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This is the third article in a series dedicated to the Enduring Ideas presented in the front matter of the revised Ontario FSL Curriculum.

In the document, this enduring idea is titled: Interdependence of Language and Culture. Culture has not previously held such a prominent place in our FSL Curriculum as it does in this newest version, so many educators are stuck on my titular question: how do we teach French culture effectively when it encompasses so many different things?

In my test run with my FIF2D (Grade 1o French Immersion) classes last year weaving the old curriculum with the new, I focused on intercultural awareness with a biais towards pop/youth culture and arts culture, mainly in France and French-speaking Europe. I wanted to start with something to which my students would readily relate. Here are two ways I exposed my students to French pop culture:

1) Music Videos

Each week, we watched and analysed a music video. I used my personal knowledge of popular French artists as well as a Google search for current Top 10/20/50 songs in France (many of which are English-language songs from North America – interesting how our culture crosses more into theirs than vice versa). Depending on the song and video, our approach differed:

  • Watch/listen and then discuss meaning/theme/reaction in small groups or as a whole class
  • Watch/listen, do an individual quick-write or some form of written response
  • Watch/listen, read along with a copy of the lyrics, discuss how the video does or does not represent the lyrics
  • Watch/listen, read lyrics, rewrite sections of lyrics for another purpose or audience
  • Compare/contrast songs/videos from the same artist or from different artists

My students enjoyed all of these activities and readily participated. Many of them actually downloaded songs and albums of these French artists from iTunes!

2) Festivals

I had a student teacher last year, and she was excited to explore teaching culture to the students as well. Her unit was based on festivals (music, art, food, etc.) in French countries/regions. She researched and presented to the students a variety of festivals from all over the world. Students analysed posters and videos promoting these festivals, planned a visit to a festival of their choice, and then had to create and promote their own cultural festival. Again, this was a strong unit for cultural awareness.

Growth Areas/Future Plans – Cultural Inquiry

As much as I am proud of the work that my student teacher and I accomplished in terms of exposing students to and leading them to interact and engage with different French-speaking cultures, both of these examples are teacher-driven. The next time I have an FIF course on my timetable, my personal goal is to approach culture through student inquiry. My student teacher found so many festivals and resources which were so wonderful, but how much more wonderful would it have been if the students had asked the question about French festivals and celebrations of culture, conducted the research, synthesized the information, and shared the findings with each other? What about having the students find the artists and music videos and taking a lead in the discussion and analysis rather than being guided by me? This is one of my own personal goals as a teacher not just in FIF language classes but in all of my classes – take a step back, and let go of the reins a little more often. Every time I do, my students rise to the occasion.