Building Confidence in French Oral Communication in the Core French Classroom #MinecraftEdu

Gill teaches 7 & 8 Core French for our board.  She has been using Minecraft with her grade 8 students this year to help improve student confidence in speaking French.  These are her reflections.


Introducing and setting ground rules for minecraft

At the beginning of the year we brainstormed various ideas regarding what students wanted to learn. They generated a great list of various activities to increase their conversational French. In our list included the concept of using Minecraft to facilitate our learning. We developed learning goals and success criteria together with a focus on digital citizenship.

 

 

Task #1: Project started as a Je me présente: students were asked to work with their group to create a city in which each building created was selected from a list of “Les bâtiments le plus importants pour une ville”. Students then chose their building and created 3-5 rooms that represented themselves ex. Une bibliothèque, un cinéma, le gymnase, la patinoire de hockey etc. They then gave tours of their building and described what was inside using the following scaffolding:

 

  • Voici mon/man _______________.
  • J’ai choisi cette salle parce que j’aime….
  • Il y a un/des _____________.
  • Il y a un/des _____________.
  • Il y a un/des _____________.

 

Task #2: The project then developed into a directions unit. Students gave tours around their cities using simple directional commands.

 

How did we scaffold work?

Each class we had a focus question that was colour coded on the board. Students were provided a sentence starter with various answers on the board.  These answers would have been previously co-created with the students so that they had the vocabulary they felt they needed. We would focus for a few days on a specific question and response; eventually we would move on but I would periodically come back to a previous question with the colour prompt to ensure that students were paying attention.

 

Activities

 

  • Warm-up tasks – To create random groupings

 

        • Playing card mix it up
          • Students all receive a card – partners can be made by colour, suit, number etc.
        • Personal attribute mix it up
          • Students are paired by hair colour, eye colour, colour of clothing.
        • Inside/outside circle
          • Make 2 circles (inner and outer), the teacher calls out a number and direction and the students on the inside or outside must rotate in that direction that number. They they partner up with the person in front of them and participate in speaking activities that focus on the target language.

 

How did we make this work? What did it look like our classroom and what results did you see?

At the start it was absolute chaos. Students weren’t confident in what they should be doing. Slowly overtime their confidence increased and they understood what the questions were asking and how to respond to the questions. Students were motivated and excited for French class. I saw students who were previously uninterested in French (as per their student interest survey) show a desire to communicate more willingly in French so that they could then participate in Minecraft.

 

Minecraft Benefits

The benefits of using technology in the classroom are endless. Students come to class each day excited for what is to come next. It isn’t common for students to look forward to French on their daily schedule. Classes were no longer, “French… wah wah….”, they became, “French! Yes!”.

 

Challenges that come with the territory

 

Challenge #1

Our Intermediate Wifi Hub is very problematic. There were many days that the technology piece of the day took over and didn’t allow me to facilitate the learning of my students.

 

Solution

We ensured that all of our students’ ipad had the following settings correct:

  1. Date
  2. Time
  3. Location
  4. Wifi connection

When problems persisted we ensured that we logged any issues with our tech support team so that they could be dealt with promptly.

 

Challenge #2

Our school board is blessed in that all our 7 and 8 students have 1 to 1 iPad access. This lead to student groups choosing individuals with poor attendance records to “host” their worlds – which in turn led to whole groups being unable to continue working during class. There was a great resistance to restarting work as “they were already done all their building”.

 

Solution

Ensure before groups are created that you make it clear that students will still be responsible for an end product even if a group member is absent. Encourage them to choose wisely when choosing which Ipad work should be completed on.

 

Challenge #3

Students were more focused on the Minecraft aspect of the project than the French aspect.

 

Solution

Periodically it was necessary for us to take a step back from Minecraft to ensure that students remembered that French was the focus. In each class students had to earn Minecraft time. For each quality minute of Oral Communication, students were granted 1 minute of Minecraft time; this meant that in a 40 minute class, the most time they could earn was 20 minutes.

 

Challenge #4

It was hard to manage groups as our school has a “flexible seating” plan in which intermediate students may choose to sit anywhere within the Intermediate wing. This lead to periods of time where students were not directly supervised and could lead to students being off task.

 

Solution

Periodically throughout the class a Remind notification would be sent out requesting a screenshot of their work be uploaded to Seesaw. This helped to keep students honest as they were required to take note of their progress.

 

After it’s all said and done…

In the end I felt that this project helped to increase student engagement. I work at a school where the norm in French was word searches and colouring sheets. My Grade 8 students came into these activities starting with very little functional French. It was rewarding to see some of my most vulnerable and struggling French students latch on to the French language through the use of Minecraft. I look forward to what’s to come next.

 

What’s next?

In Term 2 we will be looking at using Minecraft as we look at the use of frequently used verbs in French and their use in everyday conversations.

 

Below are some video examples of what my students did during their journey.

Task #1

Task #2

8 Responses

  1. Martyn Najman

    Hi,

    This looks stunning.

    Did you use any sites to help you set it all up?

    Thanks

    Martyn

    • We had done some research as a team and experimented previously with Minecraft. Unfortunately, we only have access to Minecraft PE as our students use iPads in class, and getting access to a class set of computers is not a reality for us. It has been a journey in learning but thankfully we have had a team of teachers within our school board to bounce ideas off of and trouble shoot with.

  2. Hello,

    Great idea !
    I teach in a french “collège” and we alson use Minecraft. English teachers here would love to make their students interact with yours IN Minecraft !

    • Hi! Thanks so much! That would be AMAZING!!! Do they use Minecraft EDU or pocket edition? Would love to connect and brainstorm more around how we could make this happen. my email is myria.mallette@lkdsb.net, would love to hear more thoughts around this!! What a great and authentic experience!!!!

  3. Hello,
    I am currently a student teacher and I am interested in teaching French. In my Designs for Learning Core French class right now, we have discussed a lot about communicative learning, and how to create a positive French classroom where that is the focus. This blog post caught my eyes immediately. I love how you discussed with the students, at the beginning of the year, what activities would help them learn French. I think your idea is amazing and how student centered it is, is inspiring. This is an approach that will allow the students to remember French and be eager to learn a language. It is so cool how many verbs and verb tenses can be revealed naturally in describing a room. I also feel with an assignment as this, you would get students coming up to you asking you for more vocabulary as they added new things to their places on Minecraft, what deep learning. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Hi Kristen,THanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. Good luck with teachers college and your future endeavors! If I can help in any way, please reach out! @mmem27

  4. Hi Myria!

    This is amazing! As a new teacher I found that minecraft is something that many students enjoy and can relate with. I find that this is an amazing connection and resource to use when learning a new language. I really enjoy how you made really life connections with something students already know and using it in a new and improved way. This made the activity so much more engaging and fun for the students. Thanks so much for sharing!
    -Sonya

    • Hi Sonya, thanks so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment on my site. I hope that you have the chance to try it with your students at some point. If you need anything, please feel free to connect!

      Myria

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