Friday, October 30, 2009

Au marché

I'm attempting to put together a lesson plan unlike any other I've done: I've asked my students if they're up for this, and they are. 'This' is class held at the Union Square Greenmarket. The idea occurred to me as soon as I learned I was teaching Elementary this semester, a course with all kinds of vegetable vocabulary. It seemed silly to just sit in the classroom talking about Parisian markets some may never see and that quite frankly aren't necessarily that amazing (one key exception being this one market in the 7th arrondissement that had a mini-petting zoo with baby animals of the same species as one could also buy, slightly older and dead, for dinner) when one of the country's best markets is in prime NYU territory.

The difficulty, though, is in the specifics. There are 19 students, so going around as a group - what I'd initially pictured before knowing how many students I'd have this semester - is not practical, given how crowded the market is already. So I'll be putting them in groups. That they'll be unsupervised is fine, considering that they're in college, but who will make them speak French during this time? Hmm. I accept the possibility that some might take 'field trip' to mean 'leave early', but want a) an interesting activity for the majority of students who won't go this route, and b) some kind of assignment preventing the stragglers from getting credit for a class they haven't attended. Also, I'm trying to find a way for the students to use zee French without having to, say, humiliate themselves by asking the guys at the fish stand for du poisson. My plan so far is to put them in groups, each with a dish they need to 'prepare', asking them market-specific questions of what they can and can't find at the market, and some other questions that will make it so that they can all leave early, but that they'll have an assignment to turn in that will make up for that time. (Because the class is 75 minutes, and it's already getting cold!)

So, will this exercise work? Or am I a naive Francophile for even thinking of it? Also, any suggestions from teachers would be much appreciated.


Matt said...

This sounds like fun, if you can get the students to actually do it- always a bit hard with language classes in my experience. If you're there on the right day, take them buy the stand for the Three Corner Field Farm to talk w/ Karen about her wonderful cheese and lamb products. It won't help with vegi vocabulary, but she lived in Paris for several years and so I suspect she speaks French. Some of the cheese is made in a "french style" and has french names. (It's also great.)
(Her farm is here: but I can't see the days she's there. Definitely on saturdays and at least one other day, I think.)

kei said...

This sounds like so much fun. I want to re-learn French with you!

I asked students to go to the Art Institute for my Intro to Philosophy of Art class, and write about that experience with respect to relevant readings. I didn't demand ticket stubs stapled to their papers, but I asked they refer to specific works in their papers. For the most part, I felt I could determine whether they were writing because they had gone, and all but one had referenced works on display. Somehow I know that at least one person liked this exercise because it was about their experience with art, not writing about art or art history from a traditional philosophical perspective (i.e., strictly referring and responding to texts). Maybe through a student evaluation. Anyway, the more memorable the assignment, the better, and I don't think that a break from textbooks and readings once a semester is a bad thing.

Another value from this exercise is whether you know you can use it in the future. If it somehow doesn't work out, that's OK, because you can figure out how to make it work or just avoid it altogether and do something interactive at a different level. This is to say, I brought the Wii in for the same class, and let's just say next time I'll try to think of a better plan and to not to reveal the 12 year old within (to the extent this is possible).