Written by Mimi Masson, Rubina Sharma, Amanda Cloutier, Mandy Treichel, and Anza Rizwan

Guidance in pedagogical practices to disrupt and diversify texts in FSL classrooms is now in high demand. Leading a whole class novel study using anti-oppressive frameworks, for example, is one such practice. As a community, we collaborate with other teachers and leaders in education, equity, and anti-racism to develop critical literacy practice. Equally, we seek to provide responsive, reflective resources for FSL teachers that build intercultural awareness and understanding.

A Critical Lens for FSL

It’s important, first, to recognize the lack of diversity in our current classroom texts. Second, we must ensure that we bring new, culturally responsive, relevant texts into our curriculum to reduce any gaps. With critical literacy in the classroom, teachers are empowered to learn along with their students. In this way, we can evaluate how our book choices represent or misrepresent the diverse body of students we teach.

In using this critical lens, both students and teachers have needs. Students need intercultural understanding (beyond simple awareness). Moving to intercultural competence necessitates unpacking bias in the curriculum. For example, French is a language of colonization — La Francophonie is therefore a colonial enterprise. Teachers need to learn to identify bias and bring voices from the margins into the centre of learning and planning. We do this by making intentional choices of resources scaffolded by CEFR connections to authentic tasks and language levels.

Disrupting the FSL Curriculum

By addressing gaps in FSL programs, we build our collective understanding of how power, privilege, and oppression operate within our schools and school systems. Everything we do can either reinforce or disrupt systems of racism. We identify where to find resources appropriate to language level that will engage adolescent learners, centre marginalized voices, and re-imagine texts in classrooms. We disrupt by focusing on flourishing and joy, by challenging the spectacle made of suffering, and by creating opportunities for self-reflection. In this way, we can connect with student identity and critically engage with texts more deeply.

Summer Institute 2021

In August 2021, we hosted a two-day Summer Institute of FSL-specific professional development. Our goals were to learn, to engage, and to plan for tangible, actionable changes in our texts and practices. We critically discussed canonical texts and questioned “whose voices are included, missing, or marginalized?” We helped dismantle assumptions about representation in la Francophonie. We thought critically about what we mean when we promote “inclusion and diversity” to move beyond the tokenism that reinforces oppressive and dismissive discourses.

Our Summer Institute learning goals for teachers included the following:

  • Shifting our mindset to recognize colonial patterns of thought and practice
  • Teaching a novel in a book club model in FSL Core and Immersion
  • Leading a whole class novel study using an anti-oppressive framework
  • Deepening our understanding of text selection
  • Centring traditionally marginalized voices and experiences in FSL course planning and teaching

Free Website for Teachers

Our hub for book clubs — Collective Catalogue of FSL Books for Diversity — contains a database of books in French that:

  • Feature Black, Indigenous, and/or people of colour as main characters
  • Facilitate an anti-racist pedagogical approach
  • Use an appropriate language level for secondary FSL students
  • Offer “teachable” content

The website’s purpose is to build critical thinking among FSL teachers by:

  • Thinking deeply about texts from all disciplines
  • Evaluating perspectives, reliability, and credibility of texts
  • Developing questioning skills that encourage students to think and act

Next Steps

Our community of teachers wanted more opportunities to continue this professional learning journey. In response, we engaged in the following activities:

  • Meeting with experts grounded in anti-racist and anti-oppressive theories
  • Meeting with Board of Education consultants to update our criteria for text selection
  • Exploring new methods to lead conversations from a trauma-informed perspective of how to challenge bias and stereotypes by reading texts critically

To find out more about the project or to get involved, please visit our website, subscribe to our mailing list, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@FSLDisrupt).

Watch the full webinar:

Learn more: Mobilizing French as Second Language Teachers to Disrupt the Curriculum in Canadian Classrooms: Antiracism in the World Language Classroom

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