Conjuguer est bien plus qu’un art !

Collaboration spéciale de Nicole Brunet, enseignante et formatrice en didactique de la grammaire.

brunet1

Lors du congrès de l’AQEFLS en avril dernier, j’ai assisté à l’atelier Exit le Béscherelle ou conjuguer n’est pas un art. J’ai été enthousiasmée et stimulée par cette présentation et par l’animatrice ! Je lui ai donc demandé de partager son expérience et ses connaissances sur la façon d’enseigner la conjugaison en écrivant un billet. Une suite sera publiée en juin. Bonne lecture !


Le dernier retranchement de la grammaire traditionnelle

Depuis déjà quelques années, dans mon enseignement des notions grammaticales, je privilégie l’approche didactique associée à la grammaire désormais qualifiée de rénovée (elle n’est plus nouvelle après tout). Je propose donc le plus souvent possible à mes élèves de participer activement à la compréhension des différents phénomènes syntaxiques et morphologiques présents dans l’unité de base qu’est la phrase. En gros, ces jeunes immigrants fraichement arrivés observent, formulent des hypothèses et dégagent des règles générales de leurs observations. Forme variable des noms, type d’expansion dans le groupe nominal, type de phrase, tout s’observe, tout conduit à dégager des régularités.

Tout ? Un aspect résistait encore et toujours à la démarche inductive; la conjugaison, cauchemar des apprenants de français langue seconde. Une part importante de mon enseignement de la morphologie verbale consistait donc à initier les élèves à l’art de consulter les tableaux de conjugaison et à y reconnaitre ou à y sélectionner la forme appropriée. Le vendredi, il y avait le test de verbe, exercice parfois douloureux de mémorisation souvent éphémère des formes les plus usuelles.

Pourtant, il y avait déjà dans ma pratique les germes de ce qui allait transformer ma pédagogie; la reconnaissance de terminaisons verbales associées à des temps de verbes comme l’imparfait ou le futur simple de l’indicatif. Tout était si simple pour ce groupe de verbes, le premier, le plus nombreux. Mais tout se compliquait avec les autres, les –issant et ceux dont je disais qu’ils étaient irréguliers, faute d’un autre qualificatif qui les auraient décrits tous. Pas étonnant que pour beaucoup d’élèves, la conjugaison apparaisse comme le lieu ultime où se retrouvent ce qui, selon plusieurs, caractérise le français, les exceptions !

Un nouveau regard sur la morphologie verbale

Je vous fais part aujourd’hui d’un changement majeur dans la manière dont j’enseigne la conjugaison, un périple amorcé à l’automne 2012 au moment où je suis retournée en classe après quatre ans au Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport du Québec. J’avais alors décidé de transposer ce que j’y avais appris dans ma pratique à l’école secondaire Louis-Riel de la Commission scolaire de Montréal, en classe de francisation (classe d’accueil). Je l’avoue, les débuts furent ardus, pour moi! Rompre avec la façon dont on enseigne une notion depuis des années, une façon qui est celle avec laquelle on l’a apprise demande des efforts. Il faut du temps pour adopter un angle différent face à une réalité qui reste la même, pour se mettre en bouche un métalangage nouveau et des consignes nouvelles. Les élèves, eux, ont adoré.

J’ai quand même pu faire un lien avec une habitude bien établie dans ma classe, celle de rechercher dans les mots la présence de la plus petite unité porteuse de sens, le morphème. Cet élément lexical ou grammatical, formé d’une ou de quelques lettres, est omniprésent en français. Dans le processus de dérivation, on appelle le morphème lexical préfixe ou suffixe. Le morphème grammatical (aussi appelé morphème flexionnel) est un des premiers éléments de grammaire vu en classe puisqu’il marque le genre et le nombre (ex. : ma, verte, mes, verts).

Radical et terminaison, le verbe en deux parties distinctes

La conjugaison, qui regroupe toutes les formes que prend un verbe, possède un ensemble de morphèmes grammaticaux qui lui sont propres et qui sont joints à une base lexicale appelée radical. Ce morphème marque le temps, le mode et la personne grammaticale et on l’appelle terminaison. Les terminaisons associées à certains temps de verbe, comme celles de l’imparfait de l’indicatif (-ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient) peuvent être mémorisées en bloc et se joignent au radical de tous les verbes. Tous. Mais pour que les terminaisons soient vraiment universelles, j’ai dû revoir ma compréhension du radical.

On définit ainsi le radical dans les ouvrages de référence; partie lexicale du verbe, partie qui porte le sens du verbe ou partie du verbe qui ne change pas. Mes lectures m’ont amenée à reconsidérer la dernière affirmation. Bien qu’elle soit exacte pour plus de 90 % des verbes en français, essentiellement ceux dont la forme nominale, l’infinitif, se termine par le morphème –er, elle ne l’est pas dans le cas d’autres verbes. Par exemple, pour conjuguer le verbe lire à tous les temps, trois radicaux sont nécessaires; li-, lis- et l-, pour le verbe conduire, deux; condui- et conduis-. Et pour conjuguer le verbe finir ? Il faut apprendre 3 radicaux; fini-, finiss- et fin-. Vous avez remarqué que le iss fait partie du radical et non de la terminaison ?

En classe, dans un court texte écrit à la première personne du singulier, j’ai donc demandé aux élèves de distinguer la terminaison universelle de l’imparfait de l’indicatif du radical du verbe en la surlignant. Voici quelques verbes; avais, finissais, lisais, conduisais, faisais, allais, prenais, savais, attendais. Il y avait une régularité observable chez tous les verbes, leur terminaison, à condition d’identifier le radical de façon appropriée.

Depuis, c’est tous les temps de verbes que j’aborde de cette façon. Même et surtout le présent de l’indicatif, premier temps à l’étude. Il sert en quelque sorte de laboratoire où s’observent les régularités, les particularités, le radical unique ou multiple, et deux séries de terminaisons. D’ailleurs, regardez plus haut le radical utilisé pour former l’imparfait (av-, finiss-, lis-, conduis-, fais-, all-, pren-, sav-, attend-) vous remarquerez qu’il est également utilisé pour former le présent de l’indicatif.

À suivre !


L’auteure du billet

Née à Montréal, Nicole Brunet a étudié l’enseignement du français langue seconde à l’université McGill. Elle a œuvré dans divers milieux d’enseignement dont le secteur jeune de la Commission scolaire de Montréal où elle travaille présentement. Elle a participé à l’élaboration d’outils pédagogiques tels que des Situations d’Apprentissage et d’Évaluation ainsi que la Progression des apprentissages et les Paliers pour l’évaluation du français du programme Intégration linguistique, scolaire et sociale au Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport du Québec. Elle propose depuis quelques années des formations sur la didactique des différents aspects de la grammaire rénovée, dont la conjugaison.

Vous pouvez lui écrire à l’adresse courriel suivante : nicolebrunet.gramm@gmail.com

It’s All About Creating

Photo by Leslie Kalohi
Photo by Leslie Kalohi

Last year I wrote a blog post about Maker Spaces. Many involved in the maker movement encourage the use of digital technology, but that does not have to be the case.

A couple of years ago I saw a video about Caine, a nine-year old boy who spent his summer building arcade games out of boxes and bits and pieces he found in his father’s used auto parts shop. After a summer of no customers, his first customer, a film-maker Nirvon Mullick, organized a flash mob to bring customers to the arcade. The video Mullick created about the event went viral. Caine has gone on to inspire others to create, imagine and build.

Recently I saw a second video, a youth TEDTalk with Caine and Mullick. I shared it with my colleagues and was delighted to hear that Lisa Triestino, currently an ICT consultant at EMSB, had also been inspired by Caine. I had the opportunity to chat with her to learn more about the project which took place at Merton School last school year when she was the science and technology teacher there.

It began when a parent of a grade one student in the school told Lisa about Caine. The grade one student had worked on building arcade games with a friend and the parent thought this would be great for the science program at the school. Lisa shared Caine’s video with her students and that inspired a project for the school – the construction of arcade games concluding with an arcade game day. All students contributed in some way from collecting recycled objects to building the games and making prizes. All components of the games the students built had to be recycled materials to tie in to the environmental aspect of the science program and to increase environmental awareness. The school was already involved with recycling and composting so this was a good tie-in to what they were already living.

From Caine's Arcade at the Exploratorium. Photo by Gayle Laird
From Caine’s Arcade at the Exploratorium. Photo by Gayle Laird

The students designed and built arcade games and everyone had the opportunity to test them out when the entire arcade was set up in the gym. But that is the end of the project. Let’s see how it proceeded.

The builders had to research arcade and carnival games. The game they built had to include at least one simple machine. The process went from research online to design. Each student needed to sketch the machine, connect it to science and explain how the machines would work. Then the building began. Students were so engaged they did not realize they were learning. They just thought it was fun. Lisa wanted them to learn through play, to help them see that learning science concepts can be fun. I asked Lisa about her other goals for the project:

“I wanted the cooperation to happen amongst each other. I wanted them to think outside the box. I wanted them to use prior knowledge based on everything we had learned in science and robotics beforehand and try to incorporate that into their learning.”

Merton Arcade 2012
Merton Arcade 2012

Lisa described to me how the students used their math and science skills in the building process as well as their willingness to go back, correct, find a better way.  Different games provided different challenges, but the students were focused on getting their games working so the science just became a way to make that happen. From getting squirrels to pop up using a pulley system (thinking about gravity,  the tension of the rope and the angle at which the pulley should be pulled), figuring out how to get a “Wheel of Fortune” wheel to spin, to getting hockey pucks of the right diameter, the students used their knowledge and learned by doing. Trial and error led to redesign.

“It was a lot of redesigning…  they thought certain things would work and then as they tried to put that together they realized that certain measurements were off or certain ideas wouldn’t work or certain materials wouldn’t work whether that was because of weight or size….”

The students kept journals which would include the redesigns and new sketches as the adjustments were made. Some students went through multiple revisions. The impetus to get their games working kept them motivated. Lisa told me there was not a single team that got frustrated, “They took it and they went with it!”

merton2
From Merton’s Arcade

Work like this needs to be celebrated and the school had an arcade day at which the games were set up for all to play. A small entrance fee was collected; all proceeds went to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Game winners collected “Merton Dollars” which could be exchanged at the end for a prize. Prizes were made in art classes.

Science, technology, math, art, English or French (rules for the game), were all integrated seamlessly into this project. And lots of fun!

The only caveats Lisa had – arcade games take up space. There was some frustration about where to keep them all as the building was in process. However, when everyone saw what the students had accomplished they were all impressed and felt it was well worth it.

Making and creating does not have to be expensive. We need to engage students, to set their imaginations free to explore, create, play with ideas and learn through doing.


Learn more about Caine’s Arcade and get inspired.

Mullick wanted to help set up a college fund for Caine and asked for donations hoping to collect $25000. To date more than $200,000 as been donated. As a result he has set up a foundation to help other children like Caine. The Imagination Foundation also hosts a Cardboard Challenge. From their site:

“This September, kids of all ages are invited to build anything they can dream up using cardboard, recycled materials and imagination. Then on Saturday, October 11th, 2014, communities will come together to play!”

Photographs

Leslie Kalohi under a CC license

Gayle Laird under a CC license

The Exploratorium in San Francisco set up Caine’s Arcade at the museum. For anyone interested, some of the Exploratorium people are offering a course on Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning I was fortunate enough to meet and spend time with two of the course instructors,  Mike Petrich and Karen Wilkinson, in 1998. They are inspirational people, passionate about science and fun.

Celebrating the Journey: A Reflection on Learning from Experience

On the journey
On the journey

 I still find the word praxis daunting, humbling and inspiring. It is a challenge of putting theory into practice and to transform a small part of the world around us in a manner that is actually perceived equitably by all parties. To the students who have engaged in this effort through the experiential learning of Praxis Malawi, the challenges are often more than just daunting; they can be crippling, especially as they must navigate the project’s core values, while coping with culture shock and cultural competence (Stonebanks, 2013)

 

It is funny how the idea of celebrating learning or more specifically the process of learning as compared to the destination or some sort of conclusion is such a difficult task. As a teacher, I have always been very earnest in telling my students, whatever their age, that the celebration of the road (the journey) to learning is more important than the endpoint. This teaching philosophy has always mirrored research based theory on learning, from Dewey (1929), Freire (c2005) to Erikson (2008) and I have always held firm to both idea and practice that constructing a framework of learning is more important than the discreet “facts” we often throw at children of all ages.

I have to admit that I have never been a jump into the pool type of person. I was a lifeguard for many years, and on cold mornings I would encourage small children taking my swimming classes to “jump right in”, but I’d always dip my toe in first. I had the smile, the energy and the encouragements for my students, but the idea of the shock of the cold pool water during the early hours of a Montreal summer morning risked too much pain. As they would jump in and splash around, I would sneak in and adjust. My early teaching at elementary school was not that different either. I have always been recognized as an excellent teacher, but I can now reflect on those first five years and acknowledge that my youth and “get-up-and-go” covered up for some pretty standard teaching. Change, in my classroom came from conflict and conflict made me uncomfortable; being uncomfortable with change or perhaps – more precisely – uncertain with change.

As strange as it may sound, if I am going to elicit change that may involve feeling deeply uncomfortable, I need to have a measure of comfort in the process. Two years living in Cree territory taught me about the kinds of checks and balances one needed when really engaging in emancipatory work (Stonebanks, 2008); it is one thing to talk about the type of “radical love” Freire forwards in his writing, it is another thing to live on the ground and effectively carry out change that lives beyond your curriculum vitae.

In the years following our time in the Cree community of Mistissini, I continued working with various Native groups: along with the Cree, the Mohawk, Naskapi and Inuit communities. My first journey alone away from home for an extended time, away from family, away from my safety net was a real jump off the edge.  It seems that this is the type of experience one takes in their early twenties to test their boundaries, to discover inner strength, to develop independence and self-reliance. So I was twenty years late, but the experience was no less fulfilling, no less empowering, no less life altering.  It gave me insight into how imperative it was to put theory into action. My travels north revealed in bold and naked honesty, how much was gained from taking risks, making mistakes (and lots of them) and moving into uncomfortable territory (not only physically but personally as well).  I thought I was becoming braver and now understood the direction I wanted the next phase of my life to take, but no.  This was not to be the case.  Life has a strange way of changing the route of the journey and more often than not, it is those unexpected journeys, frightening as they may be, that make all the difference if we choose to embark on them (either by choice or by circumstance).

Praxis Malawi began with that simple belief that collaborative efforts between Canadian university students and community members of Malawi would result in mutual learning and positive, tangible outcomes.  In effect, echoing Freire’s sentiment that “some may think that to affirm dialogue – the encounter of women and men in the world in order to transform the world – is naively and subjectively idealistic.  There is nothing, however, more real or concrete than people in the world and with the world, than humans with other humans (c2005, p. 129).  Each year since 2009, we challenge our students to engage in research over a five week period that requires them to consider their academic discipline(s) in relation to local needs as indicated by community members.  They are required to live in a rural Malawian village, with all too common conditions of no running water or electricity, which is typical for the region.  The living requirement is not meant to encourage a sense of indigenous “quaintness” (Semali and Kincheloe, 1999) towards a simple life or way of thinking; rather, it is to momentarily immerse the most privileged (relatively) in our world to the manner in which the vast majority of humanity lives (Stonebanks, 2013).

I believe in earnest that it has been by supporting the students as they embark on these weeks of experience that will stay with them for a lifetime is how I have been able to move forward in my own academic journey.  In a strange way, my helping them to prepare for and then live out an experiential learning project in a foreign environment has actually allowed me to broaden the borders of my own comfort zone.  Symbiotic, reciprocal, and sustainable relationships.

With its roots entrenched in a variety of scholars, such as John Dewey, Jean Piaget and Paulo Freire, today’s ELPs have a wide field of practice that encompass a vast variety of uses and disciplines.  Although ELPs have been commonplace amongst professional streams (teacher education field experience, medical internship, business placements, etc.) and in local environments, this learning by doing or learning by immersing approach has become an increasingly popular credit option amongst university students who are interested in connecting academics with often significantly new cultures. ELPs provide an exciting and rich hands-on learning alternative to students who seek to expand their epistemological horizons through immersing themselves in another culture. Always challenging, the experience is often fraught with joy and sorrow and growth, along with real, observable accomplishments and often self-assessed defeats.  More often than not, students have high expectations that engaging in an ELP will push them in a manner that they were not able to achieve within the comforts of their own university setting.

A large number of the students who have participated in Praxis Malawi over the past five years have been pre-service teachers studying in the faculties of education at McGill and Bishop’s university.  Some have struggled during their time in one of the poorest countries in the world but the majority have risen to the occasion and found in themselves the resiliency to carry on when the days are challenging and culture shock has hit them hard.  As they navigate their way through their discomfort and learn to grow from their inner struggles and mishaps, I listen to them, I read their writing and I too am changed by their stories. Their words are powerful, honest and raw. They feed me and give me strength to continue.  Sustenance, fuel and passion; all necessary for a long journey.

So as I meander along the path that is ahead of me with a destination now in sight, I would like to invite you to read reflections by students (a number who are pre-service teachers) who were immersed in Experiential Learning Projects with Praxis Malawi in 2013 and those who will be traveling there at the end of the month.  The one thing that is clear from their writing is that these endeavours are transformative and will indeed have a lasting impact on their future classrooms and the students they will teach.  Their journey as well as my own has not yet reached its final end point.  But as I put one foot in front of the next while remembering to glance back from time to time to see how far I have come, I will continue to celebrate each milestone, each pit-stop and resting place.  After all, it is these unexpected journeys that truly make us who we are and allow us to leave our marks along the way for the next traveler who happens to find our trail.

***********************

For those who wish to read more:

Dewey, J. (1929). “My pedagogic creed”. Journal of the National Education Association, 18(9), 291-295

Erickson, L. (2008). Stirring the Head Heart and Soul: Redefining Curriculum Instruction and Concept-Based Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press Pub

Freire, Paulo. (c2005). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.

Semali, L. & Kincheloe, J. (1999). What is indigenous knowledge: Voices from the academy. New York, NY: Falmer Press.

Stonebanks, C. Darius. (2013).“Cultural Competence, Culture Shock and the Praxis of Experiential Learning”. In Lyle, E. & Knowles, G. (Ed.) Bridging the Theory-Practice Divide: Pedagogical Enactment for Socially Just Education. Nova Scotia: Backalong Books.

Stonebanks, C. Darius. (2008). James Bay Cree and Higher Education: Issues of Identity and Culture Shock. Boston: Sense Publishing.