Category Archives: Course 3

Course 3: Final Project!

This is my first year teaching internationally. I love a lot about it. Out of all the many things that I love though, my students are at the top of the list. They are amazing! They come to class excited to learn, and the progress they have made this year in French class is impressive. I feel this is particularly true of my beginning level students. In one student’s ePortfolio she made the observation, “At the start of the year I didn’t know any French and now I can tell almost everything I do in a week in French!” It is exciting to see students learn a language from the basics up. This is made even more enjoyable by the fact that my students are such enjoyable people to be around and to teach.

Unfortunately, one downside of teaching internationally is that these amazing students leave too often! As the end of the school year approaches, I feel like I’m learning every week about another kid who will not be returning to AISC next year. I’m sure that I’ll get a number of other wonderful students next year, but right now I’m more than a bit sad to see so many of my current students leaving.

As I think ahead to next year, I know that everyone will be meeting new people. I’ll meet new students. The students who are staying at AISC will meet some new classmates. Those who are moving elsewhere will also meet new peers and new teachers. There will be a lot of introductions.

Before this school year finishes, I want to do a project with my beginning French students to create an infographic that tells about them, what they do in a typical week, and communicates their likes and dislikes. This is a great way for my students to showcase the French they have learned this year in a visually appealing way that they can be proud of. It is also a product that leaving students can use to introduce themselves to new peers and to a new teacher. For students that I will be teaching next year, we can use this in the fall to review and to introduce ourselves to new students.

I am going to begin this project with my students in the next week, and I’ll post an update showing some of the finished projects before the school year is over.



Infographics in Class

The Route of Seine, Paris

by juditsolsona.
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.


I have not used an infographic yet in my class, and it is time that changes. This is one that I could use in my unit about planning future vacations. I will share this with students, and have them use it as one tool when planning how they would spend a few days in Paris. I particularly like that this one includes information about potential waiting time to get into some commonly visited sites, instead of only listing the sites. Students can talk about the prices, the views they would see, the wait time to enter a site, and how much time they could spend in each place.

In searching for an infographic to use, I noticed a few things that I want to keep in mind when I create an infographic on my own. The first one is that many infographics seem to actually be vision tests in disguise. Wow. I actually have pretty good vision, but I think the past hour I spent trying to read some infographics may have done some permanent damage! Some of the infographics I found looked interesting, but I could not read the smaller print. I found it very frustrating, and it is something I definitely want to avoid in my own creation of an infographic. My other observation is that an infographic needs to contain enough substance to be interesting or thought-provoking, but not so much information or so many visuals that it becomes overwhelming. I’m glad I spent some time looking at so many infographics, because it makes me appreciate the clarity of those I have seen posted on other Coetail blogs. I can read them, and they give me useful and interesting information! Hopefully I can make one myself and have it turn out as well as many of those I have already seen. If you haven’t seen them yet, check out Laura, Rob, Flor, or Seth‘s infographics for some great examples!

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words


Photo Credit: <a href=””>ggallice</a> via <a href=””>Compfight</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

In my 8th grade French class, I have been trying to incorporate more “authentic” materials into my lessons. This can be tricky. A lot of the authentic language-rich items that may interest my students are sometimes too far beyond their current language skills. One topic, however, that we have discussed very successfully is elephant poaching in Africa. This topic worked well with my students because they already had some background information about it, and the language level of the materials on Radio France Internationale has been accessible. They also tend to be quite passionate about how animals are treated, and they are aware that endangered species need to be protected. I was so impressed with many of my students’ abilities to communicate complex ideas and feelings about this topic in French. The article and associated audio that we used to learn about this topic is no longer available online, but this one is similar (although this audio clip is more difficult than the one we used before).  Some of my students also read about “elephants” now using Twitter to raise awareness about poaching. 

One speaking activity that I want to do more often in my class is having students describe images. I have chosen the above image from Compfight as one that I could use in class because students could talk about it in various ways. Some might simply describe what the elephants in the photo are doing, or what they look like. Others could tell a story. They might also make a connection between the image and the student in our class who frequently mentions his love of elephants. Of course they can also make the connection with the problem of elephant poaching and the species being endangered.

Cleaning House


Photo Credit: This Year's Love via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: This Year’s Love via Compfight cc

The picture above pretty much sums up how I feel my blog starts to look when I change the “theme” or attempt to manipulate the look of it in any way. I have to throw everything all around, and only then will I eventually be able to sort it, categorize it, and put it into shiny new storage bins that would make make sense not only to me, but to everyone else who views the page as well.

Some websites are so beautiful, and so easy to navigate. Others are chaotic due to the massive amount of information/widgets/graphics/links that the site owner has tried to make stand out. Personally, I like simple and clean websites the best. As Brandon Jones writes in Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design, “Good visual hierarchy isn’t about wild and crazy graphics or the newest photoshop filters, it’s about organizing information in a way that’s usable, accessible, and logical to the everyday site visitor.” I also agree with him strongly when he says that “as a society we’ve been being barraged with a vertiable tsunami of visual information over the last couple decades; as a result, people nowadays are hyper-sensitive to visual hierarchy. This is especially the case on the web where studies have proven that regular web surfers have learned to “scan” content innately; automatically seeking information that is relevant to their interests and discarding/disregarding information that doesn’t.”

I try to keep those ideas in mind when I look at my own blog for this course. I have been (am still!) tempted to add some more widgets, and to reformat in other ways as well. However, do my readers really need or want the clutter of a ClustrMap? I would love to see if someone from far away clicks on my blog, but so far I’m not willing to have that widget on the side of my blog. I like a clean minimalist design type blog more than I like the idea of seeing who has gone to my site.

This is how my blog looked when I started this post.

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 10.55.42 AM


Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 10.56.01 AM


Not great, but at least not a messy teenage bedroom level of disgusting either. Although to be fair, I am pretty sure that I never find my own messes as disturbing as others probably do.

As far as content is concerned, Lazy Eyes says that this blog post is not appealing to readers because I am using too long of paragraphs. Instead I should be using bullet points or very short paragraphs if I want to have a reader actually finish reading the post. Honestly, that depresses me! Just because we are reading things online, are we no longer able to maintain attention long enough to scroll?! Yikes. I would also be interested to see how our attention to online materials is lengthening or shortening with the increased number of years we have been reading a great deal of material online. Lazy Eyes was written in 2008. As far as information concerning our interaction with online material goes, a six year old article is pretty dated. Maybe as we have done more and more reading online we have developed better stamina and can now actually manage to finish longer blocks of text. Maybe we have become even more easily distracted though. Maybe eventually sentences will be too much for many readers to get through. I sure hope not, but I’m a bit worried! Today I read Extra Virgin Suicide in the New York Times. I loved the visual effect. Engaging, simple, clear. But to be honest, if that is the direction that more things head in the NY Times in the future, I’ll become one very sad person. I like in-depth articles, and blocks of texts don’t scare me away.

I may have to change my habits though, and start to write in shorter chunks. Mental note made.

As far as the rest of my blog layout goes, it has now become a work that is very much in progress. I wrote almost all of this blog post a week ago. I have tried a number of times to change my blog format, but I haven’t found anything yet that I like more. In theory, I like the “Berlin” theme because it is more visually interesting and has less white space than my current theme, but it still avoids feeling overly produced and therefore appeals to my more minimalist taste in website design. Unfortunately, I can’t get it to work for me. When I change to it, this is what I see:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 7.55.38 PM

You know how when you want to organized a closet the first step is to take everything out and pile it on the bed? Suddenly cleaning/organizing can make things look far worse than it did before, right?! I am considering this the clothing on the bed stage, and I am going to have to keep messing with settings to get this to work. I promise that things will get better, even though it may not seem so right now.

While my final project for Course 2 was nice, I would like my followers to be able to see more than ONLY that one post repeated endlessly down the page (don’t worry: it is also displayed as a banner at the top, just in case you can’t find it anywhere else)! This week I spoke with Ross, who was also having trouble getting a new theme to work. His problems came from the fact that “featured images” are needed for each blog post. When I looked at his site on Friday it was displaying fine, but now it seems to have reverted back to black squares. And this is after I know he spent a lot of time getting it to look good!! Where he gets black squares as problems, I seem to be getting repeating blog entries showing.

Since it seems that “featured images” are needed, I am going to go to and relocated and download all the images I used in Course 2 (“featured images” seem to only be able to be uploaded, and all the links that I have in my post right now to compfight images don’t work as links for featured images). I am going to also have to update all my blog posts from Course 1 to include “featured images” if I am going to switch to a more image-intensive theme as well. I just hope that it really is the “featured images” that is causing the issues. I guess we will find out! I would like to include a perfect “after” picture here of my updated blog, but this will take me some time to do.

For now, I am changing my theme back to the old one until I sort out the bugs in the new one.