French video resource

It’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve been very busy, like all teachers, getting into classroom routines, marking work, getting to know my students better and all those little day to day tasks that pile up. I’ve been thinking of a few topics I would like to write about but I need to find a costume for our school’s Halloween Howls tomorrow night and I need to get to bed so this is a quick post today.

I am very fortunate to work in a school district where YouTube is available for us to use and even encouraged though they prefer us to take the video, save it and show it without worrying about ads or other videos being shown that are inappropriate. My solution to that is that I set my laptop/SMART Board to extend so I can queue up the video on my laptop where the students can’t see it, then slide it over to the SMART Board where they can. That or I go to a channel where I trust the content.

My favourite YouTube channel is La chaine de Mme Duckworth, created by a Core French teacher in Toronto. She has about 1500 videos on there, some are silent videos, some are songs, some are tv shows. Not all are appropriate for all ages, but with any video, it’s best practice to watch it first before you show it.

Some day I would like to start my own YouTube channel for songs and videos I use in my classroom. Do you have a favourite resource for videos that you use?

Happy Halloween!

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NaNoWriMo 2011

Today is October 11 and October is nearly half way done. What does that mean? It means that National Novel Writing Month www.nanowrimo.org is just a few weeks away. That’s pretty scary and exciting.

For the past three years I’ve participated (and finished) NaNoWriMo, a crazy idea started over 10 years ago by a bunch of college students who wanted to see if they could write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Crazy idea. But they did it and the idea grew and grew to the amazing worldwide phenomenon it is today.

My first year I wrote a novel called “Getting Centred”. It ended up being several stories about these interconnected characters all woven together. It stated out okay but ended up kind of a mess. The second year was the best. I wrote a children’s novel called “And the Tower Came Tumbling Down” with a little help and inspiration from the classes I was supply teaching for. I still enjoy reading this novel and am working on editing it with my writing group, but more about that later. Last year, since it was my first time with a full time teaching job during NaNo, I decided to do something “easier” and write a memoir piece about teaching. I managed to get my 50,000 words written but I didn’t enjoy doing it as much. I love the unknown about writing fiction. I found with memoir, though I do like writing it from time to time, that there was no surprize. There was no trying to think of what was going to happen next or my characters telling me what they wanted to do because what I was writing had already happened. So I think I’m mainly going to stick to fiction this year.

Generally, October is my out-lining month. I do not write by the seat of my pants for NaNo. I outline, chapter by chapter what I would like to have happen and then I write it. But this year I’ve been very busy with school and focused on my new class, I haven’t had a lot of time to think about what I would like to write this year.

Part of the problem is that with my new writing group I’ve ventured into thinking about becoming more serious about my writing. They’ve been helping me edit my children’s novel and while reading it over again and again I’ve decided I still like it and I think it could be worthy of being published one day. That’s kind of a frightening thought for me but also exciting. Up until now, writing has just been a hobby, but then I think, why not? Why couldn’t I get published? I started looking into how authors get published. I read up on query letters and websites where they critique query letters. One thing that struck me is that it seems like in order to get a novel looked at, you need to have other works published. I’ve never been published, not in a literary magazine, not as part of a contest, not even on the internet, other than little bits of writing I used to post back in the Geocities days.

So it looks like if I want my novel to be taken seriously, I should first try to get some other stories published, problem being, I don’t write many short stories. Even as a child I had trouble with keeping my ideas small enough to fit into anything smaller than a novella. I have written some short stories though and I know I’m capable of doing it.

This brings me back to my NaNo idea for this year. What I will try to do is write 50,000 words worth of short stories. I will try to out-line some ideas for the stories in October and then, hopefully, I’ll have enough short stories when I’m done that some will be worth editing and sending off to different contests and magazines. I’m excited by this idea. I could be biting off way more than I can chew but the whole idea of NaNo is to push myself to do something I love to do.

Here’s to another crazy November!

Tickets please

After blogging about it, talking it over with our M&R teacher and doing a lot of thinking I have gone back to using positive participation tickets in my class. We had a big discussion about it on Friday and, after being out sick on Monday, I started using them for the first time today. While the system isn’t totally fleshed out yet, basically this is how it works:

A student speaks French, gets settled quickly, helps someone out, goes above and beyond what is asked of them, I give them a ticket. These tickets can be redeemed for privileges, things like; indoor recess with a group of friends, time in the gym, Smart board games, Lego and so forth. The idea with the “rewards” is that they were mostly group rewards, not just for an individual.

What I haven’t worked out yet is the “value” of each of these rewards. I suppose I need to come up with some sort of price list or something so that the students know how many tickets they need to save up. Now I know from video game theory that the most effective reward systems start of with small, easy to achieve goals and then over time make the goals harder and more time consuming. But rather than increase the value of the rewards (with some sort of strange inflation?) I think as time goes on I will make tickets harder to get, so for example whereas now, if a student attempts to speak French, even by repeating what I’m saying back to me, I give them a ticket. In time I will only give out tickets for full sentences or spontaneous French.

The other advantage of this system over last year’s is that, rather than constantly having to get new tickets, I’ll be able to re-use the same tickets over and over again until they fall apart.

Today’s introduction to the tickets went pretty well. As I expected, almost all bought into the system instantly. I saw hands go up from students I hadn’t heard from without specifically calling on them before. And yes, this is extrinsic instead of intrinsic motivation, but you know what? It was a happier, more peaceful classroom this morning when we were doing our French work. And hopefully I can gradually pull the program back as they become more confident in their abilities and eventually they will buy into the real reason that we’re doing all this learning – to better themselves.

Any hints or tips on how to make this program even better?