Saturday, January 23, 2016

Update: The French-Only Classroom Revisited

If anything motivates me to carve out time for a blog post, it's when a member of my PLN asks me to explain how I do something. Thanks, @CathMus , for inspiring me to publish an update!

She asked me how I keep my high school learners in French during our time together. I half-jokingly replied that I do it with carefully planned lessons. All kidding aside, that is the main ingredient, but there's also a need for accountability… the form of food.

We've been attempting to stay in the target language for almost five years now, but our methods have evolved over the years. I will share the changes I've made below. Here's the original post I wrote about the first, successful French-only method I employed:

This past August, I began a new educator journey at a public high school, located one hour north of the private school where I taught for the past seven years.  The fall semester was a 90% TL fail, in part, because I was overwhelmed with all that comes with a transition to a new school. I had to adapt my lessons from the 50-minute, year-long courses to a 90-minute, semester schedule. It takes carefully structured lessons to make 90% TL happen, and that was just not my priority in the fall. That said, the spring semester is off to a promising French-only start. With a few changes to the original policy, it seems to be going well so far.

The Updated French-Only Policy:

Teacher: If "caught" speaking English 10 times, the teacher must make brownies for the class in order to start back at 0 points.

Students: If the student is not "caught" speaking English a total of 10 times at the end of four weeks, s/he will receive candy or another sweet. (Students can reach 9 English points and still get the reward.)

English Freebies: Students can write a question on the mini whiteboards in English without earning a point. They can also speak English in "Le coin anglais," or "English Corner," but both feet of any English speakers must be in the zone.

Results (as of Week Two:) 

-Many of my learners are already showing signs of better classroom command comprehension that wasn't clearly observed last semester. (I must add that my clothesline of frequently-used expressions has also been downsized. I group survival phrases by theme now. Why I didn't do this before, I'll never know…  For example, the restroom and water questions are posted right above the door now, instead of along the clothesline with every other question.)

-Students are buying in to this reward system. Who doesn't want candy???

-I'm back to holding myself accountable for my use of French in class.

-I'm intentional, more so than last semester, about how I design my lessons for a 90-minute class during which comprehensible, French transitions need to occur.

If you have an accountability plan (other than grades) to keep learners in the target language, what do you? If your system has evolved over the years, please do share what has worked for you.

Happy Communicating!