Turning 17 seconds into 15 minutes

Using Video for Input

A couple of weeks ago I happened across some absolutely adorable videos on YouTube that I wanted to use with my Novice Lows because the videos all started with a short introduction.  Video can be a powerful tool in the language classroom for communication.  Alternately, it can easily become background noise for students if it isn’t made comprehensible.   I used the video option in Google Slides to add video directly to my slide deck and the video options allowed me to maximize the languages and images for my class. Here, the tools I used to turn 17 seconds into 15 minutes of awesome.

(Google Slides has wildly simple and effective videos options that can be used for a whole class activity as long as the teacher has access to YouTube.  If students have access to YouTube you can also use these tools for video that students would interact with on their own.)

Find a video…

You can search directly in Google Slides for a video, but that is #nofun so I suggest finding the video in YouTube and then copy and pasting that video into the Insert video box.  Click on the video and then Select.  The video will automatically be inserted into your slide.


And know what you want to do with it.

Why are we watching this video?  How will students’ language be different after watching this video?  What’s the point? 

I thought about putting this first, but I think with the YouTube rabbit hole sometimes you know you want a video for a vague reason and then when you find the right video your mind goes crazy with ideas for using it.  Let’s say they should happen concurrently.  Here I’m using a bunch of videos from “Détecteur de mensonges” as input and interpretive listening for the second and third hour of French class.  I want students to listen to what these peoples names are and we are also going to talk about them using the (limited) vocabulary they have at the end of three hours and to introduce some new vocabulary (man, old, young).  The first 20ish seconds of these videos will be comprehensible.  The rest will be noise, so I am going to crop them out.

Set the start/stop time

Google Slides video options allow you to set the time the videos run.  First insert the video into your slide.

Next, select the video and choose video options and set the time you want the video to start and stop.   In this example I am only using the first 17 seconds.


You can faux-crop any video using the start/stop time option. Found a 4 min video where you don’t want to show the middle 2 minutes?  No problem!  Make a slide and import the video.  Set the run time for 0:00 to 1:00.  Copy that slide and in the copy set the run time for 3:00-4:00.  Voilà!  Video crop done.  When you present your slide deck and click from one slide to the next the video will automatically start after the crop.

Mute Video

In my lesson after the students watched the video several times and after we talked about the “characters”, they “role-played” the conversation themselves.  One person played the role of the little girl and the other the détective.  I wanted them to do this in time with the video because that seemed more fun than just role-playing on their own.  I used the same 17 seconds of the video and muted the sound.

The “Mini” Lesson

My lesson involved several slides (because I do everything in slides.) I didn’t just start off with the video.  First, I used screenshots of the “characters” to talk about them using the limited vocabulary of the students.  I introduced the new words: mignonne, jeune, homme and we talked about the characters using that.

I added three guiding questions for the students as they were watching the video.  Giving the questions helps students focus on what they should be listening for in the video.  We’d been practicing this all class.

Next, I used a slide of all of the “characters” to ask questions about them.  This was at the end of the second hour of French, so the questions were pretty simple.  

For me, this is what I think of as “disguised” input.  We had talked over and over about il s’appelle, elle s’appelle and I wanted them to hear that again in a different context and not about us.

The whole thing took about 15 minutes from beginning to end.


You can click here to access the slides I used.  Someone asked me over the summer about how I do all of the stuff I do, so for this lesson I made a “workflow.”  Literally, I just recorded myself making it and it includes the rational and shows the tools I used.  I hope it’s useful.


#edublogsclub Digital Citizenship

I’m way behind on my #edublogsclub posts because, well…summer.  So just like the pile of New Yorkers sitting on my coffee table, I’m going to have to skip a few in order to get caught up.  Further there were some topics that when I saw them I thought, “Huh, I got nuthin.”

When this topic of digital citizenship hit my inbox,  I groaned and then ignored it.  How are we supposed to teach students digital citizenship when adults don’t follow many of the rules that we “teach” kids?

In 2011 I had my first negative experience with students and technology when while I was gone students used a thread in the LMS I was using at the time to say incredibly mean things about one another.  They were sitting right next to each other and then wrote to each other bad stuff.  Discipline ensued.  Anti-cyberbullying was taught and we moved on.

The students behavior, while their choice, was also on me.  I didn’t teach them what they should and shouldn’t say.  I didn’t give examples of appropriate language and phrasing.  I just assumed that they would know how to act.

No more.  Now I am very explicit with students about appropriate and inappropriate language and place for comments.  I did this with my high school students and I do this with my college students.  I give them examples of how they should ask for help including specific examples of when an email should be sent or when they should comment in Google Classroom.  I give sample comments and make my expectations clear.

I teach what an appropriate email should look like.  College students are, in general, terrible at email.  After I had emails from students that were incomprehensible, I started explicitly teaching what an email should look like.  And then, after I get the first email of the semester that starts with, “Hey…” I reteach.

I no longer assume that just because students can download apps and Snapchat faster than me that they know how to appropriately act in an digital situation.

More importantly, I feel it’s necessary that I act like the digital citizen I’m trying to teach.  Students might not see me acting like that, but it’s important to me.  Don’t be mean.  Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person.

Three No Prep Activities for the First Day

It’s Back to School time!!

Officially school started over a week ago at the high school and I don’t go back to school at the college for another week.

Here are three no/low prep activities you can do with any class, but the newbies.  (For my take on starting with the with the newbies see this post.)

1. Categories

I don’t know about you, but when my students came in after the summer they hadn’t spent it practicing any French and I like the delicate toe dipping back into the TL.  Here’s how it works:

Brainstorm a list of categories (themes) students should know.  For example: School, Home, the Beach, Brandon Brown Wants a Dog, etc.  Whatever they most likely studied.  Then one at a time put those on the board (or on a slide deck) and instruct students to come up with a list of words that have to do with that topic.  It just needs to be a list.  (Don’t worry, we’ll make sentences later!) For example for school students might list: listen, pencil, paper, fun, partners, etc.  Give them oh, three minutes per topic.  Give prizes or Señor(ita) Bucks or whatever your reward system is for the most words, the most interesting words, the longest word, etc.  Whatever you want.  Here’s the important part- both partners have to write down the exact same words.  After each category I’d ask for volunteers to tell me some of the words all in TL.  Next, have them switch partners and go on to the next category. Repeat until you’ve gone through each category.  I’d recommend no more than four categories.

When you’re done you’re left with some nice lists and hopefully students have got their TL brains loosened up and working a bit.  But here’s where it gets really good:  send them to the next partner.  (See they’ve worked now with five different people, reviewed, hello, my name is, your name is, etc.)  With this last partner give them the instructions that they will have 10 minutes to come up with a 30 second conversation about one of those topics.  It can be a story.  It can be a dialogue.  It can be a newsflash, but both people need to talk.  I limit the time.  This isn’t about proficiency or an assessment, this is about getting their mouths moving again in the TL and for you to get an initial idea of their raw language abilities.  Then they can present their 30 second dialogues/stories the next day or on Flipgrid or Recap or whatever way makes you the happiest.

2.  Meeting someone you don’t know

For students who are new to a class together they need to get to know each other.  There’s lots of cute icebreaker ways to do this, but I am not that kind of girl.  I can’t stand icebreakers.  When I see on a meeting agenda icebreakers or getting to know you activities, I start planning a bathroom emergency.  I understand as a teacher that icebreakers are necessary, so here’s how I do it in class.

In partners ask students to brainstorm a list of questions you could ask someone you don’t know or have just met.  It’s important to specify that “How are you?” does not count.  While they’re doing this you can walk around and help and gush and see how they’re starting off the year.  When they’re done I usually ask for volunteers and write their questions on the board.  If I notice that they may need extra help, then when we brainstorm the questions, I’ll also review how to start the answer.  So when we write “Quel âge as-tu?” I’ll also get them to tell me and I’ll write “J’ai…”

But not done yet…..have students choose five of the most important questions. Which five do we have to know about each other?  (Hopefully they chose name as one of them if not say, “Oops, I said six questions” and mark name as one of them.)  One year students included – What’s your favorite book?  (That was a bookish class.)  One year, what’s your favorite movie?  Doesn’t matter.  They choose.

Still not done… have students interview a partner and then present their partner to the class.  You can do the not fancy stand up and present and that’s like 15 seconds per kid or you can go fancy and have the students do a collaborative Google Slide or use Flipgrid or Recap.  (If you haven’t guessed yet I choose the non fancy option for this.)

3.  Whaddya do?

If students know the past tense already, then as far as I’m concerned that first week’s lessons should include something about what they did over the summer.  Ask yourself, how many times did someone ask you about your summer when you got back to work?  It’s all anyone wants to talk about.  Sure, you can change it up and throw in an infographic about typical vacations in your language culture and have them compare, but I just like the no-nonsense tell me about your vacation.  (For ideas about talking about vacation here’s a whole post.)

This year I’ve been particularly interested in how many different ways I’ve been asked about my summer since I’ve been back:

Were you able to get away?

Did you get to relax?

Did you go anywhere?

Did you get out of town?

Catch any good movies?

What’d you binge on on Netflix?

Imagine the discussion that ensues with students around the intent of those questions.  Instead of just asking “What did you do?”  if I ask, “Were you able to get away?” I’m asking the same thing, but focusing on where the person went.  When I’m asked “Did you get to relax?” the questioner doesn’t want to know about how I got my pool clean.

First, ask students to write down or state what they did.  Then give them some alternative questions like the ones above and ask them to refine their answers.  (Fair warning- this next step is a bit of prep.)  Have these questions on cards and give the students the cards to circulate and ask what everyone else did, but focusing on the nuances of the question.

There you have it- three (mostly) no prep activities to start the year off in the TL!

Summer Reflections

Whew- I’m so glad summer is over.  As I’ve said many times the last few weeks, “I can’t wait to school to start, so I can get a day off.”  No, really, this was the busiest summer ever and I had to take an unintended break from blogging and caring in July as I was too busy getting ready for parent technology meetings and a three day summer bridge program with 150 Freshman that includes a BreakoutEdu box to “save” our kidnapped mascot from our rivals which nearly had me in tears.  I was tired.

But this summer was great!  I got to go to ISTE in San Antonio and volunteer at the Google Booth and got a preview of the new Google Forms options.  Then in July I co-presented the technology strand at the World Language Project Summer Seminar in Santa Barbara.  It was five days of non-stop and exciting commitment to quality language instruction.  I was inspired every day by the general session speakers and the participants in our strand.  I’ve got a ton of new ideas and ideas to be improved that I can’t wait to share.

Here’s to a happy, safe, and balanced 2017-2018 school year!