Seeking guidance from other teachers...
I've often heard about duolingo being used as a supplement to an actual textbook, and since I've never met the perfect textbook, I've considered doing it the other way around... making duolingo the foundation for my high school curriculum, supplemented by a quality textbook, lots of speaking practice, and my own extensive examples of French as it is actually encountered online in social media, news accounts, music, etc. Has anyone out there done this? If so, how did it work out? How did you dovetail duolingo with a textbook?
The reason I'd like to do it this way is that I've been invited to teach at a charter high school that focuses hugely on the student as an individual. Duolingo would let them work at their own pace, with lots of reinforcement and extras from me.
What do you think, teachers?
Jane, I follow my textbooks very loosely (I teach three languages), and supplement a lot exactly as you suggest. About the middle of last year, I threw out the boring workbook and assigned Duolingo as homework instead.
I don't like using Duolingo during class time, because I would rather have my students jump up out of their chairs, walk around the room, converse with each other, play games, make videos, draw TIP charts, write stories... You know, all the active things that you can do as a community with a teacher facilitating.
But for homework, I really want my students to just look at the language for five minutes a night. Just five minutes, and I would be so happy. I have so many students who won't do the workbook. And I hate grading it. (Actually, I just grade it as "complete" if they do it, but of course I am looking over the workbook pages anyway, trying to find patterns. It is such a pain to read 130 different handwriting samples -- assuming 130 people turn it in.)
So, for me, I am very excited to use Duo as a substitute for the workbook. Occasionally, I assign skills, but more often I will just assign XP, because all I really care about is that my students are thinking of the language for five minutes outside of class. And they love Duolingo (I do, too!) so they have been doing it religiously.
And putting in grades for homework has been a snap.
I've got one other thing for you to ponder, Jane. Because you are in a language classroom, you don't necessarily want your students to learn at different paces, or they might not be able to interact meaningfully with each other. Hear me out.
You DO want them to own their own education. So here is what I do: Before we start any unit, I have my students answer three questions that I heard posed by a Dr. Nottingham during a Tedd Talk. (I'll try to find it.) He has a talk about how teachers are asking the wrong questions of their students. He said there are three questions anybody should ask themself before trying to master any skill. I have my students get a sheet of paper and answer these questions (in English, so that they can think deeply and reflect.)
1) What is my goal?
Right before I give my students this question, I tell them what to expect in the upcoming unit. ("Hey, we're about to learn food. What do you want to be able to do with this unit? Do you have a favorite dish you want to find a recipe for? Do you want to go to that restaurant in town and order food? Tell me what you want to do with this vocabulary so that I can build it in to the lesson.")
2) How much progress have you made toward that goal?
For this question, I have my students draw four long skinny rectangles, and I tell them these are "graphic equalizer bars." The first bar I have them label "listening," the second "speaking," the third "reading," and the fourth "writing." I say, "Considering how you did on the last unit, shade these in. Did you feel you spoke really well five minutes ago when we got up and mingled to talk to each other? Did you have to glance down at your cheat sheet? Fill in the bar for "speaking" accordingly. How well did you understand the story I read to you at the beginning of class?" (etc.)
The last question is
3) What are my next steps?
This is the crucial question to get the students really invested in their education. Some possibilities are:
I had trouble remembering the vocabulary, so I'm going to look at the deck of Tinycards you made, teacher.
I had trouble remembering the vocabulary, so I'm going to make my own deck of Tinycards, using the Gold List method that you taught us, teacher.
I need to work on my reading, so I'm going to go back and review that Duolingo story you assigned for homework.
I need to work on my reading, so I'm going to switch Wikipedia to (insert language) for a day.
I need to work on my reading, so I'm going to go down to the library and find children's books in (insert language).
I need to work on my speaking, so I'm going to leave my cheat sheet on my desk when we get up and mingle.
I need to work on my speaking, so I'm going to talk to my classmates at lunch in the target language.
I need to work on my speaking, so the next time I see my neighbor, I'm going to be brave enough to ask him how he is doing.
I need to work on my listening, so I'm going to read the transcript while I listen to Duolingo podcast.
I need to work on my listening, so I'm going to find more of that Youtuber you showed me in class.
I need to work on my listening, so I'm going to change the language on my favorite movie that I have seen a hundred times to (insert language here).
I need to work on my writing, so I'm going to write a paragraph about the school play.
I need to work on my writing, so I'm going to write an extra paragraph for the story we just read.
I need to work on my writing, so I'm going to write down the conversation we just had in class.
Those are just some ideas. Hope this helps you in your endeavors!