One teacher’s tips for making the most of a tough situation
I will be the first to say that the last two weeks have been some of the longest weeks in my career as a teacher. The shift to teaching remotely had pushed and stretched me as an educator in ways that I honestly could have never foreseen. The learning curve has been steep as I have shifted not only my lessons but also the way I engage my students in the target language. Looking at the camera on my computer instead of my students’ eyes has been both mentally exhausting and a bit sad. I so miss being with my students.
First and foremost, I decided to give myself permission to fail. If things didn’t work, I told myself not to stress. I say out loud more than once daily, “Do the best you can, and everything will be just fine!” And the truth of the matter is that everything has been fine. My students are surviving, and so am I. The situation isn’t ideal, but it is manageable, and I am committed to providing my students with the best CI (comprehensible input) possible. So just what have I done to help me get through this? Well, read on if you want to take a peek into my remote lessons over the last two weeks.
My school is a one-to-one laptop school, and this made a bad situation much more doable. First and foremost, I have tried to keep a similar routine as in the past.
- All classes started synchronously and met at their scheduled time.
- I started all the classes with a little small talk. “What did you do outside yesterday? What did you watch on Netflix? Did you take a walk?
- I called on students instead of waiting for them to volunteer because we were talking remotely.
- I used the chat feature of Google Meet as my whiteboard to write structures I wanted students to see.
- I gave them tasks to complete and sent them on their way.
In French I, I used several videos on Alice Ayel’s YouTube channel. I wrote follow-up questions in English in a Google Form to assess their comprehension and to hold them accountable. Her video series about Marie et Médor compliment a book that we are currently reading.
In French II, I signed my students up for a free E-Course, Le Nouvel Houdini, made available by Fluency Matters. Yes, it was 100% FREE! And what a lifesaver this has been! I will forever be grateful to Carol Gaab for her generosity.
The E-Courses have so much to offer! The pre- and post-reading activities are a lifesaver in their own right! But the fact that my students can actually read the story and simultaneously hear it read by a native speaker take it to the next level. This E-Course saved me not only stress, but also time, and it provided my students with invaluable input in the target language. Students did the reading on their own, and we followed up each chapter with online discussions about Brandon, his family and his choices.
In French III, we watched and discussed la Zone Blanche on Netflix. Since I had already collected permission slips at the start of the school year, I felt comfortable watching this French TV series in class. The series is engaging, and I anticipate that it will lend itself to some interesting conversations after spring break. Additionally, I laid the groundwork for our fourth reader this year, Felipe Alou.
In all of my classes, I created homework assignments and games with Gimkit. Each kit contains anywhere between 12 and 20 questions. We followed up on the homework assignments with a short virtual game during class. I shared my screen in Google Meet so that students could see the game code and the scoreboard with ease. Both the assignment and the game gave me data that I could use for grades. Each game and assignment generates a report of the students’ progress, which made for an easy 10 point quiz or homework assignment. After all, I am still required by my school to assign grades during remote teaching. It is worth noting that Gimkit pro is now available for free during this crisis.
In all my classes, we participated in student-led conversations. Using a version of Carrie Toth’s rubric for Class Discussion Thursdays, I divided the class into two groups to make the discussion more manageable. While half the class was reading independently, the other half engaged in the class discussion. I kept track of student contributions using Carrie’s rubric and after 20 minutes or so, the groups swapped. It worked surprisingly well, and everyone earned the majority of the points for that day.
A few other things I did to help ease the pain of remote teaching:
- Created a Remind for each of my classes. This app made pushing out reminders and announcements seamless.
- Set up Google Classroom for all my classes and had my students download the app on their phone. This way, I could collect hand-written work virtually.
In the beginning, I certainly didn’t hit the 90% mark for staying in the target language. It was more like the 70% mark at best. I gave all directions in English to ensure that everyone understood and to keep it simple and as stress-free as possible. Answering questions in an online setting is less than ideal.
During my spring break, I hope to learn how to use Clips to make some light-hearted videos and Google Jamboard so that we will have an interactive whiteboard.
I am also in the process of pulling together resources for my French-teacher friends out there. If you click here, you will have access to a folder in Google Drive with access to several readings. My goal is to update the folder with more readings and resources as time progresses. Please feel free to help yourself as together, we find a way to not only make it but actually grow through this challenging time.