Teaching second languages through inquiry and project based learning.

I am given a curriculum to teach French as a Second Language to my grade 5 students that looks something like this:

My Elementary School
Our Friends—The Animals
Clothes
My Home

 

Le Festival du Voyageur*
Four Holidays and Celebrations*

 

and other areas of interest.

 

Now I don’t know about you, but the last time I talked to a 10 year old, they did not consider animals their friends, they do not care about how to count in French and they most definitely do not want to to learn Valentines’ Day vocabulary so that they can do a word puzzle for any other reason than to waste a class period.

I realized this when we started our animal unit and looked at the worksheets I was given by our provincial government that would supposedly teach my kids all about animals. Since I had a sub, they started them and we essentially threw that out the window quickly. I went down to Calgary and walked around their zoo, talking to them about their rebuild after the flood and activities they did with students to help redesign parts of the Zoo. I also learned about why the penguin habitat looked like I was at one of the magnetic poles. This inspired my project to create a Grade 5 redesign of our local and rather boring zoo. Thanks to my amazing team member, she took my idea and helped organize it on paper.

Task:

Redesign the enclosure at the Edmonton Valley Zoo for one of the animal residents. The new enclosure needs to reflect the animal’s natural habitat in the wild. Your newly redesigned enclosure needs to include signs written in French that explain to the zoo visitors the following:

  • the parts of the animal
  • what the animal eats
  • where the animal can be found in the wild
  • what predators the animal has or what animals your animal preys on
  • the size, lifespan (in the wild and in captivity) of your animal, the number of babies it has and how often
  • the other types of animals that can be found in the same area as your animal

You will be presenting to your classmates the newly designed animal enclosure for your animal.

 

My students have never been so excited to learn or work on a project. I loved this quote from one of my girls who will tell it like she sees it:

“French hasn’t been my favorite subject but it is getting fun because we get to choose an animal and label it in French!”

I’ve started working with my French 7s on the vocabulary through using things like sports, designing their own Alberta based ice cream flavour, and soon we will be designing a restaurant, learning to order off a menu and cooking the food. We’ll rotate through the roles so they can all eat, serve and order.

I am starting to love going to French 7 and they are starting to hand in their work a little bit more often. By engaging their interests and giving them something to work towards, both of my grades of French are starting enjoy the class a lot more. Listening to myself and their reactions to things, I find I am going back to my love of the French language and the fun things that I got to do as an Immersion student. Bringing that to my students now makes me love what I do even more.

Advertisements

Mini Reflection from MSS PBL session

I will write a longer reflection but there were a few key things I took away from today that I wanted to write before I forgot them or worried about how to take everything I scribbled down and summarize it or how to format my pictures to match my thoughts.  Most of my key learnings either came from what was presented, my observations, my own thoughts or the debrief that our school team had.

Key Learnings:

  1. If you are always “Busy”, you are no longer busy as that is the norm and you need a new word for it. MSS uses “energetic”. A former manager of mine always said “Busy is the new Normal”.
  2. Stop making “Time” the excuse. We always have time. We should be thinking about making space for things. Moving things around and shifting priorities temporarily in accommodate a project, expert, learning, and so on.
  3. The focus of PBL should actually be the learning and the process.  My principal, Carolyn put it best in saying that the showcase is really the “Birthday Party” of the learning. I personally feel the product is just the final piece of the puzzle. If it works, excellent! If not, we learned more along the way than we would have if it did work because we found out where we went wrong.
  4. There needs to be a reflective piece. I am not a fan of the word “metacognition” but the kids need to think about what it is they are doing and why they are doing it. It isn’t enough to just do something for the sake of it. Yes there is buy in when it is cool and personal but it doesn’t satisfy the point of education which is to make students cognizant of their learning and  develop the skills and processes. Curriculum only goes so far.
  5. Projects should be intentional. Well planned, linked to learning, focused on process skills and competencies. If it is just to satisfy curriculum, we are only hitting the crust of the metaphorical educational pie. The good stuff is the learning, reflection skills and competencies. A project also shouldn’t just be done to do something.
  6. We need to look at the 10 Competencies and the 3 Es when planning. We tend to forget those things when we get focused on curriculum.