FRE 203 – Winter 2014 – Conversation Class Video and Reflections

Classroom observed in the Winter of 2014 at Kalamazoo College.

Link – Vimeo.com

Password: llvalentin

Context of this lesson:

  • This was one of my first experiences during my year of being a French Teaching Assistant in Kalamazoo College, and it is great to be able to look back on that video now that I have three more years of tutoring and teaching experience.
  • This was a small group setting—six students were in the class. I designed a whole class based on the French version of the game show Family Feud (“une famille en or” in the French version).

Class structure:

  • First, the class started out with a warm-up—an informal conversation on whether or not they watched TV, what they watched and what shows they knew.
  • We then moved on to the bulk of the class—the actual Family Feud game in several rounds, dividing the class in two families. Each round was about guessing the right answer from data I collected in the weeks prior to that class. The questions were about French culture, French people and French stereotypes. Students had to guess what the most given answer was for each question in percentages. Like in the game show, each good guess brought the team closer to winning.
  • In the last 15 minutes, this led us to have a debate on stereotypes, how accurate they were, and where they came from. This took the format first of small group talks and then of a whole-class discussion. I have kept this typical structure for classes debates up to this day, and it tends to work very well.

Reflective statements on the class:

  • The motive for this class was for students to take advantage of me being actually from France to contrast what I told them with the typical answers that American students gave to my surveys. This engaged them to think critically, to not only think what the most common answer was (i.e. the Family Feud game), but also to rethink afterwards how accurate these views were.
  • Here, cultural authenticity and critical thinking were the goals of that class, as well as learning to express ideas and observations without resorting to general statements (i.e. [34:40 in the video], teaching them  to say “Sometimes, …”; “Some, …”; “I personally noticed that, …”; “From my perspective, …” instead of phrases like “The French are, …”; “The French do, …”. This prompted them to articulate their ideas and observations with more respect and open-mindedness. When dealing with any cultures or groups of people, single stories should be avoided at any cost.
  • I also relied on students to discuss stereotypes beyond the Francophone world and about their individual cultures and experiences. I always benefit from having a diverse and multicultural body of students; this allows for precious comparisons. It also puts value on student’s own interests, experiences and views.
  • Reflecting on this class allowed me to correct a mistake I was doing without realizing — always repeating student answers myself before giving them feedback on it. This puts them in a position where they think they must have mispronounced it since I am repeating it, when in reality some answers were perfectly fine in terms of pronunciation. An example in the video is me repeating each letter when they were spelling out a word [e.g., 32:15-33:08].
  • Being videotaped is always conducive to being more self-aware of such details. Looking back to 2014 is also a unique opportunity to realize how far I’ve come since then.