My colleagues from three universities, Olivier Dezutter (principal investigator) and Véronique Parent, Université de Sherbrooke, Sunny Man Chu Lau and Corinne Haigh, Bishop’s University, and Cécile Sabatier, Simon Fraser University, and I have been looking into francophone grade six students’ relationships with writing in bi/plurilingual contexts in areas of Quebec outside of large urban centres. We have invited our 11 year old participants to reflect on their scriptural practices and their image of self as writers and as communicators in two or more languages. Through a standardized writing test (WIATT) and student interviews before, during and after an intensive ESL program, preliminary findings have uncovered different dimensions of relationships to scripting that these students highlight including the declared practices and representations that they have forged during their writer lives, both through their school experiences and in extracurricular self-directed writing activities. Students show different degrees in their metacognitive awareness of the writing traits and that their mostly positive attitudes to writing were not correlated to higher levels of writing skills but for the most part to the types of writing activities that they deem meaningful and that allow them to invest their cognitive and creative resources. For example, one student reported that writing helped her relax and to let her imagination run free. She shared that she was writing a fantasy story in French about goblins and creatures, which she enjoyed so much more than assigned topics that were based on real life experience (e.g., one’s hobbies or a film review), which to her was too formulaic and did not adequately reflect the level of creativity she was capable of. Other students talked about personal writing projects in their second language, English, including songs and emails to grandparents. One student explained that she had written a play in French at home and was translating it into English just for fun. Overall, students described positive attitudes towards writing in both languages, although they preferred to engage in creative writing activities when they were not required to place a heavy emphasis on spelling and grammar. Every student was able to identify a written text that they were proud of. We propose a broader reflection on the teaching and learning of writing in second languages programmes in bi/plurilingual contexts, with the inclusion of more creative and playful writing activities and greater freedom for students to choose their topics.
Lynn Thomas is a professor at the University of Sherbrooke, and CSSE’s incoming President Elect. Lynn shared some information on her current research project. To learn more about Lynn’s research: http://www.usherbrooke.ca/pedagogie/notre-equipe/ped/thomas-lynn/