Travel: What do YOU want to do?

In my last post about the metro, I vaguely mentioned that my French IIs are doing a modified “daily routines” unit. Instead of using the normal, “I wake up,” “I brush my teeth,” “I shower,” my students have been following a daily routine of an itinerary in a Francophone county. I cannot take credit for this brilliance – it was an idea given to me by John at Journey towards Proficiency after we bother read this post by Thomas Sauer and were greatly discontented with what he said about “daily routine” units.

So this week, after leeching almost everything that I did in the unit off of John (Thanks, John!) – I had my own breakthrough. Sure students were using the language I wanted to talk about their itineraries, and they could retell – we’ve even ventured into the past for talking about what happened yesterday, but they didn’t really get a chance to create with the language.

My breakthrough? Give students lots of options, and let them come up with their own itinerary for a “free day.” This way, they could pick the options that they actually liked/wanted to do, they could spend the “time” that they wanted in each place, they could take the transportation that they preferred – the list goes on. My thought? If students were to take a trip, they’d have lots of options presented to them, and then they’d pick the things that they wanted to do. This is pretty “real-life,” to me.

The computer labs in our school have been PACKED this year, and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get into one. Instead, I set up a gallery walk type of activity, where students had to roam the room to discover places to go in Lyon, France. For each place, I gave the name, two pictures, a short blurb (that I wrote) and a list of activities that you could do there. I decided I would scaffold these experiences, giving students the activities now, and then next time, having them use the vocabulary we’ve learned to pick their own activities. For restaurants, I included a sampling of their dishes. Mmmmm, lapin!

The first step: Students wandered around the room, reading about each place. They wrote down the name of the place an an activity to do there. The organizer is very simple. I wanted students to be exposed to all of the options, so at this point, I didn’t tell them that they’d be making an itinerary – just that they should pick the activity they liked best about each place. When students finished, I spoke individually with most students (Which places did you like? What can you do there? etc).

The second step: The next day, I reviewed the places that the students had seen during their gallery walk. They were able to answer simple questions about the places. We also review the kinds of transportation in Lyon (métro, tram, bus) and walking. I instructed students that we would all wake up at the same time, eat breakfast at the hotel, and then the whole day was theirs to pick whichever activities that they wanted. Students needed to include: Time of each activity, how they got from one place to another, 2 meals (they can’t starve just because it’s a free day!), and everyone’s last activity was sleeping at the hotel.

Students took time to think about what they wanted in their itineraries, and did a great job. Coming from a grammar-explicit background (and my first year of teaching, yikes), these students are a bit low, but most students did really well on their own itineraries. Then, I had students share their itinerary with a partner. Their partner wrote down the transports taken, a few activities mentioned, and one thing they had in common on their itinerary.

Things I want to change for next time:

  • Give students a map with each place marked – this can help them estimate travel times, as well as pick the transportation option they like/is most convenient
  • A great extension activity would be finding the route to each of these places using the transports of the region – we did a great activity with the Paris metro, I think it could work here as well
  • Next time, I think I’ll set up an activity where students can present their day to everyone else, maybe in the past? To incorporate another speaking element

What do you think? What do you do with the “daily routines” unit? It’s gotten a lot of flack on the internet and some teachers think it’s valuable – I’m not trying to tell you that you’re wrong, rather just present the way I’ve modified it.

Here are the worksheets I used – the font may come up different for you because I use so many crazy ones – please feel free to use what you like, but please don’t grade my French too harshly – there may be some mistakes!

The Gallery Walk word file 

The Gallery Walk PDF

The organizer/itinerary template – word