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

An imaginary metro trip!

Happy spring, everyone! I hope everyone has has, is having, or will have a wonderful and relaxing spring break this year! I know that I’m enjoying mine!

Last week, before break started, I came to a realization about my students – their prior knowledge about public transportation was almost nonexistent. While in a unit about travel with my French IIIs and a revamped “daily routines” unit in French II where we’re taking an imaginary trip to France, I had students tell me that there wasn’t a difference between a train and a metro, and that the only bus they’ve ever been on was a school bus – and some had never done that.

So, enter my mini-unit on the metro. I’m not overly fond of visiting Paris as a French teacher, but it’s the one place that my students know about, and it has the landmarks my students are interested in. I started with an introduction to metro vocabulary – we looked at pictures of the Paris métro, for example, where you “composte” your tickets, the “quai,” etc, and students didn’t seem to “get it.”

The metro is, unfortunately, one of those things that you have to “experience,” and short of hopping a train to Paris, I didn’t have a way to show them. Enter Youtube. Youtube is a wonderful place where people post videos about everything, including: how to take THE PARIS METRO. Forgive the terrible music here, and the “blair witch” style of filming, but this really helped my kids get it – most were suprised by “how clean it is,” “how many stairs there are,” or “that lots of people take this [crazy underground monstrosity that I’ve never heard of.]”

So, after understand the vocabulary and talking about what you would do on the metro, we all headed to the computer lab to try it out. The resource that really made this lesson successful was the Plan de métro avec rues. It was not designed to be printed, so I’m glad we could make it to the lab. This map shows landmarks in orange, and students were able to use the metro map to navigate from one landmark to another, just like we had learned about in our imaginary trip!

One thing that I was prepared for, thanks to reading Amy’s post on a virtual trip to Buenos Aires, is that students really didn’t know that the metro didn’t drop you off at the entrance to your location. I told students to look at the distance they might have to walk, and how walking might get you a quicker route to your next location than just changing lines.

Students were able to navigate very well – I was impressed at how they did. Some students were excited about getting there with the least amount of changeovers, or finding the most direct route.

The hardest part for students was the “direction” – most of us know that they use the end point of the metro for the “direction” rather than north, south, east, or west. So, instead of zooming out on the entire map, I had students pull up the map to each individual line, find the two stops they used, and look at the direction that way. I think they appreciate this instead of finding the end point on the entire metro map – it was very small on their computer. You can find the maps of individual lines here.

Students told me afterwards that navigating the metro was MUCH easier than they anticipated. The Paris metro, with its 14 (really, 16) lines and 5 RER trains, is a little overwhelming at first. I mean, look at this thing: metro_geo. We made the first “trip” together, and these are the things that I stressed to students:

  • Find the end point first – what color (or number, if easier) metro lines run through that point?
  • Find the starting point. Is one of the end point colors (numbers) near to that place?
    • If yes, take that metro line!
    • If no, find where the closest line to the start intersects with one of those end point colors (numbers).
  • Once you’ve made the “trip” – find the direction that you’re going in using the individual metro line maps. This is where the colors really came in handy.

These strategies seemed to work well for students. Here are my tips for the most success with this mini-lesson:

  • Download the PDF of the map with rues; the webpage has a tendency to lock up on you
  • It may be best to have seen a map of Paris with landmarks first. My goal was not to have students “find” a landmark on this crazy map, so I had no problems showing them where their destination was if they couldn’t find it. But, it would be better if they knew that the Notre Dame is on the Île de la Cité and that the Sacré Coeur is pretty far north, etc.
  • Make sure students know the difference between the RER and the métro before you start – we talked about this difference and students were able to remember that if we were going outside of Paris (to Disneyland, Versailles, or CDG) that they needed an RER for that. It also helps to know that the RER lines are thicker than metro lines on the map.