Open Teaching Initiative, Teach@CUNY

Reframing My French Lesson with Focused Energy

Photo by carnagenyc:

By Antoinette J. Williams-Tutt

Opening my classroom gave me a valuable opportunity to consider how to make my subject matter (French language) accessible to fellow Graduate Center students outside of my discipline. I ended up using a lot of games and interactive exercises in class that day which didn’t necessarily require a lot of language comprehension, but emphasized the ways I encourage students to interact with me, the activity and each other. For example, we began class with a verb conjugation game. I numbered off the students to create five diverse teams, mixing up students of different levels, who then came up with team names in French. From the score board (blackboard) at the front of the classroom, I would call out a subject pronoun and verb infinitive to one group at a time and they had to decide together the right conjugation, with a different team representative each round announcing and spelling the conjugation for the whole class. If a letter was missed, the other teams had a chance to steal the point, which created a lot of fun and focused energy among the students who were really excited to get the right answer and earn points for their team.

Having anyone sit in on your classroom is always a bit scary (since you know you’re being evaluated, though in a constructive way), and I’m most used to being officially observed by  senior faculty (which can be a bit nerve-wracking!). However, I like to harness that nervous energy sparked by observations and push myself to really try and get the most out of a lesson for my students, optimizing assignments for the whole class and small groups, incorporating speaking, listening, reading and writing in French, even in small doses, throughout the lesson. But having a peer in the classroom for OTI was a refreshing and stimulating experience since it made me think more deliberately about my lessons and teaching approach. I really appreciated the opportunity to host fellow (future) instructors and hope that all of the participants had a beneficial experience!

Antoinette J. Williams-Tutt is a doctoral candidate in French at the Graduate Center.

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