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Est-ce qu’on a vraiment fini? (are we really done?)

How can I possibly begin to summarize the journey that is MATSL?  The first year, Didier laughed himself silly when I mistook a factor for a mailman (!), Peter very tactfully wrote “you have much of the relevant material here, albeit often in places that make it hard to find, and very much in not-yet polished (sometimes, not yet mined out of the earth) form.”  There were also a lot of “this doesn’t belong in this section.”


Students thinking together in L2:  something I never would have thought of, had I not come to Bennington.  Of course the teacher HAS to be the center of attention, right?  Wrong!  What an interesting journey it’s been.  My French IVs last year, after exploring national and personal identity, without me even in the room (I taught French III at the same time) declared it “the best class they’d ever had.”  Who knew students would enjoy thinking?!


This year has made so much more sense, as the easier-to-conquer mechanics could take a back seat to the harder-to-master disciplining of perspective.  Looking for contexts in which students can explore concepts is also becoming more second-nature.  I still need to learn more efficient ways to find francophone resources that would be pertinent to my students.


What a great ride!


Looking over each others’ data this past week, Christine and I realized that we had noticed the same thing in the fall: in mixed-ability groups, those who were, or at least felt themselves to be, less able were free to not participate, let the others do the thinking/talking.  We both decided independently to make a spring group of quiet students to see what happened.  Lo and behold, they spoke!  Mine showed DPT but stayed in L1, Christine’s stayed in L2, off topic until she prompted them to return to it.

This brings on a question: how to design the specific parameters of an activity so that all are required to give input about a certain topic, no matter the grouping.  To be continued….

So cool!  In thinking about graffiti, the French III students incorporated some of our ideas of revolt from the first cycle.  Yeah!
(Click on the picture and then “high res” for a good look)

So cool!  In thinking about graffiti, the French III students incorporated some of our ideas of revolt from the first cycle.  Yeah!

(Click on the picture and then “high res” for a good look)

Delinquency and Action Research

Mmm.  In the first research cycle , while listening to my students’ discussions about revolt, their engagement and disciplining of perspective were the most pronounced while analyzing an image:  was it of a boy or a girl?  Was he dead or just sleeping?  Was that meant to be hair or blood?  They provided reasons for their opinions and were eager to contribute. It brought to my attention the value of images, and their potential for spurring student participation.

Fast forward to the end of winter cycle, having explored delinquency in three French movies.  Since our conclusions included:

  • Delinquency does not have a set definition.  Rather, it is the product of perceptions, relationships, and actions that exist among youth and authority figures.
  • Filmmakers bring their own perspectives on delinquency into the conversation, creating a new angle from which to look at this phenomenon and influencing our perceptions of it.

I’m toying with the idea of graffiti, images that are usually associated with defiance, despair, law-breaking, public art, unsanctioned.  I’ll need to do a little research to decide wether I want the students to talk about some existing graffiti, or if I want them to create their own based on the characters of the movie Entre les murs.  Stay tuned….

Collaborative concept Reflection

So, since this summer I have come to foreground reflection as a valuable tool in coming to a disciplined perspective, although I might more aptly term it “rumination”.  What does DPT have to do with a cow, you may ask?  Well, personally anyway, I start out in search of disparate bits of information (in this case sociology theory, current news reports, our context films, my cohort’s input), like a cow grazing on grass.  At first, it’s hard for me to see the connections or common threads linking the info.  But as I think about the varied input (for me, it involves going over documents, bolding key concepts, pasting them together into a new document to help narrow the focus), it brings to mind a cow chewing its cud: the same grass digested, then digested some more, and again.  After a couple of weeks, “Eureka!” (hopefully).  Looking forward to the milk of knowledge for the roundtable :)

Creating a Webquest

Christine found this great link on making webquests.  Below is a description of what a Webquest ought to be:

Creating WebQuests

Technologically, creating a WebQuest can be very simple. As long as you can create a document with hyperlinks, you can create a WebQuest. That means that a WebQuest can be created in Word, Powerpoint, and even Excel! If you’re going to call it a WebQuest, though, be sure that it has all the critical attributes.

A real WebQuest….

  • is wrapped around a doable and interesting task that is ideally a scaled down version of things that adults do as citizens or workers.
  • requires higher level thinking, not simply summarizing. This includes synthesis, analysis, problem-solving, creativity and judgment.
  • makes good use of the web. A WebQuest that isn’t based on real resources from the web is probably just a traditional lesson in disguise. (Of course, books and other media can be used within a WebQuest, but if the web isn’t at the heart of the lesson, it’s not a WebQuest.)
  • isn’t a research report or a step-by-step science or math procedure. Having learners simply distilling web sites and making a presentation about them isn’t enough.
  • isn’t just a series of web-based experiences. Having learners go look at this page, then go play this game, then go here and turn your name into hieroglyphs doesn’t require higher level thinking skills and so, by definition, isn’t a WebQuest.

Images and transformed practice

In my transcripts, I came across a discussion my students were having (completely off topic!) about one of the students’ photomontages.  There was quite a bit of L2 and negotiating for meaning going on, while trying to ascertain what exactly the picture was of.  How can I incorporate some interesting images into my lessons that would elicit such good results?

Kern’s Transformed practice:  what a great goal.

DPT expanded

So, in reading Lydia’s research design, in preparation for our first first-cut analysis, I noticed a comment that Peter had made about forms that wasn’t clear to me at the moment.  In attempting to clarify for me what he meant, he wrote:

"If students are doing disciplined perspective taking, they are partly learning to signal (ways of signing) their disciplining through their use of forms. For example, an idea, followed by a revision of that idea, followed by a question, is one form of disciplining in discourse, with three parts. This three-part form displays their stances towards their own knowledge as provisional, which is in turn an important way to discipline one’s statements, as I see it. Within one of those parts, forms like ‘is it possible that’ vs. ‘It’s certain that’ contrast and provide a texture that allows the reader to retrieve the speakers stance towards what they know. All part of disciplining" (Jones 2011).

I thought I’d share that with you because, in my data, I was seeing what he was describing, albeit in a community setting:  one person would say something, another would interpret it incorrectly, a third would provide a possible alternative, and through the interaction, the second figured out what the first meant to say.  That is disciplining, but did not fit my definition.  I guess I need to broaden it!  TYP

Case for the nuanced use of L1 in SLA

A very interesting article by Vivian Cook describing, much more lucidly, what I have felt about the judicious use of L1 in the FL classroom.

Using the First Language in the Classroom

I have felt, like many of my cohorts, that L2 exclusively could hamper understanding of key concepts, or finer points of grammar.  I do realize however, that I therefore swung too much the other way, using L1 for anything I considered difficult, in turn feeding the students lack of confidence in L2 usage.  I appreciate this article for clarifying areas where L1 would indeed be more narrowly useful (permissible), implying that students will do just fine in L2 with other situations.  To be pondered.

Data ruminations redux

Why does it never cease to amaze me how students in a group who willingly participate can co-construct knowledge together? This is the first time I noticed how valuable exploratory talk was in a group setting.  Before, I have seen individuals use it to puzzle through what word to use or what form of a word.  This is the first time I’ve documented a couple of extended exchanges between at least three people to puzzle out what they want to say or what another person is trying to say (negotiating for meaning). 

Out of a group of 7, I had 3 that dominated, 2 that participated occasionally, and 2 that were not heard from.  How to even things out, or at least find out if the ones who aren’t speaking are at least thinking of the subject at hand?

I really appreciate again and still Soter’s “What the Discourse Tells us:  Talk and Indicators of High Level Comprehension”.  Find it on our shared Zotero.  She provides concrete signs to look for that indicate thinking (or DPT) may be going on.

Here’s to more!