French teacher Vanessa Perez (Madame Perez to her students) talked with me last semester about trying something new. She was looking for a more engaging way for her students to review before an assessment. We brainstormed different ideas and Vanessa really liked what she calls, “Centres d’Activités.” (And, let’s face it, everything sounds better in French). Well, this semester she put her plan in motion and the results were amazing! This activity resulted in increased test scores for her students. As a result, she will continue to use centers for review as opposed to only the traditional study guide and whole class game. She also has plans to do this throughout the learning process, not just at the end.
Vanessa describes what she did below:
I took everything that is going to be on their test and divided the information into 8 different groups for French 1 and 9 for French 2. For instance for French 1, I had 2 activity centers for vocab review and 2 activity centers for each grammar point we covered. Activities included traditional fill-in-the-blank and correct your answers, the concentration game, a verb game, and internet games.
At the beginning of class, I randomly assigned groups. I explained how they would switch centers when they hear the music play. While they were working on the various activities, I circulated throughout the room to make sure everyone was on task and to see if anyone needed any extra assistance. I gave them 5 minutes per center before playing the music. (French music, of course!)
At the end of class, I offered the study guide so that those who benefit from doing the study guide, can do so. However, I did not make it mandatory. The answers were posted on Google Classroom so they could check their study guide when they finished. I really enjoyed it, the kids seemed to enjoy it, and more importantly, at this time of the year when students are distracted and find it hard to concentrate, they actually were focused on the tasks at hand.
When we think of Activity Centers, we generally think of elementary classrooms. However, there is certainly a place for centers in secondary education. Vanessa ran her centers in a way that allowed for students to collaborate in small groups, self-assess, and most importantly ENGAGE. Engagement leads to curiosity and to authentic learning. Yes, learning can be fun. SHOULD be fun. Our brains respond to fun and that, in turn, makes it easier to learn and retain new concepts. We love games and puzzles. And we love talking and movement. Technology today makes copying study guides way too easy. Vanessa designed an educational experience that effectively led the students to success. The time in class allowed students to work together to review the material and to ask questions. Making the study guide optional, with answers already posted online, removed the need for cheating. Students can be taught to take ownership of the learning process, but only if we give them opportunities to do so. Loosen the reigns a bit and try something new!
Thank you, Vanessa, for sharing a glimpse into your teaching life…