Monday, March 27, 2017

Teaching French politics in Guatemala

A move to France just over the horizon, I'd clicked on a link about French presidential elections- I should know what's going on there, after all.  After wading through an article with references to people I'd never heard of who belonged to parties I wasn't familiar with, I felt pretty much as clueless as before.

And that's when it hit me- this would be a perfect article to use with staff.  I'd been wanting to do a professional development session modeling how we, as teachers, can make difficult text easier for students to comprehend by pre-teaching key concepts and aiding them in strategy use.

A few weeks later, we all clustered around our conference table as I passed out the article, letting them struggle through it on their own, just as I had, to start.  I asked them to rate their own comprehension, which was low, just as I'd intended.

And that's when things got fun.  I pulled out my photos of the 5 key candidates and arranged them on the board in a spectrum from left to right. I gave a mini intro to French elections, and then outlined the shared reading process we would do, filling out a concept map as they discussed with a partner.  There was a buzz of conversation all through the room, people laughing about Hamon (calling him jamón which is the Spanish word for ham) and slowly picking out the connections between candidates and how they benefited and disadvantaged one another.

Apologies to anyone who actually knows French politics
for any over-simplifications or outright errors
I walked between partners, helping them pick out key phrases in the article to answer questions, and loved seeing as light bulbs went off, and people summarized connections in their own words.  We wrapped up rating comprehension levels again, and, just as I'd hoped, this time almost everyone gave themselves a substantially higher score.  They'd seen the hard work that can go into both comprehension, and creating the right supports to aid comprehension.

It wasn't really my intention to teach French politics, just to use it as a platform for teaching how to support comprehension, but it struck me as funny, a room full of Guatemalans, heads bowed over their article, taking the hard work of comprehending French presidential elections seriously.  And then, to my delight a few days later, one of my coworkers mentioned "we were talking about a corrupt politician here in Guatemala who paid his family for work they didn't do and I thought, 'just like Fillon in France."  Hopefully they understood the subtext, but at the very least, my comprehension activity worked.

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