High School French, Bay Port High School
Our Bay Port High School students who have completed our International Baccalaureate French program have performed well on both the IB exams and their college French placement exams. When they continue their French in college, they do well, and many continue to complete a minor or major in French. Our IB French students have studied themes of cultural diversity, leisure, health, cultural diversity, social relationships, global Issues, and communication and media. They have the tools to converse on a variety of subjects.
The problem that we face is that when we travel with students to a French speaking country, we notice that most students are afraid to use their French, and many do not try. When we host French students here, we find the same results. The majority of our students do not participate in our traveling or hosting opportunities. Students are anxious about using their skills with native speakers. When polling seniors who were studying French during the 2014-2015 school year whether they would be interested in studying abroad when in college, only 2 of 23 said they plan to do this. When asked why not study abroad most responses were based on fear, and a few were based on choice of major, time, and money.
During the IB year 1 class, students in their junior year make a transition to speaking mostly French in class. By the end of their junior year, most of the students are happy with their progress and feel that they can use their French to negotiate most situations. For the most part, students in IB year 1 are only speaking French with the teacher and the other students in class. We would like to have the IB year 2 class move to speaking French with native speakers, of which are rare in the Green Bay, WI area. The French department is working towards speaking 90% French in all levels, and including native speakers is essential.
Our students speak French with each other and with their French teacher; however the fear factor is preventing them from improving their speaking ability and from opportunities in life. We need to address this fear.
TalkAbroad will be incorporated into the IB French year 2 curriculum in order for students to have meaningful conversation regarding five of the IB themes, one theme per Talkabroad conversation: leisure, social relationships, culture and traditions, global issues, and communication and media. The first three themes have been studied in IB French year 1, so the TalkAbroad conversation theme will be a review. TalkAbroad will be included 15% into the semester grade for each student.
Steps for each conversation:
- Students prepare questions and their own responses regarding theme
- Students practice conversations with partners
- Students complete conversation as an assignment (For the first conversation, in order to help reduce any anxiety regarding the technology or speaking, I will post hours after school when they could do their conversation with me in the room. This is not mandatory; students can complete it at home too.)
- Debriefing of conversation (students make a short presentation of their conversation and we discuss and compare the conversations together in class)
Results were excellent and the new curriuclum will be implemented in the future. Below are a variety of comments made by students after using TalkAbroad
How did you benefit from doing TalkAbroad?
- “I learned even though we are not the best speakers and are not confident doing it they still understand us and can comprehend what we say.”
- “Talkabroad allowed me to break my nervous shell and speak more freely and find a way to get the words out even if it wasn’t 100% grammatically correct.”
- “I gained confidence in my french speaking skills and learned that the only way to better myself is to make mistakes and learn from them. If I don’t try I will never learn to better myself.”
- “I learned a lot about the cultures of other nations in the East. It made me more confident with speaking in French, and helped my listening skills quite a bit.”
If you were to be talking with a French teacher who doesn’t know about TalkAbroad, what would you tell him/her?
- “Do it!!!!!”
- “It’s more helpful than conversations with classmates, because it helps with listening skills to hear a native speaker. Also have the class do practice conversations before, so they can focus on their speaking during the actual conversation.”
- “I would tell them that it is a great experience and it is a fantastic way to help their students make their French speaking and listening better by talking with a native speaker.”
What advice do you have for future high school students who will be using TalkAbroad?
- “Don’t over think it, the first time is awkward, but it gets better. You will benefit from it in many ways. Your speaking ability will increase and your ability to understand quickly.”
- “Just jump in and do it, they’re actually very helpful if you don’t know what to say or how to say it use what you do know to describe it. It’s going to be scary the first few times you do it but it will get better and you will actually be thankful that you did it.”
- “Actually talk to your partner! Find something you have in common so the conversation goes by more quickly. If you mess up saying something, that’s okay! You’ll be fine.”
- “It was nerve-racking at first, but once you realize that the people who will speak to you on TalkAbroad don’t care if you make mistakes, then the conversation becomes easier.”
Rachelle Schuster, Bay Port High School