A colleague recently shared a video with me through Facebook, explaining the use of chat stations as a framework for learning and class discussion. I loved the idea, and my brain has been working at ways to implement it since I viewed it. You can see the video and blog entry by clicking here. As a high school teacher, I’ve often found it’s easier to try new things with my junior students than my seniors – juniors are better risk-takers, and will jump right in, especially if it means moving around the room. Seniors tend to be more reluctant and like a more predictable classroom environment, so I’m starting with my juniors and will work out any issues I find with them before moving on to my seniors.
Get them moving and talking
I love this idea because it’s going to get kids out of their chairs, moving around the room and talking to one another. It’s going to get them speaking French, but it’s also going to encourage some critical thinking skills, and give them the opportunity to think out loud.
Starting with beginners
I’m starting with my French 8 students, and giving them something they’ve seen before and worked with previously, so that they will see this as attainable and will not be likely to give up. My more capable students will be able to go well beyond what I’m asking of them, but my struggling students will also be able to be successful. I’m going to get them to work with levels of formality, known as registres de langue in French. This is a concept that’s embedded in our curriculum requirements, but frequently gets lost in the actual work we do day to day in the classroom. Developing an understanding of this will allow them to interact successfully in a variety of settings in the target language, and also know how to address someone they don’t know, or tackle a situation that might be unfamiliar to them. I like the idea of formally (pardon the pun) addressing it this way. I took my basic vocabulary from this video, and adapted it to use local addresses that my students will recognize.
I’m going to set up stations around the room as follows:
I have my students seated in groups of 4, and I’m going to split the groups up for this exercise. One person will visit chat station #1, one person will visit chat station #2, and so on. While they are visiting the chat station, they will work with other students (who they don’t normally interact with) to answer a series of questions. I want them to figure out:
- Who is talking in each scenario?
- Where is the conversation taking place?
- What is the conversation about (summarize the topic)?
- Can they justify their choices (explain an opinion)?
- Using their background knowledge of these types of conversations, can they extend their thinking to create a short scene in which they choose one conversation and show what might happen next?
You can see the handout here: FR8 Chat Stations
Debriefing and next steps
After they have had their discussion in their small groups, we will have a quick class discussion on the same questions to make sure all students are on track and to give them a chance to share their thinking. Once I’ve introduced chat stations to them and they see how it works, I think it will be easy to include a similar activity in the future, and to adapt for older grades. Examining the registres de langue through reading, discussing and preparing a scene should also prepare my students to understand more authentic videos or recordings, which I can schedule in a follow-up lesson.