A large proportion of Aboriginal children have trouble developing their French writing skills, which poses a serious challenge for their teachers.
A team made up of researchers, school partners and teachers from two Aboriginal communities explored different approaches through the development and testing, by the teachers, of writing activities based on current knowledge of the teaching of writing.
An approach based on writing instruction theory and the needs of teachers fosters teachers’ professional development and has a positive effect on students.
Two of the six teachers particularly benefitted from the research and observed significant changes in their students’ relationship to writing, especially on affective and praxeological levels: the students began to appreciate writing activities and to be less afraid of the blank page. In addition to assigning short, frequent and varied writing tasks, one of the teachers varied her correction and assessment methods: she stopped correcting every text written by her students, providing them with opportunities to write “just for pleasure”; any evaluation focussed on linguistic phenomena rather than the text as a whole. This lightened the task of correcting, prompting her to get her students to write more, while the students, especially those with the greatest writing difficulties, could allow themselves to write without fear of negative feedback.
This research shows that an approach based on writing instruction theory and the needs of teachers fosters teachers’ professional development and has a positive effect on students. To go further, it would be preferable to work with teachers at every grade level within the school to ensure consistency in the teaching and learning of writing throughout elementary school, leading to a higher academic success rate among Aboriginal students.
Yvonne da Silveira, Université du Québec en Abitbi-Témiscamingue
Deposit of the research report: August 2015