Reflections on Our Virtual Mardi Gras Celebration

I recently blogged in this post about how I planned to celebrate Mardi Gras with my students.  I shared both hybrid and virtual activities.  After we had our virtual celebration the Wednesday before break, I wanted to share some reflections from myself and from the students.

What Went Well
-The students were so creative with their costumes and dishes!  There was such a great variety of cultural elements to share.  Some students dressed up in medieval attire, some made masks or unearthed masks that their family had acquired during travels to New Orleans or other locales, one student dressed up her grandmother in Mardi Gras attire, and another made a jester costume complete with face paint!  Quite a few students dressed up their dogs and stuffed animals.  Students who didn't dress up prepared dishes like King's Cake, gumbo, jambalaya, and pralines.
-Students' reflections showed me that they got a lot out of the experience.  Because they got to see so many costumes, masks, and dishes, they got a lot of exposure to the different ways Mardi Gras and the Carnaval season are celebrated.

What Didn't Go Well
Ultimately, although in most classes the majority of students participated, there were some classes in which many students were unprepared or unwilling to turn on their cameras to show what they had prepared.  This left the class with far fewer opportunities to explore Mardi Gras.  This continues to be a challenge with virtual learning.  Some students who were hesitant to turn on their cameras did email me photos of what they had prepared.

Below are some photos that students sent in:

Click here to view more!

Students also completed a follow up assignment in which they shared what they learned and what they thought looked cool from their classmates' creations.  Here are some of the things they said:

"Roi du carnaval de Nice 2009, France 2" by fr.zil on Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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How We Celebrated Chandeleur Virtually

Well, I've been trying to post my new hybrid and virtual ideas related to holidays before the holiday actually occurs so that readers have an opportunity to use any resources they like in their own lessons, but in this case, I'm a little late to the game with this post on Chandeleur, which occurred on February 2.  I figured that many of these ideas could be of use to readers next year or at any time for any type of virtual taste test, so I'll share it now.

In this post, I shared how we did our first virtual taste test of the year for National French Week.  Whenever asking students to buy or prepare a dish at home, it is important to have an alternative for students who may not be able to obtain the dish or ingredients.  For the National French Week taste test, I offered to provide students with a treat if they asked me.  For the Chandeleur taste test, I asked students to prepare a batch of sweet or savory crêpes at home.  For the students who weren't able to make crêpes, I couldn't very easily provide them with ingredients, so I devised a non-food alternative (and any student was technically free to choose this, they didn't have to have "extenuating circumstances").  The alternative option was to either draw/design an ideal crêpe and list what would be in it, or find a photo of an ideal crêpe, but they must be prepared to describe what's in it (in other words, don't just save the first image you find on Google without learning about what's in the crêpe).  I provided students with a document laying out these options, as well as a description of the difference between sweet and savory crêpes, links to batter recipes, and ideas for fillings.  See the document below, or click here to view it full size.

Students were given this information well in advance so they could plan ahead.  Then, leading up to Chandeleur, students learned about the holiday with the Nearpod lesson below, which includes some facts in French followed by a Time to Climb.  Email subscribers will have to view this post on the blog to see the Nearpod and videos below it:

Then, we watched the videos below. Please contact me if you would like me to share a subtitled version of the videos with you.

After Chandeleur, students sent me photos of their crêpes, since a Zoom screenshot simply doesn't do it justice.  Here are some of their creations (plus a behind the scenes batter photo!):

Finally, after our virtual taste test, students had a follow up assignment, in which they had to answer the following three questions:

1. What kind of crêpe did you make/draw/find online? Was it sweet or savory? What was in it? If you made it, did you enjoy it?
2. Describe one crêpe that another student made or designed that you'd like to try. If you were absent, name another type of crêpe you've heard of or seen that you'd like to try.
3. Name one fact you learned about crêpes recently (for example, how they are made, what they represent in Chandeleur, where they originate, what types exist, etc.)

Here are some of the things they said in their responses:

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Mardi Gras 2021 in French Class (UPDATED 2/11/21)

NOTE:  I'm reposting this, as I added some additional resources.

Like just about everything we normally do in our classrooms, Mardi Gras is another celebration that will look quite different in my classroom this year.  In the past, I blogged here sharing how I normally celebrate in my class.  This year I will be incorporating a lot of those resources, but I have modified them and added some new ones.

First, we will watch the video below, as we always do (email subscribers will need to view this on the blog, as always).  It is in English and it is dated, but it really gives a great overview of the history of Mardi Gras and Carnaval.  I have put it into an EdPuzzle because there is a short segment featuring some rather risqué costumes that I don't feel overly comfortable showing middle schoolers, so EdPuzzle allowed me to crop it out:

Then, we will talk a little bit about the difference between Mardi Gras and Carnaval and look at a few photos of how it is celebrated around the world, and not just in the francophone world.  I show photos from this gallery.  Be aware that some of the photos in the gallery may not be school appropriate.  I have selected which photos to show beforehand.

The following day, students will learn a little more about three locations where Carnaval and Mardi Gras are heavily celebrated:  Martinique, Nice, and New Orleans.  In the Nearpod below, students will watch snippets of videos showcasing Carnaval in Martinique and Nice, and then I will share my own photos of New Orleans, with narration in French.  Students will have an opportunity to review some of what they learned the following day.  Don't mind the little French Club reminder at the beginning!

Update 2/11/21:  A reader just informed me that the YouTube videos in my Nearpods come up as 404 errors!  This is so frustrating, as I had no idea!  The videos work fine when I present the lesson.  I have reached out to Nearpod for assistance and they are looking into the issue, but in the meantime, please click here or scroll to the bottom of the post for a playlist of videos included in the Nearpods in this post.

Normally my students make masks ahead of Mardi Gras to wear in class the day we are celebrating it, but with so many students learning from home, it is difficult to get the templates to them, so I am changing things up a bit.  Students will be given this document (see below) with two choices for our Wednesday virtual day just prior to Mardi Gras:  they can either dress up (or dress up a pet or stuffed animal) in some type of Mardi Gras-related costume, or they can prepare a dish for Mardi Gras to show the class.

On Wednesday, students will get into breakout rooms on Zoom to show off what they prepared.  When we come back to the main session, some students will be able to share with the entire class if they choose to.  Then, if time allows, I have created this Quizizz to review what they have learned.  As a follow up, students will be asked to submit answers to the following three questions:

1.  What did you prepare for today's class?  Please describe the dish or costume.
2.  Name one dish that someone else prepared that you thought looked delicious.
3.  Describe one costume that another student was wearing that you thought was near.
4.  Name one fact you recently learned about Mardi Gras and/or Carnaval.

Finally, on Thursday and Friday before break, students will learn more about Black History in New Orleans via the Nearpod I made below featuring more of my photography.  Then students will learn about how New Orleans is handling Mardi Gras this year (thanks to my friend and colleague Meg Chance who shared these awesome videos of Yardi Gras house floats!).  Finally, students will learn about the song "Au bal masqué" by La Compagnie Créole and the updated version of the song they made in 2020 to promote mask usage.  As I mentioned above, the YouTube videos aren't playing properly, so please click here or see the bottom of the post for a playlist of all the videos included in the Nearpods in this post.

Here is a playlist of all the videos embedded in the Nearpods in this post, since they don't seem to be working properly in the Nearpod.  I also included a longer house tour video, which I did not show in class, but I posted it on my Canvas page for students to explore at their leisure.

The Princess and the Frog © Disney.  The use of low-resolution copyrighted images from the movie in this post is thought to be permissible as non-commercial educational use under the Fair Use Exception to the U.S. Copyright Act.

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Mardi Gras 2021 in French Class

Click here for an updated version of this post.

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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