|I had been searching for an effective, one-semester French grammar review at the intermediate level that would also function as a bridge to third-year courses that are generally culture and literature courses. French 4 at our institution provides students with a comprehensive review of French grammar and the ultimate goal of the four-semester language sequence is for students to achieve intermediate proficiency as defined by the American Council for Teachers of Foreign Languages. I found that the existing commercial textbook options were both cost-prohibitive for our students and did not necessarily correspond to our programmatic needs. I decided to pursue funding to develop an alternative textbook option for students. I was awarded a grant through the Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative at Kansas State, organized by the Library, to create a reader to be used in French 4 beginning in fall 2017. |
For the reader ("Cahier parisien : Le français au niveau intermédiaire"), I combined the very effective openly licensed grammar resource, Tex's French Grammar developed at UT-Austin, with a series of literary readings and cultural notes organized around Paris drawn from openly-accessible materials and my own generated activities and notes. My approach is grounded in the communicative approach to language learning and prioritizes task-based, meaningful activities that encourage authentic use of the language. There are four units: (1) Paris: la ville et son organisation; (2) Découvrir la ville: les artistes et les touristes; (3) Vivre et étudier à Paris: la vie d'étudiant/e; (4) Métro, boulot, dodo: se balader à Paris. Each unit features a vocabulary unit that I generated, cultural notes and videos freely accessible online with activities I designed, grammar lessons pulled from Tex's French Grammar and expanded with a range of activities I created, literary readings that are available online accompanied by activities I designed, and multimedia activities (music videos, short films) all accompanied by cohesive activities that pull together the grammatical structures studied and related thematically to the unit's topic. Students in this course read a range of texts and participate in an array of activities, both in class and online, to achieve the learning objectives: (1) converse and present in French in the past, present, and future, including tasks such as asking and answering questions, comparing, describing, and narrating;
formulate hypotheses and opinions on a range of cultural products related to course readings on Paris; (2) read and engage actively, in writing and orally, with a variety of authentic materials, both written and audiovisual, related to Paris, ranging from the intermediate to the advanced level; (3) write paragraphs and short, unified compositions on topics related to the course readings on Paris, demonstrating an understanding of basic stylistics as introduced in the course; and (4) compare material learned in class with one’s own experiences, actively offering opinions and hypotheses regarding the material and building upon the vocabulary and structures studied in the course. The reader's materials are currently delivered through our LMS, Canvas, and we link out to cultural readings and to Tex's French Grammar.
Student reaction to the materials and the new approach has been very positive. Aspects that students have identified as being particularly beneficial to their learning include the self-graded activities, available both through Tex's French Grammar's online self-check activities and in my own course where I provided keys to activities to facilitate self-correction; the vocabulary games and creative writing and oral lab assignments; and the collaborative, group-based projects which includes a presentation of a themed trip to Paris designed by the students themselves. They have also underscored in teaching evaluations that they appreciate that the materials are freely accessible and cost-effective.