Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Field Trip Time = Practice Time!

Last week, we had the pleasure of taking our 6th grade students to the Alliance Française in Chicago for a cooking workshop and to view the French film, Le Château de ma mère.  It is a wonderful field trip for establishing an immersion atmosphere because all of the activities are conducted completely in French. 

In using the Real Language right away programs, we believe that class time should be practice time.  Naturally, field trip time should be practice time, too, so we implement our immersion system when we have the chance to do field trips.  This helps younger students to get used to the system before their 5-day trip to Québec in 8th grade, and it also allows us to maximize the time we have for French.  The students speak only in the target language all day, even while on the bus.  For this field trip, I gave each student 40 participation points to begin with, and if I heard them speak English, they lost 2 points.  We had lots of billets with us so that they could earn their points back if they slipped up.  Each billet is worth one fifth of a point.  We give them to students who are making an effort to practice French with their classmates and with us.  Everyone was very successful, and some students finished the day with some extra credit, earning 41 or 42 points out of 40.

On the bus, I encouraged a few students to earn some billets by taking short videos of them, introducing themselves in French.  I have posted the clips below; you will hear in the background that the students were not shy about practicing their French with one another!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Ultimate Immersion Trip System

Last week, we took our 8th graders Québec City for our annual immersion trip.  It is a wonderful opportunity for them, and it is an excellent culmination of our K-8 French program, allowing our students to speak only in French for five days!  We focus on oral communication (using the Real Language right away program!), so any immersion experience is a great opportunity!

Historically, this class trip was not a strictly an immersion trip; students were encouraged to practice their French as much as they could, but, no doubt, they spoke a lot of English.  When I began teaching at Avery Coonley, Denise was very interested in finding a way to intensify the immersion experience and hold students accountable for speaking in the target language during the trip, even with one another.  Our first step was to ensure that all of the chaperones speak French, and that they were up for speaking only in French during the week in Québec.  We have been lucky to have some good connections and some very willing and energetic chaperones. We also started using the travel company Immersion Tours, a local tour company based in Québec.  They provide interactive activities for the students, including a morning to a local school to interact with québécois pen pals.  It has been great to work with a company that reinforces our goals of getting students to practice as much as possible!

(Photos taken at La Cabane à Sucre)

We brainstormed, and we came up with a system to keep the students speaking in French.  We give each student 200 participation points for the trip.  If we hear them speaking English at any time, we write their name down and they lose 10 points.  There is a lot of grace in this system, however, because we bring a lot of extra credit tickets (see our post about billets/boletos), each worth one point.  We are very generous, and everyone feels that they can succeed!

This year, for the first time in this system's nine year history, all of the students finished the trip with 200 points or more-- everyone got an A+!  We threw them a pizza party to celebrate.  Kudos for their motivation and good French-speaking!