A New Journey Begins…

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I am not sure if I want to celebrate, throw up, cry, scream it for the rooftops or what. As of this July, I will be a student again except this time I will also be juggling my work, my schooling, my two young kids and my husband. The word CRAZY comes to mind when I think of how my life will be for the next three years and I wonder if I have made a mistake. Then, I think of my cousin who recently completed her Masters and find my inspiration. She is a single mom and full time teacher and with the support of her amazing parents, she received her Masters last July. I also think of my friend Melanie who put herself through university while raising her son who was the same age as my daughter is now (4) when she began that journey. If these incredibly amazing women can do this whilst single parenting then I can do this too.

Thanks ladies for inspiring me to do this! Here’s to a new journey!

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Dans ma communauté – Screencastify

This term in Grade 6, the students are exploring the inquiry question “How does culture shape communities?”. As a lead up to our final task for this inquiry, we have been exploring the different places that we might find in our community including the use of prepositions for which I created a quick little video of me singing our Preposition Song. (Please excuse the hair; this is the “I went swimming with my kids” look) The students then took pictures of the different places that we learned about in our vocabulary exploration and created some simple sentences to describe the “map” that they made. These sentences included the article (le, la, un, une), the subject, the verb (est) and the “blah blah blah” (including the preposition and the other place from our vocabulary). In order to be able to listen to all 150 of my students speaking in French, I asked them to create a Screencastify using the Chrome Extension. I have found that this allows for the students to be less shy or self-conscious as they are, usually, only speaking to themselves. Below are some examples of the students work.

Kagan

Adam

Vienna

Alexa

I then assessed their ability to speak using the following rubric:

C’est un début /Beginning
Level 1
Sur le bon chemin /Progressing
Level 2
Ça marche bien /Competent
Level 3
Tu es expert /Expert
Level 4
Most words are pronounced incorrectly. As a result, it is difficult to understand the presentation.

 

Some words are pronounced incorrectly, but the presentation is still understandable.

 

Most words are pronounced correctly, making the presentation easily understandable.

 

All words are pronounced correctly.

 

As a mode of differentiation, I have two students who are previously French Immersion. I had these students begin an Identity Day Project. For this project, they had to do the following:

L’objectif: Partagez avec vos camarades de classe une chose pour laquelle vous avez de la passion.

Les instructions:
Collectez des choses pour lesquelles vous avez de la passion et les montrer aux camarades de classe.
2. Écrivez une paragraphe et répondez aux questions:
A) Qu’est-ce que vous avez choisir de partager?
B) Pourquoi vous le partagez?
3. Créez une présentation pour partager avec vos camarades de classe.

Here is the exemplar from my grade 5 Québécoise student:

Noémie

A Reflection on Learning at NCTCA 2016

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Shauna and I are all set to present!

Over the last two days, I had the opportunity to participate in my 11th Teacher’s Convention. I attended a few different sessions on Thursday including listening to @NuanceDrew a.k.a Drew Dudley speak about the Untaught Lessons. His message was an extremely powerful one and can essentially be summarized into a few short Tweets:

“Life is better the fewer times you have to say ‘I’m sorry’ ”

“Every time you talk about someone, act as if they are in front of you.”

“Choose EVERYDAY to matter to those who surround you”

“We need to teach students to LOVE their ‘normal’ and celebrate what others might consider weird and different”

“STOP living your life by someone else’s agenda! Live YOUR life according to YOUR agenda!”

“Figure out your story and share it”

“Add VALUE to the people whom you interact with everyday”

These last two Tweets resonated with me today as I prepared to present with my colleague, Shauna Bredo on “Inquiry in FSL”.  We were nervous. What if no one came? Wait…how many people have added us to their schedule? 51???? Okay, now it became, what if they all showed up? We were happy with the number that did show up as it was a manageable number (23 not including our Assistant Principal and our Inquiry Coach). I was trying to figure out how to share our story, our journey of using Inquiry in FSL while reiterating to the audience that we don’t have everything figured out! We are learning and trying and experimenting to see what works for us and for our students. I also wanted to be sure to add VALUE like @NuanceDrew suggested to these people who chose to attend our session. I wanted them to walk away with at least one thing that they might be able to use in their FSL classes next week. We received some positive face-to-face feedback at the end of the session from the attendees and I believe we were able to add VALUE to those that we interacted with today. My goal was accomplished!

It is a difficult thing to put yourself and your teaching out there like that but as I said to one participant whom had only been teaching FSL for one hour, “You just have to jump in with both feet and see what is going to keep you afloat and what is going to cause you to sink.” I am looking forward to the opportunity to present in the future. I know that both Shauna and I are already thinking of how we could improve our “Inquiry in FSL” presentation (adding examples of student work and student voice) as well as other sessions we could offer such as “Assessment in FSL” and “Sharing Session for FSL Teachers”. You never know, maybe one year from now, I will be writing another blog post regarding another presentation that I have done.

What have we been up to in FSL 5 & 6?

imageSince coming back from Christmas holidays, the students in LC 5 & 6 have been exploring the question, “What do celebrations real about language and culture?”

We began our exploration with a discussion around the following questions:

  • What celebrations are important to you? (society or family)
  • What would it mean to you if you were told you could not celebrate those holidays?
  • What does it tell you about what these celebrations mean to you?
  • What is culture?

After this discussion was completed, it was explained to the students that they were going to be adopting the role of cultural anthropologists in this inquiry.  In student friendly language, a cultural anthropologist:

  • Makes observations about the culture of a group of people
  • Makes inferences based on observations
  • Compares cultures and identify similarities and differences
  • Shares knowledge of cultures studied

As a class, the students and I listened to two picture books, Sammy Spider’s First Shabbat and Moishe’s Miracle. As we listened to the stories, we wrote down the traditions and symbols that were shared. We then compared our lists and created broad categories of things that were the same in both such as food, gathering together/fellowship, music etc.

Next, the students were then asked to compare a story and a video clip and flesh out the broad categories that were the same. Once this was completed, we decided as a class if celebrations included food, music, gathering/fellowship, decorations etc. Always, Often or Sometimes.

Today we switched gears and began exploring the symbols that are associated with two French-Canadian celebrations: Festival du voyageur in Manitoba and Carnaval de Québec in Québec City. I introduced the idea of symbols by wearing une tuque rouge and une ceinture fléchée. I asked the students if they knew what symbol I was trying to depict. Students in each class then brainstormed google-able questions to help them generate their response to the question “What do symbols reveal about language and culture?” The students will be spending the next two classes researching their symbols and writing simple sentences in French to teach a new partner about their symbol so that their partner is able to get the gist of what the other is saying. This will allow the students to work on language learning strategies and to become good linguists.

We will be wrapping up this unit with a Carnaval hosted by Le Club Français de GCMS on February 2, 2016.

New Year, Passions Reignited

It’s the beginning of a new year; a new beginning; a new chapter. It is the opportunity to create the me that I want to be. The me who determines my own professional value.

I was reading a blog post by Pernille Ripp yesterday entitled “Do Something” (http://pernillesripp.com/2015/12/31/do-something/) and it struck a cord with me. In particular the part where Pernille says,

“Because too often we sit back and wait for others to decide, we wait for others to fix, to mend, to invent, and to create. We wait for others to share their ideas because we are unsure of our own. We think to ourselves, “if only…” but the words never leave our mouths. And it’s a waste. It is a shame. It is our own fault that we wonder what change could really look like, what our ideas may become, when we choose to remain unsure. When we choose to remain silent.

So my wish for the new year is a simple one; do something. Something to make it better. Something to make it worth more. Don’t sit there and wait while others do, change the world yourself. Find your comfort zone and take a small step out.”

It struck a cord with me because last year I was given a teaching assignment I was sure I didn’t want. However, I realized that  I had a choice. I could be miserable and dread going to work everyday. I could wallow and be negative and let the negativity of others drag me down or I could do something more. I could do something to make it worth more. I chose not to sit there and wait for others to create, invent, or fix why is wrong with the current delivery of FSL. I chose to be the change.

It hit me again today as I prepared for a presentation that I am giving with a colleague of mine on Inquiry in FSL and she said to me, “I’m just not passionate about [French] like you are.” I’m passionate about learning. I’m passionate about the discipline-based inquiry method. I’m passionate about teaching. I’m passionate on doing what is in the best interests of my students. I’m passionate about creating an effective FSL program that has students experience French from the perspective of a Linguist and a Cultural Anthropologist. It’s not that I am necessarily passionate about French but I have chosen to do something and I will continue doing this something until my assignment changes (I’m hoping that won’t be for a few years. I want to see where this journey will take me!)

For 2016 my resolution is to not let others dictate what my value is; I am going to determine my professional value and continue to make the FSL program at my school better. I am going to do whatever I can to make FSL a valuable and desirable asset. I am going to change the world one small step at a time.

Tooting My Own Horn

Today was a day of learning (as every day should be) for me. There were a group of visiting teachers from Rocky View School Division who had come to learn more about our Innovation Week. After checking in with some teachers and taking some reflective videos, I slipped into the staff room to see if I could be of assistance with our guests. After a few minutes, I was asked to introduce myself which I did as, “Hi I am Jessie Krefting and I teach grades 5 & 6 FSL this year.” and that is where I was going to leave it; My Assistant Principal had other plans and called me out! He introduced me as the Lead Teacher for our Maker Club. I would NEVER  consider myself a Lead Teacher for Maker Club or French Club as I work in partnership with two other amazing teachers. I am not good at tooting my own horn. I can celebrate other people all day long but celebrating myself is not something I know how to do! So here it goes…

I am a co-facilitator of our school’s Maker Club and French Club. I am attempting to create a culture of inquiry in FSL. I have done this by asking the big question for the year, “What does it mean to be French?” and having it displayed prominently in the area in which I teach. With the help of our school’s Inquiry Coach, I have designed a mini-inquiry project around Festival du Voyageur  for grade 5 and Carnaval de Québec for grade 6. It is my hope that after this mini-inquiry students might be better able to answer the sub-question, “What does language teach me about culture?”

In order to help my students to answer the big question for the year, “What does it mean to be French?”, I am in the process of creating a jigsaw activity in which students would listen to different French speakers (Acadian, Ch’ti, FSL, Québecoise, FI) answer the question and students will examine how they understood what the person was saying (gestures, cognates, English words etc.)  and compare it to what other strategies other students used. We will create a  VENN diagram identifying the similarities in responses based on the overarching themes presented by the speakers.

In February, a colleague and I are presenting at the North Central Teachers’ Convention on the use of inquiry in FSL. Rather than it be a stand and deliver presentation, we are hoping to have participants identify their own overarching inquiry questions and begin creating the structure for an inquiry project that they can then take back to their schools and use.

I am not good at tooting my own horn but here is my small attempt to do so!

Connections

This past PD Day we participated in an activity to help identify the students in our school who we as teachers feel do not have a connection to an adult in the building. The “Fish Out of Water”
activity involved every staff member, teachers, EAs and the office staff, putting their initials on the paper fish that were labelled with student names. As soon as a fish had 3 people’s initials it was thrown back into the “pond”. By the end of the activity I would estimate that we had between 200-300 of our 700 students fish still posted to the wall. Now what do we do? We were left to ponder this question. One teacher decided to create a Google Form asking students to identify which adults in the building they felt connected to. What a great idea! Skip ahead to the end of the day today. While I am on supervision we in our Purple Pod which is home to the grade 5 & 6 students, a colleague comes to me to share that one of her students in grade 7 had identified ME as an adult with whom they felt connected to. I was shocked! I do not teach grade 7 at all; this particular student is a member of our school’s Maker Club that I help to facilitate but outside of our once a week meetings, I rarely see this student. It goes to show you that what a student feels as having a connection to an adult may not be what the same adult may see as a connection.

As I cuddled my son at bedtime tonight, I found myself thinking about all of the teachers with whom I felt a connection to throughout my years in school. I can count 8 teachers with whom I felt a connection with throughout my time in school. These teachers were: Mrs. Brenda Siebert, Mrs. Vivian Donato, Ms. Elana Simington, Mrs. Nellie Burroughs, Mrs. Brenda Nugent, Mrs. Yvonne Baribeau, Mrs. Gregoret-Quinn and Mrs. P. (her actual last name has completely escaped me). I was wondering what I might say to these wonderful ladies if I ever had the opportunity and I think it would be this:

THANK YOU!
You will never know or understand the deep and everlasting impact that you have had on me both as a woman but also as a teacher and a mom. You shared your love and passion for learning and teaching with me. You pushed me to be the best that I could be and never gave up on me even when I had given up on myself! Your continuous understanding and support meant the world to me.
THANK YOU!

I may never have the opportunity to get this message to these ladies however, they will always hold a special place in my heart. I have always hoped that over the course of my career that I would have made a connection to at least one my students. Hearing that one student feels he has a connection to me makes me hope that I have positively impacted more students over the course of my 11 year career and that I will continue to have this same impact for the duration of my career.

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