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Research report

Learning to write in French through family stories

Bringing family stories of migration to Québec classrooms and using them as a motivating factor to help young Allophones to learn to write in French is no small feat! A team of researchers, teachers and community workers conducted an action research project in which young students in "classes d'accueil" (welcoming classes) or regular classes with language support were asked to write a book on their family history. The student's book could include passages written by members of their family and texts written in their language of origin.

The more the young students feel engaged and involved in the task of writing production, the more they enjoy writing.

The experiment showed that the more the young students feel engaged and involved in the task of writing production—in this case by telling their family story—the more they enjoy writing and the more willing they are to develop the skills required to produce quality writing in French. Four broad principles resulting from this research will facilitate the introduction of other projects to motivate young Allophones to write in French: creating meaningful learning contexts, enhancing the dialogue between French and their mother language, fostering innovative communication between families and the school, and encouraging creativity.

Relationships with writing and language vary depending on migration paths. Strategies for differentiated instruction and peer support, ways of creating a fun, attractive and personalized learning space, and original ideas for themes and tools were designed and tested during the project. The experience strengthened the young students' motivation to write and to learn, their interactions with the other students and their families, their confidence in the teacher and in themselves, their learning of French and their writing skills.

Finally, this action research project provides conceptual and pedagogical tools that will be useful for teachers, schools and communities, in addition to an innovative vision of the teaching of French in a multilingual environment and of family-school-community relationships, which is sure to be of interest to administrators and policy makers.


Main researcher: Michèle Vatz, Université de Sherbrooke

Original title: Écriture et histoires familiales de migration : une recherche-action pour promouvoir les compétences à écrire des élèves allophones immigrants et réfugiés dans les écoles primaires et secondaires du Québec

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