Interdisciplinary – Study Skills

One of my favorite aspects of teaching Foreign Languages is the fact that we can be creative and teach just about anything! Language is communication so, we communicate when we talk about grammar, but also when we talk about math, literature, the environment, or even science.

I run into this excellent article from El País. Immediately, it made me think about my students. Knowing how to study is key. Some students have the skills to be successful, but they struggle with their academics due to a lack of organization or a lack of understanding about how to study.

Please feel free to use this article as a means to approach study skills in the classroom. There is also a video, so you can also use it to develop listening and speaking skills as well. Enjoy!

Oculus Magicus

Oculus_Rift_development_kit_2

This is how they look

Magic comes to class when you pull out those bulky, cool, trendy Oculus Rift. As soon as I found out that we got two of those in my school, I knew that I had to use them in class. It turns out that it can be a great tool for the Foreign Language course, and many ideas come to mind as to how they could be implemented in the classroom, so here I am sharing it with you!

But, first things first, some of you may have never heard about this. What are the Oculus Rift? According to their Website, the Oculus Rift is a new virtual reality headset that lets players step inside their favorite games and virtual worlds. A gamer’s dream, as you may think, but what about a learning motivator to add some spark to your course?

Certainly, the Oculus have plenty of potential. In my case, I have decided to make them become my own “language lab”. Since I do not have a language lab close to my room, I think that this tool could be a good temporary solution.

It is quite easy to start using them. Check out this link for a step by step explanation.

Tuscany Demo

Tuscany Demo

The Oculus come in with a Demo. In my case, I had the Tuscany Demo already on them. I have not downloaded any other game yet, but I am sure that there is a world of possibilities out there if  you decide to go over the options provided in their system.

So, given that this is a house and you get to walk in it, what can we do with it in the Foreign Language class? You got it, house vocabulary, prepositions, directions! That’s what I did.

When wearing the Rift, you can turn and look around, but you cannot walk. In order to do so you must use the keyboard in your computer. So, I used this to my advantage requiring students to indicate the directions they wanted to go to next. Yes, an excellent way to apply the command tense (L’impératif) and prepositions. This is how I proceeded:

1. Teaching the impératif.

2. Reviewing prepositions.

3. Reviewing the parts of the house.

4. Multiple exercises in class prior to using the Oculus.

5. Oculus listening and speaking!

* Since I only have 1 oculus, I made sure that my other students had exercises to work on while I was conducting the speaking assignments.

In #5 these were the requirements (all in the target language, obviously):

1. Students describe the scene.

2. Students respond to teacher’s questions: Where are you? Do you like it? How is the weather? What is to your left? What is in front of you? etc.

3. Students direct the teacher to wherever they want to get to in the scene.

4. Toward the end of their experience, student locates an item in the house.

5. Student explains to next student how to get to the item that he located (scavenger hunt type of way)

6. Next student tries to find the object and confirms with previous student if it was the item that he had selected for the “scavenger hunt”.

Note: When using this demo, I highly advise you to limit each student’s intervention to a maximum of 4 minutes. Most of us (including myself) get motion sick after 4 or 5 minutes. I do not know if this happens with all games in the Oculus, but this is my experience with the Tuscany Demo. Also, please make sure that you tell students to let you know if they want to stop at any time if they are feeling sick.

Do you want to see it in action? Check out this video created by my favorite Educational Technologist, Lee Howell, and check out her blog here.

And you, have you ever used the Oculus Rift in your class? If so, what did you do with them? If not, how would you like to use them? Please, share and comment below.

Have a wonderful, oculus magicus lesson!

Des pique-niques en cours de FLE

Our students always enjoy food lesson plans. I do not know if it is because they are growing during the Middle School years but, truth be said, THEY LOVE FOOD!!!

I recently came back to the US from my Summer Trip to Europe. During the summer, I was having picnics almost weekly. Picnics in Europe tend to be on the grass, not in tables and benches like we usually do in the US. It may sound like a silly little nuance but, to me, it makes a big difference! I am a huge picnic lover.

So, taking into account that we live in sunny Florida and that the days have been beautiful lately, I decided to give my students a quite fun first assessment: a speaking test during a French pique-nique! Yes, they loved the idea! Some parents told me that their kids kept talking about the picnic for days, they were eagerly waiting for our pique-nique test/activity.

Before the due date, I made sure that students understood that a good behavior was VERY important in order to complete this assignment. I only have 18 students in this class, but even so, I was very clear when setting up my expectations. This exercise is a hit it or miss it. If students were to misbehave, talk randomly without an established order, then the entire class time would be lost… They understood my expectations and, when the day arrived, they took turns to speak, and they participated at appropriate times. Also, I made very sure that they reviewed the content days in advance so that they would be prepared to implement the grammatical/vocabulary aspects of the lesson. This way, they were able to use partitifs, food vocabulary, and irregular adjectives more confidently, and correctly.

All students brought something to eat (we made the list the list in advance, and the item brought was part of their grade in order to make sure that everybody did their part).

Miam Miam!

Pros of this activity:

Motivation. Students get motivated to speak and to participate because: 1) it involves food 2) it is outdoors 3) they want to show up their skills to people that may walk by 4) it is an out of the box/different exercise, and changing the scenario makes a HUGE difference for them.

Implementation. They get to enjoy the World Language classroom as they see themselves implementing the content in a real-life situation.

100% French speaking. The fact that I made it very clear that I would take 1 point off for every sentences spoken in English was key to push them to speak French 100% of the time.

Listening/Speaking skills in one. In this activity we are developing both skills (Teacher/peer listening, and interacting in the target language).

Student led. Even if, as a teacher, we have to direct the conversation, it is important that we also leave room for improvisation and for peer conversations to come up randomly. This way, students feel that the conversation is developing in a natural way, not artificially, just like we would do if we were having a real picnic.

Cons of this activity:

Timing. Class time may be too short in order to fully evaluate each student. In my school, class periods are 43 minutes long so it was a bit short, but even so all students were able to speak. I had to rush at some points in order to catch up with the time, so having longer periods would really help.

Distractions. Since we were sitting outdoors, students were sometimes distracted by other teachers/peers that would walk by. This is not a big deal for me, but it does happen.

To me, the pros in this exercise make it all worth it! What do you think? Please write a comment below and tell me what your opinions are about this type of assessment. Also, if you decided to use it in your classroom, I would love to read how it went!

Please find below a little video created by our awesome Technology Specialist, Lee Howell. Enjoy, and bon appétit!