How Online Games Stack Up for Hybrid Lessons

Even with this switch to hybrid and virtual learning this year, games continue to be a fun way to review content and motivate students.  Unfortunately, though, some of our favorite online games are little more challenging to play in the hybrid setting, where some students may not be able to see clearly what I've projected on the board and need the information on their own personal screen.  I've reviewed some of the most popular review games here and how well they function in a hybrid setting.  I will say that these observations come from my own experience with my personal hybrid setup.  I know everyone's hybrid setup is a little bit different, so I'll share mine with you:  students in the room can see the Smart Board.  Students at home can see it, but they can't read smaller print.  If there's something on the Smart Board that isn't written in huge letters, students at home need to be able to access it on their own device to read it clearly.  That means some activities and games work better than others in this setting.  Here are how some of the most popular games stack up:

Gimkit Classic
This is a breeze to play in the hybrid (or virtual) setting.  Students have all the information they need on their own personal screen, so while I project the leaderboard and results on the Smart Board, students do not need to be able to read it.  With the ability to set the time limit, this works well for a quick review or a longer game.  Click here to read previous posts about Gimkit.

Gimkit's Trust No One Mode
This new mode is based on the popular game "Among Us."  I've only played it in a couple of classes, but it requires a little more class time to be set aside.  Essentially, most of the students are given the role of crewmates on a spaceship, and they have to figure out which two of their classmates are imposters.  To find that out, they run investigations on each other, and then discuss and vote off the people they think are imposters.  In order to run investigations, they must answer questions correctly to get power.  The imposters can use their power to pose as crewmates and throw their classmates off.  On the one hand it's very engaging, and students love it.  On the other hand, I feel like the students are more focused on finding the imposters and the review sort of takes a back seat to that.  As for how it works in the hybrid setting, since only some of my students are on the Zoom call, it's hard for them all to discuss together who they think the imposter is unless the students in the room join the Zoom call as well.  I usually just let them have two separate discussions and share with each group what the others have said before allowing them to vote.  There is some information on the screen that students need to see at the beginning of the game, but I read it aloud for the students at home who can't see it very well.  All in all, this game can certainly be enjoyed in a hybrid setting, but I'd say it's a little better suited to a 100% in person or 100% virtual setting unless you choose to have all your students join the video call, which takes additional time.  Click here to read more about the Trust No One mode.  Update:  I just learned that the Trust No One mode has been pulled from Gimkit.

Kahoot is an old standard.  It's one of the first teacher-led online games that I remember using in my classroom when we first got iPads to share.  Unfortunately, Kahoot just isn't well suited to a hybrid or virtual setting.  Students must view the questions on the Smart Board, and since the students at home can't see the board very well, that means all my students must join the Zoom call and I must share my screen there.  It really requires students to have an additional device such as a phone to play efficiently, because otherwise they must toggle back and forth between Zoom and their browser where they submit their answer, which is frustrating in a timed game.  I do still play it though, for a few reasons.  First, I like to use a variety of different games so things don't get stale and Kahoot is a bit different from a lot of the other games in that it's teacher-paced.  I like to be able to pause and go over each question in between.  It also gives you a breakdown of how students did on each question.  With Gimkit, you don't really know which questions students are struggling with and you don't have an opportunity to go over the answers.  Additionally, I have years worth of Kahoot games created, and it would take hours to convert them all to Gimkits or another game which works a little bit more smoothly for hybrid.  Since Kahoot does have some advantages over other games, I will still continue to use it.  I'm hoping the folks at Kahoot come up with some more options to facilitate playing this game in a hybrid or virtual setting. Click here to read previous posts about Kahoot.

Quizlet Live
Quizlet Live is awesome.  Now that they let students play as individuals, instead of as teams, which is very difficult in a hybrid or virtual setting, it's a quick, easy way to review at the end of class.  Other than the login code, students have everything they need on their device, so it's easy for students both in the room or at home to play.  My only wish is that they would make the game longer than 12 questions.  Sometimes it goes a little too quickly!  Click here to read previous posts about Quizlet Live.

Nearpod's Time to Climb
Time to Climb is a game built into Nearpod.  If you are already doing a Nearpod lesson, it's a quick and easy way to review.  On the one hand, students have all the information they need right on their device, so it's great for hybrid.  On the other hand, you can't even review the questions unless you end the Nearpod session and open it up in preview mode.  What's more, the writing is super tiny, so students watching from home, and even most of the students in the room can't see it on my Smart Board.  So it depends on what I'm reviewing whether or not I find this game useful.  If I really want students to follow along as I go over the answers, this is not the ideal game.  Click here to read previous posts about Time to Climb.

Quizizz has gained a lot of popularity lately.  Like Gimkit, it's self-paced, but there are a limited number of questions as opposed to a time limit.  The students don't need to see the teacher's screen, making it a good choice for hybrid.  The teacher can easily see how each student is doing while the game is in play, which makes it easier to keep tabs on the students at home and if they are on task.  My only complaint is, again, if I go over the answers, the students don't see them on their personal devices, and the writing is too small for students at home to see on the video.  It is easier to see than Time to Climb, though.  Click here to read previous posts about Quizizz.

Blooket is the latest game everyone is talking about.  It's a lot like Gimkit, except it has some really unique game modes that spice things up and make it more fun for the kids.  Some of the power ups are goofy and get kids laughing.  I'm not seeing how it really stands out from all of the other existing games in terms of features, but I'm starting to use it with my students, again, for variety's sake.  Sometimes a game can be really fun, but if you play it too much, the novelty wears off, so it's nice to switch things up and Blooket accomplishes that.

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The French Corner 2020 Recap: The Top 10 Things I Did or Tried in 2020

Wow, this year certainly came with a lot of unexpected challenges, didn't it?  And the end of the year, I often round up my favorite new tools and tricks that I tried for the first time that year.  This year, I suppose a fringe benefit to all the chaos is that I had the opportunity to try a lot of new things with the pivot to hybrid and virtual learning, so without further ado, here are the top 10 things I did or tried in 2020:

1. Whole-Class Collaborative PowerPoints
Well, I certainly used PowerPoint prior to this year, but I had never really tapped into its full collaborative potential prior to this fall.  That's when my amazing colleague Sarah tipped me off to a project idea where each student is assigned a slide.  Well, from there, I started experimenting with other activities and assignments.  At this point, it has become a crucial tool for helping my facilitate student interaction in the hybrid and virtual settings.  Click here to read the two posts I have written so far on the topic.

2.  Virtual Taste Test
Food has always been an important part of my curriculum, so the realization that we simply cannot have students sampling food in the classroom for the time being was a tough pill to swallow.  Going virtual with the food was really the only conceivable alternative.  For National French Week, students prepared or purchased treats from the francophone world to share with their classmates during our virtual day.  It went well, but the feedback that students gave me afterwards will ensure that it goes even better next time.  The day before break, which was a virtual day, students had the option to prepare a bûche de Noël or French Hanukkah dish to show off.  So many more students did it than I expected for an optional task!  In most classes, we spent nearly half the class discussing and talking about what students had made and students that had not prepared anything came away excited to try their hand at it over break or even next year.  Click here to read about the National French Week taste test.

3. Zoom
A year ago, I hadn't even heard of Zoom.  As of September, though, it has become a crucial part of every lesson I teach, be it hybrid or virtual.  Incorporating a videoconferencing platform into my daily lessons is something I would never have even conceived of before covid, but now it's just a normal part of the routine.  Click here to read posts I wrote about incorporating Zoom into my lessons.

4.  Revamping My Independent Homework Assignments
For the past several years, I have been giving my students "independent homework," where they basically go out on their own and watch a movie or TV show in French or find another way to explore the language independently.  Prior to this year though, I didn't really give the students a lot of easily accessible options.  Over the summer, I spent hours creating a large library of resources on various topics that students could explore for their independent assignments (I now call it "Independent Exploration.").  Students can still watch a movie or TV show of their choosing, or do something outside of the library of resources, such as have a conversation with someone they know who speaks French, or teach a lesson to a friend or family member (because I feel those things are very valuable too), but now students do not have a lot more options, and as a result, a lot more opportunities to get hooked on exploring the language and culture independently, which is the goal!  In the past, I used to have students get a parent signature that they had completed the assignment in order to receive credit.  With the pivot to paperless in the midst of covid, though, I decided to nix the parent signatures and have students submit a short note sharing what they got out of it.  It ended up being far more valuable than a parent signature.  Click here to read my posts about indepdent exploration.

5.  Canva
Ok, so Canva hasn't exactly transformed my teaching or anything, but man it sure does make it easy to make cool looking graphics for both my blog and for my students.  Using engaging graphics draws in students' attention and makes them more likely to click on links, especially in places like my Independent Exploration pages, which is a good example of a page that has a lot of Canva graphics on it. Click here to view more posts featuring graphics I made on Canva.

6.  Not Assigning French Names!
This year, for a variety of reasons, I stopped my practice of allowing students to choose a French name, and it turned out to be a really wise decision.  Click here to read about why I used to have my students adopt French names, and click here to read why I stopped.

7.  Hybrid Lessons with Nearpod
I've actually been using Nearpod for years, but this year I started using it for nearly all my hybrid lessons. It's the perfect tool to engage two groups of students at once, make sure students at home are participating, and keep all students on the correct slide.  Click here to read more posts I've written about Nearpod.

8.  Nearpod's Time to Climb
Time to Climb is yet another game to join the multitude of games to engage students, but what I like about it is that if you're already doing a Nearpod lesson, it doesn't require an additional login, fitting seamlessly with the rest of the lesson.  Click here to read more about lessons where I incorporated Time to Climb.

9.  Canvas Discussions
Online discussions are hardly anything new, but I had never used them much in my instruction until this year.  This year, I have used Canvas discussions on several different occasions to encourage students to share ideas and react to videos they watched.  Click here to read more posts I wrote about Canvas discussions.

10.  Flipgrid
I finally got on the Flipgrid bandwagon this year, and it has been an invaluable way to assess my students' speaking.  Click here to read about my first steps with Flipgrid.

So, what were some things you did or tried in 2020?

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An Update on Independent Exploration

Over the summer, I blogged about my revamped version of what I used to call "independent homework," and I now call "independent exploration."  Independent Exploration is an extensive library of resources on various topics that students can explore for their independent assignments.  My previous independent assignments basically encouraged students to watch a movie or TV show of their choosing in French, play a game such as Duolingo, have a conversation with someone they know who speaks French, or teach a lesson to a friend or family member.  Students can still do all those things, but now they have a lot more options, and as a result, a lot more opportunities to get hooked on exploring the language and culture independently, which is the goal!   In the past, I used to have students get a parent signature that they had completed the assignment in order to receive credit.  With the pivot to paperless in the midst of covid, though, I decided to nix the parent signatures (which are sometimes hard for students to scan and upload) and have students submit a short note sharing what they got out of it.  It ended up being far more valuable than a parent signature anyways!  Here's a peek into what they learned and submitted:

A student prepares crêpes with Nutella., as one of the Cuisine options.

A student's beignets, another cuisine option.

A student shares their progress on Duolingo.  Students are allowed to send screenshots for approved apps and games they play.

A student shares items they found in an search.  Students can get credit by visiting and exploring the site, making a "wishlist" of 5 items they'd like, and either copying the product names into a word document, or screenshots of the pages and sending them to me.

A student shares their progress on Duolingo Stories, another approved app.

A student shows what she found by exploring Paris via Google Maps.  If they choose to do this activity, they must submit a description of interesting things or words they recognized.  This students chose to send a screenshot as well.

Here are some of the reflections and observations that students submitted:

Click here to learn more about Independent Exploration and what options I give my students.

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La fête des rois, Hybrid Style

With la Fête des rois just around the corner, before break I knew I had to find a way to somehow adapt this holiday's customs to suit our current hybrid model.  In this post, I outlined how I used to introduce this holiday to my students in the past.  One of the traditions I always did was have students eat cupcakes as a stand-in for the Galette des rois.  Having students consume food in the classroom is a definite no right now, especially when many of them aren't physically there on a given day.  So, here's what I've "cooked up" for la Fête des rois.

-First, as always, we will learn about the holiday with the help of this wonderful PowerPoint available to download on TES, which I then translated into French.

Next, students will watch the video below to see what a Galette des rois looks like (as always, email subscribers will have to view the post on the blog to see it):

Then, I will read "Petit Ours Brun aime la galette des rois."  There is also a version read aloud on YouTube by a native speaker that absents students can watch:

Finally, for "le tirage des rois," I have made a spinner for each class on WordWall.  It kind of looks like a pie (or a galette des rois!), and it will randomly land on a student's name.

The student the spinner lands on will be considered to be the person who had the fève, or figurine, inside their piece of galette, making them king or queen for the day.  If the student it lands on is physically present in the room, I will don a pair of gloves and hand them a crown (provided by Burger King!) to wear.  I will not place it on their head like I have in the past.  If the student it lands on is in the other cohort and thus attending from home, they will get their crown on Thursday or Friday.  And finally, if the student it lands on is a fully virtual student, I will mail them a little certificate (because, unfortunately, a crown is too difficult to mail).

This will take up most of an hour-long hybrid lesson that I will give on Monday and Tuesday, January 4th and 5th.  The 6th is a Wednesday, and since that is our virtual day and classes are only 30 minutes long, I opted to do this in the days leading up to it.  I also have this playlist of related videos in my Independent Exploration collection for students to browse on their own:

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First Steps with Flipgrid!

Flipgrid has been around for awhile now, but I didn't jump on the bandwagon until this year when my colleague Sarah took the time to show me how amazing it is.  Flipgrid has become so important this year, because hybrid learning makes it very difficult to assess speaking.  Assigning students a Flipgrid video gives them an opportunity to practice speaking, and since the videos are private (unless I get their permission to share them), it's a fairly non-threatening environment.

Here's what I love about Flipgrid:

-I can moderate videos, which means I can keep them private.  Some of my students, who are in their first year of French and have fewer opportunities to speak than they normally would, feel self-conscious about speaking, and having all their classmates view their videos would increase their anxiety.

-Students can easily add emojis, filters, and images.  Not only does this add a little excitement to the assignment and make it more fun, it allows students to hide their faces, and for some students, that decreases their anxiety about speaking.  I also incorporated emojis into an assignment where the emojis represented the vocabulary they were using in their video

-It's integrated with Microsoft, so students can use accounts they already have (this is really important in New York State, where everything has to be Ed. Law 2D compliant).

-I can create a sample video for them to view or respond to, as well as written instructions.

-Students can write a script that appears on the screen as they read it.

The only thing I don't love is that it is not currently synced with Canvas, our school's LMS, which means students don't get a notification reminding them if it's overdue, and I don't get a notification on Canvas if a student submits a video.  I have enabled email notifications, but I never seem to get them.  This means, if a student submits a video late, they must inform me so I know to look at it.

The first assignment I gave with Flipgrid was for students to watch my video and answer my three questions.  Here is a sample of the results that I put on my class blog (as always, email subscribers will have to visit the post on the blog to see it):

For the second assignment I gave, I made a sample video acting as a student, and asked students to make a similar video, stating information about themselves and their (real or imaginary) family.   Here is my sample video:

Here are some of the results:

Those of you who have been using Flipgrid for awhile probably know that it was originally designed for students to respond to each other using video.  With my students being first year learners, I just don't think they are ready for this yet, but it's something I may explore in the future.

All in all, Flipgrid has become a valuable tool for hybrid and virtual learning, and I only wish I had started using it sooner!

Do you use Flipgrid with students?  How do you use it if so?

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Hanukkah, Christmas, and Winter in the French-Speaking World

This coming week I will teach one hybrid lesson and one virtual lesson before we leave for holiday break.  I really like to share with my students what Christmas looks like in France, but this year I expanded my lesson to include information about Hanukkah in France as well as Christmas in Martinique and winter in Quebec.  First, on Monday and Tuesday, we will watch portions of the videos in the playlist below (email subscribers will need to view the post on the blog):

I combined the videos and hand subtitled them in English for students.  If you'd like access to the subtitled version, feel free to contact me.  Next, we will examine the lyrics to "Vive le vent" (Jingle Bells) in French and English as an opportunity to explore how translations are typically not done word for word, especially with songs.  Then we will listen to the song, the first video in the playlist below:

The other videos are songs students can explore independently.  At the end of class, students will see what they can remember from the lesson with this Quizizz.  On Wednesday, students have an opportunity to show off (virtually) French holiday dishes, bûche de Noël, gâteau de Hanouka, or Hutzel Wecken if they chose to prepare one, or share a photo if they prepared it in advance.  Then, students will watch this Nearpod video depicting a Christmas market in Strasbourg.  Absent students will be able to complete the activity via EdPuzzle below:

At the end of class, students will play Quizlet Live using this vocabulary set.

Do you incorporate Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter traditions into your lessons?  If so, how?

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Collaborative PowerPoints Part II: More Ideas!

This is my second post about using collaborative PowerPoints in class.  Click here to read my first post, where I discuss the basics of how to set one up and provide a few ideas.  In this post I'll share some more activities I've done with them.

(Email subscribers need to visit the blog to watch the video)

Some of my students' "Qui est-ce ?" projects:

Click here to view more!

Templates for the activities mentioned in the video:

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