Back to School-First Day

Last week was the first day of my college class.  I used my basic: hour of boring syllabus + hour and half of French sequence, but this semester I made some big changes.  First, for the syllabus I ditched reading the syllabus (yes, I was guilty of doing that type of beginning of class), for having a “syllabus slide deck.”  I used the slides to touch on all of the important aspects that I wanted to talk about.  This allowed me to breeze through the talk of the syllabus quickly and leaving me plenty of time to talk about the proficiency scale.

I decided to do 50% proficiency grading this semester- each semester the percentage has gone up and I’ve always had a rubric to go with it.  This time however, I’m using the ACTFL Proficiency Scale for grading.  I arbitrarily decided at the end of 16 weeks the students should be at Novice High.  Low Novice High.  Like just barely crossed over.  I feel like this is a reasonable target.

Because this is all rather new for students, I also wanted to discuss what all this meant with students.  Luckily, I didn’t have to think hard about how to do this.  When the ladies from Creative Language Class presented to the Inland Empire Foreign Language Association in April, they did an activity that I thought was so great I took it.  Literally, I asked if I could have the examples in English that we used to talk about the different levels.  And I took them.

So for the first day in French 101, I gave the students the rubric and put the posters up on the wall.  I asked the students to decided which example was which level and they did.  And they discussed.  And it was definitely not boring.

For the second half of class I did the same sequence I’ve done for 17 years: Numbers, letters, Bonjour, je m’appelle and some fun verbs.  During the Creative Language Class workshop, they mentioned not doing numbers and letters to start because it’s not as exciting.  Probably true, but I like my sequence because it’s so concrete and easy to grasp and gets everyone talking immediately.  Most important to me is that at the end of the hour, the students feel confident that I can talk entirely in French with them and they can learn.

Oh, did I mention that the projector stopped working in both classes? I had to think on my toes and in the second class, I ended up drawing on the board and we made class rules in French.  Despite the technology woes it was the best start of class I’ve ever had and I can say that I don’t think I would change anything.

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