Canadian Parents for French: Fier du bilinguisme canadien

Collaboration spéciale de Marla Williams, Coordonnatrice CPF-Québec.

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CPF 1

Question de la rédaction: What impact has bilingualism had on your life? Share your stories here or on Twitter @learnquebec

Canadian Parents for French (CPF) est le réseau national de bénévoles valorisant la langue française comme composante intégrale du Canada. L’organisme se dévoue à la promotion et à la création d’occasions d’apprentissage du français comme langue seconde pour les jeunes du Canada. CPF agit à titre de réseau proactif au niveau national, étant composé de dix bureaux provinciaux et de cent-soixante-dix chapitres au sein des communautés d’un océan à l’autre.

CPF was founded in 1977 by a group of parents who wanted their children to have the opportunity to become bilingual in the Canadian school system. Frustrated by the lack of French education in the school boards – apart from scattered French second-language (FSL) programs in St. Lambert, Toronto, Ottawa, Coquitlam and Sackville – these parents wanted to come together to discuss how to advance their goals. They received support from Keith Spicer, Canada’s first Commissioner of Official Languages, who also wanted to promote bilingualism among Canadian youth. Mr. Spicer got enough money together to organize a national conference entitled Parents’ Conference on French Language and Exchange Opportunities, which was held in Ottawa in March 1977. It was during this conference that Canadian Parents for French, the volunteer-based advocacy group, was founded.CPF POTL final

Les bénévoles se sont rapidement regroupés et ont commencé à militer pour plus de programmes d’immersion française à travers le pays. En moins de 10 ans, les bénévoles de CPF ont accompli de grandes réalisations et ont mis en place des ressources indispensables à la pérennité de la langue française au Canada, dont :

  • un guide du financement fédéral des programmes de français, langue seconde;
  • un annuaire des programmes d’échange bilingues, des camps d’été et des cours estivaux de français;
  • un annuaire des programmes d’immersion française partout au pays;
  • une bibliographie exhaustive sur la recherche concernant les programmes de français, langue seconde, au Canada.

CPF a également publié un livre rempli d’articles écrits par des chercheurs, parents et éducateurs intitulé So You Want Your Child to Learn French! Ce recueil a pour objectif d’informer les parents sur l’enseignement du français, langue seconde. Plusieurs chapitres de CPF ont également commencé à mettre en place des activités pour promouvoir la langue française au Canada. Le Concours d’art oratoire, une de ses plus importantes initiatives, a débuté en 1985.

These concerted efforts on a national scale led to many successes and skyrocketing French immersion numbers. French immersion enrolment grew about 650% in the decades following CPF’s creation; about 320,000 students were registered in such programs by the end of the nineties. To this day, the volunteers and staff at CPF continue to work with all levels of government and society to ensure that French immersion retains its momentum and that the quality of Core French programs is up to par. CPF is also striving to improve access for all to FSL programs across the country and is working toward ensuring that academically challenged students have equal opportunities to participate and flourish in these programs. CPF volunteers continue to dedicate hundreds of hours throughout Canada to provide students with opportunities to practice their French. You can even find Carnaval and Cabane à sucre activities in some remote Canadian towns!

CPF

Après une courte absence, Canadian Parents for French est de retour au Québec! CPF mène actuellement des activités de réseautage à travers la province et collabore avec d’autres organismes œuvrant dans le secteur du français, langue seconde, tels que Community Learning Centres, LEARN, l’Université Bishop’s et plusieurs autres. Pour en savoir plus sur les ressources disponibles, vous pouvez consulter notre page web au http://qc.cpf.ca/. Nous vous invitons également à suivre notre page Facebook, Poutine, svp?, où vous trouverez des mots du jour, des blagues et des explications de certaines expressions québécoises!

CPF is also running various activities in the province, such as the long-standing Concours d’art oratoire, a public speaking contest for secondary students in French programs across Canada. Secondary students in Quebec have the opportunity to write an original piece and recite it in front of their peers and a panel of judges at the School and School Board levels. Winners then go on to compete at the Provincial Concours d’art oratoire. Provincial winners have a chance to travel to the National Concours to compete for $20,000 scholarships at the University of Ottawa and other universities across Canada, as well as for cash prizes and medals!

Pour les élèves du primaire, CPF met en place une chorale virtuelle, dans laquelle jeunes anglophones et allophones apprendront et chanteront un potpourri original de classiques québécois avec leurs voisins francophones. L’objectif visé est de permettre une meilleure connaissance de la culture québécoise ainsi qu’un rapprochement des divers cultures. Pour en connaitre davantage sur le Concours d’art oratoire ou la Chorale virtuelle, veuillez contacter Marla Williams au mwilliams@cpf.ca ou au 514-434-2400.

CPF est toujours à la recherche de nouvelles façons d’appuyer les élèves, les parents et les enseignants en FLS au Québec. Si vous avez des questions, des idées ou des suggestions, n’hésitez pas à me contacter!

Marla Williams
CPF Project Coordinator/Coordonnatrice CPF-Québec
mwilliams@cpf.ca/514-434-2400

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Question de la rédaction: What impact has bilingualism had on your life? Share your stories here or on Twitter #learnquebec

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Sources for CPF Historical Background:

Canadian Parents for French. « Our History. » Online reference : http://cpf.ca/en/about-us/what-is-cpf/our-history/

Gibson, Judy. « A Glimpse at the Earliest Years of Canadian Parents for French. » Presentation to the 2013 CPF British Columbia & Yukon Conference. Online reference : http://bc-yk.cpf.ca/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/The-Earliest-Days-of-CPF-in-BC-A-History.pdf

Hayday, Matthew. “Battling for Bilingualism and Fostering French-Language Learning: Looking Back at the History of CPF’s Activitism. » In CPF Magazine Fall/Winter 2014: 25-28. Online reference : http://cpf.ca/en/files/CPF-Magazine-vol2-issue1.pdf

Source for French Immersion Enrolment: Government of Alberta. Department of Education. « Historical Overview of French Immersion. » http://education.alberta.ca/francais/admin/immersion/handbookimm/01approach/histoverview.aspx

So you want your child to learn French!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CPF’s first ever newsletter! http://cpf.ca/en/files/CPF_National_News_Issue_1.pdf

No Risk, No Reward: The role of failure in deep learning

Photo: by Meg under a creative commons license https://www.flickr.com/photos/winemegup/4262570089
Photo: by Meg under a creative commons license

Do you always stay in your safe zone? It is perhaps appropriate that I am posting this blog entry on November 18, thirty-two years to the day that my husband passed away fairly suddenly. This is the anniversary of my learning to live outside my comfort zone. I learned that life is full of risks but that meeting the challenges and growing from them is what made me strong and resilient. And I learned to take risks both personally and professionally.

No risk, no reward. This adage is often applied to investing, but it applies, as well, to education.  If the testing consortiums in the US have their way, education will be so standardized that it will only be about “right answers” and learning that is easily testable. But life is full of tests that are not about right answers. If we keep our students in the comfort zone – asking questions with only one right answer, assigning projects that only require parroting back what they read in the resources they find, we are not helping them develop that most important skill: asking questions.

Children are by nature risk-takers. They learn to walk by falling a lot; they come equipped with curiosity which leads them to explore and experiment as toddlers. We need to encourage this attitude to keep them excited as learners.

Our classrooms need to be safe places where students can risk being wrong, can risk asking questions that lead to dead ends, can risk going out on a limb, can risk asking questions for which the class (including the teacher) may not be able to find an answer.  Our role as educators is not to prepare our students for jobs, but rather, to prepare them for life, where questioning is an essential life skill.

We also have to provide a climate where failure is not an end but a beginning. Many people have been blogging about failure as a First Attempt in Learning. As the article, Making Friends with Failure from Edutopia, http://www.edutopia.org/blog/learning-from-failure-ainissa-ramirez states:

Schools have this failure-thing, the F-word, all wrong. They focus on getting the answer, but it is the questions and the mistakes that are actually more instructive. It’s in these spaces where we learn. I often hear students preface their question with, “This might sound stupid, but . . . ” Students fear sounding dumb — they fear being viewed as a failure. Shouldn’t it be OK to ask questions in a classroom?

 Failure is only a failure when we fail to learn from it! Each “failure” should lead to questions –

  • What could I do differently?
  • Is there another strategy I could use?
  • Where can I get the information I need?

What other questions can you think of that would promote growth?

Ask any scientist how many times they have had to rethink their hypotheses, retest, find another route…  This young scientist, Audri, understands this. He created a Rube Goldberg invention. I’ll let him speak for himself

Audri expects failures along the way. They only spur him on to perfect his machine until he has success. It is this kind of attitude that we want to nurture in our students.

As I became more comfortable with risk-taking (no I have no intention of bungie jumping or sky-diving or canoeing down the Amazon), here are some of the things I learned:

  • When I formulate good questions, it is easier to find relevant answers, whether this has to do with personal health, purchasing an expensive item or having work done where I live.
  • Most questions don’t have only one right answer – it is all about evaluating what is best for oneself in the situation.
  • It is OK to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness.
  • It is far more important to know whom to ask than it is to try to have all the answers.
  • When you go out of your comfort zone you can have amazing adventures and meet interesting people.
  • You are never too old to try something new. Life is learning.
  • Sometimes you get unexpected results that are better than what you expected. Serendipity really exists.
  • That in sharing my ideas, I can step back from them and examine them. In hearing what others think, I can change.
Photo by Paxson Woelber under a CC license
Photo by Paxson Woelber under a CC license

How can you create an atmosphere so that students can experience this kind of learning:  to feel comfortable to experiment, to question, to learn from errors, to develop multiple strategies to approach problems?  I believe that as teachers, we should model what it is to be a learner, to show one’s vulnerability and to constantly question one’s actions. Supply learning situations which encourage this behaviour.

Do I always live life on the edge now? Absolutely not! At times I need to step back and nurture myself. But I know that stepping out of that comfort zone leads to powerful learning.

Authentic experience: Students writing for real audiences

http://www.flickr.com/photos/theparadigmshifter/470341923
CC BY-NC 2.0

I was a first year teacher writing on the chalkboard, simultaneously trying to keep an eye on a room of rowdy secondary 2 students.  Suddenly, I heard the words that always  make me shudder.  “Sir, you spelled a word wrong”.  The implication of this phrase is that I, the teacher may not be all-knowing; a fact I was trying to keep hidden until later in the year.

The word in question was learned and my student, a young man of Jamaican heritage, shook my confidence by telling me the correct spelling was “learnt”.  Standing in front of 20 students, I was unsure what to do.  On one hand, I was fairly  confident I spelled learned that way for my whole life.  But on the other hand, “learnt” looked strangely correct.  Needless to say, the whole issue was dropped when I asked him to look it up in one of our dusty dictionaries.

But I was shaken.  After class, I looked up the word and learned/learnt that both spellings are correct.  The British use learnt and Americans, learned.  Being Canadian, we were free to vacillate between the two.

I tell you this story to underline how authentic experiences cement knowledge and competency.  I certainly won’t forget what I learned that day.

Reflecting on that experience got me thinking: in what ways can teachers allow students to have authentic writing experiences, where student work culminates into something that is actually read by people other than just their teacher?   If students are writing for an authentic audience, will it increase engagement? Will it change the way they write?

There are two Quebec examples of students writing in English for an authentic audience that have recently caught my eye.  Secondary 1 and 2 students at Metis Beach school were given the opportunity to produce a special edition of the Heritage-Lower St Lawrence newsletter. HLSL is a community organization dedicated to serving the English population of their region. I invite you to click on the link and observe the quality of student writing.  Highlights include a history of the school and community, an article about bullying and a feature on a class project inspired by the “freedom writers”.  It quickly becomes obvious that the students worked hard to write, revise and rewrite compelling and clear articles because they knew their words would be read by the community and beyond.  Their teacher, Erin Ross, said her motivation in setting up this opportunity for her students was feeling that it was ”important to have my students have a new learning opportunity in their English class.  It is all about the process and showing them that they have a voice.”

I spoke to Melanie Leblanc, the Executive Director of Heritage Lower St Lawrence and she raved about the student-produced newsletter for her organization.  She said members “loved knowing what was going on in the school” and noted that since the newsletter was published, the community has an “increased sense of belonging to the school”.

A second example of authentic writing comes from the infamous GrEAU project.  GrEAU is a hydroponic based agricultural business founded and run by a group of students from Mecatina School, located in La Tabatiere (a village on the Lower North Shore of Quebec)  The project is a sight to behold, in part because of the authentic need the business is fulfilling along with the strong marketing and communications website.

The students involved in the project worked collaboratively to develop a very clear website to share information about how the garden grows along with recipes to get the most out of the fresh produce. The students also had numerous opportunities to be interviewed on CBC radio and Radio Canada communicating clearly in English and French.

I spoke to Ben Collier, one of the founding members and he agreed that collaboratively developing the website allowed him to learn how to present scientific findings and better understand how to communicate what was accomplished.  I asked Ben about the editing process and he laughed, remembering how in normal school projects he did not always proofread assignments before handing them in.  But with the GrEAU project there was no leniency for errors, the group wanted to make sure everything was perfect.

These two examples show the potential of developing authentic writing opportunities with students.  If you are inspired to co-develop opportunities for students in your own schools, please share the results.

If you want to learn more about authentic writing contexts for students, I encourage you to check out a new resource site from the MELS called Literacy Today QC. It includes positive evidence of integrating authentic contexts in your curriculum and examples of authentic classroom activities.

Follow me on twitter @ELA_LEARN

Against Islamophobia: Teaching Tolerance in Today’s Classroom

sunset mosque
Sunset Mosque by Matthias Rhomberg CC BY-NC

I suppose the word to best describe what I was feeling at that moment was shock.  Yes, shock which was instantaneously followed by surprise, disbelief and then uncertainty.  I scanned the room, my eyes searching for a glimmer of acknowledgment; a connection, a possibility, a window through which the conversation could begin.  My smile remained perfectly in place, never once giving away the overwhelming confusion brought on by the lack of response to what I truly believed to be a simple question.  What was my query that appeared to stump my colleagues, seasoned teachers and respected leaders in the field of education?

“What resources or lessons have you been using in your classrooms in order to teach against Islamophobia?”

 My question to my colleagues was a genuine one, in hopes of gaining some new insight, some direction and ultimately some brilliant children’s books and resources that I could use and recommend to others.

There are many activities that are already going on in our classrooms that build critical literacy.  Reading novels written from the point of view of a child from another culture or set in another country; sharing stories about families and their religious traditions or considering the lives of young people like them who lived through war, persecution or poverty. As well, when we ask our students to write from the point of view of someone else – all of these classroom experiences are ways of developing critical literacy. As Melissa Thibault (2004) reminds us, these activities all serve the same purpose: they help the student to see the world through someone else’s eyes, to learn to understand other people’s circumstances and perspectives and to empathize with them.

Suggested Books: A starting point

I need to preface the upcoming book selections by stating that I am in no way forwarding them as exemplary works that must be used in every classroom. As I have learned, each of us comes to literacy with our own perspective, our own history and experience and our own knowledge and understanding.  What I am proposing is a quick analysis of three eminent illustrated picture books with Muslim main characters and what I hope to offer is a point of entry into what has been and remains in most North American classrooms a curriculum that is for the most part neglected, misunderstood or feared.

One Green Apple (2006) by Eve Bunting is the story of a Muslim girl, Farah, on her second day in a new school and in a new country.  She is joining her class on a field trip to an apple orchard and one cannot help but experience along with her the isolation she feels as she is set apart from her classmates in her inability to speak English and the reactions she receives by wearing a dupatta (headscarf).  At the cider press, Farah adds a single green apple to her classmates red apples and although they protest at first, they happily drink up the sweet juice from the mixed apples and Farah begins to see some common threads between this culture and her own. This story, can heighten youngsters’ awareness of and empathy for the immigrant experience as well as what it must be like to feel different and alone.

Sami and the Time of the Troubles (1992) by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland is another book to share with your students.  In this story, ten year old Sami lives in Beirut, Lebanon.  He and his family spend most of their time in the basement of his uncle’s home as bombing and gunfire fill the streets.  Memories abound of a time “before the time of the troubles” and “the day of the children”.  They sit listening to the radio and venture outside when the fighting subsides for the moment.  There Sami goes to the beach, makes a fort with his friend and plays at war.  This time outdoors is short lived and as the story closes we are back in the basement with Sami listening to the “noises of the night”.

Children as victims of war even when not directly in the line of battle are not unusual figures in children’s literature.  This text though makes clear that war threatens not only physical survival but affects the human spirit as well.  It is not done in a “let’s feel sorry for Sami” sort of way but instead gives us a thoughtful, understated narrative which forces us to think about current warfare and its effects on the innocent.  We leave the story understanding how children and others try to carry on a normal life during a period of war and uncertainty.

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq (2005) by Jeanette Winters is one book that will bring about much dialogue and discussion not only with young students but with teachers and educational leaders as well.  In brief, the story is about the courageous exploits of Alia Muhammad Baker, chief librarian of Basra’s Central Library, who was responsible for saving 70 per cent of her library’s book collection. In April 2003, the invasion of Iraq reaches Basra.  With the government refusing to help, she along with friends and community members, transfer some 30, 000 volumes first to a nearby restaurant and then to various homes only days before the library is burned to the ground.

Without a doubt, this story illustrates the impact one person can have in order to bring people together to work for a common cause.  As well, it emphasizes the influence and value libraries and books have in cultures and communities all around the world.  At this point, what also needs to be mentioned is this was one of the very first books (post 9/11) to find its way into elementary classrooms where the main character was from the Middle East.  A great many children saw themselves in print and illustration for the very first time.  Here their culture and their heritage were highlighted in a heroic and powerful manner.  Thanks to this text, strength, bravery and selflessness were now depicted as qualities and characteristics synonymous with Islam.

In the Classroom

In order to properly prepare our students to be literate in this ever changing technological and multimodal world, we teachers need to reflect upon and challenge our own beliefs and understanding of literacy.  Harwood (2008) advocates that “educators need to challenge children and provide balanced literacy opportunities that value the social-cultural construction of knowledge while reflecting the diversity of children’s lives.” (¶ 25).  She strongly supports the notion that classroom “opportunities to collaborate, discuss, critique, deconstruct, and reconstruct a multitude of meaningful and radical texts (Kohl, 1995) are equally important in literacy development as learning to identify phonemes of sound.” (¶ 25).

For the sake of brevity, the definition of “radical texts” has been borrowed from Leland, Harste, Ociepka, Lewison, and Vasquez’s (1999) suggestions for choosing critical texts. Radical texts chosen for elementary aged children should meet the following criteria:

  • Texts don’t make difference invisible, but rather explore what differences make a difference;
  • Texts enrich children’s understanding of history and life by giving voice to those who have been traditionally silenced or marginalized;
  • Texts show how people can begin to take action on important social issues;
  • Texts should explore dominant systems of meaning that operate in our society to position people and groups of people;
  • Texts should not provide “happily ever after” endings for complex social problems. (p. 70)

Children can be encouraged to think critically and answer critical questions that will enable them to examine their own insights as well as those presented in texts. Teachers need to encourage children to challenge the status quo of what is represented within texts, asking questions such as:

  • Whose voice is heard and whose voice is left out?”
  • Who is the intended reader? (For example asking, is the text intended for specific groups of people and if so how is that group portrayed?)
  • What was the world like when the text was created?
  • What does the author want you to feel or think?
  • What does the author expect you to know or value?
  • What does the text say about boys (about girls)?
  •  Is it important that the main character is beautiful (powerful/wealthy)? (Harwood, 2008)

This list is not exhaustive, and the critical questions that arise will often depend on the children and the issue involve. There is no single ‘recipe’ of how to incorporate critical literacy within an elementary school curriculum so teachers need to work against the “commodification” (Luke & Freebody, 1999, p. 6) of critical literacy, as they begin to recognize the important benefits of fostering children’s critical viewing of texts. Harwood (2008) does well to remind us that children’s interests and questions should also be incorporated into the literacy curriculum and form an important addition to the critical questions that arise. By honouring children’s own natural curiosity and using their inquisitiveness as a starting point, greater depth and engagement with texts is possible.

A short while back, I walked into a room where a couple of my colleagues were sitting hard at work deep in the throes of curriculum development.  As I approached to see what they were doing, one dear friend looked up at me, her face bursting with excitement, “Oh!  I’m so glad you’re here!  I have found a wonderful book that I know you’re going to love!”  As I watched her sift through the pile of children’s books that lay strewn across the table, I wondered what marvelous gem she was about to share with me.  The Golden Sandal:  A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story by Rebecca Hickox was the title she eagerly placed in my hands.  Shock, surprise and disbelief again washed over me, but this time confusion did not follow.  Instead, what came next was a lengthy conversation about the book, the story line and all the possibilities that could come from sharing this piece of literature with our students.

 

Further Resources to Examine:

Bunting, Eve. (2006). One Green Apple. New York: Clarion Books.

Habbas, Corey. (2008). The Runaway Scarf. Arizona: Muslim Writers Publishing.

Heide, Florence Parry and Gilliland, Judith Heide. (1992). Sami and the Time of the Troubles. New York: Clarion Books.

Heide, Florence Parry and Gilliland, Judith Heide. (1990). The Day of Ahmed’s Secret. New York: Mulberry Books.

Hickox, Rebecca. (1999). The Golden Sandal:  A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story. New York: Holiday House.

Khan, Rukhsana. (1988). The Roses in my Carpets. Ontario: Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

Mobin-Uddin, Asma. (2005). My Name is Bilal. Pennsylvania: Boyds Mills Press.

Mortenson, Greg and Roth, Susan L. (2009). Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr.Greg & Three Cups of Tea. New York: Dial Books.

O’Brien, Tony and Sullivan, Mike. (2008). Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan. New York: Bloomsbury.

Oppenheim, Shulamith Levey. (1995). The Hundredth Name. Pennsylvania: Boyds Mills Press.

Robert, Nai’ima Bint. (2002). The Swirling Hijaab. London: Mantra Lingua.

Rumford, James. (2008). Silent Music. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

Shihab Nye, Naomi. (1994). 19 Varieties of Gazelle: poems of the Middle East. New York: Harper Collins.

Shihab Nye, Naomi. (1994). Sitti’s Secrets. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks.

Shihab Nye, Naomi. (1998). The flag of childhood: poems from the middle east. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks.

Williams, Karen Lynn and Mohammed, Khadra. (2007). Four Feet, Two Sandals. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Winter, Jeanette. (2005). The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq. Orlando: Harcourt Inc.

 

References

Harwood, D. “Deconstructing and Reconstructing Cinderella: Theoretical Defense of Critical Literacy for Young Children”. Language and Literacy, volume 10, issue 2, Fall 2008.

Kohl, H. (1995). Should we burn Babar? Essays on children’s literature and the power of stories. New York: The New Press.

Lelande, C., Harste, J., Ociepka, A., Lewison, M., & Vazquez, V. (1999). Exploring critical literacy: You can hear a pin drop. Language Arts, 77(1), 70-77.

Luke, A., & Freebody, P. (1999). A map of possible practices: Further notes on the four resources model. Practically Primary, 4(2), 3-8.

Thibault, Melissa, “Children’s literature promotes understanding.” LEARN North Carolina, 2004.