Desmos in French class – an effective tool for formative assessment

Desmos in French class

Using Desmos in French class is an interesting idea – one that many other language teachers have been trying this semester.  Here’s the scoop on what it is and why it might be worth a try for your classes. I’ve started the new semester and we are still online – judging by the infection rates in the zip codes of my district, it’s unlikely we’ll be going back any time soon. 

Since my second semester is just a repeat of first semester with different students, the nice thing is that I can just reuse the lessons and activities from last semester.  With the extra time, I’m trying some new things to see if they are a good addition to my teacher toolkit.  I’m looking for things that will be useful both online and in the physical classroom, since eventually we will go back!

One of the new tools I’ve been using this semester is Desmos.  While it was made for math classes, you can use it for any class. It is similar in some ways to Nearpod and Peardeck, but it is free.  You can see your students working in real time and it will show you on one screen exactly where each student is.  This means that if you see that a student is not participating, you can call them out on the spot!

What you can do with Desmos in French class

Desmos has some nice features, including being able to set a limit as to which slides students can work on.  I use this to start the class each day.  I put one slide asking for a check-in type question about their mood, what they did over the weekend, etc.  Then I put my “bell work” on the next 2-3 slides.  Often it is a quick reading activity, or a question about something we will be doing that day.  A “this or that” question is also a fun way to use Desmos in French class.

Because I can set the slides to only allow students to do the first few slides, it’s a great way to have them start working on something as stragglers make their way into the class. I also use slides for checking for understanding through the lesson.  The card sort feature allows me to do vocabulary matching activities, or sorting activities such as masculine/feminine or putting things in stacks by theme.  Since you can do multiple choice, checkbox, drawings, and text, it’s a nice way to end the lesson as well. 

I’ve used it to get input from students as to what should happen next in a story, or how well they understood the class story. While Desmos may not have all of the bells and whistles of a program like Nearpod or Peardeck, there is one very important feature – it’s free!  My district has purchased licenses for both of the paid programs, but I do not know if they will continue that in the future.  I would hate to lose all of my lessons when the license expires. 

Desmos is free, so I can re-use them and copy them to make minor changes as needed. Another great feature of Desmos is that you can easily share your lessons and slides with others – and they can be edited to meet the needs of another class.  You don’t need to be invited; you just need a link to the original activity.

This is the third year that I’ve used Desmos in French class and I like having it in my digital toolbox. I do have some tips though – learn from my mistakes! When you first start using Desmos in French class – or any class – make sure to title your lessons or put good descriptions of what is in them! I’ve used just dates and that doesn’t work so well, because when I go back the following year it is hard to reuse the earlier lessons.