Using an Action-Oriented Approach for Effective Communication in Secondary Core and Immersion French as a Second Language

Area(s) of Focus: revised curriculum
Division(s): Intermediate, Senior
Level(s): Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12

Our group discussed listening skills and oral communication in FSL (French) by reading articles, gathering and trying various resources, incorporating technology where appropriate, and developing a document to annotate these strategies and resources.

Our project focused on gaining a better understanding of listening skills to facilitate effective communication in French as a Second Language (FSL) in core and immersion. We used an inquiry-based approach to study engagement, confidence and proficiency aided by technology.

Team Members

  • Beverly Kukhta-Jackson

    Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

  • Allison Grant

    Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

  • Keira Miyata

    Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

  • Nadia Flynn

    Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

  • Stella Morettin

    Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Collaboration between teachers from different secondary and elementary schools to strengthen a professional learning community
  • Learned about using specific strategies for listening skills to increase success of communication for students in French as a Second Language
  • Became more familiar with resources such as those available at Curriculum Services Canada, DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française) preparation materials, adapted published material already in our classrooms, and explored a large number of Internet-based resources
  • Started to develop a formal lesson to use as a model for further oral comprehension lessons in FSL
  • Increased effective use of technology by teachers and students for success in communication in FSL
  • Discussed effective assessment of student achievement in meeting the expectations of revised curriculum

Activities and Resources

Our group found and read a number of articles from teachers and researchers about the importance of teaching students how to increase their listening skills (receptive language) in learning an additional language and strategies for teaching these skills. We developed a Google Doc to store links to web-based articles and practical resources. At each meeting, we shared successes and obstacles as we tried some of these strategies and resources, and collaborated to annotate the resources in our document to make it more useful. This living document will remain as a link for our professional learning community to continue our exploration of teaching listening effectively and to share with other FSL teachers.

Unexpected Challenges

Originally, our team wanted to study the action-oriented approach, but by the time the project began, we had analysed results of our students who had challenged the DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française) exam and found that our students needed to improve their listening skills. This proved to be a topic that we were able to explore and will continue to study as we have a lot still to learn and new resources to find and try.

We discovered and learned about Sketchnoting as a way to engage our students using iPads to draw simple pictures as interactive listening and speaking. We thought we might explore that further together to develop a formal lesson, but, instead, we are using the strategy differently in each of our classes. Two of the team members will still develop a lesson together as they work at the same school, so we can meet outside of school time.

We did not finish our sessions as early as planned due to a couple of members who experienced family health problems, but we have completed all our goals except for a full lesson that we can all share. We are doing a partial lesson instead.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

Listening is the first strand of the FSL revised curriculum, followed by speaking, reading and writing. This mirrors the progression of a child learning their first language and is the logical way for students to learn an additional language. We studied strategies to increase students’ skills, competence, comfort and confidence in oral comprehension – receptive language – which will help them to enrich their knowledge of vocabulary, expressions and language structures to be able to communicate and speak better. We found and shared resources that are more practical than theoretical for students which should increase their interest and engagement. We discussed opportunities for differentiation for student interest and skills, including considerations of IEP for students with special needs. We found many ways to assess students’ skills which will enhance student and teacher understanding of level of achievement of curriculum expectations and development of next steps.


  • Workshop in our own board HWDSB to share process and lesson – after school or professional development day or board mini-conference or a workshop at the Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association Fall and Spring Conferences
  • Post our resource document in shared space in HWDSB (Google Drive or OneDrive) with link available to teachers in other boards – posted on Twitter and through Facebook Ontario French Teachers group, in Teach Ontario, through final report to OTF
  • Article for Ontario Modern Language Teachers Association digital magazine Communication
  • Sharing our findings and continuing to collaborate with each other when possible and also with other teachers at our respective schools through department meetings and informal collaborative sessions

Project Evaluation

Yes, our project is a success as we used inquiry to modify our original plans to better meet our needs when we looked at data from our senior students on their achievement on an internationally recognised French language evaluation. Developing language skills takes many hours and years and we are continuing to teach our students listening strategies and enjoying helping them to increase their skills. One of our most important successes was to strengthen connections with self-directed professional development between this small group of teachers who enjoyed talking about education, specifically FSL education, and in developing a resource that we can use and continue to modify for our own use and to share with other FSL teachers who may be interested in it. We have already shared it with some of our colleagues in our own schools. We appreciated the opportunity for time during the school day to work in a different setting to discuss general and specific ways to improve our practice.

Here are some of the reflections of the team members:

Nadia Flynn:

“Great opportunity to learn about new ideas to use in the classroom – most oral activities (listening/speaking). But most beneficial was the opportunity to interact/ask questions/brainstorm/problem-solve/create/adapt … COLLABORATE!”

“I used an idea of Stella’s (Sketchnoting app) and adapted to my Grade 9 class and used the same principles to help students understand LES VERBES REFLECHIS – very successful!”

Keira’s Takeaways:

“These sessions were highly beneficial because they provided a forum for sharing high-yield strategies and resources related to oral/listening activities. We teach students from different programs, different pathways and different points of the French language learning continuum.”

“So many ideas and resources were brought to the table, and we discussed how we could apply them most effectively. After each session, we would implement the strategies/activities/resources that inspired us most as well as share with our departments. We would then share our experiences and reflect on further improving our practice. I especially enjoyed learning about Paper 53 (storyboarding/oral interactive activities), iMovie app (oral presentations), and (engaging listening activities). Thank you Bev for all your hard work organizing this TLCP!”

Stella Morettin’s Learnings:

“All learnings were shared with colleagues back at school and especially with my department colleagues. A lot of time was devoted to expanding my department’s desire to improve student retention and engagement. We have enriched teaching practices by exploring other strategies to engage reluctant learners … so much so that our French retention numbers are up (50 students) for next year despite our school being in declining enrolment. We tried Sketchnoting, and used various iPad apps and other websites. We were also very interested in refining and restructuring our listening and speaking tools and assessment practices. Our sessions were also very rich in sharing ideas for some challenges with specific student difficulties.”

Resources Used

  • Consultants/instructional coaches
  • A secondary FSL core teacher who is using Sketchnoting
  • Curriculum Services Canada: Transforming FSL
  • eduGAINS
  • Technology already existing in schools (particularly iPads, as all of our teachers and Grade 9 students have school iPads) and apps such as Paper53 and Notability. We also purchased a Paper53 stylus for each member of the team to use for Sketchnoting.
  • Various textbooks, supplementary books, resource programs available in schools – print and digital
  • Resource books/websites for background, strategies and professional development – we created a document in Google Docs to collect, curate, annotate and share resources that we used (See link below.)

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking

By Mike Rohde. Peachpit Press (a division of Pearson Education), USA, 2013.



The Sketchnote Workbook: Advanced Techniques for Taking Visual Notes You Can Use Anywhere

By Mike Rohde. Peachpit Press (a division of Pearson Education), USA, 2015.