Major Project Update #1

Thus far I have worked on the first section of my Major Learning Project – my two goals that have to do with my work in the classroom.

To review: I plan to work on becoming conversational in the Michif Language. Conversational to me means enough language for a fluent, short, friendly conversation and enough language to instruct my students throughout the day in sentences for our routines and procedures. The goals as written were:

·  I would like to speak enough Michif to have a short conversation with our resident Noohkoom when she visits to the children can hear a conversation.

·  I would like to be able to instruct my students in full sentences, without pausing to check my lesson plan notes or dictionary app.

Last week, I spoke with our Language Keeper Jeanne, (Li Vyeu) and she told me that the best way to do this would be to 1) practice out loud with a fluent speaker, and in her opinion that person should just “throw me in”. Which was… frightening. Typically when I meet to plan the language component of my kindergarten classroom I meet with just Jeanne and she translates the vocabulary for me in our upcoming lessons, stories, or learning experiences. I listen to her as she says the words and then I spell them in my document phonetically. It took a long time for me to even practice saying the words aloud with her. I don’t know what it is – I just feel a tad bit of imposter syndrome I suppose, when I begin to speak in the language – especially since the proper pronunciation of the words (nevermind a whole sentence) requires a bit of an accent one which I do not have.

I took Jeanne’s advice and I have reached out to another Old One who my students would connect with via zoom last year. I have asked her if she would consider meeting with me over zoom as well for some informal lessons working towards that conversational goal. I hope to hear back this week.

Additionally, Jeanne has been telling me since last year that it would be better for me to have the language I plan to instruct my students in more readily accessible in my classroom, so that I can just look around at the item I want to speak about and see the label there. So the past two weeks I have worked on transforming my classroom to be more accessible in terms of language for myself. My students are not readers – so it felt a little silly to be labelling the room, but I do have to admit in the three days I have had the labels up, I have used the Michif words for items almost every single time, and my students have been using context clues (like where I am gesturing) to know what I mean even though I am not saying the word in English.

There are items, (like the ones above) as well as I also used some picture-word inductive model type labels for the dress up center for when I join the students in play there, as well as with our recipes in the other dramatic play center.

I then labelled all of the toys, with visuals as well as the Michif word to describe the toy. I hope that later on I can record our Noohkoom’s voice to have as QR code on the items so the students can hear her voice and pronunciation when they scan the toys with the tablets.

Additionally, we utilize a visual schedule so I worked with two different language keepers to translate (as best that we could) our daily activities into Michif.

I know that all of this seems very simple and truly like perhaps a first step in language learning, but the reality is a lot of this information was not readily available and in fact is the product of a WHOLE lot of networked learning. I have been extremely busy making these items practical and useful not just towards my language learning project but also so that I can share the sources with others. So far I have a shared folder with my colleagues in Regina Public Schools where I have added this work for their use – as well as a shared Drive with the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan where I have uploaded editable versions of all these resources (they need to be editable there as the Heritage Michif used in these sources is not the only dialect used across SK).

I hope that when I update you next I have found a way to move this learning, or at least share this learning within the context of social media.

Have you every learned a new language? If so – what was helpful to you?

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7 thoughts on “Major Project Update #1”

  1. Victoria!

    I. Love. This. I think this is such a fantastic project and I love the authentic ways you’ve pursued this! The idea of QR codes and a recording of your Noohkoom’s voice is such a great personal touch to learning Michif for yourself and your students! I also think labelling your classroom is a good choice… Even though your students aren’t quite readers yet, the exposure still counts! I was in French Immersion in elementary school until Grade 4 and I remember in every grade every single thing was labelled. Needless to say you’ve really taken networked learning to a new level here… I can’t wait to see where the rest of your project goes!

    I’m learning ASL as a portion of my project and I learned the hard way this week that repetition is everything! I spent a lot time last week working through two of my lessons and didn’t touch it for 5 days after. I went to make an update video and I could not remember a thing… *face palm.* Get em’ next week, I guess!

    Great post!

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  2. I love the label idea, and similar to Leigh, I worked in a dual-track school for many years and everything was labeled. I would find it odd walking into some French classrooms and there would be multicoloured labels everywhere, all the walls, ceiling, and even some on the floor. I also don’t teach primary but I know that exposure to words and sounds is important for language development, even in the older grades (although it may look a little bit different). I like the idea of students getting familiar with QR codes in the classroom and using tools to learn new things. When learning a new language, repetition is key. Also, being exposed to more opportunities to listen to fluent speakers is important. Keep up the great work! This is such an interesting project!

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  3. Amazing work, Victoria! Like seriously, you’re doing all of this yourself! This is not some TPT stuff you’re finding online. It’s so awesome. And you’ll be able to use these labels year to year, even with older classes. Don’t say it doesn’t seem like much, this is huge. Foundational work is small and builds into much more. As you know, working with Knowledge Keepers right now is difficult given our covid restrictions but you’re making it happen, it takes time and patience. Even this process is bringing about new skills, connecting and learning from Knowledge and language Keepers. So awesome!

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    1. Thanks Riley! Your comment made me a little teary-eyed here aha! I think that the reason I put off all of these items (as Leigh and Katherine already mentioned labelling in second language classrooms is pretty common) is because I knew it was going to be a big project – and I am very picky with having things match! I needed the kick in the pants of this class to make these things happen!

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  4. Hi Victoria,

    This was interesting to read and very informative! I really like your idea of putting words around the classroom for students to see Michif words wherever they look. I teach in French Immersion and even though I teach middle school, having visuals and anchor charts for students to use will help them in so many ways! Keep it interesting when you are learning! Fun games or activities always helps my students become more excited to use and practice the language,

    Seeing my students learning in a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th language really helps me understand your story. It may seem scary, but the more you speak and use the language, the better! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes as well when using the Michif language, as long as you’re trying to practice, I teach in my 2nd language and I am used to making errors that even my students will sometimes catch. They understand that it’s also my 2nd language and that sometimes I need to look words up in the dictionary.

    You are doing great things! Keep it up!

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    1. Thanks, I think that being afraid of making mistakes is generally why I am so quiet when I work with our language keepers but during the process of making these are trying to spell things phonetically, I found I just had to do it! It’s not nearly as scary as you think, and I certainly learn faster when someone is correcting me in real-time.

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  5. Hi Victoria . I am a slow-poke in getting around to checking out everyone’s learning projects. Great, fascinating project combining tech with tradition. Being involved in the rejuvenation of Indigenous languages is so important. You are practicing teacher activism in the front lines. I love the fact that you are a kindergarten teacher! My all time favourite students. I taught kindergarten for Lac La Ronge Indian Band at Little Red, north of P.A. and Kinistin Saulteaux Nation., near Tisdale. At Little Red, we had a Cree language program instructed by Cree EA, Lucy Henderson. The children were English and Cree speakers. I did learn some basic Cree but not enough to have a conversation. There were non-Indigenous teacher teaching in La Ronge and Stanley Mission that did learn to speak Cree-but I only managed a few words. At Kinistin Kindergarten we also implemented a Saulteax Language program . I know one technique that was effective and a lot of fun was learning and singing action songs in Cree and Saulteaux. You probably are doing this in Michif for such Kindergarten hits as “Head and Shoulder, Knees and Toes” and ” Twinkle, Twinkle little star. ” Best wishes on the ambitious project. Brenda
    P. S. I am jealous of your kindregarten teaching assignment.

    Liked by 1 person

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