University of Ottawa’s Summer University for FSL Teachers

I’ve had more than several days to digest my two weeks of lectures and workshops focused on FSL education at the University of Ottawa.

Before I go any further, here’s a bit of background about the program. The Summer University for FSL Teachers is intended for elementary and secondary schoolteachers in Core French, Extended French, Intensive French, and French Immersion. This year’s program started in early July and the weekday schedule was from about 9 AM to 4:30 PM, although there were a few French cultural experiences scheduled in the evening as well. As far as I understood, long term occasional (LTO) teachers and occasional teachers were also eligible to apply. The levels of participant French competency also varied widely: some teachers had native or near-native command of the language, while some initially struggled to have detailed conversations.

Overall, this program was an excellent way to explore FSL pedagogy with other educators in a French language setting. The lectures are long—about three hours each, with a ten minute break at some point. Most lectures included practical components, example activities, or resource lists.

If you are interested in attending this program because of the sections related to educational technology, I would want to temper your expectations. There was a very large range of technological ability in my group. As someone who led workshops and worked at an Apple Store Genius Bar, some suggestions were extremely basic and straightforward. On the other hand, some teachers needed more time and much more detailed assistance with software we used. In the past, there have been enough attendees to have two groups, but this year that was not the case. So more differentiation was needed in these workshops, but most of my peers and I walked away happy with something we learned in at least one of the three technology workshops in which we participated.

Beyond technology, there were engaging talks from Sylvie Lamoureaux, France Dupuis, Denis Cousineau, and Rosemary Paniccia. Sylvie Lamoureaux started the program with a discussion of what it means to be a francophone and how students see themselves as French speakers. René-Étienne Bellavance delivered a hilarious and very practical talk on error correction (although his lecture on culture didn’t provide as many concrete resources as some were hoping). Personally, I thought Denis Cousineau was hands down the most in-touch with what’s happening currently in classrooms. His suggestions for making the CEFR useable for assessment were straightforward and I thought they could be manipulated for younger learners as well. There were other interesting talks too, but those were my personal favourites.

I can’t stress enough how the program’s location was a key selling point in attending this program. Living in Ottawa for two weeks meant that I could practice my French outside of class hours as well. During the cultural outings we had opportunities to see the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature, and the Canadian History Museum. Some of the museums I had already visited, but I was blown away by the French language educational store we visited. The Librarie du Centre was amazingly full of books, games, guides, tools — all of which were in French. I’m even contemplating another visit to Ottawa this summer just to pick up a few more things…and I want to eat at El Camino again.