with Videopals

While taking my students outside the walls through Hangouts and various games/activities, I was really searching for more of a spontaneous opportunity for my grade 8 students, expanding their abilities to use listening and speaking strategies, being able to carry on a conversation, and voice opinions, thus meeting curriculum expectations and challenging them.  Corrie DeNure had talked about video penpals and organizing the files in Google.


I investigated this further and thought that I would like to pursue this with my grade 8s.  In January, I met up with Kayla Myers and we embarked on this adventure together; however, because she is at a smaller school, she needed to include her 8s, 7s and some of her 6’s. We each sent home letters to parents to make them aware of the project.  (Kayla was required to get more concrete permission.)  In my Google Drive, I set up folders for each one of my students which I shared with Kayla.  She shared each folder with a different one of her students.  We chose not to match the students according to ability, but rather, we randomly paired them.  This first set of folders was used to put in the students recorded conversations to which the 4 of us (2 teachers and the set of paired students) had access.  A second set of folders was created for each student and was shared only between the teacher and that student.  It was in this folder that metacognition reflections and grading rubrics/feedback pages were shared.


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For the rubric, we modified the open rubric that Jen Aston had designed for the Box of Lies. As well, we designed a metacognition page for the students to use to reflect on their growth.  These two pages along with the assignment were outlined and questions were answered, and we were off.  We would alternate weeks on listening and sending messages.


Students had the choice of doing either a video recording or just a voice recording which were completed on iPads (Voice Record Pro was used for voice only).  Students were not allowed to write out a script.  The recording was then viewed by the teacher and put into the appropriate folder.  After recording, students completed their metacognition and then the teacher marked the recording and metacognition using the rubric, giving feedback, and then putting it in the second folder for the student.


My students went first.  Many of them recorded their name and asked what their videopal’s name was and that was it - a 10 sec message.  We had a discussion on what a conversation was.  We brainstormed topics that they knew vocabulary for and could talk about.  I put these on wheels on the Smartboard and for the next two weeks, we started class with spinning a wheel, having a large group conversation on that topic, then the students partnered and then we discussed needed vocabulary.  For the most part, the conversations started to lengthen but students still struggled with their perception of fluency.  So Kayla and I made videos for each other and played them for our students as models.  Students heard pauses and corrections, and when asked how we remembered everything, I showed my students how I used a piece of paper to write down keywords and used some codes as reminders for what was said or asked so I could respond.  Many of my students went on to use this strategy for future recordings.


Students worked on this assignment for 4 months.  By the end of the time, most students were recording messages over a minute in length, and some over a minute and a half.  The use of strategies had grown, and they were making more connections to each other’s ideas and opinions and adding more information upon which the other person could comment.


Upon wrapping up this assignment, we completed a survey with our students which reflected on their experience and growth, as well as provided feedback to we teachers for future planning. Here are some of the questions and results:
1.Did you take advantage of this experience? - yes/no/could have given more effort
                                                                           76 / 2 / 22        
2.Did you like this activity?  - yes/no/it was okay
                                              46/12/42    
The following 3 questions were on a rating scale with 1 being little/none to 5 being a lot:


3.By doing this activity, how much more comfortable and confident are you with speaking with others in French?
1                                                         5
                     38% at 3 / 42% at 4  / 10% at 5


4.By doing this activity I improved my listening strategies:
1                                                                   5
                             32% at 3 / 52% at 4  / 10% at 5


5.By doing this activity I improved my speaking strategies:
1                                                                   5
                                 26% at 3 / 52% at 4  / 20% at 5


Overall, the students felt that this activity was successful in increasing their confidence and use of listening and speaking strategies (with a greater increase in verbal strategies now being used).


When asked “If I could do this activity again, I would…”, here is a sample of some of the responses:
I think I would ask more meaningful questions that I can really talk about and connect on instead of just, do you have a dog? What's your dogs name? etc.. I think I'd be neat to have had a better connection with X one that would make us better friends and I could've done that by asking questions about her personality.


Looked up more words to expand my vocabulary


If I were to do this activity again I would ask my partner more complex questions so we could have a better more beneficial conversation.


If I could do this activity again, I'd focus more on the fact that having a conversation in French is just like having a conversation in English. At the beginning I didn't know what to expect and I was all over the place with my conversations. I also don't think that I was conversing to my full potential in the start, so if I could change things, I would probably just be more confident and speak the way I would in English.


Finally, when asked “If I could change something about this activity I would suggest…”, here are the suggestions we received:


Live chats
Do the metacognition less
Start in September so we can meet them and know them longer
Do it more often - not have to wait for our week - answer as soon as we got a video back
Go and meet them


As teachers, we were pleased with our first attempt and saw the value in this type of activity.  We did, however, find the grading of everything onerous, and we are adapting some changes for the upcoming year.  We will use Google Classroom instead of our Drives.  We are going to start the end of September as suggested, and I am looking to do this activity with my grade 7s as well.  We will grade the recordings at the end of 4 sessions, and although all recordings will be viewed and considered, the students can select the one they want us to focus on for grading.  As well, the students will do the metacognition piece once during this time as having them complete it every time they recorded seemed to prove that they began to repeat the same comments and struggled to indicate their growth in their thoughts.  As well, we are going to add the lists of listening and speaking strategies to the bottom of the metacognition page so the students can check them off and continue to work on the strategies that they feel they are not using.  Every two months, we would like to do a live chat.

Having spontaneous conversations showed the students what they they were capable of or not, allowing the students to take greater responsibility for their learning.

Storywriting Together

Bruce Emmerton in Kingston and my class in London were both working on reviewing/learning body parts, colours, adjectives, etc.  My students had worked collaboratively in small groups to plan and design a robot with some other aspects.  We used Adobe Spark video on the iPads to create the videos.  I made a new generic Google acct to be used only for this app so I could leave it open and not be concerned about access to any other information.  My students had completed their projects which included writing the sentences and saying the sentences for each body part on the slides.  Then they gave it to another group to listen to and cut out and complete the robot, taking the pictures and adding them to each slide to show understanding.

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A finished project can be viewed here.

I took the idea that we had used in class and asked Bruce if his class would like to do a collaborative story-writing activity.  We used Adobe Spark video again, and I shared my generic Google acct with him so we could all have access to the files.
We set up 6 groups and 6 story starter videos.  Working in groups, my students wrote about the first body part they wanted their corresponding group to create.  (e.g., Il a une grande tête rouge). After they wrote it into the slide, one person in the group would record the sentence.  So on my end, I incorporated writing and speaking, and when Bruce’s groups got it, they would be using reading and listening.  The group members had various tasks which were rotated each time: one to decide what the sentence would be; one to write the sentence; one to be the vocabulary finder; one to record the voice over.  All were responsible for verifying that the correct adjectives forms and structures etc were used.

When my groups were finished, I texted Bruce to let him know it was his class’ turn.  They read and listened to the clue and then either drew the part or made the required piece out of construction paper.  Then a picture was taken and put on the next slide to show understanding.  Finally Bruce’s groups had to write the next line of the story and record it and send it back to us.  

We continued this back and forth until the robot was created.  (Note:  It is necessary to keep the drawn picture or the parts after each session as the students have to continue to build each time.)

To view a finished project, click here.

Feedback from my students:
They enjoyed working as a group but honestly admitted that too much English was spoken; however, many attempted to use only French.
They liked that they could watch finish product on videos.
It was fun- all had a turn and gave their best effort.
They understood even if someone made errors in pronunciation because they (Bruce’s students) used familiar vocabulary, and we practise a lot.
They liked that all 4 strands were involved.

Metacognition:
strategies:
-asked a friend if did not understand
-répétez/rejouez le vidéo

For my students, these projects continued to build vocabulary as they constantly wanted to add to the descriptions:  light/dark (colour), thick/thin;
When Bruce’s students used new vocabulary, my students used their strategies to problem-solve: e.g., long et court - understood long because it is a mots amis; court - dictionnaire ou Madame a fait les gestes.
And of course, what do we do with new words?  Add to our word wall.

Finally, this led to a hangout where my students each drew, coloured and named a robot on a ¼ sheet of paper. I scanned and sent a copy of each to Bruce so he could copy and use in the game.  Bruce’s class either did a robot but some wanted to change it up, so being before Christmas, they coloured elves.  Bruce scanned and sent to me.  (See First Hangout blog for playing).  This led to further learning for my students as they did not want to use “mains” but “mitaines”, not “pieds” but “bas”, and of course, they needed “cadeau”.  We also learned the difference between using mon/notre and ton/votre.

A great learning experience and once again an opportunity to learn new vocabulary/structures and to hear different accents/pronunciation.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

First Hangout!

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.  


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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