Thursday, 23 April 2015

Bonjour Toronto! Exploring Francophone Culture in the City

Drama and French teacher Emily Hincks explains how an assignment exploring francophone culture in the Toronto helped push students out of their comfort zone while providing an authentic learning experience.

Earlier this year in Grade 11 French, we explored the many French-speaking countries and cultures around the world. In this unit, students were asked to find francophone culture in Toronto, participate in a francophone cultural activity in the city, and report back to the class in an oral presentation. As part of their outing, they interviewed a francophone person who was involved in the activity and took photos or a video of their experience.

Some of these excursions involved activities such as interviewing the head chef at a French restaurant, learning about pastry making at an authentic French bakery, and attending a francophone service at a Roman Catholic Church. Grade 11 student Sarah Langill visited the Alliance Française to attend a lecture by French mathematician Cédric Villanin, winner of the prestigious Fields Medal. According to Sarah, "I enjoyed participating in the francophone activity in Toronto. It made me work independently and encouraged my organizational skills. If you were with a group [or on your own], you had to make sure you were free to attend the francophone activity. Also, asking a person who speaks French fluently or is from a francophone country [for an interview] can be intimidating, so it was a good opportunity to venture outside my comfort zone."

This project was personalized for students as they had choice in which activity they wanted to explore. Their learning was inquiry-based and authentic, as they connected the course to the city in which they live in a meaningful way. It created challenges, as they had to rely on their French skills outside the classroom and use them in a real-life setting. The depth of conversation that each student had with their interviewee varied based on language level, and students felt compelled to challenge themselves to their full level.

When I first assigned this project, the students were a little overwhelmed, asking questions such as "Where can I find French culture in Toronto?" and "Is my French strong enough to participate in a cultural activity in this way?" In the end, the students were pleased with their findings and proud of their accomplishments. It was rewarding for all of us to see how and where francophone culture lives in Toronto.

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