Oftentimes, French teachers have a difficult time motivating their students when it comes to expending effort on their work. Not to generalize (but I will nonetheless), enthusiastic students tend to put forth a high degree of effort no matter what the subject while those who are not put even less into their French assignments. Engaging the creativity, motivation and enthusiasm of students is no doubt a French teacher’s greatest challenge.
Take heart! The expression that higher levels of achievement are the result of higher expectations also holds true for Core French. With each summative assignment, I always make sure to provide students with the opportunity to maximize their efforts (and end up dragging the less enthusiastic ones along for the ride). To do so, I ensure four things.
1) The project is both engaging and allows for individual expression.
2) The students have concrete and visual examples to refer to.
3) The appropriate supplies (cardstock, various colours of papers, markers, pencil crayons, paints) are all available for them to use and the proper amount of class time is allocated.
4) They have an opportunity to showcase their work to a larger audience.
For the last point, there are many different options available. The one that I’m undertaking currently with my grade 8 classes is something I call “Le salon du livre” and is the culmination of a “novel study” (albeit a very short one).
Having read the Galaxie reader “Le secret” together as a class, students were asked to reinterpret the story in some way (new cover design / summary /reviews, portfolio of one the main characters, rewrite an alternate ending) and be able to visually exhibit their work at the “Salon”. With their classmates, they are divided into small groups where they orally present their project and the following day, I assemble the assignments from all the classes and give the students the opportunity to see and review everyone’s projects.
On this day, I have selected students who have been nominated by their groups to come to another class for an “author’s visit” where they read a selection of their work. We finish off the event by having refreshments (usually croissants and juice) and taking the opportunity to relax, enjoy and celebrate each other’s company and hard efforts. I find that this kind of event ups the ante and even my most reluctant students rise to the occasion.