Weare foreign language teachers use math program to deliver remote lessons

  • Weare Middle School Spanish teacher Catherine Chasse uses a variety of backdrops and cards to engage her students as she gets ready for her first virtual class on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Weare Middle School French teacher Robyn French uses visual aids and a large screen for her virtual class with students on Friday.

  • Weare Middle School spanish teacher Catherine Chasse uses a variety of backdrops and cards to engage her students as she gets ready for her first virtual class on Friday, February 19, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Weare Middle School french teacher Robyn French uses a large screen for her virtual class with her students on Friday, February 19, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Weare Middle School french teacher Robyn French uses visual aids and a large screen for her virtual class with her students on Friday, February 19, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 2/22/2021 4:55:52 PM

Weare Middle School foreign language teachers have found a new way to engage their students in online learning by using a graphing and teaching application typically used for math.

Over winter break, teachers Robyn French and Catherine Chasse started looking into new ways to deliver remote lessons to their students and discovered some of their peers were starting to use a math program for language classes instead. They both joined a Facebook page where foreign language teachers were talking about using an online application called Desmos in their lessons. The Facebook group, named “Desmos for language teachers,” which was started mid-December 2020, has since grown to over 1,100 members.

French, who teaches French, and Chasse, who teaches Spanish, decided to give it a try when their students came back to school in January using a hybrid learning model, where they would spend half of their time learning in person and half online. Chasse said using Desmos was unusual at first because it’s designed for math and science classes, but it was easily adapted.

The teachers create class-specific activities and can monitor the students working in real time. They designed games students could play that help with their language vocabulary.

French and Chasse said it has been a resounding success so far. Before switching to Desmos, they used Google Forms, which wasn’t as interactive or as much fun for students. The teachers also weren’t able to see in real time whether the kids were doing their work, making it less ideal.

Chasse said she doesn’t think the use of Desmos for language programs is common practice yet, since it’s not that well known. The freedom to create unique lessons on Desmos could be used for other subjects as well, Chasse said.

“I actually think anyone who’s doing remote learning could benefit from it,” Chasse said. “You can get pre-planned lessons that would be for mathematics or science but there’s a skeleton frame that’s blank, and with just a little bit of training, you could set it up to pretty much suit any content area. But certainly languages are essential because then you can provide so much visual support to go with what they’re hearing and listening to that, it really does provide like a word wall and different things that we would have in the classroom that right now we’re not able to provide.”

French said that using Zoom tools to annotate along with Desmos has really helped to ensure that students are comprehending the language. She said language classes are difficult to teach remotely because they usually use a lot of visual tools to help students comprehend the language. They also have lots of posters up in the classrooms, but a combination of Zoom and Desmos has helped them to keep their students visually engaged.

French said Desmos can be used in all grade levels. At the high school level students can come up with their own ideas and start their own conversations. For the middle schoolers, teachers add questions and use a drawing feature to add in pictures of text or whatever else they want their students to see. At younger grades, students can match pictures and vocabulary words.

Chasse said the transition to using the free application has been fairly smooth. Several students had already used Desmos for math classes, but the simple layout made it easy for students to understand. It’s made a big difference on days when students aren’t physically in the classroom.

“It seemed to really make a big difference in seeing in real time what the kids are doing like we would see in class if you were looking at their paper,” French said. ” We were missing that sort of the back and forth that you have with the students in teaching. So we got some of that back, which was nice.”

French said she thinks that when the pandemic is over they might continue to use the application to practice some skills and use the games on it.

“I think I would still try to incorporate some of this stuff, like it has some fun games like a ‘guess who’ game where they ask questions, which has been great for them to practice the vocabulary,” French said.

Chasse said she would perhaps use it for a quiet writing activity to be able to give feedback individually to students.

“There’s a little chat window and you can communicate one on one as they’re writing,” Chasse said. “I find it almost easier than a Google Doc, because of the dashboard layout.”

Both Chasse and French said Desmos has quickly become the foundation for all their online lessons, but they additionally use other learning applications, such as Flipgrid, Pear Deck and Jamboard.

“I think a lot of our students are giving us feedback like they’ve learned a lot more than they thought they would,” Chasse said. “And so it’s really rewritten the narrative that they had coming out of last spring. A lot of them, they came in the fall thinking, ‘Oh, remote learning doesn’t work for me.’ And that narrative has been rewritten, because they do feel themselves learning, and that’s really encouraging to see.”




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2020 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy