Introducing the Virtual Escape room – a brand a new way to liven up your French lessons

1 Jul 2020, 12:32 by Kate Moore


#114
Virtual escape room hero

Asteroid Alert in development

The challenge of teaching a language remotely 

So many of us have had to quickly adapt to working from home, with little or no notice. For teachers, this means getting to grips with new technology, adapting lessons length and group size in an effort to engage and motivate students who are learning from home.

MFL teachers have found that remote teaching has presented a particular challenge as Katharine Ruff, French Teacher at St Catherine’s in Eastbourne explains ‘the environment feels very false and so the children are more reluctant to speak French’ adding ‘it’s too easy for them to stay on mute and type their answers’. She feels that by not speaking French her students are missing out on an important element of learning a language.

More children than ever missing the opportunity to practise their French

The impact of children having less opportunity to practise speaking French while studying at home, has been further compounded by the large number of students who have also missed out on their French trip this year.

Teachers are painfully aware that students this year have had far less opportunity to speak French than ever before, ‘a year group will miss out on an excellent learning experience’ said a teacher in our survey.

It’s been heart breaking for us to cancel MFL trips because of the lockdown. Many of these trips have been over a year in the planning and so students and teachers alike are disappointed that they will have to wait another year for their trip to France. ‘Having to cancelling the French trip has a huge impact on our MFL department as we rely on these fun activities for encouraging uptake and engagement’ explained a teacher in our recent survey.

But not only do French trips give a first-hand experience of a different culture, but they also provide a unique opportunity for students to be immersed in the language for an intensive period, and practise their French with a native-speaker, building a new confidence to use their French which extends back to the classroom.

So we set our animateurs a challenge…

Across the Channel, our loyal band of animateurs have also been missing out. Our teams based in Paris, Boulogne and of course Normandy, haven’t been teaching since March and have told us that they desperately miss their school groups, many of whom return every year and so are now considered friends.

So we set them three challenges:

  1. What can we offer French learners who have missed out on their school trip and have been denied such as integral part of learning a language?
  2. How can we help teachers encourage their students to use their French during an online lesson?
  3. How can we engage kids in a fun French activity when they are stuck at home?

Their answer was simple, if the kids can’t come to France, why not bring the animateur experience to them? But deliver it remotely, so that the kids can work in a team while still socially distanced. And the virtual escape room was born.

Now, after months of development work and testing, we can now reveal the first of our live animateur experiences - an online escape room game called Asteroid Alert.

A live French experience with a native-speaker that can be accessed from home

Asteroid alert is an interactive escape room game where classmates interact directly with our animateur in France via a live link. To win the game students must work together to spot visual clues and solve puzzles to prevent an asteroid strike, interacting with the animatuer and their classmates in French throughout.

At a time when school groups can’t travel, the activity gives children a unique chance to interact with a native-speaker who is trained to get the most reticent students speaking. So, even if we are socially distanced, we can keep engaging and inspiring kids in their French.

The game is designed for teachers to incorporate into their French lessons with students participating remotely from home or in a socially distanced classroom using online meeting software such as Microsoft teams. 

‘I’d looked at online escape rooms but they were based on videos and computers game, whereas I was looking for an interactive experience. This is different because the activity is live and gives students the opportunity to talk to a real person and French native speaker.’  

Katharine Ruff, French Teacher at St Catherine’s in Eastbourne

 

 

 

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