The End of the School Year 2020



This is my third post on remote learning.  Click here to browse my other posts about remote learning.  I know for some of you, your school year has already wrapped up, but here in upstate New York we are entering the last few weeks, so I wanted to share what I'll be doing remotely this year to wrap this up and try to make things as special as possible for students.  Normally I'm inclined to not blog about ideas until after I've implemented them, but in case any of these ideas end up being useful to those of you still wrapping up the school year, I decided to go ahead and share these ahead of time.  I'll be sure to follow up and edit this post if I feel there's anything of note to add after I've implemented all of them.

Awards
Normally at this time of year I would be having some type of awards ceremony for my top students, either with my department or by myself.  This year, I have selected ten students that have really excelled in multiple areas (effort, achievement, enthusiasm).  I will be calling each of their parents to commend them on their achievement, and I will send each of them a signed certificate of achievement (made out in French, of course) and a free cone coupon donated by our local Ben & Jerry's.  I thought about doing a virtual awards ceremony (I've seen a lot of blog posts floating around this idea), but in the end I felt it just wouldn't have the same feel as a real awards ceremony and it could potentially be very awkward with multiple family members huddled around one device.  I felt that talking on the phone with each of their parents about their child's specific achievements would be just as special.  That was my personal feeling about it, but I don't doubt that it could be worth your while depending on you and your students' specific circumstances.

Slideshow
For the past ten years, I have been using Animoto to create a slideshow of images and videos I have captured in my classroom throughout the year.  I feel like this year, creating that slideshow is more important than ever, as we as teachers all clamor to try to maintain that sense of community that we spent the whole school year building up with our students in person.  Although my last photo taken in the classroom was in March, I always incorporate student work into these slideshows, so I am including lots of remote learning assignments in this slideshow to represent the last quarter of the school year.  It does make me sad to think that this slideshow won't have any photos of students enjoying their end of the year outdoor party or their annual 7th grade trip to our local amusement park, but luckily with remote learning, I am easily able to share what memories we did create this year with my students.



Reading a Children's Book in French
Throughout the year, I like to take time to just read to my students in French.  Earlier this year I read La main verte, which I purchased in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon last summer, and the students loved it.  Then I recorded myself reading Ours brun, dis-moi... (the French version of Brown Bear Brown Bear by Eric Carle) to teach colors and animals.  Lastly, I recently recorded myself reading Lola.  I will also be reading a book called Mon premier livre : Moi ! (not exactly a story, but it has a ton of great vocabulary in it) during my synchronous Office Hours.  That will be more fun because I can actually help my students negotiate the meaning in real time instead of just explaining it to them over the video.

Cultural Videos
At the end of the year, when time permits, I like to have students collaborate on a project where they create a short advertisement for a French-speaking country or territory.  After giving it careful consideration and discussing it with a colleague, I decided that having students do this project, which requires a lot of teacher guidance, on their own at home, would present too many roadblocks to students and ultimately would not be the best way to (remotely) achieve the original objective which is for students to gain an awareness of where French is spoken and what life looks like in some of those countries and regions.  With the project off the table, I decided to share some cultural videos with students through EdPuzzle and other means, with questions and discussions incorporated.  In a subsequent post I will share these and other videos I found useful this year.  It can be tough to give up a project or activity that you really enjoy having your students do, but I'm sure we all did a lot of that this year with the transition to remote learning.



Video for Next Year's Students
One of my favorite things about the end of the school year is helping my students create a video to share with the incoming students the following year.  Click here to read about how I've done it in the past.  In recent years, students have done this on Adobe Spark Video (which I can't say enough good things about, and which was first introduced to me by one of my own students) on iPads.  It's kind of like a video version of PowerPoint, only so much prettier.  I am so grateful that our school now has a subscription to this service, so students are currently in the process of creating their own mini videos at home showcasing vocabulary they have learned this year.  They also have the option to record a video of themselves acting out or presenting the vocabulary or talking about what they liked best about class this year.  One of my particularly tech-savvy students has even offered to make it look like the video was taken in another location, such as Paris.  I haven't made the finished product yet, but I can already tell from what students have submitted so far that it is going to be just as good as it was in previous years.  Above is a version from a previous year.



Remote Learning Feedback Survey
I think it's important to solicit feedback from students, even if it means they might end up providing us with constructive criticism.  I've been able to improve my lessons in the past through constructive criticism provided by students from their perspective, and I know students appreciate when we listen to them and take their ideas into consideration.  I'm new to remote teaching.  Sure, I've done plenty of blended assignments in the past, but presenting new material and providing support without meeting face to face at all is new territory.  To that end, I've created a survey in Microsoft Forms to collect my students' thoughts about remote learning, specifically in French.  I've asked them what things helped them learn best, what kept them motivated to keep practicing French, what activities they might have liked to have seen, what frustrated them, and what methods of support they prefer.



Virtual Yearbook Signing
Every year since I started teaching, I have purchased a yearbook.  The last few days of school when students are signing yearbooks, I always invite them to sign mine as well.  This year, I will be creating a "Virtual Yearbook Signing" platform.  Essentially I will create an optional assignment in our LMS where students can "sign" my yearbook by submitting a message, and when I receive it I will leave them a message as well that they may choose to print out if they have access to a printer.  I plan to compile all the messages I receive from students into a document and print it out and paste it into my yearbook.

What are you doing to make the end of the year special for your students this year?

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Remote Learning Assignments for World Languages



This is my second post on remote learning.  Click here to read my previous post.  As I publish this in late May of 2020, I know the school year is just about wrapping up for many of us or may already be over for you.  That being said, with the future more uncertain than ever, I figured there might be some value to sharing this post with you now.  All of these assignments could be adapted for in-person learning as well.

For this first assignment, I blogged about an earlier version of this assignment back in 2016, but I teach things a little bit differently now.  I asked my students to create or find an image of someone doing something that they know how to describe in French.  Then, write a caption for it.  The sentence could be as simple as, "Le garçon danse" (The boy dances), or they could make it more sophisticated, like, "Le garçon danse à la maison le weekend" (The boy dances at home on the weekend).  They then uploaded their result to our LMS.  In previous years, I have done this exact same assignment, and it is simple enough that no modifications were needed for remote learning.  Now did all students do it perfectly?  Of course not, but that's always the case, and after providing them feedback, a number of students re-submitted the assignments with corrections made.





Similarly, after students learned about expressions with the verb "faire," (I introduced them as "Je fais" expressions), I asked them to take or find a picture of themselves doing one of the activities on the list and caption the photo in French.





For this next assignment, I asked students to write a sentence describing something or someone with an adjective.  They had learned (remotely) some common adjectives and how to place them properly in a sentence.  Now, when I did this assignment in person in previous years, I had them pick a masculine noun and a feminine noun to focus on both forms, but I had to simplify this because they would not have as much guidance from me like they would in class.  I used my daily video instruction to explain the assignment and provide examples.  It turns out a lot of students chose to describe their dog!



Last year I had my students write poems about themselves.  This year I had them do it again, but I simplified the instructions a little.  Last year, I had them incorporate nouns and negatives (ne...pas) into their poems, but for this poem, I had them stick to simple "I am" (Je suis) statements.  Again, I used my daily video instruction to explain the assignment and provide an example.




Finally, as an optional assignment, I encouraged students to write a poem for a teacher who has inspired them and send it to them through email.  I have done this in the past, but I changed the format this year to make it, once again, simpler and more straightforward.  This gave me an opportunity to introduce the formal "You are" (Vous êtes).



On all these assignments, I used the comments feature in my LMS to provide feedback to each student.  I have also used quizzes and a practice writing task, which are things I would normally do in class.

What kind of assignments have you been giving remotely?

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