Despite the time devoted to French grammar instruction, the results of the Secondary 5 ministry exams are relatively similar from one year to the next. Students consistently obtain their lowest results in spelling, since the very first standardized tests in Québec in 1986.
Did the introduction of the “new grammar” more than 20 years ago not have the intended effect of providing students with a better understanding of how the language works and improving their language skills? To answer this question, the new grammar must actually be taught in Québec classrooms. The fact of the matter is that adequate training for teachers was not provided at the time of its introduction.
Our action research aimed to measure the impact of didactic sequences that incorporate the new grammar on the reading and writing skills of secondary school students. To this end, we assisted 10 French teachers in the production and implementation of activities incorporating new grammar tools. This support process enabled us to identify the challenges faced by teachers in teaching this new grammar and to assess student performance through the use of various grammar, reading and writing tests (n=767 students).
Our results show that teaching practices for the new grammar differ substantially from one teacher to another, that the challenges encountered in teaching this grammar are considerable and that, consequently, the impact of the new grammar on reading and writing skills is difficult, if not impossible, to measure. Providing adequate support to teachers is therefore a priority if we are to hope for a real transformation of practices.
Marie-Andrée Lord, Université Laval
Deposit of the research report April 2021