Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association (Spring 2016)

Earlier this spring I had the opportunity to present a talk about using coding and robotics to support procedural language among French Language Learners* (FLL). The conference was with the Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association (OMLTA/AOPLV) in Toronto, Ontario and involved three days worth of workshops and talks. I mostly focussed on my work with coding in ScratchJr (for primary) and Scratch (for junior), as well as using Tickle to program robots (ex. Dash and Dot, Spheros, BB-8) in an FLL classroom. Examples of student work included assignments and lessons from my own classroom and my work with other teachers at my school.


Overall, I was very surprised at how new an idea this was to many French teachers. I often feel that Core French and French Immersion programs can be somewhat isolated from the developments in Educational Technology. Not surprising, however, was the general enthusiasm for integrating some of these ideas into classroom practice. The connection between learning oral French and coding to me is simple (and I’m sure that others have noticed this as well): programming involves negotiation.

There is so much pressure for French language teachers to strengthen oral language skills in our students. Coding requires an iterative process whereby language structures are practiced, re-ordered, and refined to achieve a goal. This process happens aloud when students are working in pairs. With appropriate teacher support, paired students must talk through their ideas, create code, and then go through a debugging process, while discussing how to improve their code. Additionally, presenting and discussing their programs, as well as their coding process, creates an authentic reason to have complex oral interactions in French as a class.



*FSL students refers to student who are learning French as their second language. I prefer the term FLL, since many of my students are learning French as their third or fourth language. What’s important to me is classifying these students as learners of French, not whether or not French is their second or third language.

TDSB Camp 2016 – Post Mortem

Two Saturdays ago, I attended and presented at the TDSB Google Camp. The event was very well attended with several hundred teachers and administrators present. I found the event well organized, with plenty of online support for presenters before the event itself and easy-to-find organizers and volunteers in bright t-shirts throughout the day. Many teachers and administrators were buzzing with excitement during the event as they discovered and learned more about the ways in which they can enrich student education using technology.

While I was delighted to see such enthusiasm for tech, I have to admit, I still have a few lingering concerns about the event.

Although both keynote and endnote speakers were engaging and clearly familiar with the tech tools of today, I would have loved to see some more diversity. Using technology is very intimidating for a good number of teachers and I think that the struggle can be eased by seeing people with whom you identify having success with it.

Additionally, teachers are often so keen to be seen as up-to-date that we sometimes use technology without any real purpose. For example, when watching a keynote presentation, I understand that people are inspired by what they see. What I don’t understand is taking snapshots of inspirational quotes from a presentation and posting them on Twitter in the moment with the conference hashtag. What are we adding to the discussion? These tweets might be somewhat useful for those following at home who weren’t able to make it. But are we thinking critically, or just recirculating ideas so that others will see that we’re involved? This doesn’t seem meaningful to me.

Unfortunately, I’ve also done similar things myself. There’s this feeling that sometimes at the end of the week I haven’t been “active” enough on Twitter and I’ll somehow be seen as only intermittently engaged in tech. At the moment, I’m really trying to fight the urge to just regurgitate what I read without careful consideration or additional comment. After all, that’s what the  like buttons are for.




On February 20, 2016 I’ll be giving a basic workshop on how to use Google Sheets to create collaborative class dictionaries to support FSL learners. Sharing these documents can help support learners both in class and at home. This is a pretty basic introduction to using Google Sheets for a very practical purpose.


University of Ottawa’s Summer University for FSL Teachers

I’ve had more than several days to digest my two weeks of lectures and workshops focused on FSL education at the University of Ottawa.

Before I go any further, here’s a bit of background about the program. The Summer University for FSL Teachers is intended for elementary and secondary schoolteachers in Core French, Extended French, Intensive French, and French Immersion. This year’s program started in early July and the weekday schedule was from about 9 AM to 4:30 PM, although there were a few French cultural experiences scheduled in the evening as well. As far as I understood, long term occasional (LTO) teachers and occasional teachers were also eligible to apply. The levels of participant French competency also varied widely: some teachers had native or near-native command of the language, while some initially struggled to have detailed conversations.

Overall, this program was an excellent way to explore FSL pedagogy with other educators in a French language setting. The lectures are long—about three hours each, with a ten minute break at some point. Most lectures included practical components, example activities, or resource lists.

If you are interested in attending this program because of the sections related to educational technology, I would want to temper your expectations. There was a very large range of technological ability in my group. As someone who led workshops and worked at an Apple Store Genius Bar, some suggestions were extremely basic and straightforward. On the other hand, some teachers needed more time and much more detailed assistance with software we used. In the past, there have been enough attendees to have two groups, but this year that was not the case. So more differentiation was needed in these workshops, but most of my peers and I walked away happy with something we learned in at least one of the three technology workshops in which we participated.

Beyond technology, there were engaging talks from Sylvie Lamoureaux, France Dupuis, Denis Cousineau, and Rosemary Paniccia. Sylvie Lamoureaux started the program with a discussion of what it means to be a francophone and how students see themselves as French speakers. René-Étienne Bellavance delivered a hilarious and very practical talk on error correction (although his lecture on culture didn’t provide as many concrete resources as some were hoping). Personally, I thought Denis Cousineau was hands down the most in-touch with what’s happening currently in classrooms. His suggestions for making the CEFR useable for assessment were straightforward and I thought they could be manipulated for younger learners as well. There were other interesting talks too, but those were my personal favourites.

I can’t stress enough how the program’s location was a key selling point in attending this program. Living in Ottawa for two weeks meant that I could practice my French outside of class hours as well. During the cultural outings we had opportunities to see the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature, and the Canadian History Museum. Some of the museums I had already visited, but I was blown away by the French language educational store we visited. The Librarie du Centre was amazingly full of books, games, guides, tools — all of which were in French. I’m even contemplating another visit to Ottawa this summer just to pick up a few more things…and I want to eat at El Camino again.

Allow me to reintroduce myself (again)

As my career as an elementary teacher progresses, the purpose of my website has shifted as well. I began the blog to document a project during teachers’ college. As I was finishing my studies, I wanted an eportfolio that I could use as an interactive résumé for employers. Now that I’ve found employment as a French Immersion teacher, I’d like to have a platform to share information about teaching resources and practices.

September can’t seem to come soon enough and I began planning my year weeks ago. Finding good classroom materials, workshops, and research is very important in this process. More importantly, learning to adapt these resources is a difficult but essential process in ensuring that these great ideas actually work in my specific classroom. Going forward, this blog will serve to evaluate and discuss both resources and their adaptations.

In terms of recent professional development (PD), I’m newly returned home from a two-week program at the University of Ottawa for French as a Second Language (FSL) teachers. I learned about this program through an email newsletter from CASLT. I also received a government bursary covering tuition and travel. There were numerous workshops and lectures (all offered in French) for K-12 teachers. As always, some speakers were stronger and some workshops were more practical than others, but it was a great opportunity for FSL teachers to attend great PD in French and discuss these ideas in French. Anecdotally, everyone (with the exception of one person who was a native French speaker) seemed to improve their fluency and comfort with talking about teaching in French. For me, it was a good way to achieve the goal of continuing to work on my French skills while improving my pedagogical toolbox at the same time. In addition, living in Ottawa in the summer was also a treat. I’ll write a bit more about how the program went in my next post.