iPad Diaries: Volume 5

This is my fifth post on using iPads in my classroom.  In case you missed it, you can read Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4 as well.  In this post I'm going to share with you a video my students made using the incredible Adobe Voice app.

Every year in June, I have my students make a video for next year's incoming students, showing them what they will learn in a fun way and sharing their thoughts on what helped them learn.  This year I decided to let students use the iPads to create the videos.  I allowed students who were all caught up to work on this while I worked with students who were behind, so they had very little guidance from me while they made this.  That being said, they really did a great job.

Adobe Voice is a video-making app that's sort of like PowToon but less comic-y.  It's only available for iPad.  Users make slides for each idea they want to present and then add text, icons, or photos, as well as record audio for the narration.  The photos are all Creative Commons photos and are automatically cited at the end of the video.  You can also upload your own photos.  The app has a number of songs you can use in the background as well as professional-looking themes and fonts to choose from.  It has just enough options to spur creativity but not so many that it's overwhelming.

I basically gave the students a list of all the topics we learned this year, had them open up Adobe Voice and make example sentences showing what types of things they will learn how to say.  They were also free to share their experiences in English using the iPad's camera in video mode.  I combined all the videos and edited them in MovieMaker to make one long video.  For this blog, I edited it down further and took out the student interviews.  The clip you see in the beginning was done by a student in his own time.  He was the one who brought the app to my attention and he made the video to show to incoming middle schoolers at our orientation night.  I thought it was perfect for this video as well. I cut off all the credits slides and put them all together at the end, which seemed more logical then putting them after each video, since it's supposed to play like one big video.


The students had a lot of fun making this and I think next year's students will really enjoy it.  In my next installment, I will share how students used Adobe Voice for another, much different project.

Passing the Baton: French Club Students Become French Teachers!

This year was the third year I was advisor to our school's French Club.  Each year since the club began, I have tried to find more service-oriented projects for students to do.  Last year we had a fundraiser to benefit the children of Haiti.  Earlier this year, students made a Moroccan couscous salad to donate to the local soup kitchen.  At the first French Club meeting of the year, I asked students to suggest activities they would like to participate in.  One student suggested that we go into the elementary schools and teach French.  I thought that sounded like a great idea, so that is what we did!

Students who participated in the project came in after school on a number of different occasions to prepare lessons and create visuals and examples.  Students practiced the lessons on each other, and we discussed some scaffolding and classroom management techniques.  For the first two lessons, my colleague and I developed the agenda, but for the third and final lessons, the students gave their input.

We went to the elementary school on three different Fridays right after school (while the elementary school was still in session).  Students were assigned to a second or third grade classroom in groups of four or five.  Lessons went for about a half hour.  For the first lesson, students taught the younger kids  colors and shapes, and played color and shape bingo.  For the second, they taught them parts of the body and learned the Alouette song.  Finally, for the last lesson, they taught them how to give their age and say their birth month.  The younger students then made a small poster with some of their information, drawing themselves in their birth month.  Above is an example one of the French Club students made, with some additional vocabulary included.

This was a very rewarding project for the French Club students, and the younger students enjoyed having their "French friends" come in on Fridays.  We are looking forward to repeating the project again next year, and hopefully expanding it to more lessons!

Have you ever done a project like this with your French Club?  If so, what was your experience?

iPad Diaries: Volume 4

This is my fourth post on using iPads in my classroom.  In case you missed it, you can read Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 as well.  In this post I'm going to share a few more activities I've tried as well as a great curating site my department head showed us.

Kahoot continues to be a smash hit.  Students inquire daily if we can play it.  One way to spice up Kahoot if you finish the game and have time to spare is the ghost round.  I first read about this on Maris Hawkins' blog, and decided to try it when I had a few minutes at the end of one of my classes.  Basically, you play the whole game again, but the students are competing against themselves from the previous round (the ghosts of themselves).  They try to see if they can beat their score.  This round goes a lot quicker because I don't usually stop to go over each answer, since I just did that during the prior round.

Another app I tried was Move and Match.  It's basically a way to make manipulatives that students can move around on the screen instead of cutting them out and sorting them and losing them.  This is a paid app, but you only need the paid version on one machine to make the projects.  The rest of the iPads can use a free version called M & M Lite, which allows students to play with projects but not make them.

Once you make a project, you need to email it to yourself and upload it somewhere like Google Drive or Dropbox.  Then students download it and open it in the app.  I made three projects:  one where students dragged and dropped adverbs into various sentences, one where students dragged and dropped words into sentences to describe pictures, and one where students were given a wide variety of words and were asked to make sentences based on prompts I had on the SMART Board.

Many students enjoyed using the app, and the main advantage is in streamlining the process of distributing the materials.  The other great advantage is being able to slowly scaffold and add more words with the click of a button.  The main concern that students expressed was that the app didn't offer instant feedback.  Groups were left waiting as I hustled around to verify their answers.  I'm sure there are similar apps to this that offer the ability to give instant feedback, it's just a question of finding one.  If you know of an app, please let me know!


Every year when we learn adverbs, I show students short clips of French music videos and the students offer their opinions using "bien" or "mal."  This year, I thought I'd try it with the iPads.  Having the source of input closer will positively impact their engagement.  Students watched one minute of each video in groups, then discussed their opinions.  I didn't have headphones, but I hoped that it wouldn't be too much of an issue if they kept the volume low.  I was wrong.  The interfering sounds made it very difficult to focus.  I do think using the iPads kept the students more engaged, but I'll probably just stick to the SMART Board next year unless we get headphones (or have students bring in their own).

The final tool I want to share today is EdShelf, which is a site for curating apps to use in the classroom.  My department head showed it to us at our last meeting.  You can follow other users, create "shelves" for different groups of apps, and browse apps by discipline, purpose, grade level, and other criteria.  I really like the idea of EdShelf, but I'm hoping to see more users adopt it.  I don't see a lot of language teachers on it as of yet.  If you're not a member, be sure to join!  Here are my three "shelves."

iPad Diaries: Volume 3

In my previous posts about iPads in my classroom, I've talked about the interactive game Kahoot, the whiteboard app Jot, the brainstorming app Lino, and using iPads in stations for quiz review.  In this post I'll share a project students did using Apple's Keynote app.

Every year I like to give students a project that allows them to use ER verbs in context.  I've done both individual and group projects, but I've found that this material can be challenging for students to work on individually.  This year I wanted to use the iPads.  I just wanted a simple app that could make presentations with text and pictures.  After playing around with the few, I came to the conclusion that Keynote was the best, due to its simplicity.

The main idea of the project is for students to state what various people do and don't do in a certain setting.  By anchoring the "story" (and I use that term loosely) with a specific setting, such as a place or time of year, the sentences have more context and don't feel like unrelated ideas.  First, the students choose a character (such as Mickey Mouse or Harry Potter) to be the narrator.  Then they pick the setting (at home, at school, in winter, etc.).  After that they write, as the narrator, what the narrator ("Je") does and doesn't do in that setting, what another person - a friend or family member of the narrator - does and doesn't do ("Il" or "Elle"), what the narrator and another person - could be the aforementioned person or a different one - do and don't do ("Nous"), and what two other people ("Ils" or "Elles") do and don't do.  Then they end it with a question.  It hits on almost every verb form, but it has a story-like feel to it.

First, the students brainstormed on paper so as not to monopolize the iPads, which are shared among the department.  Having it laid out on paper helps me more quickly assess whether they are on the right track as opposed to flipping through slides.

Next the students typed their text into Keynote.  When they were all done, they made original drawings in Jot to insert into each slide.  Many of them wanted to include pictures from the internet, but for copyright reasons I asked that the work be entirely original.  A few of them made drawings at home and photographed them.

Here are a few examples of finished products:

Most students enjoyed working on the project and I was pleased with the results.  Here are a few thoughts going forward:

Advantages of using iPads for this project:
-Ability to easily publish work on blog for a wider audience
-Possibility of narration (although that was not used in this project)
-Built in autocorrect actually helps students with spelling if the keyboard is set to French
-Work is preserved/archived more easily and doesn't deteriorate

-Work cannot be displayed in classroom
-Students get a little carried away on drawings because it is more difficult to make a good drawing in Jot than it is to draw it by hand

All in all, it was a good project, but I'll be looking for ways to further exploit the technology when I do it next year.

The iPad Diaries: Volume 2

Recently my department was given a set of 10 iPads thanks to a grant from the Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning.  I previously blogged about the first couple of days we used the new iPads in my classroom.  Today I am blogging about the second round of activities we have been doing.

I was interested to try an activity with Padlet.  Padlet is a virtual noticeboard where users can add text and photos.  I wanted my students to draw pictures in the Jot app and then upload them and write a caption.  The problem was that Padlet does not work very well on the iPad when trying to upload photos (there's no app, and the site does not seem to be optimized for tablet use).  So after browsing through other similar sites and apps, I settled on Lino.  Lino actually has an app, so it is fully functional on the iPad.

In groups of two or three, students thought up a French sentence, drew a picture of it in Jot, uploaded it to Lino, and then wrote a caption for another group.  It was cool to see the board get updated on the SMART Board in real time.  That made it easy for me to see if groups were on task and address any major errors (although I was circling around the room, too, but the students zoom in on the board when they write the caption).  My only issue with Lino was that a lot of the posts kept appearing on top of each other, and I would have to go over and organize them on my computer.  Not really a big deal, but if I can find an app that organizes them more easily, I'll use that next time.

About halfway through the day, we ran out of space on the board (I didn't think it was necessary to use a different board for each class), so we ended up making a second board.  Above, a screen shot of one of the boards.  You can see the actual boards here.

Students who finish tasks early are allowed to play on the DuoLingo app.  I love the app, but because the iPads are shared and students are not logging in, they aren't able to make as much progress as they would at home.  I'm searching for other options for early finishers.  Having the iPads at their disposal gives us so many ways to use that leftover time more productively and keep them engaged in the language.

Finally, I also used the iPads for stations in a quiz review (pictured above).  I had never done stations before, but I think I'm hooked!  This was the first opportunity for students to have one on one time with the iPads.  At one station, students were writing descriptions on white boards of what was going on in a photo, and a "mini-prof" would go over the possible answers with them (the mini-profs were very enthusiastic!).  At another station, students looked at a paper with about 16 different images on it.  In pairs, one partner described what was going on in the picture, and the other pointed to the one they were talking about.  At the iPad station, students played games that worked with mechanics and grammar, most of them cloze type activities.  Some students really enjoyed them, while others felt they could have been more interactive.  I liked them because students got instant feedback on whether or not their answers were correct, without the teacher hovering over them the whole time.  That being said, I'm on the lookout for apps that are a little more engaging and allow me design a quiz where I can provide information on why an answer is incorrect as well.

The SAMR model, explained above by Jonathan Brubaker, complete with a coffee analogy, helps teachers determine how useful a certain technology is in conjunction with a certain task.  Click on the above graphic to visit Jonathan's blog and read his thoughts on the SAMR model.  I first shared this image on my post about the value of low-tech in a high-tech world, but I think it bears mentioning again.  Another iPad-loving French teacher who has blogged about the SAMR model is Mme Mallette.  She is further along in her iPad journey than I am, so be sure to read her blog for excellent ideas.

The SAMR model is always in my mind when conceiving tasks with the iPad.  That doesn't mean all my tasks meet the "redefinition" criterion though (hardly!).  In this first year of using the devices, it's natural that more of the tasks will fall under "substitution" or "augmentation," and that's not a bad thing, I've learned.  Sometimes, it's necessary to start there and see how the activities and projects play out before building up to "modification" and "redefinition" tasks.  Having the SAMR model in my mind, though, helps me stay mindful of trying to harness the most potential from technology.

Stay tuned for my next installment of the iPad diaries, where I'll share a creative project my students recently completed!

As always, if you use iPads in your classroom and have app suggestions (especially on the topics I mentioned in the post) or comments, please feel free to add them!

Introducing French Students to Impressionism

Musée d'Orsay, Paris, home to many Impressionist paintings.

I hardly consider myself an expert in art history, but I do like to introduce my students to the world of Impressionism, an art form so closely associated with French painters.  Through reading The Private Lives of the Impressionists and a biography about Claude Monet, I became more knowledgeable about this form of art and the artists who created and developed it.

The Japanese bridge at Monet's Giverny residence.

Towards the end of the year, I do a two-day introductory lesson on Impressionism where I focus in on Monet, Renoir, and Degas in particular.  Here are some of my favorite resources and activities for teaching Impressionism:

These videos about Monet, Renoir, and Degas, respectively:

This video gives a nice introduction to Monet but also explains a little bit about how Impressionism as an art form came to be.

This video on Degas is a little on the short side (it's a preview for a 22-minute special), and it's obviously intended for a younger audience than my seventh graders, but I found it to be the most concise of any other Degas biography I could find.

The third video I show is an excerpt from "Discovering the Arts:  Impressionism & Beyond," which has a brief biography on Renoir in the section entitled "Styles of Renoir and Monet."  I don't show the Monet part because I like the Biography Channel video better for that.  Access to this video requires a Discovery Education account.  If your school doesn't subscribe to Discovery Education, I'm sure a suitable substitute can be found, but I just happen to really like this one.  If you have an account, you can find the video by logging in and searching for "Styles of Renoir and Monet."  The first minute and a half or so has the biography on Renoir.

Tourists admiring Impressionist paintings at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

This presentation created by Bonnie Rafferty and uploaded to TES Connect does a nice job of briefly explaining the concept of Impressionism in French and showing examples of famous works.  To download the presentation, you just need to sign up for a free TES account.  When I used it, I simplified the language to make it more comprehensible for seventh grade and added sections on Renoir and Degas.  I used to have students transfer some of the information into guided notes as we read it together, but now that we have iPads, I'm thinking of turning this into a group activity.

Clockwise from top left:  "Le bassin aux nymphéas" (Monet), "Nymphéas" (Monet), "La balançoire" (Renoir), "Répétition d'un ballet sur la scène" (Degas); all public domain works.

After showing students some works by Monet, Renoir, and Degas, and asking them about the light and colors that they see (en français, bien sûr !), I project nine or ten works on the SMART Board at once.  Students, in small groups, choose one work, and prepare three sentences about it in French:  who the artist is, what colors are present in the painting, who is in the painting or what the weather is.  They then present these sentences to the class, and the class guesses which painting they are talking about.

After students have learned a little bit about the Impressionists, I like to take them to Paris...virtually that is...and walk them through the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie.  As I take them by various works, I ask students to identify the colors they see and try and figure out who the artist is.  By this point, the students know enough about the differences between Monet, Renoir, and Degas, that they are usually pretty successful at this.  The easiest way to navigate these two museums is through the Google Cultural Institute.  It allows you to click on a work and it will transport you there in the museum.  Click on either of the museum screen shots above to visit them via the Google Cultural Institute.

View L'impressionnisme in a larger map

Finally, when time permits, I have in the past showed my students this Google Map of Impressionist work around the world.  It gives me an opportunity to show how Impressionism extends beyond France itself and just another way to tie in geography.

How do you introduce your students to art from the Francophone world?

Nuts & Bolts: 5 of My Must-Have Teacher Items

Sometimes it's those little things that help make our jobs easier and more organized.  Today I will share with you five of my favorite items that somehow help me stay organized, efficient, or effective.

The past couple years I have been using these custom self-inking stamps that I made at VistaPrint.  They are quicker than peeling stickers.  I use the J'aime stamp on high quiz grades, and the "Please see me" stamp on unsatisfactory quiz grades.  My policy is that any student can do corrections on a quiz and retake it (if the initial grade was low enough to warrant retaking) to earn back some of the lost credit.  Using the stamp frees me from having to hand write notes.  I know that the color red is somewhat controversial in the grading world, but I personally find that it sticks out and gets their attention, which is the point of the message.

The weekly planner pad is not what I use to plan my lessons in (that goes in my plan book binder, which is also a must-have for me, but felt it too obvious to include on this list), but rather to plan out what tasks I will accomplish each day.  It helps me stay organized and manage my time more efficiently (and not get bogged down trying to accomplish too much in one day!).  I will even write minute tasks like "respond to so-and-so's email," which are the types of things I forget if I don't write down.  The pretty floral one I use is made by Rifle Paper Co., but there are plenty of basic ones available online as well.

The absentee board is so helpful in efficiently providing missed work to students who are absent.  For each day, I fill in the homework (if any), the classwork handed out (if any), and other information, such as upcoming quizzes.  The sheets they need are lined up in front of the board.  Students need to be trained and reminded throughout the year on how to use the board (sometimes they forget to read the sheet to see specifically what they missed on each day), but overall, I find it far more efficient than individually culling work for each student.  Every teacher has their own system on how to manage missed work, and this is the one that I use.

This crazy looking green ball elicits lots of participation from students.  When I first introduce a topic and look for volunteers to model the language, far more hands go up when the green ball comes out.  Students love the opportunity to catch and hold it because it feels so strange.

Out With the Old, In With the New

My camera is a very important part of my teaching.  Capturing high quality photos in my classroom creates memories that I can share with the students at the end of the year, and allows me to communicate with parents and community members about what is going on in our classroom.  Awhile back I blogged about taking photographs in your classroom.

What are YOUR must-have teacher items?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...