Lesson plans: The one thing that encompasses the lives of nearly every single teacher. Sometimes, they’re easy to create; othertimes, they’re a…bitch. Don’t get me wrong, I love creating leçons. But, when it takes the entire week to “perfect” 1 leçon only to have to modify it to the point where it no longer looks like your original idée…well, it’s exhausting.
Teaching is an exhausting career, but it is more rewarding than exhausting. Je l’aime !
There’s one thing I’m thankful for: edTPA is a mémoire in the past.
In Illinois, all student teachers must complete the edTPA. Basically, this consists of filming yourself teaching several leçons and then cutting the film to 10 minutes. Then, you follow written prompts provided by the state to prove student learning and to show how you modified the leçons to fit student needs (and paying at least $350 to Pearson to evaluate the film and the explanation). There are 3 parties (at least in 2014, there were 3 parties), which take several
hours days to complete. After completing that, making leçons in France was a cinch (though, still time-consuming).
In France (2014-2015), I taught English to students ages 6-12. Unlike my teaching experience in the U.S. where technologie was very present, there was a lack of technologie in the écoles publiques (level: primaire) in Marseille. Thankfully, I had my laptop and speakers. From my experience, creating laughable leçons is difficile without some form of technologie. For exemple, I showed vidéo clips in nearly all of my leçons. The students loved the clips because they combined engaging pieces of culture Américaine with songs. Honnêtement, songs are a huge succès at the primaire level (think: “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”…). Also, the clips were often hilarious and kooky. According to Steven Krashen, the best way to aquire a langauge is through memorable (aka laughable, culturel…) leçons (for further reading: Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course by Susan M. Gass and Experimental Psycholinguistics (PLE: Psycholinguistics): An Introduction by Sam Glucksberg and Joseph H. Dank). As an individuelle in the field of SLA, I agree. Krashen also coined the input + 1 theory. This theory is truly evident in the classroom. It’s the idea that in order for students to acquire the language, the teacher must combine the students’ current comprehensible level with 1 level above. If the teacher were to use 2+ levels above, the students would not acquire the language and might even create a barrier, known as an affective filter (for further reading: Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition by Steven D. Krashen). Being aware of the affective filter is the key in creating an atmosphere conductive to acquiring the language. Even things we can’t control such as rain tapping on the classroom window can negatively affect the affective filter. The important thing is to try and create a classroom with a low affective filter as best we can. This is one raison why I use vidéo clips: The kids love them, thus making them stay focused during the leçon.
In addition to using technologie, I also use skits. My main rôle was to focus on language output, so, I had students perform in pairs in front of the class. At first, students were nerveux, but once they realized that this wasn’t a test, they became more and more calm. Even my most timide student began raising her hand to be the first to perform! That is SUCCÈS in my book. 🙂 Language input (think: Krashen) is the first step; however, in order to assess the input, students need to create some output (think: Merill Swain). While I offered multiple output opportunities throughout the classe, the skits were the best because they enabled me to correcte the accent of every student (yes, I made everyone do it).
- Musique (whether it’s through CD, iPod/mp3 player, your own instruments and voice…musique is the key!)
- Vidéo clips
- Différente couleurs – for exemple, during a unit on the days of the week, I established a différente couleur for each day of the week. This helped students remember that in the U.S., the week starts with Sunday, not Monday.
- Books – for exemple, one book that was an extreme succès: There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Pam Adams. With all books, I not only read the book to the students, but I asked questions. In one leçon, we didn’t even focus on what the book was about. Instead, we focused on what the old lady was wearing. The students certainly acquired the basics: jacket, socks, shoes, skirt, sweater, hat…just from this book. This prompted questions: “Why is she wearing striped socks?” And, “Is she a witch?” Once students acquired the vocabulary, I handed out a sheet of paper with 8 outlines of the old lady. Then, I said, “Old Lady #1 is wearing a bue jacket, a green shirt and two black and yellow socks.” The students had to color in the first old lady figure with the description. I did this for all 8 figures. At the end of the activity, one student for each 8 figures drew the old lady on the chalkboard as I described. In another leçon (with the same group of students), I had them guess what was going to happen next in the story. One thing to note: At their level of English, I opted for “ate” instead of “swallowed” because it was better for the students. In fact, they thought that “swallowed” translated to manger, which is not true (manger = to eat; avaler = to swallow). Half of them weren’t even familier with avaler. In a separate leçon with my 6-7 year olds, I used the book Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle. Not only did I read the book, but I asked questions: What animal is it? What color is X animal? Do you like X animal? Have you seen X color of X animal? Do you have X animal as a pet? Yes = How many do you have? Is it a boy or a girl? What’s his/her name? No = do you have any pets? What’s your favorite animal?
- A chalkboard/whiteboard and chalk/dry-erase markers (duh!) – I used the chalkboard for several things. For exemple, I wrote the date at the start of every classe (well, I asked students to give me the date and then I wrote it). Another exemple is that I used the chalkboard to play several games: Hangman (usually the first 5 minutes at the start of classe), Kim’s game, Where’s Waldo?, Pictionary, Hot/Cold…
- Your sense of humour – for exemple, in a leçon on animaux, I had 1 student at a time stand in front of the classe and mimic an animal. Then, the other students had to guess the animal. We had a good laugh during this leçon. In another leçon, I played Simon Says with parts of the body (the kids love, love this game). Once the students were confortable with the vocabulaire, I began to show the wrong body part in order to trump the students (“Simon says, “touch your knee;” I touched my elbow). Also, I really got some students when I touched the right body part but did not say, “Simon says…”
With these 6 things (but, not limited to just these 6), you can create an environment with a low affective filter that is conductive to learning. Also, working with primaire students has its benefits: They’re generally eager to show off their ‘English skills’ to you and thus are good during classe. When they don’t listen, they are easy to punish: “Because you continue to talk without raising your hand, you will now sit/stand in the corner.” “Because you continue to chat with your neighbor, you will now go sit next to your teacher in the back of the classe until I say otherwise.”
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